Jesus—His Life and Message: Discipleship (Part 6)
October 24, 2017
by Peter Amsterdam
Jesus—His Life and Message: Discipleship (Part 6)
As we’ve seen in the five previous articles regarding discipleship, Jesus taught that believing in and following Him call for a reorientation of our priorities so that God has our primary allegiance. Our family, loved ones, desires, possessions, professions, and even our own lives are meant to be secondary to our dedication to and love for God. Reordering our lives in order to give the Lord first place is difficult, often requiring hard choices and sacrifice. Jesus knew that when He told His disciples:
Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.1
Jesus presented this difficult challenge to everyone, then and now, who wants to follow Him. He also gave us the key to being able to live our commitment to discipleship. As sinful human beings, none of us can meet the demands of discipleship all the time, and if we attempt to do so in our own strength, we can end up like the Pharisees whom Jesus routinely castigated for losing focus on what was truly important. They overly focused on rule keeping to the detriment of their relationship with God. While Jesus taught that discipleship required allegiance to God above all else, He didn’t want the application of that principle to degrade into meaningless rule keeping. His disciples were given spiritual rebirth through salvation and were filled with the Holy Spirit.
Salvation changes everything.
The Holy Spirit dwelling within us is a manifestation of our being “in Christ.”
By this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.4
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?5
The power and grace to live discipleship comes not only from our desire and effort to live in a godly fashion, but from the power of God through the Holy Spirit.
According to the Gospel of John, the night before Jesus was crucified He spoke at length with His disciples. Part of His discourse was about the help He was going to send them once He was gone. Focusing on what He told them helps us to understand the role of God’s Spirit in the lives of the first disciples and in the lives of disciples ever since.
The setting was Jesus’ last meal with His disciples before His arrest and subsequent execution, after Judas had left to gather a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees to arrest Jesus. Once Judas had departed on his traitorous mission, Jesus told His disciples many things. The focus here will be on what He told them about the Holy Spirit, whom He would send to empower and aid them after He was gone.
I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.6
Some of the most prominent men of God in the Old Testament appointed and anointed others to take their place when they died. Moses appointed Joshua. The Lord said to Moses:
“Behold, the days approach when you must die. Call Joshua and present yourselves in the tent of meeting, that I may commission him.”7
Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him. So the people of Israel obeyed him.8
The prophet Elijah chose Elisha as his successor. Elijah said to Elisha:
“Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me.” And he said … if you see me as I am being taken from you, it shall be so for you. And as they still went on and talked, behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it…9
Similarly, in the book of Acts we read that Jesus sent a successor to follow Him. He told His disciples not to leave Jerusalem, because they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.10
You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.11
When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.12
In a sense, the Holy Spirit was sent as Jesus’ successor, to be His constant presence with the disciples. The Spirit filled and empowered them, and has done so with all other disciples since. Jesus’ disciples were, for the most part, able to put following Jesus first, even above their families, work, and personal desires. Undoubtedly His presence gave them the strength and fortitude to do so. Though not with them in the flesh as Jesus was, the Spirit dwelt within them.
Jesus emphasized that it was through the empowerment of His Father and His Father dwelling within Him that He was able to do all that He did.
Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.13
It was at this point that He explained to His disciples that He would request that His Father would give a “Helper,” the Holy Spirit, to the disciples.14
The Greek word translated as Helper, Counselor, Comforter, or Advocate (depending on the Bible translation) is paraklētos, or as used by English-speaking Bible commentators, paraclete. The word paraclete refers to one who is called to someone’s side, as an aid. Another usage is someone who pleads another’s cause before a judge, a counsel for the defense, an advocate and intercessor. In a broader sense it means a helper, someone who aids another. The idea of a paraclete, as referring to the Holy Spirit, can therefore be understood as an aid or an advocate who helps believers.
It’s interesting that elsewhere in the New Testament, Jesus is also called a paraclete—an advocate—for the disciples:
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate [paraklētos] with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.15
Jesus indirectly referred to Himself as a paraclete when He said: I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper. If the Father was going to send another Helper, it meant that He had already sent one. Jesus, who was the first advocate, told His disciples that He wouldn’t be with them much longer:
Little children, yet a little while I am with you.16
However, He promised He was going to send another advocate, whom He described as “the Spirit of truth” (the Holy Spirit), who would dwell within them.17
The Holy Spirit was sent to believers once Jesus had died for our sins, making it possible for the Spirit to dwell within us. As the Father dwelt in the Son, in similar fashion the Spirit would dwell in the disciples. Once Jesus ascended into heaven and was glorified, the disciples were given His continuing presence in their lives through the Holy Spirit.
We can see that much of what is said about the Spirit was also said about Jesus, and thus the presence of the Spirit in our lives reflects the presence of Jesus within us. Let’s take a look:
The Spirit was given by the Father:
I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever.18
Jesus was also given by His Father to humanity:
God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son.19
The Spirit is not received by the world:
The Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him.20
Neither was Jesus:
He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.21
The Spirit teaches:
The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things.22
Jesus was a teacher:
Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching.23
The Spirit comes from the Father into the world:
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.24
Jesus also came from the Father:
I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.25
The Spirit convicts the world:
If I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.26
Jesus does the same:
If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.27
The Spirit speaks only what He has heard:
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.28
Jesus spoke what He heard from His Father:
“I declare to the world what I have heard from him.” They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father.29
Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.30
The Spirit glorifies His sender:
When the Spirit of truth comes … he will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.31
Jesus glorified His Father:
When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you. … I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.”32
When Jesus returned to His Father, He sent the Holy Spirit to those who followed Him during His time on earth, and to all of us who would follow Him in the future. The Holy Spirit, whom Jesus sent from the Father, does for us what Jesus did for His disciples. While the disciples were in Jesus’ presence, He taught, corrected, comforted, encouraged, and strengthened them. Through the Spirit’s dwelling in us, we too receive guidance, correction, comfort, encouragement, and strength. It is the Holy Spirit’s presence within us that makes it possible for us to be true disciples, to live according to Jesus’ teachings and to love Him above all. It’s not something we can muster up on our own, but something we can do through the power of the Spirit of God, whom Jesus sent to us from His Father.
Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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1 Matthew 10:37–38.
2 2 Corinthians 5:17.
3 Galatians 2:20.
4 1 John 3:24.
5 1 Corinthians 6:19.
6 John 14:16–17.
7 Deuteronomy 31:14.
8 Deuteronomy 34:9.
9 2 Kings 2:9–12.
10 Acts 1:5; also Luke 24:49.
11 Acts 1:8.
12 Acts 2:1–4.
13 John 14:10.
14 John 14:16–17.
15 1 John 2:1.
16 John 13:33.
17 John 14:16–17.
18 John 14:16.
19 John 3:16.
20 John 14:17.
21 John 1:11.
22 John 14:26.
23 John 7:14.
24 John 15:26.
25 John 16:28.
26 John 16:7–8.
27 John 15:22.
28 John 16:13.
29 John 8:26–27.
30 John 14:10.
31 John 16:13–14.
32 John 17:1,4.