The Illuminating Role of the Holy Spirit

In John 14:24-26 we are in the upper room with Christ and the 11 apostles. Judas has already left to launch the arrest of Jesus in the middle of the night, to lead to His crucifixion the next morning. On that evening our Lord gives them far-reaching promises, which begin in chapter 14 and run through chapter 16. They are sealed in prayer in chapter 17 as the Lord asks the Father to fulfill all His promises.

There are the promise of a room in the Father’s house and eternal heaven early in chapter 14, the promise that the Lord will come and take His own to be with Him in the place that He has prepared for them. But in the meantime, there is also the promise that heaven’s resources are already available here and now; all we have to do, according to verses 12 through 14, is ask through prayer. And if we ask according to His will and in His name, He will provide.

Throughout our lives, and on into eternity, we will enjoy the presence of the Trinity. The Father, the Son will and the Spirit will be with us. The eternal life the Triune God gives us is Himself. In His Triune reality, God lives in every believer.

But, there is yet another amazing promise. “He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me. These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.”

The greatest gift that God has ever given the world is the truth – divine revelation, divine truth. The truth about Himself and us, about time and eternity, about life and death, about judgment, about salvation, and about heaven and hell. This is the greatest gift that God has ever given. We are living in a world of liars, where deception abounds because the whole world lies in the lap of the evil one who is the arch deceiver. He applies his deception through a mass of fallen angels identified as demons, and has held captive the entire human race. In the midst of all of the deception of Satan, demons, and duped human beings; in the midst of the darkness and the ignorant heart of an unregenerate person, God deposits the truth.

Exodus 34:6 says: “It is God, the Lord God, who abounds in truth.” Several times in the Old Testament, He is called the God of Truth. And Psalm 119:142 and 151 tells us that His Word is truth. The prophet Zechariah wrote that one day, the Messiah will come and He will set up His kingdom in the world. Jerusalem will be given a new name. Zechariah 8:3 says the new name of Jerusalem will be Truth City. In that day, Zechariah also tells us that all the people will love truth.In the meantime, the church should be the pillar and ground of the truth.

Throughout His ministry, of course, Jesus had been the source of truth. In John 7:16 Jesus said: “My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me.” The God of Truth has spoken through His Son who is the truth, who is now leaving and will send the Spirit of truth who will inspire the biblical writers to write the truth, which will be handed to the church, to become the pillar and ground of the truth.

Then in John 13:36 Jesus says “Where I go, you can’t follow Me now; but you will follow later.” At the end of verse 12 in John 14 He says “I go to the Father. You will see Me no more.”

This creates a dire horror in the minds of the apostles as He has been their hope and their resource. He has supplied all the divine resources to sustain them for these three years. He has been the presence of God. He has been the truth in so much that He has even made the Old Testament, which they didn’t understand, come alive after His resurrection. He did that on the very day He was raised from the dead. Once in the afternoon, and then again in the evening with all 11 in the room. He taught them the Old Testament. And then, before His ascension, for 40 days, He spoke to them of the things concerning the kingdom of heaven.

They had lived in a world of lies like everybody else. The Pharisees and the Sadducees were liars and part of the kingdom of darkness. In John 8:44, Jesus says to the leaders of Israel: “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I speak the truth, you do not believe me?” Then, verse 47, “He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.” The whole world lies in the lap of the evil one and is deceived. They do not know the truth because they cannot hear the truth with comprehension and understanding.

Jesus is leaving, but not without another promise. In John 14:16-17 he says: “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” In verse 26 he continues: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” We will not be without the truth, the comfort, the hope of heaven or without the promise of His return to bring us there. We will not be without heavenly resources or the Trinity’s presence.

The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of truth in John 14:17, 15:26 and 16:13. This is a marvellous gift. We are trapped in Satan’s kingdom but in the Holy Spirit we find the only escape is to know the truth. The truth sets us free from deception. 1 Corinthians 1:21 says “the world by wisdom knew not God.” Men are dead in trespasses and sins, their minds are darkened, their souls are black with the darkness and on their own, they cannot find the truth. Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:7, that men are “ever learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” They cannot know the truth about the spiritual realm.

Everything that Jesus said was from God. Everything that Jesus said would then be passed on to the Holy Spirit. There were things that Jesus said that the apostles didn’t understand at all. And then, when the Holy Spirit came, there was obviously an explosion of understanding.

In John 12:16 we read “These things His apostles did not understand at the first.” Even the things Jesus said, they didn’t understand. “But when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things to Him.” The coming of the Holy Spirit enlightened them and gave them that understanding. That’s why Jesus said in John 16:7 that it is better that He goes and that the Helper comes. And He says in John 16:12, “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” Verse 26, “He will teach you all things.” To know all things that He desires to reveal, itnecessitates the coming of the Holy Spirit.

This was primarily a promise that the Holy Spirit would enable the apostles and their associates to write the New Testament. And then, the Lord will give us all the things that He couldn’t say, because the apostles weren’t able to handle it.
And then, there also is an illuminating ministry of the Holy Spirit for which we should be profoundly grateful. 1 John 2 gives a promise, a statement of fact to all believers. We have an anointing from God. It is something that comes down from God into our lives, verse 27. “As for the anointing, which you received from Him abides in you.” The One who has come down from the Holy One to abide in us is none other than the Holy Spirit. In 1 John, he says He has come and He will “teach you all things, and is true, and not a lie, and just as that anointing taught you, you abide in Him.” So, it’s a Him. It is a person. It is the Holy Spirit.

As a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, you are the temple of the Holy Spirit because He dwells in you. Your body, in reality, contains the Trinity in a spiritual presence. But you have a resident truth teacher. This is a gift beyond all gifts.

That is the Spirit’s teaching ministry in you, the anointing in you, that teaches you the meaning of the Bible. The Spirit’s anointing ministry teaches you all things that He has revealed in the Scripture. He is the interpreter of Scripture to the faithful student. In particular, it focuses on Christ. John 15:26, “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me.” John 16:14, “He will glorify Me. He will take of Mine and disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.” This is the sequence: the Father’s truth is passed on to the Son, and then to the Spirit, and then to the apostles to be recorded in Scripture, and then to us. The Spirit of God, who resides in us, becomes the interpreter, the illuminator. This is why we study Scripture. Christ is the object of the Spirit’s ministry because Christ is the theme of Scripture.

In 2 Peter 1:21, holy men were “moved by the Spirit of God,” and they wrote. That’s the Old Testament. And in the same way that God spoke to the prophets and the holy men who wrote the Old Testament, He promises His apostles that He will send the Holy Spirit to do the very same thing with these apostles and the others associated with them who write the New Testament. Therefore, before He could illuminate the truth for us, He had to inspire the truth in the apostles and the other Bible writers.

An interesting incident happens in the Acts 11. Peter began to speak, and the Holy Spirit fell on them just as He did on us at the beginning. While Peter was speaking, the Holy Spirit came. The next verse says, “And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’” All of a sudden, out of nowhere, Peter remembers a statement that the Lord made when “the Holy Spirit fell on them.”

The apostles were ignorant, virtually to the end. They would never be able to write the New Testament if they were left to their memories. They were just like the Old Testament writers led along by the Holy Spirit. Every word was God-breathed. So what we have here primarily is a promise of inspiration.

The promise is this: you hold in your hand, dear one, the truth. What are you doing with it? Are you studying to show yourself approved unto God, a workman needing not to be ashamed? Are you letting the Word of Christ dwell in you? And your praise is connected to your theology, which is the result of your knowledge of Scripture.

(Source: The teachings of John MacArthur)


Genesis 1:2 tells us that the Holy Spirit was the one who moved across the formless deep and brought form to it. Therefore, He is the Creator. He is also the divine agent, which inspired the holy men who wrote the Scripture. God is not just one God who appears in three different persons at various times, He is at all times three, Father, Son and Holy Spirit and when we talk about the Holy Spirit, we are talking about God. He is the Spirit of God, just as Jesus is the Son of God. But I want us to look based on that assumption of what His divine ministry is. He works to accomplish the purposes of God.

It is the Spirit, for example, who comes upon Mary and she is given a child without a human father. To deny the power of Jesus is to blaspheme the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit in the Father’s will who raises Him from the dead. It is the Spirit who comes down and establishes the church. It is the Spirit who regenerates every believer.

If a person receives eternal salvation through faith in the crucified Christ, at that point he also receives the fullness of the indwelling Holy Spirit. The Spirit is then taking up residence in the believer’s life and the power of God is therefore placed at his disposal. So why would anyone turn to human effort to achieve spiritual goals?
Without the Holy Spirit we would not be the new creation, born again and be regenerated. And without the Holy Spirit we would not continue to be constantly sanctified. Apart from the Holy Spirit, we would fall back into spiritual deadness. Neither can a Christian sustain a Christian life by works, by ceremony or by religious rite or ritual. We are therefore being kept by the Spirit.

As the Charismatics increasingly kidnapped the Holy Spirit and held Him hostage to their aberrant theology, true interest in the Holy Spirit began to wane. They effectively started to present a message and approach based on people’s felt needs and what makes them tick.

The Charismatic Movement ascribes itself to the Holy Spirit but it is far more a work of the flesh than it is the work of the Spirit because the Spirit of God does not invest convincing expressions of His power into aberrant theology. If there were a gift of healing, it would not belong to somebody getting rich at the expense of sick people or to those who teach wrongly about the work of the Holy Spirit. It gives the illusion of spiritual success and it may have absolutely nothing to do with the Holy Spirit. It is a sin to think that we can do what only the Holy Spirit can do. It is a sin to think that we can win people to Christ by our techniques. We know that the Holy Spirit always works His ways through the Word and you cannot honor the Spirit without honoring the Word, for the Spirit is the author of the Word.

There are some things that are so foundational regarding the ministry of the Holy Spirit, that we need to understand them and understand them well.

First, the Holy Spirit is the agent of salvation. In John chapter 16, the Lord Jesus is promising to send the Holy Spirit He also says it in chapter 14 and 15 and is called the Advocate, the Helper, Paraclete and the Comforter. In chapter 16, verse 7 we read: “If I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you and He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me, concerning righteousness because I go to the Father and you no longer behold Me. And concerning judgment because the ruler of this world has been judged.”

By convicting the world, the Holy Spirit is bringing upon the heart and soul of unredeemed humanity, the awareness of sin. He convicts of sin, first of all, because they do not believe in Jesus and that is THE sin that damns people to hell. Any other sin is forgiven when one does believe in Christ. The Spirit works in the heart to produce guilt and fear and anxiety and trepidation and terror and the reality of sin.

And then secondly, the Spirit convicts the sinner of the righteousness of Jesus Christ who is utterly unlike the sinner. He also produces conviction concerning judgment.

Since those are the areas in which the Holy Spirit works to convict sinners, those should be the areas which we proclaim and on which the church should preach. It is not what people want to hear though. But there are literally all throughout the pages of Scripture these truths over and over again – in the Old Testament by way of prophecy and type and symbol, and all throughout the New Testament. 1 Thessalonians 1:5 reads: “Our gospel did not come to you in Word only, but in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.” When you preach the gospel it must be done in the power of the Spirit, as He produces conviction

Secondly, the Holy Spirit only produces conviction when the truth is proclaimed, heard and understood. It is also the Holy Spirit who produces repentance. That is precisely what we have in the eleventh chapter of Acts in the eighteenth verse. “When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God saying, ‘Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.'”

In verse 15 the Holy Spirit fell upon them, just as He did on us at the beginning. In Verse 17, God gave to them the same gift that He gave to us, also after believing in the Lord Jesus. The Spirit produces conviction about sin, conviction about the truth of the cross which is related to sin and our sinfulness and the only hope we have to escape judgment, and the Spirit produces conviction about judgment in order to produce repentance.

In 1 Peter 1:12, Peter: “It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you in these things…speaking about the Old Testament prophets…in these things which now they have announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.” The gospel when it is truly preached is preached by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.

So the Spirit who is the author of the gospel is also the Energizer. First John 5 says: “The Spirit who bears witness because the Spirit is the truth.” Whatever is a representation of the truth of Scripture, it is further energized by the Spirit.

In John chapter 3 it all kind of comes together where Jesus has His conversation with Nicodemus. In verse 5, “Truly, truly…Jesus says…I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit.” The point here is the Spirit regenerates and produces repentance by means of that conviction. The Spirit gives life and that is why we are talking about being born of the Spirit.

In Titus chapter 3 it says in verse 5; “He saved us not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy by the washing of regeneration and the renewing by the Holy Spirit.”

So the whole work of salvation then is a work of the Spirit of God. He’s the author of Scripture which is the source of truth about sin, righteousness, judgment and the call to repentance.

Now that is not all that the Holy Spirit does, but that’s the initial work. Let us look at a couple of illustrations. In 2 Thessalonians 2:13 we read: “We should always give thanks to God for you, brethren, beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.” Sanctification often is synonymous with salvation. The word sanctification means to be set apart and to be cleansed. That is what salvation is – we are separated from sin, niquity, condemnation and from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of God’s dear Son. So initial salvation is a launch of sanctification, it is a separation.

Paul says, “Having begun in the Spirit are you now perfected by the flesh?” It is not something the sinner can do for himself but something that only God can do. We need to continue in the Spirit now that we have begun in the Spirit.

Number one, He brings us the knowledge of and communion with God. The Spirit is the one who gives us access into fellowship with God. In Romans chapter 8 we learn what it means to live in the Spirit. Verse 6 says: “The mind set on the flesh is death, the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.” Verse 9 reads:”You are not in the flesh but in the Spirit if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.” Verse 11, “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you.” Verse 13, “If you’re living according to the flesh, you must die. But if by the Spirit you’re putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. All who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.”

We go on living in the Spirit, not according to the flesh. In verse 14 it says: “All who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” When you experience the direct leading of the Spirit of God in your life, it is an affirmation that you belong to God as a true son. “For you have not received a spirit of slavery, a spirit or an attitude of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out Abba, Father. The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.”

We literally say Abba, Father. That is a diminutive for papa, daddy, signifying endearment and intimacy. It is like James says: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” This is an immense privilege. And we do that by the Spirit. The Spirit frees us from fear, dread and terror that one might have in one’s heart in approaching an all holy, glorious God. We come into God’s presence as children and we speak to Him intimately and we unload our issues, desires, prayers, petitions and our praise and that is the work of the Spirit.

When one has been born again, the Spirit of God produces that attitude in the heart of a believer. We feel drawn to God and privileged to ask Him for anything and the Spirit of God gives us that internal freedom. That is what verse 14 refers to when it states that you have not received a spirit of slavery. There is a true joy of fellowship because access has been opened. We can even cast all our care on Him because we know He cares for us. We can be honest with Him about our sins. We should confess them all before Him without fear knowing that they are all covered by His grace through the sacrifice of Christ.

As you grow as a believer, this joyous communion, joyous prayer and praise takes over more and more of your life and there is a wonderful freeness in that. We sing hymns about God’s holiness. We come before the Lord, as the psalmist said, with singing. We are without fear because of the work of the Holy Spirit.

There is a second ministry of the Holy Spirit that we will talk about in detail in part 2 of this 2 part series. 2 Peter 1 says that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation. No prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. That tells us the Holy Spirit is the author and the illuminator of Scripture.

1 John 2:20 reads “You have an anointing from the Holy One, you have an anointing from the Holy One and you all know.” What is this anointing? It refers to the Holy Spirit who is the source of our understanding of Scripture. The Spirit lives in us and we live in the Spirit. We have our being in the realm of the Holy Spirit. The Word anointing here is the word chrisma, it means ointment, something placed on us like an anointing oil. And it is the Spirit of Truth.

The most critical passage on this is in 1 Corinthians 2 verse 9, which borrows from a couple of passages in Isaiah, “Just as it is written, things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard.” It is not available to empirical search. Secondly, “And which have not entered the heart of man.” You can’t find it externally and you can’t find it internally. “But it’s truth about all that God has prepared for those who love Him.” Everything that God has for those who are His children is unavailable in terms of understanding to the unregenerate. Verse 10, “For to us God revealed them .. through the Spirit.”

So we have an internal resident truth teacher who illuminates us. This is part of the doctrine of illumination. Inspiration brings us the message. Illumination is the work of the Spirit which gives us an understanding of what the message means. The Spirit illuminated us to understand our sinfulness. The Spirit illuminated us to understand the gospel. The Spirit illuminated us from the very beginning and continues this work of shining the light of truth brightly in our minds.

There is no fellowship between light and darkness.