There is a certain element of beautiful understatement in the Holy Spirit’s title of “The Helper.” When Jesus gave this label to the third member of the Trinity, it was not a title meant to highlight the greatness of our own ability. The Spirit would not come to help by augmenting the good job that we were already doing, causing us in our natural state to shine just a bit brighter. No, that is not at all the nature of the Spirit’s helping ministry. He did not come to bolster our strengths. He came to assist where we are weak. His helping ministry enables our salvation, sanctification, and ministry. Apart from this “Helper” there is no spiritual life and no ministry ability.
As Jesus explained it in the gospel of John, the Spirit’s aid is critical to successful life and ministry. It is tragic that the Spirit’s role is sometimes viewed as though He were like a young boy helping a father with a household chore; His presence is tolerated, but generally unnecessary. Such a perspective is the furthest thing from appropriate. There can be no conviction of sin without His conviction. There is no understanding of truth without His illumination. There is no comprehension of Christ’s majesty apart from the Spirit’s exaltation. In every way, He truly is the believer’s Helper.
Last month’s article introduced this topic of the Holy Spirit’s helping ministry. The primary focus of that piece was placed on the Spirit’s helping ministry to the world. As Jesus explained it, the ministry of conviction extended to sinfulness, righteousness, and judgment. Yet the Biblical understanding of the Helper’s role does not stop with the unbelieving world. He also has a dynamic ministry to those who interpret the truth as well as to specific believers.
These truths are critical for the preacher in particular to understand, for it is the Spirit’s role as a Helper that makes His job possible. Without the Spirit’s work, no amount of profound exposition or genius proclamation would move the heart of the hearer. It is here, where our ability ends, that the aid of the Helper begins.
His Help to Teachers (John 14:26; 16:12-13)
Prior to his death, Christ promised His disciples that the Helper would not only assist them through His ministry of conviction, but that He would help them by “teaching them all things” and “guiding them into all truth.” As the text indicates, another of the same kind (as Jesus) would come, and would help them by carrying out the same functions of teaching and guidance that Jesus had provided them. Scripture indicates that the ministry of the Spirit would closely parallel the ministry of Jesus. Just as Jesus had taught them personally, that role would now fall to the Spirit who indwelled them.
Surely, the statements of Jesus carried extra freight for these original disciples. For these men, the Spirit’s role would go beyond simple teaching. He would engage in “guiding them” so that the disciples would be able to record the words and works of Christ. It would be the Spirit who caused them to “remember” those things purposefully and specifically. After guiding them to record the appropriate truths, the Spirit would then instruct them by giving them the proper interpretation of those truths.
This first century application has important ramifications for the twenty-first century disciple – particularly those who dedicate their lives to the interpretation of the Scriptures. The implications of this truth are not limited to that first generation of disciples who actually heard these words from the lips of the Lord himself. “The Lord’s promise that the Spirit will guide believers into all the truth has primary reference to the writers of the New Testament. But it also extends in a secondary sense to the Holy Spirit’s work of illumination (cf. 1 Cor. 10-16).” As1 John 2:27 clearly communicates, it is the anointing of the Spirit that teaches every believer, everywhere in all eras. In this way, the Spirit is still active in teaching us, guiding us into all truth as we step into the study on a weekly basis.
This is perhaps one of the most beautiful truths available to the pastor. Your power in exposition does not flow from your own hermeneutical prowess or homiletical ability to mine the depths of Scripture. While the Spirit does use the knowledge of hermeneutics to guide the process of interpretation, and while He does empower the deployment of sound homiletics, it is ultimately a close relationship with God made possible through the reliance upon the Spirit’s revelation of the Son that leads the interpreter to the proper understanding of the text. It is His revelation of the Son’s majesty that empowers the subsequent proclamation. Without the Spirit’s instruction, facts about the text may be understood, but no amount of independent stumbling around can ever uncover the true implications of that text. In a very real way, He is in every way our helper – in the study and the pulpit.
For us, the guiding and teaching work of the Spirit does not have to do with the revelation of new truth, but with the explanation of the truths that have previously been revealed. The ability to properly interpret and be profoundly impacted by the truth of Scripture depends entirely upon the helping ministry of the Spirit. His aid is critical in our ability to rightly understand and profoundly proclaim His truth. We must be dependent upon Him to be our guide and teacher. Without Him, we cannot hope to rightly guide and teach those placed under our spiritual care. As we model dependence upon the Spirit in our preaching, the people in the pew will be inspired to depend upon Him in the same way.
His Help to all Believers (John 15:26; 16:14-15)
The third area in which Christ promised help to His followers, is applied to all believers. Beyond the conviction of the world and the illumination of truth, the Spirit helps by magnifying Jesus Christ himself. Everything that the Holy Spirit does is with the aim of allowing the followers of Christ to see their Lord more clearly. The Spirit does not draw attention to himself. Just as the Son explained the Father, Jesus promised that he would send the Spirit to explain His own glories. “The Holy Spirit’s ministry is to glorify Jesus Christ by disclosing the truth about Him, just as Christ glorified the Father by revealing Him. He does not point to Himself, but to the Son.”
The goal of the Spirit’s ministry is to see all believers made into the image of Christ. He accomplishes this work by allowing us to plainly see the Son of God, for it is when we see Him clearly that we become like Him. Jesus’ work is the drive train of the Holy Spirit’s ministry. “Whatever Christ has done, is doing, will do (for the church) is the theme of the Holy Spirit’s teaching.” How does this help the believer? The more the believer yields to the filling of the Spirit within Him, the more the work of the Spirit is able to progress. If the work of the Spirit is advancing Christ, then there is a direct and indestructible link between submission to the Spirit and proximity to Christ. The more you yield to the work of the Spirit, the closer you inevitably will draw to the person of Christ.
The Holy Spirit helps us by actively molding us into the image of Christ as He makes Him visible. As the apostle John clearly explains, “we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.” There is a connection between seeing Christ and being like Him. The more that we can see him, the more like Him we will become. In the end, “we will increasingly be given the mind of Christ as the Spirit takes what is Christ’s and discloses it to us.”
On His final night with His disciples, Jesus made three points about the Helper. As He prepared to leave, He promised them that a Helper would come, convicting the world, guiding them into all truth, and glorifying Him. There is a strong connection between the convicting ministry of the Spirit and the ability of men to be saved, the interpretation of Scripture, as well as the ability of believers to evangelize. If it were not for the help of the Spirit’s conviction, our message, and we ourselves would be hopeless.
There is an unbreakable link between the Spirit’s work and the ability of man to understand the words of God.
As Charles Spurgeon eloquently stated, “It is only as the Spirit of God shall come upon God’s servant and shall make the Word which He preaches to drop as a living seed into the heart, that any result can follow his ministry! And it is only as the Spirit of God shall then follow that seed and keep it alive in the soul of the listener that we can expect those who profess to be converted to take root and grow to maturity of Grace and become our sheaves at the last!”
If our preaching is to produce conviction, if our interpretation is to be accurate, if our proclamation is to reveal the glory of Christ, then it must be done in utter dependence upon our greatest ally. We are in desperate need of this Helper, for without Him, none of these purposes can be accomplished. Without conviction, accuracy, or magnification of Christ, then what is the point of a sermon? If these things are tied to the role of the Spirit, then we must preach with dependence upon Him. Without the Spirit, our ministry loses direction and power, ultimately becoming meaningless. Truly, the Holy Spirit is in every way our Helper, and without His aid we are nothing.
1 John MacArthur, John 12-21, MBC (Chicago: Moody Press, 2008), 208.
2 MacArthur, John 12-21, 209.
3 William Hendriksen, Exposition of the Gospel According to John, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), 329.
4 R. Kent Hughes, John: That You May Believe (Wheaton, Il: Crossway Books, 1999), 382.
 Dave Jordan, M. E. Pulpit Magazine February 2013 Vol. 02. No. 2.