Keller begins this chapter by looking at Jesus’ “Farewell Discourse.” He states that in this passage Jesus addresses many subjects and topics that are important for believers to understand. However, there is a major theme found within the “farewell discourse.” This is that of the advocate that is to come once Jesus is departed from His disciples. For the time will soon come when Jesus will meet his fate on the glorious cross and atone for the sins of His people. Christ assures the disciples that once he leaves they will not be alone because there is an advocate who will come. This advocate is the Holy Spirit.
Keller points out some of the characteristics of this Spirit that will come. First, the Spirit to come will not be a mere force but it is to be a man (128). Jesus teaches us that God will send a person and Jesus often refers to the Spirit in the masculine form rather than that of neuter. This person who will come, once Jesus departs, is described as an advocate. Translations often use different words to describe the Holy Spirit but each of these words are similar in meaning. Some will say counselor, comforter, or even helper. But all of these words bring a similar meaning and application to the believer.
Building on this idea, Keller argues that there are two advocates for believers. And in order for believers to understand the second advocate, they will first need to understand the first advocate. The first advocate is Jesus Christ himself. He is an advocate for the believer to the Father. While the second advocate is that of the Holy Spirit. He is an advocate for the believer to the believer. In this world there is a divine bar of judgment that all people will have to face. Every person who is born will have to face such judgment because they are guilty of sin against a Holy God. This punishment makes it just for God to punish the person. However, much like in a court setting there is a person who is your advocate seeking to make the case for you. This advocate is first and foremost Christ. Keller uses an analogy of a defendant in a courtroom. In this analogy he describes a picture that I cannot do justice to. I would highly recommend that you read this section to have this picture in your mind because my summary would not do it justice.
Christ is not just the advocate for us in the same way as a lawyer would be. Because unlike the lawyer, Christ is able to intercede on our behalf. He takes the wrath of God that was meant for the sinner and places it on Himself. This atonement made it possible for Christ to go to the Father and declare the believer to be righteous in the sight of the Father. It is because of His death on that glorious cross that we are able to be made right with the Father. The penalty has been served through the means of our first advocate which is Christ.
Keller spends an adequate amount of time on this first advocate for the believer because it is important for us to see Christ as the first advocate. Then with the statement, “the first advocate is speaking to God for you, but the second advocate is speaking to you for you” (140) he moves to the second advocate which is the Holy Spirit. This Spirit will not merely teach and inform us but instead he will call us to live according to what He is telling us to live.
Following this, Keller explains that we can only truly know Christ when we have the influence of the Holy Spirit. Many would say that it would be impossible for us to deny Christ when we see Him walk near to us and with Him in the same ways as the disciples. Keller however, points out that they did not have the power of the Holy Spirit in the same ways that we have now. It is through this power that we are able to know the first advocate. Keller then teaches how we are to know what the Holy Spirit is teaching us. This is by the means of grace - reading and studying the Word of God by yourself and with community, prayer, worship, and the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. We must do these things so that the Holy Spirit would be able to speak to us and convince us of how we ought to live.
(.) Something Helpful
“Though he is “the Spirit of Truth,” he does not merely teach and inform us; he calls us to live according to what he is telling us. He convicts us and challenges us(John 16:8-11)” (142)
The Spirit of God is much more than just someone who teaches and informs us on how we should live. Although he does do these tasks well, he does much more than this. We must understand that the Spirit is much more powerful than to just teach and inform us. The Spirit has the power to convict us of how we should be living. Be encouraged that the Spirit of God is not just an instructor but is an Advocate for those who are first in Christ.
(?) Something to Think About
“In yourself, alone on your side of the scale, you are a sinner; but in him you are perfect, just, beautiful, righteous” (139)
Christ is our first advocate. When you are born you are born under original sin. This is the sin that is cursed upon you because of your father Adam. Thus, you are unable to be declared righteous in the eyes of the Lord because you have sinned against him. But thankfully, we have a great advocate. This advocate died a death that would pay the penalty that we so deserve. Think about the love and mercy of God. Even though you have done nothing to deserve such an advocate, He makes himself available to be your advocate to the Father. He has paid the penalty that is due so that you would be redeemed to a right relationship with God. In yourself God sees a sinner, but when you are in Christ he sees the work that Christ has done on the cross. Christ makes us ,in the eyes of the Father, perfect, just, beautiful, and righteous. This being nothing that we are able to do on our own, but only through the work of Christ.
(!) Something to Do
What are some of the application points that we can take from this chapter?
- Find first an advocate to the Father by the means of Christ.
- Humbly submit to the Holy Spirit.
- Practice the disciplines of grace
- Reading and studying the Scriptures both in solitude and with community
- The Lord’s Supper
- Pray that God would make the convictions of the Holy Spirit known and that you will be able to submit to them with the Power of the Holy Spirit.
We must understand that God has given us the Holy Spirit to teach, instruct, convict, advocate, and counsel us. But many people would ask how the Holy Spirit is able to do all of these things. Well it is through the means of grace that God has given to us. We must regularly practice these disciplines so that the Holy Spirit has the power to actually convict us and teach us. For we must be filled with these disciplines.
Cell Group Questions
1. Which of these truths did you think about most through the study this week?
2. Have you ever thought about Christ being the first advocate for you?
3. How can you help to keep your cell group partner(s) accountable to practicing the disciplines of grace?
4. How often do you pray for the Spirit to advocate for you?
5. In what areas of your life do you find it most difficult to trust that you have been made right with God through the first advocate of Christ?