Rev. VanOverloop is pastor of Byron Center Protestant Reformed Church in Byron Center, Michigan.
“And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.”
Jesus is speaking with His disciples in the upper room. He has just instituted His Supper in remembrance of Himself. He will be taken from His disciples in a very short while. He is going to leave them. He knows it. They know it.
Jesus is comforting His disciples by promising them that, though He will leave them, He will not leave them without comfort. He will send another Comforter. This Comforter will abide with them. And He shall be in them.
Through this Comforter Jesus will come to them. With these words Jesus is putting into New Testament language the familiar words of Jehovah to His people: I will not leave you, nor forsake you; I am with you.
The Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ was poured out on Pentecost and dwells intimately in every believer. “What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” (I Cor. 6:19). The Spirit of Christ is given to be in the believer. The Christian is what he is because the Spirit of Christ has graciously been given to dwell in him. A Christian is what he is, not because of his decision, desire, or deeds, but because the Spirit of the crucified, resurrected, and ascended Lord has been poured out to dwell in every regenerated believer. It is through the gracious indwelling of the Spirit of Christ that each believer is constituted a part of the body of the living Christ.
Jesus speaks of His poured out Spirit as the “Comforter.” This name means literally “called alongside” one. The Spirit is a Comforter because He has been called to be alongside every believer, ready to help. In this last conversation with His disciples, Jesus speaks of His near departure. This serves as the occasion for Him to promise “another Comforter,” who is the Spirit of truth abiding with them and in them. When Jesus walked with His disciples they experienced and witnessed His comfort. He comforted the weary, the lost, the sick, the sheep who were without a shepherd. He comforted them by being a perfect Shepherd to them, a Shepherd whose presence assured them that they had no want. As He had been with them, so He would send Another to be with them.
Jesus Christ came, suffered, and died to obtain every blessing of salvation. But these blessings are not given except via the Spirit of Christ. It is the Spirit who regenerates, thereby taking up His abode in every one of the elect (John 3:6). If the Spirit does not dwell in you, then you are not of Christ (Rom. 8:9). It is the Spirit who gives understanding of spiritual things (I Cor. 2:12-14). Apart from the Spirit, there is no illumination in the heart concerning sin, no godly sorrow, or faith, or hope, etc. Someone can memorize the Bible, but memorization is only in the head. The truths of Scripture become a part of one’s heart and life only by the work of the Spirit. It is the Spirit who seals, so there can be a keeping in the faith—the preservation of the saints (Eph. 1:13). It is by the work of the Spirit that anyone calls on the name of Jesus for salvation (I Cor. 12:3). It is by the power of the Spirit of Christ that there is comfort, holiness, prayer, sorrow for sin, love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, faith, goodness, meekness, self-control.
It is a characteristic of the Spirit that He does not call attention to Himself, but to the Lord Christ. Jesus said exactly this in John 16:13: “When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself.” This is true also of His work within the believer. He calls attention, not to Himself, but to Jesus Christ. The Spirit is like the dew (Hosea 14:5), which does its work unseen and unheard. The Spirit does not work like a noisy thunderstorm, an earthquake, a fire, or a mighty wind (I Kings 19:11, 12). God taught Elijah that He works, not with the “loud” fire on Mount Carmel, but via the still voice of the preaching carried by the Spirit, so that the Word is impressed upon a heart in deep godly sorrow and repentance or in conviction of a truth. The pouring out of the Spirit was with a display of power, but that power served only to manifest the presence of the unseen Spirit.
However quiet the Spirit’s working may be, His work is not undetectable. The Spirit of Christ testifies with our spirit, witnessing that we are God’s children. His tremendous work in the depths of a heart breaks the bondage of sin and cleanses within. Every believer experiences the effect of His work in the ability to believe, to walk by faith and not by sight, to trust and to obey.
We don’t have to point to a powerful emotional experience to prove the Spirit’s presence and work. Nor to a head full of knowledge. An emotional experience and a head filled with knowledge can make one twice-fold fit for hell. Rather, the evidence of the work of the Spirit of Jesus Christ is the repeated pricking of one’s heart concerning one’s own sin. It is the Spirit who made Job loathe himself and repent in dust and ashes. The evidence of the work of the Spirit is found in one’s looking to Jesus in order to learn what a pricked heart must produce.
The Spirit of Jesus brings the great treasures of the blessings of salvation. It is the Spirit of Jesus who brings joy of forgiveness and justification. It is the Spirit of the Lord of the covenant who gives the wonderful experience of knowing God as one’s sovereign Friend, of Christ living within, of the close bond of love. It is the Spirit who is at work when a sinner is able to turn from sin and to begin to live according to all of God’s commandments.
The Spirit of Christ comforts. He is the Comforter because He gives to each elect saint the ability to believe and especially to trust. Trust in Jehovah is evidence that the Spirit is at work. The Spirit comforts by enabling the believer to look away from himself and from circumstances, events, and feelings, and by enabling the believer to look up, to see the Father, to know the scriptural truth of the Father’s infinite wisdom and everlasting love. The Spirit comforts by teaching and re-teaching the truth that it is God who justifies and that nothing can separate the believer from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus the Lord.
The Spirit does His work through the truth of God’s Word. This is what Jesus meant when He said that He is the Spirit of truth and that He guides into all truth.
Through the Spirit of Christ the church is led into the knowledge of the truth. The Spirit does His work through the Bible. Instead of being careless about the truth, the Spirit makes the believer love the truth and want to know it more and more, and better and better. Again, this increased knowledge is not just of facts and data, which can be thrown around to impress others. Rather this increased knowledge of the Savior leads to deeper humility and ever greater appreciation for grace and for mercy that endures forever. The Spirit works through the truth of God’s Word, so one understands it, believes it, is taken captive to it, loves it, and delights in it. The Comforter whispers God’s Word into the heart, encouraging and uplifting.
Let us praise God for the grace to have the Spirit of Christ within us. Instead of grieving the Spirit by improper attitudes toward our fellow-saints (in whom this very same Spirit dwells), let us strive to be kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven us. Let us walk in the Spirit and live in the comfort that God will never remove Him from those to whom Christ has given Him.
He will abide in you. He will bring Christ to you. And one day He will bring you to Christ, in exceeding great joy!