The Holy Spirit
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The Holy Spirit

John 16:5-15:15  (ID: 2670)

As the time of His crucifixion drew near, Jesus explained to His disciples why He had to depart and promised to send a Helper: the Holy Spirit. Contrary to some misunderstandings, this Holy Spirit is no mere force; He is a person who has been active since creation. Walking us through the activity of the third person of the Trinity, Alistair Begg explains that it is the work of God’s Spirit poured out on God’s people that conforms us to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.


Sermon Transcript: Print

I invite you to turn in your Bibles to John—the Gospel of John—and to chapter 16, and I want to read from the fifth verse. John 16:5. I said this morning that we would come to this matter of the Holy Spirit. It’s good to do, and appropriate, and right for me to do for more reasons than I care to tell you, having thought in terms of the Spirit of God descending upon Christ this morning in the passage in Mark.[1] And now Jesus is in the upper room with his disciples. It’s the final evening that he spends with the Twelve, and in the course of what we refer to as the Upper Room Discourse, he says this to his disciples:

“Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Because I[’ve] said these things, you[’re] filled with grief. But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I[’m] going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor,” or the Helper, “will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I[’m] going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.

“In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.”

Amen.

Father, please help us now, as we think about these things. We are so distracted by so much, and we desperately need the work of the Spirit whose very ministry we want to consider. So grant that even in this moment, we may be made forcibly aware of the truth that we now set out to find. And we promise that we will praise you and thank you for honoring your word and meeting with us now. And we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Well, we can only say so much in the time that is before us this evening concerning the ministry of the Holy Spirit. It may well be that we will come back to this. I’m not making any promises, but it strikes me that it may be a timely topical study—if not now, then sooner rather than later.

It is vitally important when we come to the biblical teaching on the third person of the Trinity—namely, God the Holy Spirit—that we recognize that for many people it is an area of confusion, and indeed, it holds the potential, if one is not careful, for all kinds of flights of fancy. And indeed, probably there is more nonsense spoken in relationship to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit than to any other area that we find in the pages of Scripture. It is for that reason that we must always—and this is true in every area of biblical teaching—but we must always make sure that we come to our considerations firmly within the framework and the controls of the Bible itself.

And the challenge that is represented in this generation is not unique to it. And indeed, when you read back through church history, you discover that the servants of God have time and again had to say to the people of God, “Now, make sure that when you think these things out, you do so, as it were, with your Bibles open before you.” And Calvin, whose five hundredth birthday we celebrate in this year, he speaks to the people of his day and does so as follows: “Those, who rejecting Scripture,” he says,

imagine that they have some peculiar way of penetrating to God, are to be deemed not so much under the influence of error as madness. For certain giddy men have lately appeared, who, while they make a great display of the superiority of the Spirit, reject all reading of the Scriptures themselves, and deride the simplicity of those who only delight in what they call the dead and deadly letter. But I wish they would tell me what spirit it is whose inspiration raises them to such a sublime height that they dare [to] despise the doctrine of Scripture as mean and childish.[2]

The Necessity of Christ’s Departure

Now, as I say, Jesus is with the Twelve. And it is the prospect of the departure of Jesus which gives them cause for disappointment, consternation, and grief. If you want, you can go all the way back in your own study to chapter 13, where Jesus speaks to them, and he says, “My children, I will be with you only a little longer.”[3] And that sort of paternal dimension is so potently there, even in the terminology—the tenderness of Christ’s love for these fellows. Although they are his friends—he calls them his friends[4]—nevertheless, they are to him children, as it were, in the faith. And as he bids farewell to his children, he does what most fathers will do in relationship to their children. He will give them words of guidance and words of counsel and words of encouragement: “I’m going away, and you need to know this.”

And you can follow this up on your own—it is not part of the study—but he says, for example, immediately to them on the news of his departure, “I want you to love each other.”[5] “I want you to love each other.” Isn’t that what parents say when they leave their children behind? When they go away the first time, and the grandparents babysit, and they sit the children down, however many they are, at the kitchen table, and they say, “Now, look, we’re going away. Don’t, whatever you do, be a nuisance to your grandparents. And whatever you do, make sure that you don’t fight with one another. Will you just love one another while we’re gone? Will you promise me that you will love one another while we’re gone?” That’s what Jesus says.

Then he says, “And I want you to make sure that you keep my commandments. Do what I say when I’m gone. I want you to know also that the world hates you. Don’t go on with any strange notions about everybody thinking you’re fantastic, because they hated me, and they’ll hate you as well. And you need to know that the time will very quickly come when the familiar areas that you love to visit will be off-limits to you: they will put you out of the synagogue.”[6]

On the cross, Christ is deserted of the Father in order that those who are in Christ may themselves never be deserted.

And as Jesus speaks to them in this intimate fashion, it clearly becomes apparent to them that from a human perspective, from their perspective, if there ever was a time when they needed the presence of Jesus, surely it was now. And so it is in the context of his departure that Jesus explains why it is necessary for him to go. And that’s why, here in verse 5, he begins, “I[’m] going to him who sent me, [and] none of you [is asking] me, ‘Where are you going?’” There has been some mention of it, but it usually has had to do with other questions besides. And in terms of the very essence of it, Jesus recognizes that they’re not really asking the right question; or if they’re asking the question, they’re not asking it correctly.

And so he says, “I want you to know,” verse 7, “and I’m telling you the truth, that it is for your good that I am going away. And the reason it is for your good is because if I do not go away, the Counselor”—or “the Helper” it may be in your version of the Bible—“the Counselor will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” And he’s already promised them in 14:18 that in his departure from them, he will not leave them “as orphans.” He will not leave them “as orphans.”

Now, we could work this out on multiple fronts. For example, we could pause and consider all of the cost that was involved in Jesus’ necessary departure. Because he had lived his life, you will remember, in union and in communion with God the Father. It is impossible to explain the life of Christ apart from his communion with the other members of the Trinity. He lived in communion with the Father and the Spirit in eternity as a result of the covenant of redemption. What the Father plans the Son comes to procure and to provide by way of salvation; and what the Son provides by way of salvation the Holy Spirit then comes to apply to the lives of those who believe.

And so for Jesus, who had said, for example, to Mary and Joseph when they found him when he was twelve years of age in the temple precincts—he said, “Did you not realize that I had to be in my Father’s house,” or “Don’t you know that I have to be about my Father’s business?”[7] Again and again, he makes it clear that he has come to do the will of the Father. He is here, in intimate terminology, addressing the Father. In John 17, we go behind the scenes, and we have the amazing gift of hearing Jesus pray in a prolonged way. And presumably, this is not all of it. But I wonder: Have you ever read John 17 on your knees? Have you ever just taken it and knelt down and read it out loud and sensed something of the burden of it and the power of it as Jesus looks towards heaven and says, “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you,”[8] recognizing all that Christ was saying in that request? For he was about to walk down the Via Dolorosa and into the arms of those who only had his worst at heart. And as his prayer unfolds, you realize just what the Father means to him and what their communion means. And in light of John 17, when you hear his piercing cry from the cross, you get an inkling of what has happened: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”[9] And in that moment, Christ is deserted of the Father in order that those who are in Christ may themselves never be deserted. He is deserted in order that we might never be left as orphans.

So it is not simply the pragmatic benefit that accrues to the followers of Jesus in the gift of the Spirit that is wrapped up in this divine necessity. It is, even more than that, that in the drama of redemption, Jesus is accomplishing God’s eternal purpose. And so it is that as the story unfolds, as Paul tells the Ephesians, he ascends on high, and he leads captives in his train, and he gives gifts to men.[10] So it is that the giving of the Spirit—the pouring out of the Spirit in the unique and unrepeatable event of Pentecost—is the very promise that is alluded to here in these verses in John 16.

The Identity of the Helper

So, that is just a word concerning the necessity of his departure. Let us move directly to the identity of the one who comes as Helper. He is referred to here as “the Counselor,” or as “the Helper.” In verse 13, he’s referred to as “the Spirit of truth,” the one who will “guide … into all truth.” And indeed, if you want a fuller treatment of this, then you need to read from John 14 all the way through. But I’m not going to do that, and I will leave it to you.

Let me just identify for us not an exhaustive list in relationship to the identity of the Holy Spirit but a selective list, and one that I think will be adequate for our purposes. If you’re taking notes, scribble now.

The Holy Spirit, first of all, is a unique person, not simply a power or an influence. The Holy Spirit is a unique person and not simply a power or an influence. You don’t have to listen too long to Christians speak to find one another referencing God the Holy Spirit in the neuter—referring to the Spirit of God as an entity or referring to him as it: “The Spirit did this; it did that,” and so on. And so one of the fundamental and vital things for us to realize is that each person within the Trinity is actually personhood. It is only because the Holy Spirit is himself a person that the Scriptures can warn us about grieving him.[11] It is because of his personality, because of his interest in us, because of his love for us, because of his work in us and for us that he may be grieved, that his will may be resisted,[12] that his work may be quenched.[13] And that, I think, for some of us, is an essential reminder and, in some cases, is an introduction to an area that we have never really considered.

The problem throughout history and up into contemporary terms is what is referred to as modalism. Modalism. And it is a heresy: that there is one God who appears in three modes. Sometimes you find him appearing as the Father, and then sometimes you find him appearing in another mode as the Son, and sometimes you find him appearing in a third mode as the Spirit. But no, the Bible says that is not the case. And we saw it in the baptism this morning, did we not?[14] This is not modalism; these are three distinct persons within one eternal being. It’s mysterious—there’s no question of that. There’s nothing like it in the other world religions.

Secondly, the Holy Spirit is one with the Father and the Son. One with the Father and the Son. That’s why when you read these verses, you discover that the Holy Spirit is referred to as being sent by the Father, and also the Holy Spirit is referred to as being sent by the Son.[15] And the Holy Spirit acts for them both.

Thirdly, the Holy Spirit was the agent of creation. Was the agent of creation. One of the great Old Testament discussions is whether it is possible, from the Old Testament alone, to say directly and conclusively that we can see the distinct personality of God the Holy Spirit, or do we have to wait until, in the New Testament, things become clarified, and we can then read our Bibles backwards and say, “Oh yes, I see that that must be this”? It’s not our purpose this evening to delve into Old Testament theology, but I want to suggest to you that we see the Spirit of God immediately in our Bibles in Genesis 1:2: “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” And if you have an NIV, you will notice that “Spirit” there is capitalized, the translators of the NIV thus determining that what we have here is none other than the third person of the Spirit, there as the agent of creation.

The word in Hebrew for “Spirit” is ruah, which is the word for breath. The Greek word is pneuma, which gives us pneumatology, the study of the Spirit. And the phrase here in Genesis 1:2 describes the ruah elohim: that the breath of God, the breath of the Almighty—not as an immaterial substance but as an energy, as a forceful power, as a creative agent—“was hovering over the waters.” And it is here, if you understand Genesis 1:2, that you then have an explanation for Genesis 1:26. Because one of the other great questions of Genesis 1 is: What does it mean and to whom is it referring when, in Genesis 1:26, “then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea’”[16] and so on? Well, you see, if Genesis 1:2 is God the Holy Spirit, then that gives us any missing link in relationship to Genesis 1:26. And the reference point is to the work of the Spirit as the agent of creation in setting the world in space.

Now, I think that we will leave it there only with this comment: the old choice word of Augustine, where he reminded the people of his day that when you read your Bibles, that the Old is in the New revealed, and the New is in the Old concealed;[17] so that when you read the New Testament, you discover that the Old begins to make sense in a way that perhaps we couldn’t conceive of it when we were reading only the Old Testament, and then, when we read actually into the Old Testament, we discover that so much of the New is actually there, if you like, in embryonic form. Well, we daren’t get off on that.

Fourthly, the Spirit of God is the agent of God’s new creation. He is the one who created the world, and he is the world who creates Christians. That’s the significance of the discussion that takes place in John chapter 3, where Jesus says to Nicodemus, “You must be born again.” And Nicodemus says, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter again into his mother’s womb and be born a second time?” And Jesus says, “No, I’m not speaking about that. I’m talking about spiritual birth. And the one who is the author of spiritual birth is none other than God the Holy Spirit. He is the one who opens people’s eyes.”[18]

We’ve heard tonight in these testimonies: “I was unsure. I was unclear. I didn’t know. I decided not. I had lived my life without God. I had no interest in God. But I’m here to tell you tonight that I know God and that I love God and that I’m following God.” What happened to these people? Did they all bang their heads? Did they all fall into some strange group that have manipulated them and squeezed them into this statement of faith? No, I think if you talk with them—and I’d feel free to talk to them as individuals afterwards—they will all tell you there is nothing like that going on here at all: neither parents, nor pastors, nor anybody. No, they’re as amazed as others might be. What has happened? God the Holy Spirit has created brand-new people. Those who were dead he has made alive.

Fifthly, he is not only the author of creation and of new creation; he is also the author of the Scriptures. He’s the author of the Scriptures. That’s the explanation that we have for our Bible: that the Scriptures, in 2 Timothy 3:16, are said to be “breathed” out. They are theópneustos—that God has “breathed” out his Word; that the breath of the Almighty, of God in the person of the Spirit, is the one who creates Scripture itself. And indeed, when Peter writes about this, he says, “The prophets have written all these things in the past, and they were men who were carried along by the power of the Holy Spirit.”[19] Now, they were in control of their senses. They were not automatons. They had distinct personalities. They lived in a period in time. But as they themselves gave voice to what they said, as they themselves had written down what they proclaimed, they were to discover what was said of God concerning Jeremiah, where he says to Jeremiah, “I have put my words in your mouth.”[20] How can God put his words in the mouth of his prophet? By his Holy Spirit.

God the Holy Spirit has created brand-new people. Those who were dead he has made alive.

Now, in moving on, let me just say this: that when Jesus speaks here concerning “another Counselor” who will come—“I will send you another Counselor”[21]—he is not using the word heteros for another of a different kind, but he is using the word allos, which is another of the same kind. “And the one,” says Jesus, “who is going to come alongside you”—parakaleō, the Paraclete—“the one who is going to come alongside you is just like me. And indeed, he will reinforce for you all the things that I’ve been telling you.”[22]

The Activity of the Holy Spirit

Now, you will notice—and we come to this as the third and final point: the necessity of Jesus’ departure, the identity of the one who is to come, and the activity of the Spirit. What is the Spirit’s activity? We don’t have time to work it all out, but let me just get us started on it.

First of all, in relationship to the world, “when [the Spirit] comes,” verse 8, “he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin … righteousness and judgment.” So the work of the Spirit of God is to prove the world guilty. It is to secure a guilty verdict against the world in its rebellion. In its wandering from the truth, in its unrighteousness, in its flippancy in the face of eternity, in its denial of the fact that one day we will stand before God and answer to him—in all of these things, the work of the Spirit of God is to prove the world guilty and then to bring the world’s guilt home to the self of man, so that the notion of a guilty world is not sufficient to bring a man or a woman to faith in Christ. The fact that there is a guilty world—I may say, “Well, of course, there’s a guilty world. There are so many dreadful people out there, are there not?” But it will take the work of the Spirit of God to say, “The reason there is a guilty world is because I am a guilty man—that I am a man of unclean lips, and I live in the midst of people who also have unclean lips.”[23] It is the work of the Spirit of God to do that. And if you’re a Christian, you know that. And if you read your Bible, you will discover that.

And indeed, you have a little foretaste of it even before Pentecost, when the thief on the cross, who, along with his friend, has been abusing and disabusing Jesus in the earlier hours of the day, suddenly changes his tune. Suddenly changes his tune. It is, for me, one of the most dramatic things in the entire Bible. It makes me say, “What happened here?” Both of them were saying, “If you’re the Messiah of God, why don’t you get down off the cross? If you’re the Son of God, why don’t you do a miracle? This would be a good time for a miracle. And why don’t you get us down with you? Because we don’t like it up here any more than you do. You saved others. Why can’t you save yourself, for goodness’ sake?”[24] And then, suddenly, the one fellow calls across to his friend, doesn’t he? And he says, “You know, I think you’d better pipe down. Because we are receiving the due reward for our deeds. But this man has done nothing wrong.”[25]

How did he know that? How did he discover that? Who gave him a course in theology? No one. Who made him read a huge, fat book? No one. What happened to him? The Spirit of God, who is the author of new birth, convinced him that the world is guilty, that he is guilty, and that he is in the presence of one who has no guilt but who somehow or another is about to bear the guilt that this man owns—which is the story of the gospel. And it is the work of the Spirit of God to bring that home. It’s fantastic!

By the time you get to the day of Pentecost, Peter is out there absolutely in full steam ahead. And what is he saying? He’s saying exactly what Jesus said would happen. He says, “You folks crucified him. You’re guilty. God raised him from the dead because he lived a righteous life and he paid the penalty for sin. And he’s alive. And because he’s alive, there’s a judgment. But because he’s a merciful God, you need not fear the judgment.”

“Well,” they said, “what should we do?”

He said, “I’m glad you asked. Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will actually receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” And three thousand people were baptized. And Jerusalem was abuzz with the work of God the Holy Spirit exalting Jesus.[26]

Now, that is why it is imperative that we understand the work of God’s Spirit always Christologically—in other words, that we never separate the person and work of Christ from the person and work of the Spirit. And that, you see, is significant when he goes on in the second little paragraph to explain the activity of the Spirit not now in relationship to the world but in relationship to his own followers. Back in 14:26, he has said, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” Here in chapter 16, the same thing is said in a different way: “The Spirit … will guide you into all truth.”

Now, to whom is this promise given? This is not a generic promise given to every Christian who reads their Bible. That is the way it is usually taken. People say, “Well, of course, the Spirit’ll guide us into all truth.” Well, the Spirit will guide us into all truth, but that is not what Jesus is saying here. You remember that it says again and again through the Gospel record that they didn’t understand—that he told them he must go up here and die and suffer at the hands of cruel men, and they said they didn’t understand what he was on about. They didn’t understand this, they didn’t understand that. And so Jesus says to them, “I know that you haven’t quite got the picture. But when the Spirit comes, when he falls upon you, he will lead you into all truth. He will bring to your remembrance the things that I’ve said, and he will clarify for you all of those issues.”

Why was that so important? So that they might then declare to the world the truth concerning Jesus. And that truth which was preached was then written down, or inscripturated, so that when we think in terms of the Spirit of God leading us into all truth, that is not into some esoteric discovery of that which is new, but that is into the discovery and the rediscovery of what we have in our Bibles. The late professor John Murray puts it in a sentence: he says, “All the truth it is given us to know respecting Christ is deposited for us in the apostolic witness.”[27] “All the truth it is given us to know concerning Christ is deposited … in the apostolic witness.” And where do we have the apostolic witness? In our Bibles.

That, you see, is why the Bible is so important: the Bible is so important because of what it is—because it is the creation of the Spirit of God. Calvin says, “What kind of Spirit did our Saviour promise to send? One who should not speak of himself, … but suggest and instil the truths which he himself had delivered through the word.” Listen to this: “Hence the office of the Spirit promised to us, is not to form new and unheard-of revelations, or to coin a new form of doctrine, by which we may be led away from the received doctrine of the gospel, but to seal on our minds the very doctrine which the gospel recommends.”[28]

When we think in terms of the Spirit of God leading us into all truth, that is not some esoteric discovery of that which is new, but it is the discovery and the rediscovery of what we have in our Bibles.

And so it is that the work of Jesus is to go, to die, to rise, to ascend, to send the Spirit. And he says, “It is to your advantage”—for two primary reasons (and with this, I will stop): “Because when I go, my presence will be universalized. And when I go, my presence will be internalized.” For as long as he is physically with them, he can only be in one place at one time. If he is in Jerusalem, he cannot be in Nazareth. If he is there at ten o’clock in the morning, he can’t be with someone else at ten o’clock in the morning. But when he goes and the Spirit comes, then you understand why it is he is able to say, “All authority has been given unto me, and I want you to go out into all the world and preach the gospel. And lo, I am with you always, even to the very end of the age.”[29] So when we think of our missions family tonight, when we think about all of the kingdoms of the world, when we think about believers that are gathered and scattered throughout the entire universe, the reason that each of us is able to acknowledge the presence of the risen Christ with us is because of the ministry of God the Spirit. And he is no longer simply going to be with them; he is going to be in them. Whereas before he only taught them externally by word of mouth—he looked them in the eyes, he did parables, he explained to them; much of it they didn’t get—he says, “But don’t worry about it. It’s to your advantage that I’m going away, because when the Spirit comes and I will live within you, then that which I have said to you externally will now become apparent internally.”

The Evidence of the Holy Spirit

Two things, and I will definitely stop: I have confided in you before by telling you that I am not simply intrigued by these verses; I’m stirred by them, and I long to live in the dimension to which they refer. I am referencing John 14:21 and 23. Jesus says, “Before long,” verse 19, “the world [won’t] see me …, [and] you will see me. Because I live, you [will] also … live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” It’s just immense, isn’t it?

Now here’s the verse: “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.” Not the person who makes great professions and protestations and necessarily does things that the watching world would say, “Oh, he must really love Jesus! Look at what he did,” or “Look at his devotion; I can see it,” or “Look at her,” or whatever it is. No. “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, [that’s] the one [that] loves me.” So that’s first, right?

Now, here’s what happens: “He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him as well, and I will manifest myself to him; I will show myself to him.”[30] Twenty-three: “If anyone loves me”—Jesus essentially says it again—“if anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”

In the present climate, amongst those who would want to be strongest in their affirmations of Christian doctrine—doctrine that I would want to stand by and uphold myself—I see a dangerous and significant gap: certainly between strong doctrinal convictions such as were represented, let’s say, in the work of Jonathan Edwards in the awakenings and strong doctrinal convictions in our own day. Because when you read Edwards and you read of what took place in Edwards and through Edwards, there was nobody who was more convinced or committed to orthodox biblical teaching—but nor was there anyone more convinced in longing for, in praying for, in yearning for the outpouring of the Spirit of God in his own life and in the lives of those who were under his care.

We may have the most erudite teaching, we may have the most effective proclamation, we may have the most secure pastoral, ecclesiastical environment and amount to virtually nothing for God unless he comes and fills us and moves us and stirs us and equips us. It is not for no reason that Jesus said, “If you …, [even] though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your [heavenly Father] give the Holy Spirit to [them that] ask him!”[31]

I wonder: Have you lately asked the Father to give to you a special measure of his Spirit? You’ll know! Oh, you’ll know. Because you’ll find yourself saying, “Jesus must increase, and I must decrease.”[32] Jesus must be the name on our banner, not Parkside. Jesus must be the name on our banner, not a systematic theology. Because it is the work of the Spirit of God poured out upon the people of God to conform those people to the image of his Son.

And here’s my final quote, from my favorite Anglican minister in the 1960s, David Watson, who died of cancer in his fifties:

“This verse is decisive against all additions and pretended revelations, subsequent to and beside Christ; it being the work of the Spirit to testify to the things of Christ, and not to anything new or beyond him.” Therefore [any] good test for any claim for a new work of the Spirit [of God] is this: Is Christ glorified? Is Christ at the centre? If Christians claim some blessing of the Spirit, have they a new love for Jesus, a new hunger for his word, a new desire to tell others about him? These are the crucial issues; and personal experiences without these Christ-centred consequences are either meaningless or counterfeit.[33]

Now, what makes this quote so striking is that David Watson was a leader in the contemporary charismatic movement within the Church of England in the ’60s and ’70s. This is not some person who wants to deny the work and the power and the place of the Spirit. This is someone whose church was vibrant with the evidences of the Spirit’s work. But he says, “Personal experiences without these Christ-centred consequences are either meaningless or [they’re] counterfeit.” But because there is that which is meaningless and because there is that which is counterfeit should not cause any of us not to long after that which is real and which is true and which is life-changing.

Father, we thank you that when Jesus ascended on high, he led captives in his train, and he gave gifts to men. And we thank you that you have poured out your Spirit in these last days, even as Joel prophesied.[34] And we thank you that in Christ we have been baptized into one Spirit[35]—that if we don’t have the Spirit living in us, we’re not even Christians. But in Christ, baptized into Christ, baptized with the Spirit in Christ, we realize how easy it is for us to grieve the Spirit, to quench his work by our pride, to grieve him by our disobedience, by our toleration of jealousy and animosity and unkind thoughts and bitter words. And in the same way as we often need to go to those whom we love most and say, “You know, I never should have said that, and I am sorry,” so we need to come to you, Holy Spirit, and say the same and ask you if you wouldn’t just pick us up in your embrace, if you wouldn’t just fill us to overflowing so that Christ may be increasingly precious to us and that our lives may be increasingly conformed to his image.

Come and meet with us, Lord, as individuals and as a church family. Come and pour out your Spirit on Cleveland, we pray. “Revive [your] work in the midst of the years.”[36] For we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.


[1] See Mark 1:10.

[2] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1845), 1.9.1.

[3] John 13:33 (NIV 1984).

[4] See John 15:15.

[5] John 13:34; 15:12, 17 (paraphrased).

[6] John 15:10, 14, 18–21; 16:2–3 (paraphrased).

[7] Luke 2:49 (paraphrased).

[8] John 17:1 (NIV 1984).

[9] Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34 (NIV 1984).

[10] See Ephesians 4:8.

[11] See Ephesians 4:30.

[12] See Acts 7:51.

[13] See 1 Thessalonians 5:19.

[14] See Mark 1:10–11.

[15] See John 14:26; 15:26; 16:7.

[16] Genesis 1:26 (NIV 1984). Emphasis added.

[17] See Augustine, Questions on the Heptateuch 2.73.

[18] John 3:3–6 (paraphrased).

[19] 2 Peter 1:21 (paraphrased).

[20] Jeremiah 1:9 (NIV 1984).

[21] John 14:16 (paraphrased).

[22] John 14:26 (paraphrased).

[23] See Isaiah 6:5.

[24] Mark 15:31–32 (paraphrased).

[25] Luke 23:40–41 (paraphrased).

[26] Acts 2:22–43 (paraphrased)

[27] John Murray, “The Power of the Holy Spirit and the Christian Ministry, John 16:17–13,” in Collected Writings of John Murray, vol. 3, Life of John Murray; Sermons and Reviews (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1982), 212.

[28] Calvin, Institutes 1.9.1.

[29] Matthew 28:18–20 (paraphrased).

[30] John 14:21 (paraphrased).

[31] Luke 11:13 (NIV 1984).

[32] See John 3:30.

[33] David C. K. Watson, One in the Spirit (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1973), 36. Watson quotes, with minor alterations, Henry Alford, The New Testament for English Readers, vol. 1, pt. 2, The Gospel of St. John, and the Acts of the Apostles (London: Gilbert and Rivington, 1863), 600.

[34] See Joel 2:28–32.

[35] See 1 Corinthians 12:13.

[36] Habakkuk 3:2 (KJV).

Copyright © 2022, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.