John 16:5 …but now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. 7 But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”
John’s gospel is founded on a deeply Trinitarian understanding of God, and yet never once uses the word ‘Trinity’. Instead, Jesus speaks with God’s tri-unity assumed as bedrock. In this context, the personhood and specific role of the Holy Spirit is gradually revealed as the idea is revisited throughout the several conversations (For example, John 1:32-33; 3:5-8; 3:34; 4:23-24; 7:38-39; 14:16-18; 14:25-26). And so, as Jesus speaks again about ‘The Paraclete’ in verse 8, another layer is revealed.
The word ‘Paraclete’ refers to the Spirit’s role as Advocate– a term borrowed from the legal world of lawyers, councillors and prosecutors. He comes alongside to advocate for the truth.
The previous reference to the Spirit/Paraclete introduced the aspect of testimony to Jesus in the world– the Spirit is given to the disciples to empower their testimony to Jesus (Jn 15:26-27). Now Jesus adds the fact that it is the Spirit who does the “convincing”. “Prove” (ἐλέγξει) in verse 8 has the sense of proving them to be wrong and convincing them to change. This idea includes a suggestion of the shame of the person convicted– they are shown to be culpably wrong and so ought to change. It’s heavy-duty persuasion!
This ‘proving’ is in relation to three particular things. First, the Paraclete proves the world to be wrong about sin because of they do not believe in Jesus as Messiah: their unbelief is sin (v9). So, he will convince the world of their need to repent from their sin of unbelief.
Second, in verse 10, the Paraclete convicts the world of ‘righteousness’ by vindicating Jesus through his resurrection and ascension. In these events, God demonstrates that Jesus is really is ‘who he says he is’ and ‘approved by God’– he is truly righteous– and therefore, the right thing to do is believe in him.
Third, in verse 11, the Paraclete will also convince the world of the truth that Satan (the ruler of this world) now stands condemned. This is the logical consequence of the vindication of Jesus as resurrected, ascended and ruling Messiah.
And so the Paraclete speaks truth from God and persuades. All this happens as the disciples give their testimony to Jesus.
The other significant detail revealed about the Triune life of God is that, in the ‘economic’ operations of the Trinity, it is the Father and the Son who send the Spirit, and the Spirit communicates only what he hears from the Son. In this way, through the ‘speaking’ of the Spirit, glory goes to Jesus. In turn, since the Father has given all things to the Son, that glory given to the Son also goes to the Father. So we discern that there is a never-ending dynamic of glory– motivated by self-giving love– given from one to the other within the Godhead.
Dear God, please teach me to love and to give glory the way that you do among the persons of yourself. Let me love those around and life for you, without reserve. Amen.