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The Comfort Chapter
How wonderful it is that our Lord Jesus Christ could give forth such words of comfort in the hour when He, Himself, was hastening on toward the anguish of Gethsemane and the Cross. Yet so it was.
Having taken the bread and blessed it, and having taken the cup and given thanks, Jesus said to the disciples, "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in Me." Then, with these words spoken there fell from His lips words of the most blessed comfort and cheer which could be given to the troubled disciples.
God is called, "The God of all comfort." This name of God suggests that God alone can comfort, because all comfort comes from Him, "the God of ALL comfort"; it also suggests that God can comfort us in any and every stress, because all comfort is in Him.
The first chapter of Second Corinthians suggests the following:
1. God comforts in all our tribulation. To all saints is given this statement, "In the world ye shall have tribulation." However, in the world we also have comfort in tribulation because He is with us.
2. God comforts us in any trouble. It matters not how dark the day may be, it matters not what troubles fall to me,
"There's One above me, who e'er doth love me,
I know He lives to intercede."
So it is, as our sufferings for Christ abound, our consolations in Him also abound.
Paul had, himself, suffered so much, and had been so pressed out of measure that he had even despaired of life; yet God had come to his rescue and had delivered him from so great a death.
3. God comforts us when cast down (2 Corinthians 7:6 ). When Paul had come into Macedonia he had found no rest for his flesh, while to the contrary he was troubled on every side. Yet, he was not in despair. Without were fightings, within were fears, neverthless "God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us." This was Paul's word. In fact Paul said: "I am filled with comfort, I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation."
4. God comforts us in that others are comforted (2 Corinthians 7:13 ). Here is something so unselfish that we read the words in amazement. The Apostle was himself comforted because the Corinthians had been comforted of God.
Paul joyed, also, because his comrade, Titus, was made to joy. Let us ever cultivate this spirit, a spirit not only to joy in our own things, but also to joy in the things of others. Let us be glad when others are made glad.
Paul went farther. He said, "I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved."
5. The final call to comfort. In 2 Corinthians 13:11 the Apostle closes the Second Epistle to the Corinthians with the words: "Finally brethren, farewell. * * Be of good comfort." Just a few words of admonition follow, then his message from God closes.
Remember, then, as you study this Epistle, that while there is much of correction and of warning found in it, there is a superabounding expression of love and comfort.
Shall we not follow this method to always scatter sunshine mid the shadows, and comforting care mid the sentences of correction.
I. THE COMFORT OF FAITH (John 14:1 )
As Jesus Christ stood that day among His troubled disciples, He sought to comfort them concerning His going away. He knew that they would, naturally, be at a loss without Him; He knew that they would be tested to the limit by Satan. Thus it was that he sought to strengthen them and to encourage their hearts.
His first word of comfort was a call to their unwavering faith. He said, "Ye believe in God, believe also in Me."
1. Faith is the Christian's safeguard against discouragement and fear. We remember the words of the Lord, "Be not afraid, only believe."
When the disciples were afraid of the storm, as Christ slept in the boat, He said, "Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?"
Unbelief is black with cringing fright; faith is bouyant with unwavering confidence.
2. Faith carries the Christian through each conflict with the enemy. Faith is the victory that overcomes the world. Faith is the shield that quenches all of the fiery darts of the wicked one.
No marvel that Christ said, "Believe in Me." Had unbelief crept in as to the person, or the saving work of Christ, the disciples would be left as ships adrift in a storm tossed sea. They had been without any fortitude to stand against the foes of their souls.
3. Faith is not alone in the Father; it is also in Christ. To believe in the Father is to believe in the Son. To reject the One is to reject the Other. Jesus the Lord knew and taught that no one could come to the Father but by Him. He knew that he who had seen the Son had seen the Father. He knew that He spoke the words of the Father, and wrought the works of the Father. He knew that He was the Father's sin-offering. Therefore He said, "Ye believe in God, believe also in Me."
It is only he who believes in Christ who has eternal life.
II. THE COMFORT OF THE MANY MANSIONS (John 14:2 )
The hope of future obtainment is always a great incentive to any undertaking. In the Christian life this hope is a strong factor in the realm of every hour of testing; it is a comfort in every trial.
The present may be filled with sorrow and with struggle, with conflict and with care, however, what does it matter if the future is full of glory and of grace?
Christ said, "Ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you."
1. As a comfort to the disciples as He went away, Christ gave the words: "In My Father's House are many mansions." These mansions although far away, and unseen to mortal eyes, were just as real as things seen, for the Lord added, "If it were not so, I would have told you."
It was under the inspiration of this comfort that the song was written,
"A tent or a cottage, why should I care?
They're building a palace for me over there!
Though exiled from home, yet, still I may sing:
All glory to God, I'm a child of the King."
2. As a comfort Christ also gave the words: "I go to prepare a place for you." This last statement means much to saints. It assures us that there are not only mansions in Heaven, but they are ours, for us.
The abiding places in the glory are not alone for our eyes to behold, they are for our hearts to appropriate. They are places for us to dwell. Praise God, for such a prospect!
We may assure our hearts of the grandeur of our future mansions, because they are prepared by the Lord Himself. When we consider that He who made the earth and all things therein, for us to enjoy; is likewise making our eternal homes, we know that what lies ahead of us will be passingly beautiful and filled with glory.
III. THE COMFORT OF THE LORD'S RETURN (John 14:3 )
We now come to something better than many abiding places, better than mansions, better than gold He is more than all.
1. He is coming again. This is that Blessed Hope spoken of in Titus 2:11-13 . This hope is our comfort. When Paul was writing to the Thessalonians he told, in the Spirit, of how the Lord would descend from Heaven with a shout, of how the dead in Christ would be caught up, and then he said, "Wherefore comfort one another with these words."
2. He is coming to receive us unto Himself. Think of it! We shall be with Him, we shall see Him.
Thus, we admit the joy of being with loved ones gone before, of being housed in the mansions of the skies, yet, withal, we confess that our supreme joy will be Christ Himself, and the Father.
3. He is coming that we may be with Him where He is. In the prayer of Christ that followed His Words of comfort and inspiration, Christ said, "Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory."
Thus we get a new and deeper meaning to the promise, "That where I am, there ye may be also." We will not only see His glory, but we shall share it.
We are not alone the heir of God, but we are joint-heirs with Christ. We shall inherit all things. His will be ours; ours wall be His.
Once more, we lay aside the glory, His glory, our glory, and revel in the words That they may "be with Me where I am." With Him, forever with the Lord. No more of separation, no more of loneliness with Him evermore.
IV. THE COMFORT OF THE WAY (John 14:6 )
After all what is the value of the many mansions, if we, a poor sinful race of men, are shut out by our iniquity? It is here that the Lord is gracious. He said, "Whither I go ye know, and the way ye know."
Thomas saith unto Him, "We know not whither Thou goest; and how can we know the way?" Jesus quickly replied, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: no man cometh to the Father but by Me."
1. Apart from Christ, the Way, there is no hope, no comfort concerning the future. It was for this cause that Christ came down to earth. He came to lay the bridge that spans earth to Heaven. He came that He might bear our sins and take them away, making us the righteousness of God in Him. He is our peace, our redemption, our glorification.
2. With Christ we have entrance into Heaven and unto the Father. Jacob saw a ladder reaching from earth to Heaven. Christ is that ladder. John saw a vision of innumerable multitudes in the glory. Of them the angel said, "These are they which * * have washed their robes, and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night."
Yes, it is the way of the Cross that leads home. Christ is that Way. He is the Truth that points out the Way. He is the Life that makes possible the Way.
In His First Coming He came to prepare us for the place, in His present work in Heaven, He is preparing the place for us ; when He comes again He will take us to the place prepared.
Praise God, it is all fixed! We, who were sinners, walking in the lusts of the flesh and dead in trespasses, are quickened, born anew; we are raised to walk in our newness of life; and soon we shall be translated to the skies above to meet the Lord in the air. Hallelujah!
V. THE COMFORT OF PRAYER (John 14:13 )
The Lord Jesus, having given us the comfort of faith, of the many mansions, of the WAY; now chooses to give us the comfort of present hour prayer. He said: "Whatsoever ye shall ask in My Name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in My Name, I will do it."
1. Prayer is the channel that keeps us in touch with the Father and the Son while we are absent from Him in the flesh. He is away, far away; yet we may fellowship with Him, feel His presence with us, and hear His voice as we move on our earthward way.
An unspeakable comfort is this. There is never a day so dreary, and never a night so dark, but He is there.
There is one who walks beside me in the way,
And He turns my darkness into brightest day,
He's my Saviour all Divine,
I am His and He is mine,
So I sing to Him my happy soulful lay.
2. Prayer is the channel that brings us help in every time of need. We have Him, but we also have His aid. He says, "I will do it." He sees us, knows our need, and comes to our rescue. What we ask He does. His ear is open to the cry of those who put their trust in Him. His eye runs throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong in behalf of all of those whose hearts are perfect toward Him.
3. His answers to our prayers are circumscribed to but one condition, we must ask in His Name. If we plead His Name, we plead in line with His power to help, and with His willingness to help. The people who know His Name will be strong to do exploits. The people who plead His Name will approach God on a basis of assured acceptance. Prayers will not be amiss, nor go astray when they are offered in His Name.
VI. THE COMFORT OF THE HOLY GHOST (John 14:16 )
The comforts multiply. The earth life of the believer, during the absence of the Lord would be difficult indeed, were it not for the group of comforts that our Saviour vouchsafes to us.
Here is one of the chief comforts. "I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever." "He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you."
1. Christ was a Comforter, the Holy Ghost is Another Comforter. The word is Paracletos one at your side. In this sense He is with us. Christ, however, added, "He shall be in you." With us and in us blessed Comforter.
2. Christ was with us but for a while, the Another Comforter shall be with us forever. He is here for the whole age. He came to abide with us.
Thus, we see that the disciples and the saints of the days of the first church, have no advantage over those of us who live in the end times.
The same Spirit is here now who was here then. He is the same in every sense of that word. The same in all His attributes, all His Word, and all His work. What He was then, He is now. What He did then He can do now.
Did He teach the disciples of yore? He teaches us now. Did He empower them? He empowers us. Did He glorify Christ? He still glorifies Christ. Did He convict the world of sin? He continues to convict the world of sin.
3. Christ was a Saviour to those who would believe, the Holy Spirit is a Paraclete only to those who are saved. The world received not Christ, the world receives not the Holy Spirit. He is the holy Guest of believers, not of unbelievers. He teaches saints, not sinners. He abides with God's own, not with those who are not His own.
"If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His." The Spirit indwells all believers; He fills those who yield to Him and obey Him.
VII. THE COMFORT OF ASSURED LIFE (John 14:19 )
Our verse reads: "Because I live, ye shall live also." The Lord Jesus places His life as surety for ours. As long as He lives we also live.
1. We know that Christ lives. He came in fashion as a man, and humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross. As He was buried all hope left the disciples. They thought that it was He who would deliver Israel, but when He was dead, and buried, their hope died and was buried with Him.
However, death could not hold Him. It was impossible. He came forth from the dead. He lives. In His resurrection the eleven found new hope. In fact they were begotten again to a lively hope, as Peter afterward declared.
Christ lives the conqueror of death and of hell. He holds the keys of death and hell in His hands. He has ascended up on high, and He sits at the right hand of the Father.
2. We know that we, too, shall live. His life is ours. He leads us in the train of His triumph.
Thank God, "Our life is hid with Christ in God."
Here is the result, "When Christ who is our life, shall appear, then shall [we] also appear with Him in glory."
Thank God again. There is not one who can destroy God's elect. Being saved by His Blood we are kept secure in His life. If we are saved we are safe.
Who can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus? Our hope is builded on a Rock, unbreakable, unsinkable. We shall live.
Job said, "I know that my Redeemer liveth." Knowing that he knew that he too should live. He said, "And that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth." Shall we know less than Job knew?
Let the worms destroy this body, yet in our flesh shall we see God, whom we shall see for ourselves, and not another.
Mrs. Farningham, the English poetess, tells a pretty story of an old woman who was a "shut-in." She received a visit one Sunday evening from a bright young man, who was inclined to be cynical, and look on the critical, dark side of everything. The good woman did not like this, and, suddenly turning on him, she said: "John, I wish you would be a Zion!" "A Zion?" "Yes; 'O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain,' you know," "Ah! I wish I had any good tidings to bring you, but I haven't." "I have some for you," she said, and she laid her hand reverently on the Bible as she quoted, "Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of His understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to [him] that [hath] no might He increaseth strength." "Don't you call these good tidings?" "Yes, I do," he said, wishing that he could realize them as she did. "John, don't be a wet blanket; speak comfortably. That is what everybody wants. You know very well that there is more happiness in the world than sorrow; there are more bright days than dull ones. Don't get into a habit of despondency. You are kind and generous, I know, and you have such a chance to cheer people up. You can do it if you like. Do like!" "Well, old friend," the young fellow said, "you have given me a rare lesson, and I will pass it on to others. In any case, I am glad to find you calm and happy even toward the end. Your room is not a palace, but your face brightens it, and it is a 'help to my little faith to find you with so much light at eventide." Then he added, merrily, "I feel as if I had been scolded, but will try to be a better boy." "Not better, but happier, John. Don't you think it was to more than one Prophet that the words came 'Comfort ye, comfort ye My people, saith your God'?"
The Comfort Chapter
We remember the statement, "Never man spake like this Man." These words were true from many viewpoints. However, of all the wonderful things which our Lord said, there were no words which could have surpassed the statements contained in the 14th chapter of John. Chapters 15 and 16 complete the message, and present to us the very heart-throbs of the Son of God as He faced the Cross.
Following the message spoken to His disciples is the prayer of Christ to the Father. This is in chapter 17, and it stands as a marvelous revelation of the union and communion of the Father and the Son. We should remember that all of these wonderful words which fell from the lips of the Master, were spoken just after He had kept the passover feast, and had established the Lord's Supper with its breaking of bread, and its drinking of the cup; just after He had risen from the table, and had taken a towel and girding Himself had washed His disciples' feet. It was then, with His Calvary anguish in full view that Christ said, "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him."
Christ had told Judas, "That thou doest, do quickly." He later on said to Peter, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied Me thrice." With all these occurrences behind Him, He now turned His face stedfastly toward the Cross. Before He went out out to the Garden of Gethsemane, out to the betrayal, to the home of Caiaphas, to the hall of Pilate, to the presence of Herod, to the whipping post, and to the Cross before He went out He spoke these words and uttered this prayer. His whole thought and heart seemed consumed, not with the agony He was about to suffer, not with the ignominy and shame that was about to be heaped upon Him.
He was overwhelmed with a desire to glorify the Father. Never once in His Words to the disciples, or in His prayer to the Father, did He directly refer to the bitterness of the cup He was about to drink.
He knew all that lay before Him. Toward that Cross and its overwhelming floods of sorrow He had been steadily moving since before the world began.
Now, in the face of it all, He speaks of going away to the Father; He speaks of being hated without a cause; He says, "The hour is come," but beyond that, there is no plea for sympathy, and no prayer for deliverance from Calvary, We stand amazed as we note that the final message of our Lord, spoken under such conditions and environments as we have shown, and under the very shadow of the Cross itself, should be so occupied with others, so filled with glory. It will be impossible for us, in one study, to touch the hem of the garment, of the message of John 14:1-31 , John 15:1-27 and John 16:1-33 , or of the prayer of John 17:1-26 . Therefore, we are bringing before you today only an exposition of the depth of one ex-expression found twice in the 14th chapter. It is this: "Let not your heart be troubled." The words occur in chapter John 14:1 , and again in John 14:27 . The words seem to act as a sort of parenthesis in which are included so many as fourteen different reasons why saints should not be troubled.
We will explain seven of these reasons for comfort.
I. COMFORT, NUMBER ONE THE COMFORT OF FAITH (John 14:1 )
"Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in Me." It is faith that carries us through the hours of darkness. For three years the disciples had journeyed with their Lord. They had learned to love Him and trust Him. He was now about to be taken away from them. The Cross and its suffering lay just before Him. After His Calvary Passion He was going back to the Father. He knew the Eleven would miss Him. His presence. His words of instruction, and His counsel had been everything to them.
As He thought of His going away, He turned to the disciples and said, "Believe * * in Me."
Perhaps, Christ realized that in His death their faith might be shaken. At least their faith in the fact of His Deity, and His wondrous claims of unity with the Father might be shaken.
For awhile, indeed, as His body lay in the tomb, they were filled with doubt, but when He came forth in resurrection power and glory they were begotten again unto a lively hope.
The great bulwark of the saints from that day unto this has been their faith in God, their Saviour. How could we but believe Him! He has proved Himself worthy of every trust. He has never deceived us. His promises are "yea and amen." Believing, let us not be troubled.
II. COMFORT, NUMBER TWO THE COMFORT OF HOPE (John 14:2 )
"In My Father's House are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you." The Lord Jesus Christ opened the doors of Heaven that we who believe might look through. How vital, therefore, is the first statement. "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in Me."
This faith prepares us for the second statement relative to the many mansions. If we believe Him, we can believe that He has gone to prepare abiding places for His saints. We can believe in the new Jerusalem with its streets of gold, its gates of pearl, its river of water clear as crystal, its trees of fruit, its wondrous light, and the mansions there awaiting those whose hope is wedded to faith. We are not troubled though the heavens and the earth be moved, for we know there is a city awaiting us on the other side.
The Epistle to the Hebrews tells us of things which will be shaken, and of things which cannot be shaken. Though the heavens and the earth pass away, though the elements thereof shall melt with fervent heat; yet, we are comforted, for we shall receive a country which cannot be moved.
III. COMFORT, NUMBER THREE CHRIST'S RETURN (John 14:3 )
Our Lord said, "If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself." Farther on in His message to His disciples, He said that though they would experience sorrow, the time would come when they would rejoice.
The Lord's going away left us in a world which hated Him. That world also hates us. However, sorrow abideth but for the night. "The morning cometh."
The Lord shall descend from Heaven, and the saints shall go forth to meet Him. Paul, in line with the Master's words of comfort, said concerning Christ's Return, "Wherefore comfort one another with these words."
The Second Coming of Christ is, indeed, a comfort. It is a comfort to hear the Lord say, "A little while, and ye shall not see Me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see Me: and, Because I go to the Father."
And so we are watching quietly every day for His Return. We are always lifting our eyes and looking to His high place, for we know that His Coming draweth nigh.
IV. COMFORT, NUMBER FOUR THE WAY TO GLORY (John 14:6 )
Thomas questioned the statements of comfort, which the Lord offered, saying, "Lord, we know not whither Thou goest; and how can we know the way?" He, perhaps, accepted the fact of the mansions in Heaven; and, perhaps, the fact of the Lord's Return; but he did not comprehend how he could bridge so great a chasm as that which lay between earth and Heaven.
Have you ever been traveling in your automobile toward some cherished goal, and yet, you did not know the way? How diligently you looked for "signs." How carefully you studied your maps. How earnestly you spoke to some passer-by, asking him to tell you of the way.
Thomas wanted to know the way to a far better goal than you and your auto had in view. He wanted to know the way from earth to Heaven.
In answer to Thomas the Lord Jesus gave His fourth statement of comfort. He said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me." We first see Nathanael, as he sat under the fig tree reading the story of Jacob's ladder which reached from earth to Heaven. We next see Nathanael as he stood before the Lord Jesus listening while Christ said, "When thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee," and "hereafter ye shall see Heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man."
Jesus Christ is the only ladder that spans the distance that lies between this planet and the new heavens and new earth. There is no other way. What a comfort that we know the way, and that we may go over the God-marked route from earth to Heaven!
V. COMFORT, NUMBER FIVE THE VISION OF GOD (John 14:8-9 )
The Lord Jesus Christ had spoken of the Father, of Himself, of the mansions, and of the Way. Philip followed Thomas, and interrupting the Lord's discourse, said, "Lord, shew us the Father." They had known the Son, but they thought they had not known the Father. Thus, with the Son, their Lord, returning to the Father, they wanted to know more of the Father.
The Lord Jesus, therefore, added this comfort, by saying, "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father." How wonderful it all is!
No man hath seen God at any time, and yet, the only begotten Son who dwells in the bosom of the Father, hath declared Him; He hath shown Him forth. He who hath seen Jesus Christ, hath seen the Father.
Our Lord went on to say that the words of the Son had been the words of the Father; that the works of the Son, had been the works of the Father; and that the will of the Son had been the will of the Father. Jesus Christ was, therefore, the very expression of the Father.
Hebrews puts it this way: "Who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His Person." Thus, those of us who know Christ know the Father.
VI. COMFORT, NUMBER SIX THE COMFORT OF PRAYER (John 14:13 )
With the Lord going far away, there were certain comforts to those who believed in Him. There was the comfort of His preparing mansions for us. There was the comfort of His coming again. There was the comfort that He is the Way from earth to Heaven, and that He is the manifestation of the Father.
Now we are given another comfort. During His absence we are privileged to have direct contact with the Father and with the Son.
The Lord Jesus added this comfort when He said, "Let not your heart be troubled, * * Whatsoever ye shall ask in My Name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye ask anything in My Name, I will do it."
Oh, the blessings of prayer! Oh, the fellowship of prayer! To think that we have the right of approach unto the Father through the Son. To think that while He, in His glorified body, is so far away, yet, in the closet of prayer, He comes to manifest Himself to us, and he gives us the privilege of fellowship with Him.
Prayer is the Christian's vital breath, the Christian's native air. Some people, in these last days, have sought to belittle the prayer-life as though God knew the things we wanted before we asked Him. This being true, does not do away with the necessity of the prayer of petition. By no means, also, does it lessen the chief value of prayer the personal, direct, and meaningful fellowship of the saint and the Saviour; of the saved with the Father.
VII. COMFORT, NUMBER SEVEN THE COMFORT OF THE SPIRIT (John 14:16 )
Even with the blessing of prayer assured to us, we might feel our inability to effectively reach the Father through the channel of prayer. Therefore, the Lord added a seventh comfort. He said: "Let not your heart be troubled." Then He added, "I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever, even the Spirit of Truth." The disciples thought, perhaps, that they would be left orphans, but Christ said, "I will come to you."
He had spoken of His personal Return in the clouds; of His bodily Coming Again. Here, however, He adds another comfort. The Holy Ghost, the Spirit of Truth and power, would be sent down, shortly, as a Comforter.
In the Greek, the word is, " Paracletos ." The word, literally translated is, "One at your side." In other words Christ said, "I will pray the Father, and He will give you another One to journey with you."
During three years, wherever they had gone, the Lord had been with them. They had walked and talked together, as friend walketh and talketh with friend. Truly they would miss Him, but He said, "I will send you another One to walk at your side." Yet not merely another, because. He Himself would, in that One, the third Person of the Trinity, be with them.
This Comforter was to keep them in touch, through prayer, with their departed Lord. He, the Comforter, was also to make their prayers effectual.
No wonder that before the Lord closed the message of His comforts, He included the coming of the Spirit. Now, He could add His final word: "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give you." Blessed are the comforts which He has extended. Blessed the comforts which we have received. May we never let our hearts be troubled.
A young man said to his father, "I'm going off: I will write to you at the end of seven years and tell you where I am." Many years have passed since that son went away, and for years that father has been going to the depot in the village on the arrival of every train, and when he hears the whistle in the distance he is thrilled with excitement, and he waits till all the passengers have come out, and he then waits until the train has gone clear out of sight again, and then he goes home, hastening back to the next train: and he will be at every train until that son comes back, unless the son waits until the father be dead. But ah, the greater patience of God! He has been waiting for you not seven years, not nine years, but, for some of you, twenty years, thirty years, forty years, fifty years waiting, calling waiting, calling, until nothing but omnipotent patience could have endured it.
Taken from Talmage's sermon "Caring for Your Soul."
The Ministry of the Spirit
John 14:26-30 ; John 16:7-13
Christ came to His own, and His own received Him not. The Holy Spirit came to His own, seeking to bring every possible spiritual gift and blessing, but His own have received Him not. Many believers are seeking to paddle their own canoe, and to work out their own will, wholly forgetting the Spirit and His ministry.
There is nothing that comes in the life of the believer, whether in the way of victory in his walk, power in his work, or guidance in his way, apart from the Spirit of God.
We made our beginning in the Spirit, for we were begotten of the Holy Ghost. We must continue to walk in the Spirit, if we would know spiritual success in our life. It is not in a man to order his own steps. The natural man cannot understand the things of the Spirit. A Christian, apart from the Holy Spirit, is just as helpless as is a branch apart from the vine.
When we consider the life of Christ, we observe that He was born of the Spirit; He was anointed of the Spirit; He was filled with the Spirit; He was led of the Spirit; He went about doing good in the Spirit; He was raised from the dead by the Spirit; and He gave His final command for the evangelization of the world in the Spirit.
When we consider how Christ commanded the disciples to tarry in Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on high, we begin to realize our utter dependency upon the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit came to meet the need of the believer. God sent Him because He knew that we could not walk without Him. It is for this cause that we believe that, ever and anon, we should stop to ponder the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit.
We recognize that the Spirit of God came to take of the things of Christ, and show them unto us; however, unless we recognize the Spirit, and give ear to His voice, He can show us nothing by way of revelation.
We are sure that the Holy Spirit came to give us the enduement of power in service; and therefore, unless we have the anointing of the Spirit we cannot have the power which we so much need in order to serve.
We know that the Spirit of God came to renew our mind, and to teach us spiritual things, therefore, if we fail to listen to His voice we cannot understand the mystery of God.
The Holy Spirit is just as necessary to our spiritual life as the air which we breathe is to our physical life.
I. IT IS THE MINISTRY OF THE SPIRIT TO CONVICT (John 16:7-10 )
1. The Holy Spirit came to convict the sinner of his sin. The minister of the Gospel is absolutely shut up to God the Spirit, when he desires to see the old time conviction of sin falling upon his audience. Every human argument, every tear-producing story, and every human manipulation must utterly fail to bring men to a sense of their sin, unless the Holy Ghost is present to empower our word and work with convincing, reproving, and convicting power.
(1) The Holy Ghost convicts men of sin, because they believe not in Christ. Conviction of sin is not merely a sinner's sense of self-corruption. It is, pre-eminently, his sense of separation from God by his rejection of Christ.
All mankind knows that, morally, they are corrupt. The Spirit comes to show a sinner, lost in iniquity, that his chief need is a Saviour; while his chief sin is his unbelief in the Lord Jesus Christ.
(2) The Holy Ghost will convict men of righteousness, because Christ has gone to the Father. The Spirit shows the guilty and sin-pressed soul that the way to righteousness is now open through the Lord Jesus: God's sinless sacrifice for sin has ascended, and has been proclaimed a Saviour.
The unsaved may know himself a sinner and feel his sin, without realizing that righteousness is possible in the ascended Lord. The Holy Spirit came to convince him that a new walk, and a new righteousness is possible in Christ Jesus.
(3) The Holy Ghost will convict men of judgment because the prince of this world is judged. The Spirit will convince the heart of the wicked, that he will see his own undoing and judgment, because Satan has been judged.
It was at the Cross that Christ met principalities and powers and triumphed over them openly. It was in the ascension that Christ Jesus passed up through these powers of darkness and sat down with them beneath His feet.
When the sinner sees that the good of this world has met his defeat, and awaits his casting down into the abyss, and his final casting down into the lake of fire; the Spirit will convince him that he needs to sever himself from obeisance and obedience to a defeated devil.
2. The sinner should not resist the Holy Spirit. When the Spirit convicts the sinner of his sin, until he sees the villainy of his heart; and, when his sin in the rejection of Christ lies heavily upon him; he must not resist the Spirit's call, lest he find himself cast off from God without hope in this age, or in the age to come.
II. IT IS THE MINISTRY OF THE SPIRIT TO WALK ALONG WITH THE CHILD OF GOD (John 14:26 , f.c)
1. Christ said that the Comforter would come. The word "Comforter" comes from a Greek word " Paracletos ," which anglocized, is "Paraclete." The word "Paraclete" means, "at your side."
It was the purpose of the Father, then, to send us One to walk with us in our journey through life. He was to walk at our side in order to be our Guide, our Comforter, our Teacher.
You remember as Rebecca journeyed across the desert sands, Eliezer of Damascus, Abraham's faithful servant, rode by her side. Rebecca would have been very loathe to take the journey through the desert alone. She was comforted, encouraged, and aided, however, in every possible way by the man who journeyed with her.
It is thus, also, that God has given us a Companion to journey with us through the wilderness of this world. He is with us as Heaven's official Guide in our Heavenly pilgrimage.
Can you imagine the message which Eliezer bore home to the heart of Rebecca as they journeyed along? He spoke of Isaac. He elaborated on the greatness of Abraham; and showed that Isaac was Abraham's son and heir. So, also, does the Holy Spirit elaborate on the glories of Christ. He tells us of the Father and of the Son.
2. What should be the believer's attitude to the Comforter? The believer should give ear to the Spirit. He should listen with all intentness, that he may catch every word which is freely given him from God.
The believer should do more than that. He should give audience to the Spirit, but he should also obey the voice of the Spirit.
You remember the Scripture which reads, "As the heart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God." The word "panteth" carries the thought of "following hard after." That is just what we should do we should follow hard after the Holy Ghost.
III. IT IS THE MINISTRY OF THE SPIRIT TO TEACH THE CHILD OF GOD (1 John 2:27 )
1. It is impossible for the mind of man to comprehend the things of God. The Word of God is plain in this matter. "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."
We who are sent forth to preach Christ are to preach Him, not in the wisdom of words, lest the Cross of Christ should be made of none effect. We have received not "the Spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God."
The Apostle Paul said that he spoke " wisdom among them that [were] perfect"; however, he quickly added, "Yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world." Paul spoke the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world unto our glory.
2. It is possible for the Spirit of God to teach us the deep things of God. It is true that the natural ear hath not heard, nor the eye seen, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him; "But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God."
The words of our text do not mean that the one who is taught of the Spirit may not himself teach others. They do mean that man, in his own wisdom, cannot teach the child of God. They also mean that the child of God is not dependent upon men to teach him, but the anointing which he received of God will teach him.
We have known some dear old saints who were very ignorant in worldly lore, and yet, they knew more in the realm of spirituals than the wisest of men not taught of God.
IV. IT IS THE MINISTRY OF THE SPIRIT TO TRANSFORM THE BELIEVER (2 Corinthians 3:18 )
1. The Holy Spirit came to fashion us into the glory of the Lord; He wants to make us like Christ. This is not the work of a moment. Paul spoke of dying daily. Our text says, "We * * are [transformed] * * from glory to glory."
The chief desire of every believer's heart should be to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our ambition should be to go on to perfection. We should never be satisfied until we have reached the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. This is a particular ministry of the Holy Ghost.
Jesus Christ was transfigured, until the fashion of His countenance was altered, and His raiment was white and glistening. This is exactly in line with what the Holy Spirit wants to do in us.
We are all familiar with Romans 12:1-2 , where we are taught to present our bodies a living sacrifice unto God. It is there that we are admonished by the Spirit: "Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind." The word transformed is the same as the word transfigured.
God wants us to walk as children of the light. He wants us to put off the flesh, and to walk in the Spirit. He wants us, as a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a peculiar people, to show forth the praises of Him who hath called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.
2. Since the Holy Ghost seeks to fashion us into the glory of the Lord, we must not grieve Him. What is it that grieves the Spirit? He came to form Christ in us, and when we permit anything to dominate our lives which is contrary to the life of Christ in the believer, we grieve the Spirit. It is for this cause that we read, "Wherefore putting away lying."
"Let not the sun go down upon your wrath."
"Let him that stole steal no more."
"Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth."
"Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice."
V. IT IS THE MINISTRY OF THE SPIRIT TO EMPOWER THE BELIEVER FOR SERVICE (Acts 1:8 )
1. A great task is committed to saints. We are the salt of the earth. We are the witnesses of God. We are commissioned to go unto the ends of the earth making disciples. We are told to preach the Gospel to every creature.
This commanded service is a great undertaking, and there are many obstacles. The heart of man is set in him to do evil. Satan is seeking to catch away every seed of Gospel Truth which we attempt to sow.
As we face the command of God, we realize our utter inability. Of ourselves we can do nothing. We are dependent wholly upon God.
2. A great promise is given to saints. The Lord Jesus said, "All power is given unto Me in Heaven and in earth." He also said, "Go," and, "Lo, I am with you."
Not only this, but the Lord Jesus commanded His disciples to tarry in Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on high. He taught, "Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you."
God has not sent us forth on a mission for Him, and left us weaklings unable to accomplish His commanded work. He will back up, with all of the authority of Heaven, those who go forth obedient to His voice.
3. A great warning is given to saints. In Thessalonians we read, "Quench not the Spirit." The thought is of the Spirit as a great fire; and the warning is, do not quench the fire. In other words when the Holy Spirit calls us into fellowship with Him, in any ministry, we must stand ready to undertake for God. Even though we have but five loaves and a few fishes, we must bring them to the Lord, trusting in Him to multiply them.
If we are ignorant, we must look to His wisdom; if we are weak, we must trust His power; if the way seems dark, we must wait on Him for light.
The sad results of resisting the Spirit is set forth in the following story.
One day my telephone rang and a lady said, "Can you come down and visit my husband? He is very, very sick. The doctors say he will die, and he is not a Christian." I said, "All right, I will come down," I went and stood by the bed the man had double pneumonia and I said, "Old boy, I am sorry you are so sick." After a while, as the Lord helped me, I talked of the Lord Jesus, and he said, "Here and now I receive Him, and I will tell you what I will do, If the Lord will restore me, I will forsake my sin, and I will come down and join your church, and be baptized." Moreover he said, "I do receive Christ right now."
I went on to my prayer-meeting that night, and said, "Brethren, I had a wonderful revival in a sick-room today. Mr. B-------- told me he was saved, and he promised me that if the Lord would make him well, he would come down and join our church. Let us pray for him." In a few days I went again to see Mr. B . He was out of danger. On my third visit, I found him sitting out on the wood-pile, in the back yard. He loved good horses, and loved fine chickens, and he was out on the wood-pile, watching his chickens. I sat down beside him, and said, "Old boy, I am glad you are getting well. You will soon be ready to come to church." He said, "Brother Neighbour, I am going to keep my promise, and unite with your church, and be baptized, a week from this next Sunday." A couple of weeks went by, he did not come. One day I saw him on the street riding a beautiful, black steed. I hailed him and said to him, "Wait a minute, old boy." Then I said, "I thought you were coming on and live for Christ." He said, "Oh, Brother Neighbour, I will come." But he didn't come.
Week after week passed. Then, one day, as I was walking down the street, a groceryman, a member of our church, said to me, "We are going to have a sudden death in this city." I said, "Who do you think is going to die?" He said, "The man that promised you all sorts of things, when he thought he was dying. As sure as you live, he will die shortly. The Word of God says: 'He that being often reproved, and hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed and that without remedy.'" I do not believe a week had passed until I heard that man's wife, over the telephone. She said, "Oh, Brother Neighbour, come, come, B-------- is dead. He was at a banquet in the hotel and he fell over dead. Oh, Brother Neighbour, he is lost, he is lost, he is lost." I went up and tried to comfort her. I think that was the saddest funeral I ever attended. They had to take the body to another town for interment, and on the train his wife collapsed a number of times. At the grave she said, "Oh, I could stand it, but he is not saved; I know he is lost. Oh, Brother Neighbour, he is lost."
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Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on John 14". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany