Neil Silverberg

John 16: The Special Helper

In his Upper Room dialogue with his disciples, Jesus mentioned several times the special Helper he would send from the Father to assist them. The disciples were devastated by his announcement he was soon going away and they would see him no more. But then he astounded them with his announcement it was “to their advantage that I go away.” How could it possibly be to their advantage that the Son of God—he whom they have come to believe in and rely upon—was no longer going to be with them? They could hardly imagine a situation more terrible than his no longer being there with them.

But then he told them why it was to their advantage he no longer would be with them in the flesh: “because if I do not go away the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” In some way they could not yet understand it was to their advantage that they no longer know him in the flesh, but by the power of the Holy Spirit. I remember reading that for the first time many years ago and being thrown for a loop. I had sometimes imagined how much easier it would have been to be with Jesus in the flesh; that if I had been there and personally seen his mighty works I would never be bothered by unbelief again. But in thinking such thoughts I also confessed my lack of understanding of the greater way we can know Christ after his death, resurrection, and ascension upon which he gave his disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit.

It is to our advantage to no longer have the Christ here in person but to know him by the work of the Holy Spirit. Since the Holy Spirit permanently indwells his disciples, He is always able to reveal the Son to us, not at special times such as when the Lord appeared to the twelve after his resurrection, but always and forever! His is a permanent revelation in which we are progressively and personally coming to know Him. And since His Spirit indwells each believer, He is able to be everywhere at all times so I can be having fellowship with him in Knoxville at the same time as someone in China. He is no longer limited to a certain geography as he was in the Gospels, but can be everywhere at every time.

Incidentally, that is one of the reasons that the Lord played hide-and-go-seek for forty days with his disciples after his resurrection. He would appear to them suddenly and then when they attempted to hold on to him, he vanished. By this, the Lord was preparing them for that time when they would no longer see Him, but would have his presence continually, regardless of whether they see him or not. To quote Paul, they would no longer “know Him in the flesh” (II Cor. 5:16) but by the Spirit. This would be far more penetrating and personal than when they walked with him in Galilee.

We can see this in the immediate change that occurred in the lives of these men after Pentecost. Suddenly, they knew him in intimacy, each one having received the revelation of his Lordship in a personal way. And they each manifested both the character and the power of Jesus, thereby revealing that they now knew Him. By character, we mean that each one began to reveal the “fruit of the Spirit’ which Paul describes in Galatians 5. And these timid, shy men now boldly confronted their generation with the Gospel of God by the same power, not afraid to offer up their lives in glad service to their exalted Lord. The picture of these men before and after Pentecost is a testimony to the far greater work that the Spirit does under the New Covenant than under the Old.

In your life, are you totally relying on the power of the Holy Spirit or are you longing to go back to a time in the past when things seemed easier or God seemed to be moving? Have you understood the special Helper the Father gave you who at all times reveals the Son and sustains you by his power? No matter what we are facing the only real question to ask is, “Am I growing in my knowledge of the Lord and learning to rely on the power of the Helper moment by moment?” Regardless of what your Christian life has been up to this moment, make a decision that from hereon out, you will totally rely on the special Helper the Father sent you.

3 Comments

  1. Neil, I especially appreciate the paragraph about how we want to go back to the early days when we “felt” the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives but as we grow in our relationship with Jesus we must walk more in faith. This makes me remember what I heard someone say years ago that while the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness God provided everything they needed – even their clothes/shoes didn’t wear out but once they crossed into Canaan they had to work for everything. As we grow in the Lord we walk by faith and not by sight and our relationship w/our Lord grows deeper. Thank you, your insight is so helpful.

  2. Thank you Neil. Good insight and application of a passage we sometimes read over too quickly. I remember one time you mentioned HE (the Holy Spirit) has become the “silent” member of the Trinity to many of us in the church today. We still need Him today to fulfill our calling as ambassadors for Christ!

  3. Christine Cunningham

    He is the silent member who speaks loudly through lives committed to serving him. Glorious news for all of us! We are never alone!

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