The Witness of God’s Spirit and People
“When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.”- John 15:26–27
Knowing that the original disciples of Jesus—and, by extension, all who would come to follow the Savior through their ministry—would face the world’s hatred, our Savior prepared them for that reality during His Farewell Discourse. Christ said that His friends would abide in Him by loving one another but that those in rebellion against God would hate them because they hated Jesus first (John 15:1–25). Such teaching would naturally lead its original hearers to ask two questions. First, since Jesus was going away and returning to the Father (14:1–3), why would the world hate His disciples? Jesus would be gone, after all. Second, in the midst of such opposition, how could the disciples of Jesus hope to remain true to their Lord?
John 15:26–27 provides the answer that Jesus would send “the Helper” to be with them. This “Helper,” of course, is the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus promised to His followers earlier in the Farewell Discourse (14:15–17, 26). Since the Holy Spirit is also the “Spirit of Christ” (Rom. 8:9; 1 Peter 1:11), the third person of the Trinity is the means by which the ascended Savior continues to dwell in and among the disciples. While Jesus is apart from His people bodily until His return in glory, He remains among them by the Spirit. That is why the world can continue to hate us on account of its hating Jesus. It will see Jesus in us and among us as we walk in the Spirit, and it will hate us as a consequence of hating Jesus, who is with us.
The Holy Spirit is also the means by which the disciples of Jesus will remain true to their Lord. He will bear witness to Christ and so remind Jesus’ disciples of all that He has taught (John 15:26). But our Lord also said that the disciples would bear witness to Him (v. 27). There is a parallel here: the Holy Spirit will bear witness to Jesus and the disciples will bear witness to Jesus. Essentially, Jesus was saying that the Holy Spirit would empower and sustain the disciples’ witness to the Savior. Followers of Jesus need not fear the world, for the Spirit is with all true believers to help them hold fast to the gospel.
Note that today’s passage, as throughout the Farewell Discourse, applies first to the original disciples. The disciples had a special role in bearing witness to Jesus and a unique authority to deliver to the church what He taught. But we who come after the Apostles are also witnesses to Christ, and the Spirit enables us to hold fast to the prophetic and Apostolic witness to Jesus—the Holy Scriptures.
Christ is with His people in the power of the Spirit in order to guard us and make us effective witnesses to Him. We dare not rest in our own strength, for we cannot remain true to the gospel on our own. We rely, instead, on the Holy Spirit by asking Him to strengthen us and seeking to know and live by His revealed Word—sacred Scripture.
Passages for Further Study