The Work of the Holy Spirit (John 16:4-15)

Have you been filled with the Holy Spirit?

Is this Church a Spirit Filled Church?

Maybe you have heard those two questions and not been sure how to answer them. Sadly, those two questions cause a lot of division within churches and between churches. This is ironic givent hat he is meant to be the Spirit of Unity.

Maybe it has caused you to doubt or to worry. Am I a proper Christian – or just a second class believer? Is there something I am missing? 


In John 14, Jesus has told the disciples that he is going to leave them for a while. They are not to be anxious or upset by this. Jesus is going for two reasons.

First, he is going to prepare a place for them.  This means he will one-day return (John 14:2-3))

Secondly, his physical departure means that he will send the Holy Spirit.  Who will teach them all truth (John 14:26). The Holy Spirit will be present even in the face of great danger and struggle (John 15:26) and this is both the reason why we should and the reason why we can remain in Christ (John 15:1-17).

Jesus reinforces the point again here in Chapter 16, because he is going to die, rise and ascend, it means that the Holy Spirit will come.  Jesus’ work is to reconcile us to God and so we know God’s presence through his Holy Spirit in our lives individually and as a church. This is important because the Holy Spirit has work to do.

So, if we are to talk about what it means for us to be filled with the Spirit, individually and as a church, we need to know more about who the Holy Spirit is and why he has come.


  1. The Holy Spirit comes to ensure the Gospel is proclaimed (v4b-11)


Jesus says that He will convict the World of Sin, righteousness and judgement. This world (meaning, humanity as it stands in rebellion against God) is guilty of unbelief. Sin is all about our decision to reject God and his word, to believe lies instead of truth.  This is seen not just in Adam’s fall but in the way that people rejected Jesus when he came. In fact, whenever we say that there are other ways to God or that we can live in a way which is good enough to please God then we too are guilty of rejecting Christ. So, the Holy Spirit has come to bring conviction of Sin to call people to true repentance.

The Holy Spirit has come to convict the world about righteousness. Don Carson notes that this world has its own righteousness. We see it in the religious rules of the Pharisees. We see it today when our society condemns some people as bad. Actually, some of those things seem good. The Pharisees were encouraging people to keep God’s Law and His Law is good.  We should agree with the outrage on social media about sexual harassment, about greedy fat cat bosses about racism.  The problem is not that we are too righteous but we are not righteous enough. Because I am self-righteous, I compare myself to others and think I am doing okay.  However, the truth is that I am a sinner. I condemn the fat cats for making huge profits but the Holy Spirit reminds me that I worry too much about money, I speak out about racism but whenever I get angry and bitter saying unpleasant things, whenever I am suspicious of an outsider, whenever I patronise people I see as not as clever, gifted or popular as me then I show the same heart as those I condemn.  No-one is righteous. The Holy Spirit reminds us that we need to receive Christ’s righteousness and that is exactly what happens when the Holy Spirit comes into your life.

The Holy Spirit convicts the world of judgement because this world’s ruler stands condemned.  You can see how the three problems are connected. We are sinners who believe lies instead of truth, rejecting God, we are self-righteous and we live under the rule of Satan, God’s enemy who is the deceiver. The Holy Spirit’s work is to tell us that Satan is defeated. God’s Kingdom is here and so when we turn to Christ we are no longer under Satan’s rule and judgement. God is our judge now.

This is both bad news and good news. It is bad news for those who don’t believe in Christ. The Holy Spirit convicts of sin, we are meant to hear and respond to God’s judgement.  If you continue to reject him them you will come under God’s final judgement

It is good news for those who believe in Christ because Satan’s aim is to control and subdue you by condemning you. However, if you belong to Jesus, then there is now no more condemnation (Romans 8:1).

“When Satan tempts me to despair

And tells me of the guilt within

Upward I look and see him there

Who made an end of all my sin”[1]

So, the first job of the Holy Spirit is to convict. This work should lead to repentance for those who don’t know Christ and gives assurances to those of us who do.

It also means that our job if we belong to Christ and have the Holy Spirit is to share in this work, telling others the Gospel and showing by our lives the difference he makes.

  1. The Holy Spirit comes to reveal the truth about God (v12-15)

Jesus tells his disciples that he has much more to say to them but they are not able to take this teaching yet.  I think that this is because understanding the full picture of what was going to happen and why was something they could not grasp/bear on that side of the resurrection.

The Holy Spirit will lead them into all truth. The Holy Spirit helps us to know everything we need to know about God and the Gospel.  Notice that the Holy Spirit doesn’t bring his own ideas. Rather, he reveals what The Son shows him, just as The Son does the work that the Father shows him. These are not three rival gods with their own agenda. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one God who share in the same work and the same goal.

The Holy Spirit will teach them about the future too, so they know how God’s purpose will be fulfilled and can look forward to Christ’s return.

Now, it is important to understand at this point that when Jesus says “He will guide you into all truth” that he is speaking specifically to the Apostles.  How did he do that? He inspired them to write Scripture.

This is important because we are not to think of the Bible and the Holy Spirit as different sources of revelation. It isn’t that I read my Bible and then if I want to know something extra that is missing then I sit in silence and wait for the Holy Spirit to drop the idea in my head.  Rather, the Holy spirit speaks through Scripture. He inspired the Apostles to write it and he helps us to read, understand and apply it.

Now, Paul in 1 Corinthians talks about gifts including tongues, prophecies, words of knowledge and wisdom etc. We read about people having visions and people share pictures they have. These things are not to supplement Scripture and certainly must not contradict it.  Nor must we become dependent on them instead of or in addition to Scripture.

This means that if we want to know the truth about God and how to live in this world then we need to know Scripture. Read it not as an intellectual exercise but read it prayerfully expecting the Holy Spirit to speak to you through it.

  1. The Holy Spirit comes to glorify Christ (v14)

The Father, Son and Holy Spirit love each other – this is one of the ways we have seen that God is eternal love. So, the Holy Spirit loves and glorifies the Son because he reveals truth about him and the Gospel.

If we are filled with the Spirit then this will be our concern too. We will not be worried about our own honour but we will want to see Christ glorified


Remember that every believer who is in Christ also has the Holy Spirit. It is not like Jesus turns up on his own, moves into your life and then a few weeks later says “Can I invite some more family along to stay too.” When you receive Christ you receive the Father and the Son too.

So, some of you do not yet have the Holy Spirit because you have not received Christ yet. Will you respond now to the Holy Spirit convicting you of sin, righteousness and judgement?

For those of us who are in Christ, are we showing in our words and lives that we have the Holy Spirit?


[1] Charity Bancroft, Before the Throne of God Above