Criswell Theological Review 3.1 (1988) 65-78.

       Copyright © 1988 by The Criswell College. Cited with permission.    

 

 

 

           THE SPIRIT AND SALVATION

 

 

                                  GERALD L. BORCHERT

                     The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

                                      Louisville, KY 40280

 

 

                              I. Introduction: A Spiritual Gospel

 

In this era which is marked by political unrest, guerrilla warfare,

unbridled greed, blatant immorality, helpless poverty and confusing

value standards Christians are called upon to evidence the power of

the risen Christ in their lives. In this setting of confusion and insecurity

where publishers are offering scores of books related to the analysis of

society's troubles and an equal number of quick fix treatments for

contemporary ills, the temptation for the church is to follow in the

train of seeking for instantaneous religious pills that will settle our

desperate plight. In such an era it is timely for the church to drink

deeply of the refreshing message of the Gospel of John.

            As a resource for helping Southern Baptists to think about one

aspect of John during the forthcoming Winter Bible Study, the editors

have asked me to deal with the subject of the Spirit and salvation. Of

course, an entire book could be written on this bipolar topic.l The

 

            1 A helpful resource for the study of Johannine themes is the introduction of C. H.

Dodd, The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel (Cambridge: University Press, 1958).

In this article I am herewith making no attempt at citing all the resources which are

available concerning the study of John in my Assurance and Warning (Nashville:

Broadman, 1987). Instead, I recommend that readers consult that work for the foot-

notes at the appropriate texts or the following primary commentaries which will supply

a variety of perspectives: G. R. Beasley-Murray, John (WBC; Waco: Word, 1987);

R. Bultmann, The Gospel of John (tr. G. Beasley-Murray; Philadelphia: Westminster,

1971); R. E. Brown, The Gospel According to John (AB; 2 vols; Garden City: Double-

day, 1966 and 1970); F. F. Bruce, The Gospel of John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983);

W. E. Hull, "John," The Broadman Bible Commentary Vol. 9 (Nashville: Broadman,

1970); L. Morris, The Gospel According to John (NIC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971);

R. Schnackenburg, The Gospel According to St. John (tr. K. Smith; 3 vols; New York:

 



66                    CRISWELL THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

 

topic's appropriateness is beyond dispute, given the importance of

salvation in dealing with the insecurities of today's society and the

high level of interest and concern which many Christians have in

matters relating to the Spirit. To this subject, then, attention is turned

with the reminder that Clement of Alexandria early referred to John

as the "Spiritual Gospel." If ever there was an "in-spirited" book, it

would have to be the Gospel of John.2

 

                                    II. Salvation in John

           

            In beginning any study on salvation in John, one needs to start

near the end of the book. John stated his purpose clearly in 20:30-31:

"Many other signs Jesus did. . . which are not written in this book;

but these are written that you might believe Jesus is the Christ, God's

Son, and that believing you might have life. . . ."3 Concerning salva-

tion then John's purpose seems certain. Nothing less than believing

that issues in transformed living is adequate for understanding John's

purpose of writing. Changed living is his goal!4

 

Believing and Knowing in John

            Now English readers of the gospel need to realize that in pursuing

his goal John totally avoided using the Greek nouns for "faith" (pi<stij)

and "knowledge" (gnw<sij). He used only the verbs for "'believe"

(pisteu<w) and "know" (ginw<skw and oi]da). The reason was that John

was faced with problems from an early form of a heresy called

Gnosticism which emphasized the fact that salvation was based upon

what you know or believe, i.e., ideas and information. Instead, John

wanted his readers to understand that salvation was based upon who

you know or in whom you believe, i.e., a relationship with God.5 The

purpose of John, then, was to make absolutely clear to his readers that

salvation is based upon a relationship with a person--Jesus Christ--

and not merely upon facts or information about that person.

 

Crossroad, 1982); S. Smalley, John, Evangelist and Interpreter (Greenwood, SC: Attic,

1978) and G. A. Turner and J. R. Mantey, The Gospel According to John (Evangelical

Commentary; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, n.d.).

            For those interested in an example of the new literary approach (reader response)

to the study of John, see the important work of my colleague R. Alan Culpepper,

Anatomy of the Fourth Gospel (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1983).

            2 See my discussion in Assurance and Warning, p. 86.

            3 The translations in this article unless otherwise noted are mine.

            4 See my discussion in Assurance and Warning, p. 91.

            5 See my discussions in Great Themes from John (Buffalo: Baptist Life Associa-

tion, 1965) 5-6; "The Fourth Gospel and its Theological Impact," RevExp 78 (1981)



              Borchert: THE SPIRIT AND SALVATION            67

 

An Illustration from Lazarus

            Certainly confessional information is important but by itself it

can lead to lifeless words which lack the dynamic of God. In this vein

of thought we are reminded of the climactic Lazarus story in the first

half of the gospel. The disciples were north in Galilee when Jesus

received word that Lazarus was ill. When Jesus told the disciples that

he was going south, the only concern of the disciples was that the

south was the region of their enemies. They surely would have con-

fessed with Peter that Jesus had the "words of eternal life" (6:68) but

at that point all Thomas and the disciples could think about was going

south to die (11:16). Dynamic living and confession were radically

separated by them at that point.

            And what about Martha? As I have indicated many times else-

where, she stoutly asserted that if only Jesus had been present, her

brother would not have died (11:21). But, she added that even at that

point whatever Jesus asked of God, God would do it (11:22). When

Jesus told her that her brother would live, she replied that she knew

good Pharisaic theology to the effect that he would rise at the end of

time (11:24). When Jesus countered that he was the resurrection and

life and that he made the dead live, she responded with, "Lord, I

believe that you are Christ, God's Son. . ." (11:27). Note that this

confession is parallel to John's purpose statement (20:31). But please

do not stop reading the story here. While some may be ready to

baptize anyone who makes such a confession, I have said over and

over again that those words are not the end of the story.6

            Mary next came on the scene and repeated the same condition:

"if only you would have been here, my brother would not have died"

(11:32). Then the friends asked why the miracle worker could not

have kept Lazarus from dying (11:37). For everyone in the story it

was too late. Lazarus was dead! So when Jesus asked them to take

him to the tomb and then to take away the stone, they were all

convinced it was part of the mourning process of Jesus. Notice,

however, what Martha said: "Lord he has been dead four days and he

stinks!" (11:39). In support of Martha it is certainly not difficult to

imagine in the hot Palestinian climate after four days that the body

would stink.

            But reflect for a moment on the various statements of Martha:

"Lord, I believe that you are Christ" and "Whatever you ask of God,

God will give it to you." Then consider: "Lord he stinks!" What do

you think John was trying to tell us by writing the story the way he

 

            6 See for example Assurance and Warning, pp. 122-23.



68                    CRISWELL THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

 

did? Do you think he may have known people who were full of

confessions about Jesus but who lacked a living sense of Christ's

presence in their lives?

 

The Witness of the Prologue

            Turn next for a moment and think about how this gospel begins.

The Prologue (1:1-18) is one of the finest Christological statements in

the Bible. The Genesis creation statement is not repeated. It is assumed,

but to that story is added the message about the Word (lo<goj;) having

been active in creation and then mysteriously becoming incarnate

(human, flesh=sa<rc, 1:14). The Prologue is also about humanity be-

cause when the Word came to his own place (his world) and to his

own people (those who should have recognized him), he was rejected

(1:11). But thank God there were some who received him, who truly

believed him and they have become the children of God (1:12).

            Yet to understand the Johannine picture of salvation we must

once again be very careful to recognize what John meant by believe.

Many people love to quote John 1:12. And when you listen to them

recite the text from the King James Version, the emphasis of their

salvation statement of becoming children of God falls on "even to

them that believe on his name." Now before I reflect on this state-

ment, let me indicate that I take no joy in pointing out the theological

faults of Christians because I myself have drawn a number of poor

theological conclusions over the years in wrestling with biblical texts.

Indeed, at one time I also treated the "even" in this verse as the

minimum statement of what is necessary to gain salvation, just as

some still do. But my friends the "even" in the KJV is not in the

Greek! This statement in John is not some minimum statement like: all

you have to do is believe in the name of Jesus. John was not interested

in minimums of faith for salvation. He was concerned about authen-

ticity. To believe in the name of Jesus means to accept his nature in

his own life. Salvation is not a matter of minimums of belief but of an

entire approach to life.

 

An Important Johannine Aside

            Do you remember what John said at 2:23-25? Many believed

(pisteu<w) when they watched the signs which Jesus was doing. But

notice that Jesus did not "believe (pisteu<w) them" (or: entrust himself

to them)." The two uses of "believe" here reveal that John was

concerned about a believing that goes beyond mere words. The

reason for this emphasis is that Jesus knew all about the superficialities

and insincerities of human believing. God is not interested in hasty

verbal statements of believing. God is concerned that the entirety of a

 



            Borchert: THE SPIRIT AND SALVATION                        69

 

person's life is committed to him. We need to realize as weak human

beings that God still knows all about our frailties, half-beliefs and

pseudo-commitments. He is concerned about our lives, not just about

our words. John wanted his readers to experience a different kind of

believing than mere intellectualizing. His goal was transformed living.

 

     The Connection Between Salvation and Spirit in Chapter Three

 

            In this respect remember that Nicodemus came to Jesus thinking

that he understood who Jesus was. As he addressed Jesus, he said

"Rabbi, we know you are. . . from God" (3:2). Jesus did not waste his

time thanking Nicodemus for such a fine introduction. Jesus simply

told him that he needed to be reborn (or born from above) and if he

did not experience rebirth he would not "see the kingdom of God"

(3:3). Moreover, his rebirth would have to involve "water and the

Spirit" (3:5). In the face of these statements the Pharisaic teacher who

came to Jesus at night was stunned. (Watch the time designations like

"night" in John. They are important clues to the spiritual temperature

of the story.) Nicodemus thought that he knew who Jesus was. He

discovered quickly that he neither knew Jesus nor the salvation about

which the Lord was speaking.

            To be a part of Jesus or part of God's children, it is necessary to

be born of water and the Spirit. Now from this text it should be

apparent that the emphasis falls not on the external matter of water

but on the internal significance of the Spirit. To be born of the Spirit

(pneu?ma) cannot be explained in human terms for it is like being a

child of the wind (pneu?ma; note the play on the word). A Christian's

real source of energy is hidden in God and a Christian's movement in

life is known and directed by God (3:8). To understand rebirth and

salvation, therefore, is the beginning of understanding the divine

mystery at work in the world (3:12).

            The Cross and Judgment. The way of the Spirit and the nature

of salvation is the focus of this paper. To perceive the Spirit's way,

according to John, is to understand something about the one who

descended from heaven and who was stretched out as Moses raised

up the serpent in the wilderness (3:13-14). This crucified Jesus was

God's means of bringing eternal life to everyone who believes (3:15).

In the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, God demonstrated his

love and indicated that he did not want to be perceived as some

angry pagan God who desired human blood and death. God really

loved his people of the world (3:16-17). In Jesus, God came to his

creation (1:9). But many have not accepted his love (1:10-11), and

therefore stand condemned already (3:18).

 



70                    CRISWELL THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

 

            As John looked back on the "crucial" event (the cross) of history

with post-resurrection eyes, he wanted his readers to realize that there

was no "sitting on the fence" with God. There is in John no putting off

of the decision. Failing to decide for Jesus (to believe Jesus) means

condemnation already. The judgment has already been rendered!

Failure to obey the Son, therefore, means that the wrath of God

already is directed against disobedient humanity. Nowhere in the

Bible is the love of God more clearly defined; yet, nowhere in the

Bible is judgment more severely declared than in this Gospel of John.

The refusal of a person to accept God's love in Christ, according to

John, means that that person is now living under the judgment of

God. Judgment is not only future with John. It is a condition of "red

alert" NOW!

            The Evangelistic Call. No Christian, therefore, should be embar-

rassed about calling non-Christians to Christ. We may be embarrassed

about some manipulative methods that are used in evangelism but

there is no need to apologize for the evangelical call. The necessity of

rebirth is a fundamental presupposition in John. Moreover, as I have

indicated at length in The Dynamics of Evangelism the necessity of

decision making is not only evident in this story but also in the story

of Jesus' dealing with the Samaritan woman and elsewhere throughout

John.7

 

            The Question of "Filled With the Spirit." But before we leave

chapter three of John one further matter needs to be noted concerning

the Spirit. Some Christians often enter into dialogue with charismatics

over the idea of being "filled with the Holy Spirit." We must all

understand, however, that this expression is primarily a Lucan word-

picture, though it appears once in Ephesians in contrast to being

drunk with wine (Eph 5:18). It is used in Luke of John the Baptist,

Elizabeth and of Zechariah (Luke 1:15, 41 and 67) even before Jesus

was born and then it is used a number of times in Acts concerning the

early Christians (e.g., Acts 2:4; 4:8, 31; 9:17 and 13:9). It is to be

contrasted in Luke and Acts with particular Lucan expressions of

being filled with wrath, awe or fear, madness, wonder, indignation,

and envy (Luke 4:28; 5:26; 6:11 and Acts 3:10, 5:17; 13:45 and 19:29).

The expression "filled with the Holy Spirit" then is a particular Lucan

style of explaining the way a Christian lives in close relationship to God.

            The expression "filled with the Holy Spirit" does not appear in

any Johannine literature. Moreover, great care must be exercised in

 

            7 See G. Borchert, "Signs for Believing" in The Dynamics of Evangelism (Waco:

Word, 1976) 57-72.

 



            Borchert: THE SPIRIT AND SALVATION                        71

 

determining the meaning of this word-picture lest one thinks that

some people have only part of the Holy Spirit while other Christians

have all of him. Indeed, John probably would stand diametrically

opposed to that notion because he argued that “it is not by measure

that [God] gives the Spirit” (3:34). The words in the King James

Version "unto him" are again in italics which means that they are not

in the Greek. Did John think that a person could have only part of the

Holy Spirit? Indeed, did Luke ever make such a radical statement?

To be filled with the Holy Spirit is not a quantitative statement but a

statement about authentic commitment to God as the Spirit makes the

divine presence known. This fact is of particular importance as we

turn now to discuss the role of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete (Com-

forter, Counselor, and Supporter), in John.

 

                                    III. The Spirit in John

 

            The Greek term para<klhtoj as it is applied to the Holy Spirit is a

special Johannine term that is used only in three chapters (14-16) of

John's farewell discourse between Jesus and the disciples. (It is also

used of Jesus in 1 John 2:1; cf. John 14:16.) But these three chapters

constitute the major teaching of John on the Holy Spirit. The context

of the teaching is very important because the words are addressed in

a setting where the followers of Jesus are disillusioned and feel totally

empty at the thought of Jesus' immanent departure. The disciple's

experience was one of feeling abandoned or of being orphaned (14:18).

 

A Road Map and the Presence of God

            Jesus had just told them that he was going away to prepare a

place for them and that he would return and take them to himself. He

told them that they should understand where he was going (14:1-4).

But Thomas and Philip voiced for the disciples their bewilderment.

They wanted an outlined road map of his journey and a glimpse of

God in order to gain some degree of security in the midst of such an

upsetting crisis (14:5 and 8). For them to understand that Jesus was

their road map and that he was the epitome of the Father was at that

time almost impossible to conceive.

            Believing that Jesus was actually united with the Father seemed

to be beyond the scope of their thought patterns and so Jesus tried to

help them through their thorn patches of unbelief by reminding them

of the works that he did (14:11). If they could grasp the significance

of Jesus' works, perhaps they would realize that Jesus had called them

to greater works (14:12). Indeed, he had summoned them to a relation-

ship in which they would be so dependent upon him (“ask in his

 



72                    CRISWELL THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

 

name") that they would discover the exciting power of answered

prayer (14:13-14). Moreover, in obeying the will of the Son, they

would find the answer to their sense of abandonment because Jesus

would send to them another Paraclete (a Supporter, Advocate, Com-

forter, Counselor) to be with them (14:15-16). )

 

Abiding in Christ's Love While in the World

            Obviously, John viewed Jesus as the first Paraclete of the disciples

while he was with them. He was their supporter, counselor, comforter

and advocate during his earthly ministry (14:21-25). He had given

them a sense of security and peace while he was with them, but the

time had come for him to leave them and their anxiety level was

almost unbearable (14:27). They had difficulty understanding how a

substitute would help them. They wanted Jesus (cf. 16:6, 16-19)!

Jesus, therefore, tried to help them understand ahead of time what

was about to happen and that the devil (the ruler of the world) really

was not the ultimate power in the world (14:29-31). Jesus wished that

they could rejoice at his going to the Father because he would come

again to them (14:28). Their minds, however, were still stuck in the

mire of their worldly concerns so Jesus continued in his task of

providing them with preparatory advice.

 

Abiding in Christ's Love While in the World

            In chap 15, through the masal (parable or allegory) of the vine

and the branches, Jesus explained to them how authentic salvation

and ministry were defined in terms of a personal relationship with

him. Apart from him they would be like dead branches (15:6) and

able to accomplish nothing that would count for God (15:5). But if

they hung on to him (15:7) and were obedient to him (15:10), they

would discover the power of prayer, of conversing with the Lord

(15:7), and they would experience the fullness of joy in their lives

(15:11).

            The Mark of the Christian and the Pain of Community. More-

over, there was a specific quality that would mark them as people

who were obediently abiding in Christ. That quality was love--not

talk about love, but genuine obedience to Christ that is evidenced in a

life of love (15:12-17; cf. 13:34-35). In the midst of our current Baptist

controversy we all need to be reminded again and again of the fact

that what really counts is not only the way a Christian talks but the

way a believer acts. Genuine love is the test of whether we believe

with our lives. What does that statement mean to us, my friends?

How far has our believing carried us? Merely to our heads, or deep

 



            Borchert: THE SPIRIT AND SALVATION                        73

 

into our lives as well? Let us all pray for the Spirit's enlightenment in

answering this question in our own contexts.

 

            The Warning and the Promise. My previous sentence is not

some hastily added conclusion to a painful subject. It is born out of

wrestling with the context of John 15:18-25 wherein the disciples

were reminded that life in this world (perhaps sometimes in the

church?) was not a setting of peace, but of hate and persecution and

of unfair dealings. In that context of hostility Jesus reminded the

disciples that when the Paraclete, the Spirit of truth, would be sent by

Jesus from the Father (cf. the filioque argument between the eastern

and western church),8 he would give them divine insight (witness)

into the will of our Lord Jesus (15:26; cf. 16:7).

            But why did Jesus speak in this manner? John indicated that the

reason was in order to keep Christians from being “scandalized”

(16:1). The Greek verb is the powerful skandali<zw which is translated

in the RSV as “falling away”. Whatever reaction we may have to that

translation, the point of 15:26-16:4 is to indicate that Jesus knew that

life on earth would be very difficult. Some religious people would

even think that they were doing God a service in attacking Christians

(16:2). But in the midst of pain and anguish John, seeing with post-

resurrection eyes, wanted his readers to remember that Jesus had

promised to send the Paraclete to be the Christians' Advisor.

 

The Evangelical Role of the Spirit

            In their distress at his immanent departure the disciples did not

want Jesus to abandon them. But Jesus knew that it would be to their

advantage for him to depart because if he would not leave, the

Paraclete would not come to them (16:6-7). Moreover, Jesus informed

them of the great resource the Paraclete would be. Their new Advo-

cate's role would be threefold: (a) to convince the world of the reality

of sin because of the world's refusal to believe in Jesus; (b) to make

clear to everyone the necessity of righteousness with God and of

 

            8 Filioque is Latin for "and from the Son" and involves the question of whether

the Spirit proceeds from the Father only or from the Father and from the Son. The

latter position represents the Western version of the Nicene Creed. While the phrase

was not part of the original decision of the ecumenical council at Nicea (A.D. 325), it

was used as early as 447 at Toledo and confirmed by the local council there in 589.

Leo III refused to accept it in 809 but later in the 9th century Photius of Constantinople

excommunicated Nicholas I of the Western Church because of his acceptance of the

addition. The argument was central to the fracture of east and west in 1054. Whatever

may be the particular merits of the argument on both sides, it does seem from this text

that the Father and Son are in harmony in the coming of the Spirit.

 



74                    CRISWELL THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

 

God's vindication of Jesus; and (c) to indicate to everyone that refusal

to accept the way of God would lead to judgment because even the

ruler of the world (the devil) is subject to the judgment of God and

therefore there is no escape for anyone who refuses God's way in the

world (16:8-11).

            In this brief statement is summarized the evangelical role of the

Holy Spirit.  Everyone interested in evangelism (which should mean

every Christian) ought to pay particular attention to these verses

because they form a brief summary of the evangelistic goal of the

Gospel. People need to acknowledge their sin and accept the righteous-

ness of Jesus Christ in order to escape the clear judgment of God

upon the way of rebellion and evil.

            Witness and Sin. But before we leave this statement several

other matters ought to be noted.. As one studies the kerygma (the

preaching) of the early Church, one notices that there is a clear

acknowledgment of sin but very little highlighting of past sins. In our

churches sometimes one has the feeling that the more and greater the

past sins one can confess the better is one's testimony. Accordingly,

some Christians feel unimportant because they do not have a testi-

mony involving vivid past sins. But such a pattern is the elevating of

sin not Jesus. That style is bad news not good news! Excitement of a

testimony ought not to proceed from a bad past but from a living life

with Christ!  Jesus is the focus of the early Church's preaching and he

ought to be the focus of anything worthy of being called a Christian

testimony. Let us talk about Jesus and his redeeming love, my friends,

not about the greatness of ourselves or our past sins.

            Salvation and the Work of the Spirit.  In addition, one of the

hardest lessons for any preacher to learn and which needs to be

learned again and again is that salvation is the work of God--not the

work of a preacher or any witness of the Gospel. Furthermore, we

need to realize that salvation is certainly not fundamentally the work

of a sinner who is confessing sin. Nevertheless, here is the true meet-

ing point of authentic Calvinism with the Arminian call to repent--

similarly sounded in John 3:16 (God loved. . . and we believe).9 But

remember that the only way anyone genuinely enters the kingdom of

God is because the Holy Spirit touches a life in such a way that a

person is enabled to believe. Jesus made that fact absolutely clear

when he described the work of the Holy Spirit in John 16:8-11. The

Holy Spirit convinces people of the horrible nature of sin, of the

 

            9 For a discussion of the interplay between Calvinism and Arminianism in John 3

see my Assurance and Warning, pp. 104-5.

 



            Borchert: THE SPIRIT AND SALVATION                        75

 

victory in Jesus Christ, and of the impending nature of judgment for

those who fail to believe.

            The task of a preacher or a witness is to help open the door of the

will so that the Holy Spirit can enter an unbeliever's life. As a Christian

witness I have had opportunities to help open the door of hearts

prepared by the Holy Spirit in a number of places when for instance

the person spoke another language like Arabic and only halting

English. There has usually come a time when I have had to sit back,

pray and observe while God brought the person to himself. The

secret of an authentic Christian witness is to know when it is God's

turn to take over--indeed to recognize that the Lord is active at all

times. The real power of Billy Graham, he will tell you himself, is

when he stops preaching and lets God do the invitation work through

him. Whether one is a new Christian layperson, a seasoned minister or

an able teacher of theological formulations, there is an important

point in the evangelistic process when one has to turn the inquirer

over to God and let the Spirit do the mighty work of bringing that

person to God himself. That is one of the times when hard working

Christians prove whether they will let God be God or they are in fact

idolators of the self. My friends, I say this not merely as a NT

interpreter but also as one who teaches evangelism at the graduate

level. We need to learn how to let God be God.

 

Theology of the Spirit and Presence

            As John moved to the conclusion of the farewell discourse, he

reminded his readers that Jesus had not supplied the disciples with a

full-blown theology of the Holy Spirit. To provide such would have

been impossible, given the depressed state of the disciples' minds

(16:12). They were totally confused by his statement of departure and

return (16:16-18). Therefore, instead of a fully enunciated statement

about the Holy Spirit, Jesus promised them that the presence of the

Spirit would provide them with guidance concerning truth (16:13).

Here again then is illustrated a typical Johannine pattern wherein

the personal presence of God, Jesus or the Spirit, is stressed rather

than the words or ideas about the Godhead. A similar pattern was

noted earlier in connection with the theme of believing. It is not that

verbal formulas are unimportant for John, but that the reality of

God's personhood is something that is basic to John. The Word

became flesh (1:14) is not merely a theological statement. It is a

confessional reality for John. So, when John talks about the Holy

Spirit, it is not merely a statement that we are to affirm. The Spirit is a

reality of God's guiding presence that we as Christians are to experi-

ence. But relationship to the Spirit is not simply a subjective reality. In

 



76                    CRISWELL THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

 

the context of the divine presence in our lives, we begin to understand

the related reality of truth (16:13), a truth that glorifies Jesus, our Lord

(16:14) and provides security to us as believers that we belong to

Christ (16:15).

 

Assurance and the Spirit

            Assurance of salvation, then, does not come from something we

generate. It is the result of the Spirit's personal presence in our lives

directing our attitudes and perspectives in the ways we think. More-

over, confidence in life and in prayer is not the result of our worthiness

before God. It results from sensing the Spirit's presence so that we are

able to converse as a consequence of knowing this living God in our

lives (16:23-24). Accordingly, as our lives reflect an obedient response

to God, prayer becomes a part of the natural communication pattern

of a Christian with the indwelling Spirit of God (16:13, 26-28; cf.

15:7-11).

 

Jesus' Model in Prayer

            We, thus, become more and more like Jesus our Lord as the

Spirit of God lives in us. This, Jesus, our guide and supporter, as

portrayed in chap 17, concluded the farewell discourse with his own

model prayer. This prayer provides for us a revealing window into

Jesus who is our Savior and our ideal. In this chapter Jesus prayed for

the protection of the disciples as he affirmed his earthly role of

guarding them while he was with them (17:11-12). He did not pray

that Christians would be teleported to some perfect environment

where there would be no contact with besmudged humanity. That

course of action would have made evangelism impossible. Instead, he

prayed that since he would no longer serve as their Paraclete (sup-

porter) his followers would be protected from the evil one in this

hurt-laden world (17:13-15).

            In addition, he prayed for his followers' holiness (17:17) and

rooted this prayer in his own action of sanctifying himself (17:19).

Think of the implication of the holy Son of God sanctifying (purify-

ing) himself as a model for us! It is not a question of our Lord's

sinfulness but an indication of how much Jesus was willing to do for

the disciples in order to be their supporter!

            Thirdly, Jesus prayed for the disciples' unity. But he did not limit

the prayer to his immediate followers or to the 1st century. His prayer

also specifically was focused on us as well (17:20). The reason for his

concern of unity was undoubtedly that Jesus knew it is hard to do the

mission of Christ ("that the world may believe" 17:21) when Christians

are fussing with one another. This year Southern Baptist evangelistic

outreach has slumped to an actual low not experienced since the

 



            Borchert: THE SPIRIT AND SALVATION                        77

 

Second World War. Is our main concern the mission of Christ? Is our

"Bold Mission Thrust" more than words?

            A final element of Jesus' prayer is his longing for his followers to

be with him in glory (17:24). Christians need to remember that Jesus

was pictured as longing for the time when his followers would realize

their destiny with him. Life in this world is not an end in itself. The

reality of salvation involves matters far beyond this present mundane

life. Jesus is like an expectant parent who waits for the celebrative

homecoming of his children.

            The time is coming indeed when all the world will hear the voice

of God's Son and come forth from the tombs--some to a resurrection

of life but unfortunately others will come to a resurrection of judg-

ment (5:25-29). Human beings must clearly understand that human

destiny in John is not limited to a single focus. The good news is

directed to the whole world but not everyone will believe in Jesus. To

those, however, who believe, who place their lives in a trust relation-

ship with Christ, God gives authority (e]cousi<a) to become children of

God (1:12). The destiny of our salvation is to be with Jesus in glory

(14:3 and 17:24). That is the ultimate goal of salvation.

 

                                                Conclusion

 

            Jesus is God's answer to the pain and sin in the world--the Lamb

of God (1:29). He came as the one through whom there was given to

humanity new life and enlightenment (1:4-5), the one in whom divine

grace and truth was fully infleshed (1:14) and the one who baptizes

with the Holy Spirit (1:33). He is the one who was lifted up in order

that whoever would believe in him might experience life eternal

(3:14-15) and the one whom the Samaritans confessed to be the

Savior of the world (4:42). He is the bread of life (6:35), the living

water (7:37), the light of the world (8:12 and 9:5) and the faithful

shepherd (10:11) who provides security of life for his believing sheep

(10:28). He is the resurrection and the hope for the dead (11:25), the

kingly answer to all human expectations (12:13), the model of a life of

love (13:34) and the way of God (14:6). He is the foundation vine that

enables us to have a fruitful life (15:1-2) and he is the one who sends

the Holy Spirit to his followers (16:7).

 

The Purpose of the Death Story

            In the Johannine death story this Jesus stood: totally in control

before Judas and the puny band of captors (18:3-8); absolutely

authentic in comparison to the inconsistencies of Peter (18:10-11,

15:18, 25:27); genuinely loyal to God in the face of priestly hypocrisy

(18:12-14, 19-24, 28 and 19:15) and perfectly serene in the presence of

 



78                    CRISWELL THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

 

the compromising weakness of Roman power (18:29-19:16). The pur-

pose of the death story in John as in all the gospel is to make clear to

the reader that the sacrificial death of Jesus which is basic to our

salvation was not in the hands of mere human beings.

            The enemies did not control the death of Jesus according to John.

He moved throughout his life toward the determined hour of his

death (17:1). When he reached that hour, in John's mind, Jesus himself

chose the moment of his death, called out to the world “It is finished!”

and then gave up his Spirit (19:30). Thus" when the soldiers came to

the cross to end the life of the victims in their accustomed manner,

Jesus was already dead (19:33). Instead, one soldier pierced his side

but the mixture of blood and water that poured from his side was for

John a powerful symbolic testimony of the sacrificial death of Jesus

(19:34-37). Indeed, even after he died, his body gave witness to the

reason for his coming--to be the sacrificial lamb of God for the sin of

the world (1:29).

 

The Resurrection and the Spirit

            But the power of God did not leave Jesus in the tomb. As the

resurrection morning dawned, it became apparent that Jesus was no

longer in the tomb. What was the meaning of that empty tomb? That

event signaled a great transition in which this mundane world became

a setting where a new pattern of life in. the Spirit could emerge. The

believers in Jesus were given a new dimension to their lives, a new

Paraclete.

            The way of the disciples was not to be the way of Mary at the

tomb when she tried to grasp on to Jesus and maintain an earthly

relationship with the Lord (20:16-17). Such was not to be the way of

assurance of Christ's salvation. The function of Jesus in this era of the

resurrection was not to remain on earth with his disciples. His role

was to ascend to the Father (20:17) and to send them the Spirit, the

other Paraclete (14:16).

            On the evening of that first Lord's day, the day of the resurrec-

tion, Jesus met the disciples and fulfilled his promise. He breathed on

them and delivered to them the blessing of the Holy Spirit, their new

supporter (20:22). In those decisive moments the risen Jesus also

commissioned the disciples to their important role in his work of

salvation--the ministry of the forgiveness of sins (20:23).

            Resource and commission, these are the bipolar themes of this

paper: The Spirit and salvation! As people of the resurrection, the

living Jesus summons us' to the ministry of salvation. Go forth then to

your calling, oh Christian, in the power of the resurrection, confident

that your Paraclete, the Spirit, goes with you!

 

 


This material is cited with gracious permission from:

The Criswell College; 

4010 Gaston Ave.  Dallas, TX   75246

            www.criswell.edu

Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at:  thildebrandt@gordon.edu