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THE HOLY SPIRIT IS CHRISTOCENTRIC

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, June 15, 2003


"He shall testify of me" (John 15:26).


We live in a time of Christian history in which there is much talk about the Holy Spirit. But, strangely, this is a time when there is little classical revival. The churches have emphasized the Holy Spirit, but this has not brought with it real revival. Our text sheds light on why this has happened.

"He shall testify of me" (John 15:26).

Real revival is always Christocentric; that is, Christ is at the center of it.

In the Reformation period revival came during an emphasis on justification. The preaching focused on the fact that we are justified only through Christ - that a person cannot make himself righteous in the sight of God by doing good things - that you must be justified by Christ alone, through faith in Him. That emphasis was blessed by God, and revival came, because Christ was at the center of the preaching.

In the Great Awakening of the eighteenth century, revival came during an emphasis on regeneration. The preaching of Edwards, Whitefield, and Wesley concentrated on regeneration, the new birth. Again, this was Christocentric. The preaching emphasized that people can only be born of God through faith in Jesus Christ. Christ was at the center of it. This emphasis continued in the Second and Third Great Awakenings.

However, after the Third Awakening of 1859, the emphasis turned increasingly away from the work of Christ, toward the work of man. Charles G. Finney and his followers emphasized man's "decisions" instead of the work of Christ.

In the twentieth century this man-centered "decisionism" became dry and sterile. Many people sensed that there was little emphasis on the supernatural. Where was God in all of this? So, these people swung in the opposite direction, and emphasized the supernatural. But in doing so they made a fatal mistake - and that was to put the Holy Spirit in the center. The preaching was no longer Christocentric. To be sure, Christ was mentioned, but it was really the Holy Spirit which was at the center of their message.

Today, we have television channels that are given over to the Holy Spirit. We have many churches and movements that are given over to promoting the Holy Spirit. There is constant talk about the Holy Spirit among those who consider themselves evangelicals. However sincere these people may be, I think they are wrong. And I believe that our text shows us why they are wrong. Christ said,

"He shall testify of me" (John 15:26).

Put that together with the words of Christ in chapter sixteen, verse thirteen,

"He shall not speak of himself" (John 16:13).

And then notice what Christ said in the next verse,

"He shall glorify me" (John 16:14).

These verses show us what is wrong with this modern emphasis on the Holy Spirit.

"He shall not speak of himself" (John 16:13).

"He shall glorify me" (John 16:14).

"He shall testify of me" (John 15:26).

The true work of the Holy Spirit is to put Christ at the very center of our preaching, to put Christ at the very center of our salvation and our Christian life.

There has been a reaction against this emphasis on the Holy Spirit. But so far the reaction has swung in the direction of emphasizing Bible knowledge. These people are saying, in effect, "There has been too much talk about the Holy Spirit. What we need to emphasize is Bible study." But, again, however sincere they may be, they are wrong. Keep your place at John 16:14, and turn back to John 5:39, and you will see the reason for this error,

"Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me" (John 5:39).

So, again, we see that the error lies in not being Christocentric, of putting something else in the place of Jesus Christ Himself. Knowledge of the Bible often displaces knowledge of Christ, Himself.

The Holy Spirit, important though He is, must not be the center of our message.

"He shall testify of me" (John 15:26).

The Bible itself, important though it is, must not be the center of our message. It must point to Christ.

"They are they which testify of me" (John 5:39).

Christ Jesus must be at the center of our message!

The Greek word "testify" in John 15:26 means "witness." The Holy Spirit's work is to "witness" or "testify" about Christ, "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).

"He shall testify of me" (John 15:26).

In the sixteenth chapter of John we are given three of the things that the Holy Spirit does to convert a lost sinner. I want us to think very carefully about these three things that the Holy Spirit does. If you are not yet converted to Christ, you should listen very attentively.

I. First, the Holy Spirit convinces of sin.

Notice John 16:8-9,

"And when he [the Holy Spirit] is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me" (John 16:8-9).

The word "reprove" is translated from the Greek word "elencho." According to Leon Morris, this word means,

"To expose, to convict, to cross examine for the purpose of convincing or refuting an opponent, especially used of legal proceedings" (Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, London: Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1972).

Now isn't that a good description of what the Holy Spirit does in the heart of a lost person? There are those who say this doesn't need to happen before a lost person is converted. They belittle this work by calling it "preparationism." But they are wrong to look upon this work as unnecessary. If it were not necessary for the Holy Spirit to do this work in a sinner's heart before he turns to Jesus, then why would Christ give it as the first work of the Holy Spirit in this passage? If you didn't need to be reproved of sin by the Holy Spirit, why would Jesus say you needed it?

"And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin"
     (John 16:8-9).

Those who are against what they call "preparationism" tell us that the sinner does not need to be reproved. They say that unreproved sinners can come to Christ and be saved without this work being done in their hearts by the Holy Spirit. But they are wrong. We know that they are wrong because Jesus Christ said this work is necessary.

"And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin" 
      (John 16:8-9).

As Dr. Morris put it, the Holy Spirit's work in reproving is

"To expose, to convict, to cross examine for the purpose of convincing or refuting [disproving] an opponent, especially used of legal proceedings" (ibid.).

That is indeed what the Holy Spirit does to prepare a human heart for conversion. And I do not hesitate in the slightest to use the word "prepare" to describe what He does.

You see, a lost sinner's heart and mind are blinded by sin. So blind is the unconverted heart that it does not believe itself to be as sinful as it really is. But the Bible teaches that the unconverted heart is twisted and perverted. The Scripture says,

"The heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart" (Ecclesiastes 9:3).

If we could see into the depths of your heart, what madness, what insane thoughts we would find there! What evil we would find if we knew the thoughts and feelings that run through your heart each day! Don't you sometimes think about that? Don't you sometimes feel ashamed of the thoughts you have?

One young person said to me, "Pastor, I have sinful, crazy thoughts all the time!" Have you ever felt like that?

Then, the Bible teaches that your heart is full of trickery and deception. You do not have an honest heart at all! The Bible says,

"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked" (Jeremiah 17:9).

This means that your heart is full of dodges and excuses, and self-comfort, and self-delusion. You not only trick others, but you also trick yourself into thinking that you are a good person - when the truth is the opposite: you have a deceptive, treacherous, desperately wicked heart.

Now, until you admit that, you are not prepared to throw yourself on the mercy of Christ. And it is the work of the Holy Spirit of God to make you see the evil, madness, deception and wickedness of your own depraved heart. That's why the Holy Spirit "reproves" you of sin - to prepare you to see your need for Christ.

"And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin"
      (John 16:8-9).

The Holy Spirit works like a prosecuting attorney to convince you that you are a ruined sinner in your heart. He exposes your sin to you. He shows it to you. He may do this by bringing to your mind some particular sin you have committed. He may make your conscience feel the guilt of this sin. The Bible says,

"And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one" (John 8:9).

This is the work of the Holy Spirit, convincing your own conscience of sin.

If you make an excuse for sinning, the Holy Spirit refutes you, like the prosecuting attorney at a trial. The Holy Spirit argues with you, in your conscience, until you are convinced that you have a deeply sinful heart, until you are willing to say, within yourself, "I am guilty. My very nature is sinful. I am ruined and lost. I can't save myself." That is the first work of the Holy Spirit - to convince of sin.

Until you come to this point, the gospel of Christ will seem like distant history, or like a story in Greek mythology. You won't think very much about the death of Christ to pay for your sin until you are inwardly convinced of the evil, wickedness, trickery, and twisted treachery of your evil heart.

Before the Holy Spirit convinces you of your sinful nature, you will not think very highly of Jesus. The Bible tells us that

"He is despised and rejected of men…and we hid…our faces from him" (Isaiah 53:3).

Oh, to be sure, you may mention Christ, or even learn Bible verses about Him, and say the name of Christ in prayer. But the actual truth is that you will hide your face from Christ - because you see no real need for Him - until the Holy Spirit convinces you that you are ruined and doomed without Him. Only when you are truly convinced that you are lost will you see any real need for Christ to save you.

Then notice verse nine,

"Of sin, because they believe not on me" (John 16:9).

Dr. John R. Rice gave this comment,

The word "of" in verses 8 to 11 might be translated "concerning." The Holy Spirit convicts the world concerning sin because people do not believe in Christ. That is the greatest sin, and the heart of all sin, and back of all sin (v. 9)… all of mankind have sin coming from our fallen, deceitful hearts… But rejecting Christ is "presumptuous sin" as [the] Psalm puts it, a certain willful sin. And the sin [of rejecting] Christ is the greatest of all sins because it is against God most manifest, that is, in Jesus Christ. It is a sin against such mercy, such compassion, such righteousness. To reject Christ and refuse to trust Him is the summing up of all sin (Dr. John R. Rice, The Son of God, A Commentary on the Gospel of John, Sword of the Lord, 1976, pp. 315-316).

So, the Holy Spirit convinces you concerning your sin, particularly the sin of not trusting Jesus. The Holy Spirit puts Christ in the center.

"He shall testify of me" (John 15:26).

II. Second, the Holy Spirit convinces of righteousness.

Look at verse ten,

"Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more" (John 16:10).

Dr. J. Vernon McGee gives this comment,

We cannot stand in God's presence if we are nothing but pardoned criminals. Christ has made over to us His righteousness…He not only subtracts our sin, but adds His righteousness. If we are to have any standing before God, we must be in Christ and He is our righteousness…He was delivered for our offences, and He was raised again for our justification [righteousness] (Dr. J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson, 1983, volume IV, p. 473).

"Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more" (John 16:10).

While Jesus was on earth, He showed lost people that they were unrighteous, and that they needed His righteousness. Now that He has ascended to the right hand of God in Heaven, the Holy Spirit continues to show lost people that they are unrighteous, and that they need the righteousness of Christ imputed to their record. The Bible says that God's righteousness is imputed to us by faith in Christ,

"But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works" (Romans 4:5-6).

Now let's go back and think about that verse again,

"Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more" (John 16:10).

First, this means that the Holy Spirit will convince you that Jesus is a righteous person. He was not a blasphemer or a wicked deceiver, as they had said. On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit convinced many of the Jews that Jesus was actually a righteous person,

"Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you" (Acts 2:22).

The Holy Spirit showed them that Jesus was really a righteous person, not a blasphemer, or a demon possessed deceiver, as they had said. The Holy Spirit does that same work today. He shows you that Jesus is righteous, the sinless Son of God.

But, secondly, the Holy Spirit shows you, that when you believe in Jesus, His perfect, sinless righteousness is imputed, or reckoned to you, so that God does not see your sin, but only the righteousness of Christ. As that famous hymn puts it,

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
    Oh, may I then in Him be found;
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
    Faultless to stand before the throne.
        ("The Solid Rock" by Edward Mote, 1797-1874).

"Dressed in His righteousness alone, Faultless to stand before the throne." What a perfect way to describe it!

Christ has gone to the Father, and you do not see Him. But the Holy Spirit convinces you that He is there. The Holy Spirit convinces you to trust Him. When you trust Jesus, you are clothed in His righteousness. You are

"…in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us…righteousness, and sanctification…" (I Corinthians 1:30).

To be "in Christ" is like being in Noah's ark. Noah made the ark and got into it by faith.

"By faith Noah…moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house…and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith" (Hebrews 11:7).

Noah got into the ark. The ark protected him from God's judgment and took him to safety. Christ is like the ark. When you are "in Christ Jesus" (I Corinthians 1:30) you are protected from judgment and become an "heir of the righteousness which is by faith" (Hebrews 11:7).

As Noah was in the ark, so the Holy Spirit puts you "in Christ Jesus."

Dressed in His righteousness alone,
   Faultless to stand before the throne.

The world doesn't believe that. I recently read an interview with a Catholic priest who said that the way you live determines whether you go to Heaven or not. He said that you will go to Heaven if you live a good life.

That is one of the main differences between what the Catholics believe and what the Bible teaches. They say you go to Heaven by living a good life. But isn't that what everyone in the world thinks?

And that is what you will think, in some form or other, until the Holy Spirit convinces you that your sin is too great to ever live a good enough life - and until the Holy Spirit convinces you that you must be saved by the righteousness of Christ alone. You must believe on Jesus and be clothed in His righteousness.

Noah was not saved because he "lived a good life!" No - he was saved because he was in the ark! You must be in Christ! Christ alone can save you! Christ alone can give you His goodness! You must be "in Christ Jesus" (I Corinthians 1:30). The Holy Spirit alone can give you that. He puts Christ in the center.

"He shall testify of me" (John 15:26).

"And when he is come, he will [convince] the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment" (John 16:8-9).

III. Third, the Holy Spirit convinces of judgment.

Look at verse eleven,

"Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged"
      (John 16:11).

The "prince of this world" is Satan. Jesus called Satan "the prince of this world" in John 14:30, as He did in this verse. Satan is called, "the prince of the power of the air" in Ephesians 2:2. Notice that Satan is called "the prince," not "the King." God alone is the King. But God has "delivered" this sinful world to Satan - and some day soon God will take it back, because God is sovereign over Satan.

"And the devil, taking him [that is, Jesus] up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it" (Luke 4:5-6).

Yes, God has allowed Satan to be "the prince of this world" for a time.

But our text tells us that Satan is judged already,

"Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged" 
      (John 16:11).

Dr. McGee gives this wise comment,

Does this mean that judgment is coming some day? No, not in this verse. "Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged." The prince of this world, Satan, has already been judged…we live in a judged world. One hears people say that they'll take their chances. They act like they are on trial. My friend [if you are unconverted] you are not on trial. God has already declared you a lost sinner, and He has already judged you (ibid.).

Satan has already been judged. This judgment will soon be carried out. God says so in Revelation 20:10,

"And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone…and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever" (Revelation 20:10).

What John saw prophetically (ahead of time) in Revelation 20:10 is already an accomplished fact. The Devil has already been judged. It is a foregone conclusion that he will be cast into the Lake of Fire. Satan is simply waiting for his judgment to be executed. The Devil is like a man on death row, waiting for the gas chamber of eternal torment.

And the Holy Spirit convinces the lost sinners that judgment is coming for them as well. You are under judgment - right now,

"Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged"
      (John 16:11).

The Devil is not the only one on death row, awaiting eternal fire. You are also on death row. Only the Holy Spirit can show you this danger. He puts Christ in the center - by showing you that you face Judgment unless you are saved by Christ.

"He shall testify of me" (John 15:26).

The Holy Spirit is Christocentric. He puts Christ at the center of your salvation.

Christ said,

"He that believeth not is condemned already" (John 3:18).

You are already condemned if you do not have Christ. As Dr. McGee put it,

My friend…God has already declared you a lost sinner, and He has already judged you (ibid.).

"He that believeth not is condemned already" (John 3:18).

I pray that the Holy Spirit will convince you

"of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged"
      (John 16:11).

I pray that He will convince you of your sin. I pray that He will convince you that only Christ's righteousness can save you from certain judgment.

And so, the great work of the Holy Spirit is to convince you that you need Jesus Christ. Trust Jesus, and be washed from your sins by His Blood. He died on the Cross to pay for your sins. His Blood can wash your sins away.

"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved"
      (Acts 16:31).

I would like to speak with you about that in my office. As we sing the closing song, just leave your seat and come and stand here in front of this pulpit. After you have come, we will go to my office so we can discuss your salvation. You come, while we sing.

(END OF SERMON)

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: John 16:7-11.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

                "Yes, I Know" (by Anna W. Waterman).

THE OUTLINE OF

THE HOLY SPIRIT IS CHRISTOCENTRIC

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

 

"He shall testify of me" (John 15:26).

(John 16:13-14; 5:39)

I.   The Holy Spirit convinces of sin, John 16:8-9; Ecclesiastes 9:3;
Jeremiah 17:9; John 8:9; Isaiah 53:3.

II.  The Holy Spirit convinces of righteousness, John 16:10;
Romans 4:5-6; Acts 2:22; I Corinthians 1:30; Hebrews 11:7.

III. The Holy Spirit convinces of judgment, John 16:11; John 14:30;
Ephesians 2:2; Luke 4:5-6; Revelation 20:10; John 3:18;
Acts 16:31.

You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.rlhymersjr.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."