Formations 05.24.2015: Spreading the Word

John 15:26-27; 16:5-15

Russian Pentecost icon

Russian Pentecost icon

“Evangelism” is a scary word for a lot of people. It’s scary for a lot of people outside the church because they don’t want to be the target of somebody’s evangelistic efforts. It’s scary for a lot of people in the church because they’re uncomfortable with the idea of openly sharing their faith or telling others about Jesus and the gospel.

On both fronts, I suspect the problem has to do with shallow or simply mistaken assumptions about what it means to share one’s faith. Rather than canned, impersonal, hard-sell presentations, the Gospel of John ties bearing witness to Jesus with the activity of the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life.

On this Pentecost Sunday, we look at three more sayings related to the promised Companion, the Holy Spirit. In John 15:26-27, Jesus promises that the Spirit he will send from the Father will testify about him. In 16:5-11, that same Spirit will also show the world its errors. Finally, in 16:12-15, Jesus promises that the Spirit will guide believers into all truth by proclaiming Jesus’ message. All of these sayings point to the Spirit’s role in proclamation.

The Holy Spirit is the world’s greatest evangelist. Testifying to Jesus is more about following the Spirit than anything else.


• What associations do you make with the word “evangelism”? Where did you learn these associations?
• When have you sensed the Holy Spirit at work in your life? How did this work testify to you—and others—about Jesus?

Reference Shelf


In the Gospel of John, the Holy Spirit is known also as the Paraclete, one called alongside as comforter or counselor (14:16). He is also “the Spirit of Truth” (14:17; 15:26; 16:13), reminding Jesus’ followers of the things Jesus had spoken (14:26), bearing witness to Christ (15:26), and guiding Jesus’ disciples in further truth (16:13). The Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (16:8-11). He is the spirit of truth, opposite to the spirit of error (1 John 4:6). Essentially, the Holy Spirit is the continuing divine presence which became incarnate in Jesus Christ. Thus, the followers of Jesus are not left orphans by the physical withdrawal of Christ. Before his ascension, Jesus promised, “I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you” (John 14:18). The Holy Spirit is the continuing divine presence, known in Jesus as one who could be physically seen, heard, and touched (1 John 1:1).

Frank Stagg, “Holy Spirit,” Mercer Dictionary of the Bible, ed. Watson E. Mills et al. (Macon GA: Mercer University Press, 1990), 385.


Jesus sends the Paraclete after his glorification. His coming will be to the disciples’ advantage. Two Paraclete sayings comprise this section (16:7-11, 13-15). One deals with the Spirit’s relation to the world (vv. 7-11; as 15:26-27), the other with the Spirit’s role in the believing community (vv. 13-15). Together they define the benefits of the Spirit’s coming.

John 16:7-11 portrays the Paraclete as a prosecuting counsel in a cosmic trial involving Jesus and the unbelieving world…. The prosecuting counsel will convict the world on three counts: sin, righteousness, and judgment. The explanation given of the three counts offers not the content of sin, righteousness, and judgment (e.g., of sin in that they do not believe) but rather the ground of conviction (e.g., of sin because they do not believe). Read in this way, the world is convicted by the Spirit of prophecy: (a) of sin because the world does not believe in Jesus and that is the essence of sin in John; (b) of righteousness because, being glorified, Jesus’ righteousness is vindicated by God (cf. 1 John 2:29; 3:7; 1 Tim 3:16); (c) of judgment because the ruler of this world has already been judged, making judgment of his domain, the world, certain (cf. 12:31; 1 John 2:13-14; 5:18). The situation presupposed is much like that reflected in 1 Corinthians 14:23-25. The whole church has assembled and outsiders and unbelievers enter; the prophesying that is taking place results in conviction of unbelievers, who then fall on their faces and worship God. In this role, the Paraclete confronts the world (as in 15:26-27).

In the final saying about the Spirit of truth in the farewell speech (vv. 13-15), the Spirit of prophecy’s role in relation to the community of believers is described (as in 14:26)…. According to this saying, Jesus has been given all things by the Father (cf. 1:18; 5:22, 26; 13:3; 17:2, 7). The Spirit receives from the Son’s bounty and declares it; he is the Son’s agent…. An agent acts according to the mind of his sender…. Again, pneumatology is subordinated to Christology. The Spirit does not offer a new revelation independent of Christ. This has two facets. On the one hand, he explicates the content of the revelation in Jesus (“what things he hears he will speak”) as it applies to a new time and context. On the other hand, “the things that are coming he will declare to you.” This has variously been taken to mean (a) the hour that is coming, that is, the time of Jesus’ glorification; (b) the significance of Jesus’ teaching for the time of the church after Jesus’ glorification; or (c) the ultimate future. Isaiah 41:21-29 offers insight about what was expected of prophecy in antiquity. In this passage Yahweh challenges the idol-gods of the nations to present their case by uttering true prophecy. This involves two things. First, tell us the former things that we may know. Second, declare to us the things to come that we may know. Prophecy was understood to include both an interpretation of the past and a prediction of the future. These two functions John 16:13-15 ascribes to the Spirit of prophecy. He will take what belongs to the past, Jesus’ revelation on earth, and interpret it for a new situation…. He will also declare the future as it must be in light of what God has revealed in Jesus Christ…. In performing these two functions, the Spirit of prophecy leads the believing community into all truth (i.e., into the whole of the revelation in Jesus Christ in all of its implications). This would include doing the truth (2 John 4; 3 John 4) as well as believing the truth (1 John 2:21). The Johannine community as a prophetic conclave rooted in the Incarnation would have found the gorund of its self-understanding in such a saying. The saying would also have provided a criterion to discern among the spirits, separating true from false (1 John 4:1-2)

Charles H. Talbert, Reading John, Reading the New Testament (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2005), 226–28.

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.


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