The Spirit's Role

by Spiros Zodhiates

Just before Jesus' grueling experience of multiple trials, beatings, and crucifixion, He called His disciples aside and told them the plain and simple truth of what would happen to them in the near future (John 13:31—17:26). Today, the words exchanged that evening comprise what is commonly called "The Upper Room Discourse": a mix of hard-hitting realities and encouraging promises that not only applied to the eleven but to all of Christ's followers.

Our Lord's message that evening contains many details on the Holy Spirit that had not been introduced up to that time. In John 16:7-11, Jesus described the Spirit's task once the ascension would take place and the disciples would be left without His physical presence. The Spirit's responsibility would be to reprove (elégcho\ [1651], to convict) unbelievers of their sin, Christ's righteousness, and the reality of the final judgment.

The Spirit begins His work by convincing men that they are sinful and in dire need of God's saving grace. Conviction of sin is necessary for repentance; thus it is only the portal through which a believer experiences the Lord's salvation as promised in John 10:28: "And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish."

The Spirit's conviction of righteousness calls men to consider the reality of Jesus' perfection regarding the Law. When He convicts sinners of righteousness, the Spirit is developing in them a realization that Christ is absolutely perfect and that His righteousness may be appropriated on their behalf, justifying them before God (Rom. 3:26). The krsis ([2920], judgment) of God refers to His definitive opinion concerning believers and unbelievers who are awaiting their final resurrection (1 Cor. 15:23).

Because grace is a vital element in the plan of salvation (Eph. 2:8) we see that it is inextricably bound to the Spirit's transforming power in turning spiritually-dead unbelievers into saved Christians.

Toward the end of His evening conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus explained that "giving" was the chief characteristic of true love (agpe\ [26], selfless love). Just as He gives grace through Jesus Christ, the Father also gave the Son on behalf of all mankind that "whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16 [a.t.]).

While Jesus called Himself "the light of the world" (John 8:12), and the Apostle Paul noted that He is "unapproachable" (aprsitos [676]; 1 Tim. 6:16), I like to compare Him with the physical sun: if one looks at it too long, or even for a few minutes, he loses the ability to see. But without sunlight, physical vision would be worthless because everything would be hidden in darkness. As the spiritual light of the world, Jesus cannot be approached by man because of humanity's inherent sinfulness. But God is merciful on sinful people, and because they are too weak to approach Him, He gives grace—just the measure that is needed—so that man can experience real life in Him.

I have already alluded to the correlation between grace (chris) and humility (tapeno\sis [5014]), which is found in both James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5. Although these two verses apply to men and women in regard to the humility God desires them to exhibit, it was actually Jesus Christ who set the pattern for divine meekness. Paul asserted that the mere action of taking on human flesh was an extremely humbling position assumed by the One who dwelt with the Father in the unseen realms of heaven. "And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself" (Phil. 2:8). And because of that humility, the apostle says, "God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name" (Phil. 2:9). The result of Jesus' humility was exaltation and the gift of a name that excels all others.

While James 4:6 overtly states that those who humble themselves will be given grace, the preceding verses apply both to believers and unbelievers. In fact, verse 6 opens with the statement, "But he giveth more grace." These words are not qualified—God's grace is given regardless of whether a person is humble or simply desires to humble himself in acknowledging his sin.

The Gospel of John presents us with a vivid illustration of grace and humility. Just before our Lord declared Himself the light of the world, He confronted a horde of self-righteous religious leaders who had dragged an adulterous woman into the Temple court in order to entrap Jesus in another of their diabolic schemes (John 8:1-11).

In the midst of their discussion about what to do with the adulteress, Jesus wrote something on the ground. I have an inkling that the Savior wrote just one word: anamrte\tos ([361]; v. 7). This word is only found one time in the entire New Testament and it means "sinless one," and it only applies to our Lord. Immediately after writing, Jesus said, "He that is without sin [anamrte\tos] among you, let him cast a stone at her" (v. 8). His words pricked the religious leaders' conscience to such an extent that they abandoned their designs and left the woman alone. The Savior promptly forgave and exhorted her to live a godly life (vv. 9-11).

Whether accusing or being accused, every person stands before Jesus in a similar fashion. The woman chose, by God's power, to seek God's forgiveness while her antagonists turned away from Him in self-righteous denial. They rejected the Father's ability to make them a qualitatively new creation (kains [2537]; ktsma [2938]; 2 Cor. 5:17) in Christ. May no man follow their example.

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