The Helper

By Paul Koch

luther preaching

As our Lord moves closer to cross of Calvary, He takes a moment to look beyond His great act of love to the day when He will ascend to the Father. A simple truth cannot be avoided; Jesus is leaving. His great work is drawing near to the finish line and He will be returning to the right hand of the Father. With the departure of our Lord from our landscape, there comes a great question, an important question. In fact, how this question is answered is crucial to our faith. The question is, “Now what?”

The answer to the question of “now what?” is exactly what Pentecost was all about. Now, we are all familiar with what happened at the festival of Pentecost. There was the great outpouring of the Spirit of God. We have all tried to imagine what it would have been like to be there when the rushing wind filled the room. We wonder what it was to see tongues of fire land on the heads of disciples. We know the story of their preaching the Word of God in all the languages of all the various people who gathered in the city. But it wasn’t just some random miracle that happened that day; it wasn’t just to prove the power of God or to fulfill scripture. This was the arrival of the Helper that Christ had promised would come. This is the means, the driving force of the Church and her mission.

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The Helper that Jesus promised is the answer to the question, “now what?” How does the church do what it is called to do without Jesus by our side? Well, the Helper will do it. How can we be sure that we continue in the Way, the Truth, and the Life? The Helper will do that, as well. He is, after all, a helper. As our Lord says this Helper is the Spirit of truth: He is the one who proceeds from the Father. He will take what is our Lord’s and deliver it to you. So, as our Lord returns to the right hand of the Father so the Spirit is given to you. This Spirit of God is an active and living presence of the Almighty in our midst. He has come with an agenda. He has come with work to be done in and though us. Jesus says, “He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” The work of the Spirit of truth is to bring conviction, to bring shame and reveal guilt, to lead the way to repentance, and to speak the words of the cross to the broken and dying of our world.

First he says that He will convict the world “concerning sin, because they do not believe in me.” The world is blinded by its bondage in sin. Remember how the serpent tempted Eve, saying that God did not want them to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because they would be like God? To be like God is the quest of all sinful men. To be like God is what we desire. We forever seek to climb up above, to be the masters of our destiny, to assume control. This rebellion is the sin of the world. This sin rejected Jesus because to receive Him as the Son of God who dies for the sins of the world is to confess that we are not what we think we are. Christ was the end of our climb up, and we killed Him for it. But in His resurrection He poured out forgiveness and love. So, those who do not believe in Him remain convicted in their sin.

Eve - Anna Lea Merritt

But the work of the Spirit goes on. Not only does the Spirit of truth convict the world concerning sin, but also concerning righteousness. The Spirit takes up this task because Jesus is going to the Father. We may think that is a little odd to convict the world concerning righteousness. I mean, convicting it concerning sin makes sense: but not righteousness. However, it’s not the righteousness of God that is being convicted. This is the conviction the Spirit makes regarding man’s attempt at righteousness. What is called into question here are man’s deeds to right themselves. You might be able to look at it like this: if the Spirit is convicting the world concerning sin, He is convicting it concerning the bad things they should not do. People are being convicted of their rebellion against God. Here, though, it is not the bad things man does but the good things that are called into question. As the prophet Isaiah said, “All our righteous deeds are as filthy rags.” To trust in our own works, no matter how great they might look on the outside and no matter how righteous they may appear, is to stand under the condemnation of the Spirit.

Now the Spirit of truth, this Helper sent by our Lord, is not finished by convicting the world of sin and righteousness. No, He will convict the world concerning judgment as well because the ruler of this world is already judged. A world that is gripped by sin cannot be a faithful judge. In fact, the ruler of this world and the great enemy of all God’s people, has already been judged and condemned in the death and resurrection of our Lord. So, the judgments of our world cannot be the arbiter of what is right and wrong, of what is faithful or heretical.

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What we see painted for us in this text is a picture of the sinful world.  Ours is a world that has been completely convicted. It is convicted by the bad things it does, the good things it does, and even the ability to tell the difference between the good and the bad. There is nothing left. Encouragement will not fix it, guidance will not lead it out of the darkness into the light. It is a total loss it must die and be born again. And this is exactly what the Spirit of truth has come to do.

The Helper sent by our Lord is here to convict and to guide the church into the truth. The Spirit delivers the Words of Christ right into our midst so that we might endure until the resurrection of all the dead. In so doing He is stripping away everything that stands in the way. There is no hiding in our attempts to be like God. It is called sin and it stands judged before our Maker. There is no claiming our works will secure us hope. In the Day of Judgment, even our best works are stripped away as filthy rags. Even our own wisdom and judgment is called into question as being tainted by the ruler of this world. All we are left with is Christ. He alone is our hope. He alone is our champion. He alone is the way, and the truth, and the life.

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Pentecost is the celebration of the arrival of the Spirit of Truth. Pentecost means that the Helper is at work. He was at work there in Jerusalem all those years ago and He is at work even now. For you, then, it has all been stripped away. There is no salvation in the world, no hope in our deeds or aspirations. There is only Christ. He has died for you. He has born your sin and in His resurrection He continues to speak through His Spirit. He declares that you are loved and forgiven. You are the saints of God.