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The Spirit of Truth

February 27, 2014

The Gospel of John is overflowing with the Spirit of truth. This Spirit is a river of living water that flows deep and wide–a veritable fountain of life (Jn. 7:37-39). This Spirit is poured out from above, first on Jesus at his baptism, and then on his disciples, after Jesus is glorified (after he returns to his Father).

While the Spirit was active in certain others at various times before Jesus, the new life Jesus brings is “eternal life” (literally, life of the age), the life of the coming age. It is a life of light and truth empowered by the Spirit. At Jesus’ baptism, the Spirit descends and remains on him (1:33). Thus Jesus always speaks the words of God, for it is not by measure that God gives the Spirit to him (3:34). Indeed, this one who continuously speaks the words of God is himself the Word (1:1); in this Word is life, and this life is the light of people (1:4). The Spirit is the life in Jesus, and enlightens people as the Word speaks the words of God.

Just before Jesus returns to the Father, he speaks many words to his disciples about the Spirit of truth: the Paraclete (the “Exhorter-Teacher”), the Spirit of truth, will come to dwell (remain) in them after he goes to the Father (14:12,16-17); this Paraclete will teach them, helping them remember all the words Jesus spoke (14:25-26); the Paraclete, the Spirit of truth, will bear witness to Jesus, and the disciples–who have been with Jesus from the beginning–will be witnesses (15:26-27); the Paraclete will convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (through the disciples) (16:7-8); the Spirit of truth will guide them into all the truth, including things to come (16:13); and the Spirit will glorify Jesus by passing on to his disciples what Jesus said (16:14).

Anyone who is thirsty for this living water can come to Jesus and drink from this flowing fountain that is the Spirit (7:37-39). Even the Samaritan woman could receive this water that Jesus will give, a spring of water that gushes forth with eternal life (4:14). When the Spirit is poured out from above, true worshipers will worship the Father in (the) Spirit and in truth  (4:23). Whenever disciples speak the words of God, the words of Jesus, it will be the Spirit of truth speaking through them; that is true worship, wherever it happens. The living Spirit is life-giving, enabling a life of worship that receives and passes on the words of God and Jesus.

The original Word became flesh, and was full of grace and truth; and the disciples came to perceive this glory (1:14). Even John the Baptist saw this glory when he saw the Spirit descend on Jesus at his baptism (1:33). And this grace and truth that is the Spirit of truth–that filled the Word made flesh–will also fill disciples, remaining in them as in Jesus, grace upon grace (1:16). For the law (the former words of God) was given through Moses; but grace and truth (the Spirit of truth) came through Jesus Christ (1:17). This grace truly saves: the Spirit focuses on the new words of Jesus; the Spirit enlightens disciples about what the words mean; and the Spirit empowers them to speak and live according to what Jesus said and did.

The Gospel of John has written all these words in order that readers (even us) might believe (or, continue to believe) that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing (continuing to believe) we might have life (the same living water that filled him) in his name (20:31). May we continue to read and believe and speak as the Spirit teaches us; and may that worship glorify the Father and the Son. The light still shines in the darkness of a world whose father is the father of deception and death (8:44); yet to those who receive Jesus, he gives power (the powerful Paraclete) to become children of God, to be born of God, to be born of the Spirit (1:4,10-13; 3:5-6).

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