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John 16:4-15 Study Guide: Who is the Holy Spirit? The Spirit of Truth

Community Group Study Guide — Who is the Holy Spirit? The Spirit of Truth
John 16:4b-15

Study Information:
Arguably some of the most shocking words of the Gospel of John are in John 16:8 when Jesus told his disciples “you’ll be better off without me!” We cannot wrap our minds around a world where we are better off without Jesus. Why would it be to the advantage of the disciples for their Lord, Savior and teacher to go away? God’s plan had been to send the Holy Spirit to mark the beginning of the New Covenant. The Holy Spirit would give followers of Jesus a new heart and God’s very presence to guide, teach and grow them in Christlikeness. Jesus was limited to a single place at a single time with his human nature, but the Spirit would not have that boundary as he would indwell all believers and lead them into truth. 

Over 15 times, in John 13-17, Jesus told his disciples that he was leaving them and 26 times he mentioned the Holy Spirit who would take his place. They would not be abandoned or forgotten because in his absence they’d be filled with Spirit of Truth. In this fourth “helper” teaching Jesus gives us insight into the Holy Spirit’s ministry to the world and his ongoing ministry to followers of Christ. 

The Holy Spirit’s Ministry to the World
John 16:5-11
If you are a follower of Jesus today it is because of the Holy Spirit’s work to convict you of sin, righteousness and judgment. The term “world” used here generally refers to unbelievers who have not yet submitted their lives to Christ and gone to him with a heart of repentance for their sin. Just as Jesus called people to repent and believe, so too the Holy Spirit will continue that ministry in three ways:

First, the Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin. Despite their unbelief, the Holy Spirit will bring people to a place of recognizing their need for mercy and grace from God because of their sin. If you are a follower of Jesus it is because at some point in time the Holy Spirit convicted you of your sin and need for reconciliation with God. This looks like those times where you felt legitimate guilt and remorse for wrong acts you have done and sinful thoughts that inhabited your heart and mind. One challenge is that many people in the world ignore the Holy Spirit’s convicting work and harden their hearts to the Spirit’s prompting. Followers of Jesus are those who receive a new heart and new spirit and respond to that conviction. 

Second, the Holy Spirit will convict the world of righteousness. Just as Jesus showed the world what a righteous life looked like so now the Holy Spirit does the same ministry through the church. Jesus already talked about how our love for one another and the fruit produced in our lives will prove that we are disciples. The Spirit will use the church, as he sanctifies them, to display God’s righteousness. This was one of the purpose of the Old Testament Law, to mark the people of God as distinct and righteous. We are unable to keep the Law, but the Spirit promises to help us grow in Christ and display God’s righteousness to the world. 

Finally, The Holy Spirit testifies that the ruler of this world is judged. Satan is often referred to as the “ruler of this world” in the New Testament. Jesus is the true King of kings and Lord of lords; Satan is a usurper and false ruler who God promises to judge. The Holy Spirit fulfills this judgment by continually testifying to the victory of Jesus. When Jesus went to the cross it looked like a victory for evil, but the resurrection declared the victory of God over sin and death (1 John 3:8). One of the Holy Spirit’s roles is to keep declaring this victory and the true kingship of Jesus. 

The Holy Spirit’s Ministry to Disciples
John 16:12-15
Jesus concluded by reminding his disciples of the Holy Spirit’s ongoing work in their lives to lead and guide them in truth. Jesus did not give his disciples complete revelation about his purpose and plan before going to the cross (John 16:12). Now, what he taught them was sufficient, but more would be revealed later on and the Holy Spirit would continue that revealing ministry by declaring to the disciples what the Father and Son revealed. This means the writing of the New Testament scripture and the ongoing work of the Spirit to lead the apostles like we see in the book of Acts. 

The Spirit guides us today through illuminating the scripture to us. Likewise, we have passages like Romans 8:14 tells us that the Spirit leads the children of God and that the Spirit confirms with our Spirit our sonship. We also are commanded walk in the Spirit and not gratify the flesh. There is a bit of mystery with how this looks, but the promise is that the Spirit will continue to reveal truth and guide us in truth. The Holy Spirit’s ongoing work does not stop when you become a Christian, but will be “like” having Jesus present as we walk with God, fight sin and pursue Christlikeness. 

Be attentive to the Holy Spirit and remember what we’ve learned already; the Holy Spirit is not a poor substitute for Jesus but the very presence of God in us to lead, guide and grow us in Christ. 

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 

Discussion Questions:
Read John 16:4b-15

What is the Holy Spirit’s ministry to the world? How did you experience that ministry and how did it lead you to Christ?

What do you think it mean when Jesus said “the ruler of this world is judged?” 

Why didn’t Jesus just teach them all the things they needed to know before going to the cross? (John 16:12). 

As you think back on all that we’ve learned about the Holy Spirit, what is the most comforting or reassuring truth you learned and why?