28. The Coming of the Spirit

R.J. Rushdoony • Mar, 19 2024

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  • Series: Aspects of Systematic Theology
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Our subject is ‘the coming of the Spirit,’ and our Scripture is John 16:7-14.

“Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.

I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” 1

In the Old Testament it is God the Spirit who is most present. Again and again we read that the Spirit of God spake, thus and so. He spoke through the prophets and through holy men. He was the comfort and the strength of covenant men through the centuries of the Old Testament era. David in Psalm 51:11 prays:

Cast me not away from thy presence;

And take not thy holy spirit from me. 2

The Holy Spirit was the blessing and the possession of the godly.

And yet, we are told in the New Testament by our Lord Himself in this passage, of the ‘coming of the Spirit;’ as though a new era were beginning. What is this special and new coming of the Spirit? The Lord says that He must leave. It is expedient, it is profitable He says, for me to go away. And the word that is translated as ‘expedient’ can also be rendered as ‘necessary’. In order to bring about God’s purposes, our Lord says that it is necessary and profitable for Him to leave, and for the Spirit to come. The purposes of God will only be so accomplished. The same Greek word is used by Caiaphas in John 11:50, when he declares: “It is expedient for this one man, Jesus Christ, to die, in order to bring about the national destiny.”

In other words, on the one hand Israel says in the person of the High Priest: “This man must die in order to accomplish the necessary purposes of our history.” But God said at the same time that it was necessary for His purpose, and now Christ declares: “It is necessary for me to go, and for the Spirit to come, to fulfill the purposes of the Trinity.”

Now the word that is translated ‘the comforter,’ a name of the Spirit, is in the Greek: ‘paraklētos (‘παράκλητος).’ It has come over into the English as ‘paraclete’. It can be translated as ‘comforter,’ but also as ‘advocate,’ a legal aid, an attorney. After all, if you are accused and you stand before a court, a court that is trying to railroad you into jail, to have an able attorney at your side, a man who is dedicated to your defense, is a comfort. Such is the Holy Spirit, He is our comforter. As the world seeks to indict us and to destroy us, the Holy Spirit stands by our side as our comforter; but He is also a lawyer, an advocate, so He stands also as the prosecutor of the world, to bring them before the bar of Almighty God. And we are told:

“He will reprove the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment.”

The word ‘reprove’ can mean rebuke or ‘convict,’ as in a court. And the Holy Spirit, the paraclete, the advocate, convicts the world. So that our Lord says here “the Spirit convicts the world.” Here is the significance of the special coming of the Spirit. The Spirit has been active from creation. Christ comes, He sets forth God’s plan of salvation and His sovereign claim on all men. Our Lord came preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, He is the last Adam, the head of the new humanity. Now the Spirit comes to prosecute that witness of Jesus Christ in the heart of all men. So when our Lord speaks of the coming of the Spirit, the Spirit comes now in a special sense to work in the hearts of all men.

This week, one very able young man, a visitor, a new Christian, was telling us of his experiences a few years ago when he was a playboy. He would have young friends who had become Christians, trying to convert him. And he said: “I would laugh at them, I would ridicule them. But in my heart I was hoping they would be right.” This is the work of the Spirit, and what our Lord says here is that with His departure we have the coming of the Spirit in this special sense, to convict the world, so that the whole world now has a witness. Christ’s witness was a local one, it was in Judea, and it was in Galilee, to all who came to hear Him. And our Lord says: “It is profitable that I go away, it is expedient, it is necessary for the purposes of God; so that now the third person of the Trinity, the Spirit, may come. And His witness will be to all men, so that they are without excuse.” Nowhere, on no continent nor island, is there a man who is not being convicted by the Spirit. But Paul tells us they ‘hold,’ or ‘suppress,’ or ‘hold down, ‘hold back,’ that witness in unrighteousness.

Our Lord then goes on to say: “And when He is come He will reprove” (or convict) “The world of sin, because they believe not on me.” Very specific. The world is convicted by the Spirit for the greatest of sin, the rejection of Jesus Christ. The emphasis is on Christ, belief in Him. The world is ready at times to talk about sin. I recall one man when confronted with the fact that he was a self-righteous Pharisee, after having said that he didn’t see anything wrong with him, he didn’t need religion; and when he was told he was a sinner he said: “Well, I’ll buy that. Everybody sins a little, but it is nothing significant.” “Well, where do you sin?” He did not want to be specific, of course. People will only confess their sins, all too often Christians included, in a vague sort of way - just a part of the human condition. Nothing that particularly is my fault. This is why the prayer in the old Office of Compline is so good, because it requires a confession of “my sin, my own sin; my very own sin.” Sin is personal, it is specific, and the heart of it is, our Lord says: “They believe not on me.”

They refuse the new head of humanity, the great Adam Jesus Christ. The world may dream about a new paradise, and our politics are full of talk about ‘the great community’ and ‘the great society.’ But what the world wants in its heart is the old Babel, the old hell. Our Lord makes clear the attitude of the world, in Luke 19:14 we read the summation of the world’s position: “We will not have this man to reign over us.” The world would like to forget Him. But the Spirit convicts men of their sin of unbelief in Jesus Christ, and all too often a sleeping church would like to forget about Him, but the Spirit will not permit this.

Our Lord says further: “And when he is come, he will reprove (or ‘convict’) the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more…” 3 The word ‘righteousness’ is ‘justice’. The world seeks to establish its own humanistic doctrine of justice, and we hear a great deal of talk about social justice, human rights, equal rights, and so on and on. All these are forms of injustice, not justice. Christ’s death and resurrection set forth God’s justice. The ascension is the triumph of justice on the throne. God’s justice is set forth for us to follow in His word, in His law. Man the rebel deserves to die, and Christ’s death witnesses to God’s righteousness, to the binding force of God’s law for all time, because Christ rose from the dead and makes us alive in Him we know that the just shall live by faith; He, justice, is forever on the throne. And because He says: “I go to my Father and ye see me no more” The Spirit now comes to convict the world with regard to God’s justice.

Then our Lord goes on to say He will convict the world “of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.” The Holy Spirit convicts the world of judgment, that is, of the reality of God’s judgment. The word: ‘judgment’ in Greek is our English word, only spelled with a ‘k,’ ‘krisis.’ It means, separation or division. The world wants no separation or division, it wants total equality between good and evil - which means the destruction of the good. But the Spirit comes to convict the world of judgment, to create ‘krisis,’ which is judgment; and you had better believe the world is under judgment today.

I was reading this morning that in New York andNew England, they are facing rationing of water because of the draught. In the South-East many of the wealthy peanut growers and others have been wiped out, have lost everything, because of the drought of this past year. In California now, the drought to date is worse than it ever was during the drought of a few years ago, and already in Marin county, they are restricting water use. This past year, three of the four wheat exporting countries of the world were unable to export because of bad weather, and the already tight food crisis of the Soviet Union is now worse. We are in a time of judgment. And the Holy Spirit is at work convicting the world of judgment. Is it any wonder that the world has entered into what has been called by commentators: “A time of pessimism?” that all the bright dreams of a new paradise on earth are fading?

“The prince of this world is judged.” He whom the fallen world sees as its leader is judged and defeated; the Cross and the Resurrection are the defeat of Satan and His world. But the world refuses to admit its judgment, although its entire being witnesses to it. It has a fanatical adherence to injustice. This is why, by the way, Calvin is not a popular figure. After all, the sentence of Calvin which incurred no little hostility was simply this: “Without judgment there can be no God.” This is what Calvin said - without judgment there can be no God.

The attitude of the world came to open expression in the words of Heine, who many generations ago, confronted with the possibility of death and the need for repentance from sin, said jestingly and sarcastically:

“The good God will pardon me, for that’s His job.” 4

The good God will pardon me, for that is His job.

Just this past week I was told of a man whose attitude when someone spoke to him about God and the necessity for repentance from his sins: “If God is love, how can He ever condemn me?” Of course, the culmination was in the book by a Princeton philosopher who just died in recent months, Walter Kaufmann, who titled his book: Without Guilt and Justice. Dreaming of a world without guilt and justice, and then concluding with a citation of Genesis 3:1-6, and saying that that program of Satan from the beginning was right.

But in spite of this the Spirit makes this judgment resound in man's heart, echo in his bones, in every atom of His being. And we see a world of which since Freud has denied guilt is real- “Guilt is just a relic of our primordial past.” But at the same time, psychotherapy has become the greatest growth business of the modern era, because modern man in rebellion against God is guilt-ridden, guilt-haunted; and the Spirit, unrelentingly convicts him, brings home His judgment to him.

Up to this point, our Lord is speaking about the work of the Holy Spirit in relationship to the world outside of Christ. And it is a sad fact that the church has too little stressed this great work of the Holy Spirit, which our Lord makes clear is certainly central to His work in the world today. And now our Lord turns to the Spirit's work in relationship to His humanity, to the people of the covenant, to His members, and He says while He is with them, His followers rely on Him, on His physical presence, and they cannot bear the thought of separation. He is the Lord, the miracle-worker, God incarnate, their savior. Until He leaves, they cannot do the greater works of which He spoke in John 14:12. They cannot go on with the worldwide conquest which is their calling. How then are they to be freed, unleashed for this task? He must leave, and the Holy Spirit shall come. He is, our Lord says, the Spirit of truth:

“[H]e shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” 5

The Spirit leads all men into all the truth, Jesus Christ. ‘The truth in all its parts,’ in the Greek. The Spirit’s guidance is not of Himself, we have here the unity of the triune God affirmed, one will. The Spirit's communication to us is amazing: “Whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak, and he will show you things to come.”

Now, commentators and preachers shy away from that, ‘he will show you things to come.’ “Why, that is a charter to the Charismatics!” They don’t like it. Some limit this therefore: “he will show you the Christian way.” Now that is sufficiently vague, so you are saying: “Our Lord said it, but it doesn’t mean much.” Others have read this as justification for new revelations. How shall we understand it? The fall of Adam I, is the Fall of all his sons. The birth, the life, the death and resurrection of Adam II, Jesus Christ, is the life of all His members. None can transcend their Adam. Thomas Boston, generations ago said concerning fallen man, the sons of Adam one: “Can any man leap out of Delilah’s lap into Abraham’s bosom?” 6 Very well put, as only a good Scottish theologian could put it. Can any man leap out of Delilah’s lap into Abraham's bosom?

The limits of our Lord's Word are our limits, there are now no new revelations. But “He will show you things to come” what does this mean? Now, we are called to be prophets, priests, kings; to be a prophet means to set forth the Word of God and to predict in terms of that word. A simple kind of prediction that I have called attention to previously is Romans 6:23 “The wages of sin is death.” We can all predict in that sense. But, when the Spirit comes and empowers us to predict, it means more than that, it means that and more. It means the application, the development by the power of the Holy Spirit of that implication. For example, what are the consequences of prayerlessness? Under the Holy Spirit we can predict to men what it is. What are the consequences of inflation? Led of the Holy Spirit, we can predict what comes, what happens when men turn from God and His Word to their own word, which is what fiat money is.

Ignorance of the Bible and of God’s law in terms of Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28, we can apply this specifically. Does it not speak there of drought as a consequence of the neglect of God’s law? In the realm of politics, family life, business, the arts, the sciences, all things - the Spirit of truth gives us the wisdom in terms of the Word of God to know and to predict the things to come. This is God’s world. God’s order prevails in it, and when man’s disorder enters in, God’s order comes in the form of judgment, and the Spirit shows us the things to come and we can predict. We glorify Christ even as the Spirit of truth does, and as we are faithful to His Word and we bring all our abilities and our fields, our services, to bear on God’s order, God's word applied to man's disorder, we are shown the things to come.

Thus, the coming of the Spirit unleashes powerful forces in history, forces of conviction and forces of growth; history cannot be stagnant, especially not when the Spirit comes as He came, beginning at Pentecost. We are told in John 5:3 of the pool of Bethesda; there was healing in the waters, only when an angel troubled the waters of Bethesda. Today the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, is troubling the waters of history; as He has since Pentecost. That troubling is the conviction, the judgment of the ungodly. All church men who draw back from the troubled waters remain impotent, as did those by the pool of Bethesda who did not enter in. Those who in Christ and in the power of His Spirit move into the troubled waters alone know the power of His salvation and victory. Therefore we must say this and repeat it again, to those who want to stand on the sidelines in the battles of our day, as the humanists seek to destroy the church of Christ, to destroy the Christian Church will remain impotent. And those who move into the troubled waters of history, alone know the power of His salvation and victory. There is no other way.

Let us pray.

* * *

O Lord our God, thou hast called us to do battle as good soldiers of Jesus Christ. Give us grace, faith, and courage; that we may move against the humanistic Statists, and to bring every area of life and thought into captivity to Jesus Christ. Thou art the Lord, the government is upon thy shoulders. We thank thee that thou hast called us to be thy troops. Make us ever faithful in;; battle. In Jesus' name, amen.

* * *

Are there any questions now, first of all with regard to our lesson? Yes?

[Audience Member] Does the word ‘you’, in “I will send Him unto you”, refer only to the disciples, or to all Christians down the ages?

[Rushdoony] Yes, it refers to all of us. There is no limitation there. The Spirit of truth comes to all Christians down the centuries, even as the Holy Spirit comes to convict all men of sin, of justice and judgment, down through the centuries to the Second Coming. Then we would have to say, you see, if we limit it on the one side, we would have to say: “He only came to convict the men of that day.”

Any other questions now? Yes?

[Audience Member] The doctrine of human rights, is it based not on our Christianity, but based on humanism?

[Rushdoony] The doctrine of human rights formulated by the administration is a humanistic concept. The Bible gives us God’s law which is unchanging. ‘Human rights’ is a meaningless concept, it means whatever anyone chooses to make it meaning. The Soviet Union believes it is acting in terms of human rights, it has defended its actions within the Soviet Union, in Afghanistan and elsewhere, in terms of human rights. The people who are in the slave-labor camps in the Soviet Union there, are there in fulfillment of the Soviet doctrine of human rights. The doctrine of human rights is a meaningless doctrine, it means whatever whoever is in power chooses to make it mean. For us, there is God’s law, His justice; that is our protection.


[Audience Member] Is it true that every sin is a form of occultism?

[Rushdoony] No. There is a good line in John Donne, in which he speaks of ‘tempting Satan to tempt us’. In other words, man cannot say it is occult forces that led me into sin - he seeks them out. Sin is not something the environment does to us, occult or human or otherwise, it is something we do to ourselves because we choose sin. So, when people say: “She cast a spell over him” they are trying to excuse what happened, to take away guilt from the man.

[Audience Member] I saw a bumper sticker that said abortion is a human right, and I thought about that, and it seemed rather stupid.

[Rushdoony] True, but it still man's sin, first and foremost. Remember, the angels are messengers and servants of man, not our masters; and Satan is only a fallen angel, so that we have more power than he does, but we don’t choose to be godly with that power. Tempting Satan to tempt us, said John Donne, is what man does; so that he can then say: “The devil made me do it.” Yes?

[Audience Member] Some evangelicals often say that the Holy Spirit came to work within the heart of the believer, to prepare him to bear up under the trials of this world, and his workings are purely internal, not external, purely spiritual.

[Rushdoony] Yes, well, that is really a Greek version of the Holy Spirit and not Biblical. The Holy Spirit moved upon the face of the deep and brought creation into being. He works physically as well as spiritually. And His role is not negative. First of all, it is very wrong to limit His work to the believer; after all He is working in the hearts of unbelievers. Our Lord in this passage tells us of three ways in which He is working on the whole world of unbelievers. I believe also, while I do not believe in healers, particularly, that the Holy Spirit is active very often in healing, He answers our prayers physically, and I believe He answers our prayers physically in a great many areas. When we pray to Him or pray to God and He prays in us and works, I believe He acts in the world at large, so that things in the physical realm as well as the spiritual realm are under the direction of the Holy Spirit.

Moreover, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of power, and such people have an idea that the Christian is powerless, he is just there and the world is clobbering him, and the Holy Spirit enables him to ‘grin and bear it’ as it were. Well, that is blasphemous. The Christian is the man of power, in fact our Lord came to give us power. We read in John 1:12 “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God.” Power! We dare not forget that fact.

Then it says: “Even to them that believe on His name which were born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” Two weeks ago we dealt with that. Our regeneration is compared to the virgin birth in these words, and it is the work of the Spirit who is the Spirit of power. Yes?

[Audience Member] Is Satan’s power the power of death?

[Rushdoony] Good question. All things come from the hands of God and by His ordination, but in a very real sense, sinful man as well as sinful fallen beings, have a will to death; a self-destructive, suicidal impulse. One of the very moving books of our time is Solzhenitsyn’s: From Under the Rubble. I urge you to read it, especially the sections written by Igor Shafarevich, a mathematician. He there documents from the thinking of Communism and of all forms of Communism from the beginning of time, their goal, which he says is universal death, universal death. And it is interesting that the Marquis De Sade spoke of the great triumph of anti-Christianity as the ability, someday, to pluck the sun out of the heaven, and destroy the universe, and then to kill God. Universal death - this, he felt, would be the triumph of unbelief. And we would have to say yes, while it is not the power, it is the urge to death that marks Satan and all fallen men.

Well, let us bow our heads now for the benediction.

* * *

And now go in peace, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, bless you and keep you, guide and protect you, this day and always, amen.

1 Jn 16:7–14.

2 Ps 51:11.

3 Jn 16:8–10.

4 “Ilico”: No More Apologies. (London, England: The Religious Book Club, 1941). p. 76f.

5 Jn 16:13–14.

6 Rev. Thomas Boston. The Whole Works of the Late Reverend Thomas Boston of Etterick: Edited by Rev. Samuel McMillan. Vol. V. XII vols. Aberdeen: George and Robert King, 1849, 310.

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