In our examination of the witnesses of Jesus the Messiah, we turn our attention to another member of the Trinity: the Holy Spirit, who is also a witness to Jesus. “To the Jew the Spirit had two functions. The Spirit brought God’s truth to men, and the Spirit enabled men to recognize that truth when they saw it.” [1] This is consistent with the Spirit's role in John. In this gospel, Jesus said the third component of the Trinity would come later, bear witness, and guide the disciples in the truth. As in the case of the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit, also known as the Paraclete , as we see in John 15:26 also embodies truth and so is suitable to offer testimony. Before the comments of Jesus about the Spirit, He explained to the twelve how the world would hate them just as the world hated Him and how the world would later persecute them just as they were persecuting Him. This hatred toward the group of men began because He chose them out of the world, and the hatred continued after His ascension. Jesus introduced this line of thought to the disciples in chapter fourteen. Partly because of this hatred, Jesus sent the Paraclete to help the disciples testify about Him. Just as He foretold in John 14:26 and 15:27, the Holy Spirit came to the disciples to help them after His ascension.

These two statements by Jesus seem to refer only to the disciples because they are the ones who heard what Jesus said to them concerning the Spirit helping them to remember, and they were the ones who had been with Him from the beginning of His ministry. This seems to exclude all others from this special role and purpose of the Spirit. In addition, Jesus said the third component of the Trinity would be sent to the disciples, who would then speak to the world. The role of the Paraclete seems best understood as a support for the disciples as they witnessed to a non-caring and antagonistic world. He worked in conjunction with the disciples to testify of Jesus. “This witness "is powerful because He comes with supernatural insight and conviction to demonstrate the reality of the unseen Father.” [2] At we noted earlier in this chapter, the role of the eye-witness is crucial to building belief in Jesus after His ascension. The gospel accounts are, in fact, historical accounts of the facts concerning Jesus. Some scholars note the tone of command in 15:27 where Jesus said the disciples would bear witness because they had been with Him from the beginning. This statement is in the imperative voice to emphasize the disciples “will” testify, and the disciples did, as the book of Acts tells.

The Spirit had a specific purpose with regard to His audience; for example, the signs that Jesus performed and the signs the twelve performed, found in the book of Acts as well as the writings of the Apostle Paul, were all meant to prove or validate Jesus’ messianic claims and the Father’s power. As Jesus and later the disciples proved He was the Messiah, these miraculous signs ceased. The followers of Jesus needed a special presence to enable them to boldly proclaim the gospel after the ascension of Jesus, hence the introduction of the Spirit to this specific group. Once the church grew to include believers who spoke different languages or dialects and the disciples were no longer alive, the need to validate their message ceased. This is not to say It is not active in the lives of believers today; He is most definitely active in the lives of believers across the world. However, the purpose of the Paraclete is different today than when the disciples were working to establish the early church and fearlessly testifying to what they heard and saw while they were with Jesus so as to develop a strong cadre of believers in the risen Jesus.

The third component of the Trinity revealed what He heard from Jesus and God. Jesus said the Father would send the Spirit in response to His prayer (14:16), and the Father would send Him in Jesus’ name (14:26), but He also told the disciples He would send the Spirit Himself. The Spirit, being one of the Trinity, is intimately involved in the activities of the Father and the Son. The primary focus of the Paraclete in this context was of a witness, in particular a witness to Jesus the Messiah. The focus of this passage is the activities of the Holy Spirit in the world. After Jesus ascended into heaven the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples at Pentecost, and the Holy Spirit bore witness to Jesus the Messiah as Peter preached under His guidance.

Jesus also added the impending statements of the twelve bore witness to Him because they had been with Him from the beginning of His ministry and they saw the crucifixion and His resurrected body. Their testimony was tied with the Holy Spirit’s as seen in Acts 2:1-4, and they both bore witness to Jesus. Because of the indwelling, the disciples were emboldened to proclaim the gospel and the resurrection of Jesus, which resulted in many coming to a saving faith in Jesus.

Jesus spoke of the Spirit as a witness for the second time in the same conversation with His disciples in John 16:13-15. He explained the Spirit of Truth would come to guide the disciples into deeper truths about Himself and the Father. The source of the teaching was Jesus, and the purpose was to teach and guide the group of men in all truth. One aspect of what Jesus meant by truth was to determine the correct translation. If the phrase reads “into all truth,” the interpretation may be more open-ended. If the correct translation is “in all truth,” this indicates an examination of a truth already revealed. This author believes the correct translation is “in all truth,” referring to an understanding of an objective truth about Jesus. The context of the passage supports this idea because these verses claim the Holy Spirit would reveal what Jesus and the Father already have. Whitacre is probably right when he notes that the promise of Jesus, rather than being a new revelation, is insight into the revelation that is Himself. Just as Jesus never spoke or acted on His own initiative (3:34-35, 5:19-20, 8:26-29, 12:47-50), the Holy Spirit revealed only what He heard and did not act on His own initiative. “The mention of all truth in 13:26 and the stress that the Paraclete will not speak on his own but only what he hears seem to confirm the suggestion that no new revelation is involved.” [3] The Spirit “will not, in other words, proclaim anything with a new content. All that He will do is to expound anew to the community Jesus’ message in the situation in which that community finds itself and sets forth what is coming to it.” [4]

It is unclear what Jesus meant when He said the Spirit would disclose to the twelve “what is to come,” and there has been considerable debate on it. At first glance, one might assume Jesus was referring to the dramatic events at the conclusion of His ministry. This would be incorrect because the Holy Spirit did not come until forty days after His ascension. Perhaps It would give a perspective of the future through the revelation of the gospel and His presence, providing words to speak and divine insight during the struggles and trials of the disciples; or perhaps the Spirit would reveal end of the age events. “Because of the juxtaposition of the statement about the Counselor’s testimony and the disciples’ testimony to Jesus, it is probable that the Counselor’s testimony is to be understood as effected through the witness of the disciples.” [5] While this is interesting, not everyone agrees. As with other passages for which there are differing interpretations, there has been an on-going argument for both views. In reality, the correct meaning is unknown and likely has little impact on Christendom.

The Holy Spirit is present in the lives of believers today. However, His role and activities of the present day differ from His purpose during the lives of the initial group of men who followed Jesus. It is different because of the circumstances of the world today. Yes, the Holy Spirit is active, for “whenever a true servant of God bears witness against the world, this witness is the work of the Spirit. Whenever a simple believer, by word and example, draws others to Christ, this too is the work of the Spirit.” [6]


Copyright 2016 © Craig B. Manning. All Rights Reserved.