Summary: The church is called to bear witness to Jesus, but this witness is primarily the witness of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus said, ‘I will pray the Father, and (1) He shall give you another Comforter’ (John 14:16). The word Paraclete, here translated as ‘Comforter’, speaks of One who draws alongside. The same word can be translated as ‘Helper’, ‘Counsellor’ or ‘Advocate’ (cf. 1 John 2:1).
Jesus identifies this ‘other’ Comforter as the Holy Spirit, (2) whom the Father will send in Jesus’ name, who will ‘teach you all things, and bring to remembrance all things that I taught you’ (John 14:26). Jesus encourages His disciples in the face of the prospect of His own departure, and in the face of persecution: ‘If I go not away the Comforter will not come to you; but if I go, (3) I will send Him to you’ (John 16:7). Here in John 15:26, Jesus says that (4) He will send the Comforter from the Father, and identifies Him as “the Spirit of truth who (5) proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.”
In a progression of thought these verses teach us that (1) the Comforter comes as a gift of the Father; (2) the Father sends Him in Jesus’ name; (3) Jesus sends Him; (4) Jesus sends Him from the Father; (5) and as the “Spirit of truth” He proceeds from the Father. This does not speak of a hierarchy, but of the three Persons of the Godhead operating in harmony for the empowering of the church during the time of Jesus’ physical absence. The church is called to witness (John 15:27); but this witness is primarily the witness of the Spirit (John 15:26).
1. As we enter our text, it is well to note, first, the certainty of the event: “When the Comforter IS COME” (John 15:26a).
But when did the disciples receive the Holy Spirit? It may appear at first glance in John’s Gospel that He came upon them when Jesus ‘breathed on them’ during one of His post-resurrection appearances (John 20:22). However, Luke’s Gospel records the same conversation in a slightly different way, as we discovered in last week’s sermon: ‘And you are witnesses of these things. Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high’ (Luke 24:48-49).
In other words, the “coming” of the Holy Spirit corresponds with the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2.
2. Second, Jesus names the Comforter, “the Spirit of Truth” (John 15:26b).
Jesus says, ‘When He, the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide you into all the truth’ (John 16:13). Now this is tantamount to saying that He will point the disciples to Jesus, for Jesus has already said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except by Me’ (John 14:6).
3. Third - as well as being “sent” by the Father, and by Jesus, as noticed in the context above - the Holy Spirit “proceeds (goes forth) from the Father” (John 15:26c) under the power of His own volition, His own sovereign free-will.
4. Fourth, as we have just noticed, the Holy Spirit comes to testify of Jesus (John 15:26d). The Holy Spirit does not point to Himself, but away from Himself to Jesus. As should we.
5. Fifth, it is at this point that we see the disciples’ responsibility to bear witness (John 15:27a).
a. Primarily, this no doubt applies specifically to those who were still present with Jesus at this stage of the Upper Room discourse. This would be the apostolic party, which Judas had already left. They are the ones who had been “with Me from the beginning” (John 15:27b).
b. Secondarily, this applies to successive generations of the church, each with a duty to tell forth to their own generation ‘the wonderful works of God’ (Acts 2:11). A mission which began in Jerusalem and is continuing even now ‘to the ends of the earth’ (Acts 1:8).
‘Let us always be ready to give an account of the hope that is within us’ (1 Peter 3:15), ‘in season and out of season’ (2 Timothy 4:2) - knowing that the Holy Spirit testifies of Jesus (John 15:26d) with us, and through us (John 15:27a). And to God alone be the glory. Amen.