Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Promise of the Holy Spirit (Jn. 7:37-44)

This is a personal summary of the preaching of Rev Dr Stephen Tong on 5 December 2010 in True Way Presbyterian Church. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: John 7:37-44

On the last day of the festival, Jesus stood at the synagogue and spoke in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” (v.37-38). This is abundant life. As Christians we should be full of vitality like the living water – constantly overflowing. Dead water is stagnant and does not flow. When we come to church every Sunday to hear the Word of God, when we give our testimony, is it fresh like the living water?

This verse is one of the most important words of Jesus which relates to the giving of the Holy Spirit. God’s greatest gift to the world is the gift of His one and only Son. And the Son’s greatest gift to His church is the Holy Spirit. As the next verse (v.39) explains, Jesus was talking about the Spirit, whom Jesus would give after he resurrected from the dead. This is the first instance He gave the promise of the Holy Spirit.

When Jesus resurrected from the dead, He breathed into His disciples and said “Receive the Holy Spirit.” This is the prelude before the descent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentacost. Jeesus said before that unless He went away the Holy Spirit could not come down. The Holy Spirit is a distinct Person from the Son. Jesus clearly stated that He would send “Another” Counselor, which means another distinct Person. The Son went back to the Father, and together the Father and the Son sent the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentacost, which became the birthday of the Church.

Jesuss resurrection from the dead confirms that He is the Son of God. His ascension to heaven confirms His glory. Thus we see both the humiliation and the glory of Christ. The Holy Spirit was not given earlier because Jesus had not yet been glorified (v.40). Before His ascension, He told His disciples not to leave Jerusalem despite having given them the Great Commission to go to the end of the world. This seems contradictory but the key is to wait for the Holy Spirit to come upon them (Acts 1:8) so that they were empowered to preach the Word.

There is a wrong teaching that teaches that the Spirit is Jesus Himself, thus Trinity only exists after incarnation. In that sense, God Himself went through change of His being. However, in Acts 2, after the Pentacost Peter preached and spoke about receiving the promise of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit descended to work in hearts and open their eyes to see that Jesus is Lord. It was not talking about the Spirit that did not exist earlier, but the promise God gave some time ago.

On hearing Jesus’ words about the living water, there were various responses. The first response was that Jesus is the Prophet (v.42). Jesus is not just a prophet, but THE prophet. He is the prophet spoken by Moses that God would raise a prophet like him from among the people (Deu. 18:15). However, Jesus is the Prophet like no other as He is the only Son of God who came to accomplish the salvation of mankind. There are two kinds that are sent by God. One is plural, the other is singular. The only singular one is Jesus Christ, the only Son of God. All the others are created ones and we do not worship them, including the angels. But we worship Christ.

The second response from the people is that He is the Christ. The last response is one of doubt. People questioned how Christ could be from Galilee. They were confused. Jesus was not bothered and did not explain either. A wise person would only deal with matter of wisdom. People started arguing with one another and Jesus let them debate.

In another passage, Jesus said He did not come to bring peace but division, such that people’s enemies will be from his own households. Faith can cause division and tension in the closest relationships. Often God allows people to come to the understanding of the truth through differing opinions. But God promises that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who were called according to His purpose.


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