The Spirit in Us and Beside Us (John 15:26–16:15)

Read John 15:26–16:15.

Jesus tells His friends, “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from my Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me” (John 15:26).

He’s called the Advocate in the NIV. Other translations call Him Comforter (KJV, TLB), Counselor (CSB, RSV), Helper (ESV, NASB), Companion (CEB), Friend (MSG), or Divine Encourager (TPT). The Holy Spirit is all of these things, though the Greek word might be more literally translated “one called alongside.” The term was often used in legal settings for a person who speaks on another’s behalf, something like a defense attorney.

Why do God’s people need a good lawyer? Because we have an accuser who never relents, and the world is watching. Ever since he pushed aside the nobility of heaven to pursue his dark rebellion, Satan has trafficked in accusations. It started in the garden of Eden when he accused God of holding out on Adam and Eve: “‘You will not certainly die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat from [the tree of the knowledge of good and evil] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil’” (Genesis 3:4–5).

It was a lie dressed up in pleasure and pride, designed to separate humanity from the Lord—and it was only the beginning. With Adam and Eve and all their descendants unable to escape the stains of sin on their own, the devil continued to accuse them before the Father. Every evil deed they committed was evidence that human beings weren’t worthy of redemption, and every good deed was tainted by sin. On top of that, Satan argued that God was unjust for promising to save His rebellious image-bearers. Justice requires punishment, not mercy.

On it went, down through history. Satan accused human beings of being unworthy and God of being unjust. At the cross, these two streams of accusation and allegation come crashing together and come undone. Left to ourselves, we human beings are unworthy; “our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). But in Christ, we can be made new, just as God promised through the prophet Ezekiel: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).

The Holy Spirit is that “new spirit,” and through us He now proclaims truth to silence the devil’s accusations. In John 16, Jesus tells His disciples, “When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment” (v. 8). Those three issues—sin, righteousness, and judgment—are at the heart of Satan’s twin accusations, and as the Holy Spirit addresses them, the power of the dark one at work in this world is neutralized. Let’s break them down.

Jesus says: “about sin, because people do not believe in me” (v. 9). All sin, from the smallest lie to the most damnable genocide, grows from the same root—failure to trust God. It’s what happened in the garden, and it’s what happens in every human heart when temptation births sin. The Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin by pointing to Jesus. When people reject Jesus, they make it plain that their trust is not in Yahweh. No matter how good a person is, if they fail to trust God they stand condemned. Conversely, no matter how vile someone’s sins are, if they give their allegiance to the Lord, they will be saved.

He says, “about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer” (v. 10). The Greek word translated “righteousness” can also be rendered “justice,” and that makes more sense of the context here. The members of the religious establishment think they’re on the right side of history. They have rejected Jesus, calling Him a sinner (9:24), a blasphemer (10:33), and demon-possessed (8:52). But when they hand Him over to be killed, Jesus is going to rise again. He will receive all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18), be exalted to the right hand of the Father (1 Peter 3:22), and be revealed as the true King of kings (Revelation 19:16). All this will show that Jesus was in the right, not them.

How will they know? Even though Jesus won’t be visible to them any longer, His work will go on. His Spirit will live inside of His followers, and the world will see the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, and all the rest (see Galatians 5:22–23)—along with signs and wonders and a new kind of community. All these will prove that Jesus didn’t deserve their condemnation, but instead their adoration.

Finally, Jesus says, “and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned” (John 16:11). Satan became this world’s ruler when Adam and Eve surrendered their authority to him back in Eden. The first humans had been tasked with keeping the garden free from anything impure, unholy, broken, or contrary to God’s will.* When the serpent revealed himself to be a traitor, Adam should have ceased listening and judged the creature with the authority God gave him. Of course, he failed. Therefore, “the whole world is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). Satan is pulling the strings of world powers, driving culture further and further away from the truth as powerfully as he can, and keeping in darkness all those who don’t yet know Jesus.

One of the reasons Jesus came was “to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8). He did this at the cross, where sin was punished and mercy was provided—and a way of salvation was made for people trapped in the devil’s clutches. Jesus answered, once and for all time, the accusations of the evil one. So now, the devil stands condemned and awaits his sentence (see Revelation 20:10).

The Holy Spirit testifies to all these things as He speaks the truth. He is the Advocate we need. He is the presence of God living in the Lord’s people, and He speaks through us and to us. Jesus says, “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 glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you” (16:13–14).

No matter what the world or the devil throws at us, we have the Spirit of God in us and by our side. He makes the case that we are God’s children and the heirs of heaven’s blessings, not because of anything we have done, but because of the price Jesus paid at Calvary.

* In Genesis 2:15, the Hebrew words translated “work” and “keep” are the same terms used to describe the temple service of the priests and Levites elsewhere in the Old Testament (see Numbers 3:7–8; 8:25–26; 18:5–6; 1 Chronicles 23:32; Ezekiel 44:14). These terms carry the sense of “serve” or “worship” and “guard” respectively, the implication being that as the human priests of Eden, Adam and Eve were to serve and worship God while guarding the holiness of the garden, which was a temple, a place where heaven and earth come together.

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