It is characteristic of the Holy Spirit that He draws attention away from Himself. Sometimes, the Spirit of God is neglected because of a deficiency in theology. But other times this happens precisely because He is active and doing His work.
“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you” (John 16:13-14).
Jesus is teaching His disciples here, and He says that when the Spirit of truth comes into the world (which He did at Pentecost), He will guide the disciples into “all truth” (v. 13). But the reason given for this is interesting. He will guide them into all truth “for he shall not speak of himself.” He is the Spirit of revelation, which means that He will communicate what He has received—“whatsoever he shall hear” (v. 13). He is a prophetic Spirit because He will reveal things to come (v. 13). We then return to the orientation of the Spirit. We have already learned that He will not speak about Himself, and now we learn that He shall glorify Christ (v. 14). What the Spirit passes on, He has received from Christ, and then reveals it to Christ’s disciples (v. 14).
The Spirit of Prophecy:
When our thoughts are centered on Christ, this is not evidence that we are neglecting the Holy Spirit. Rather, it is clear evidence that the Spirit is present and is doing His glorious work, the work of lifting up Jesus. “And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev. 19:10). This is the work of the Spirit, the testimony of the Spirit—to draw us all to see the supremacy of Jesus. The work of the triune God in our midst is dynamic, not static. Trinitarian faith does not place the three persons of the Trinity in a row on a shelf, and worship them all equally. To do so is to attempt to deny their work in us. “For through him [Jesus] we both [Jew and Gentile] have access by one Spirit unto the Father” (Eph. 2:18). “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). While guarding against all irreverence, we can illustrate it this way: the Father is destination, the Son is the road, and the Spirit is the car.
So when the Spirit arrives, He never says, “Look at me!” He does not speak of Himself. What does He do? He glorifies Jesus Christ—He draws attention away. Now this is what the Spirit is like Himself, the very Humility of God. It follows that if this is what the Holy Spirit is like, then this would also characterize His work. And this helps us to understand the right relationship between the fruit of the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit. There is a sinful tendency we have to focus on the gifts instead of the Giver. But taking this one step further, in this case if we focus on the Giver, we are actually resisting His work. Those who focus on the gifts themselves are actually two steps removed from what they should be doing.
The gifts of the Spirit are remarkable and wonderful, but at the end of the day, they are simply tools. These gifts are mentioned in various places (1 Cor. 12: 1-11; Rom. 12: 5-8; Heb. 2:4), and include such blessings as teaching, administration, encouragement, and so on. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience and more (Gal. 5:22-23). But these are not intended as two distinct sets of gifts, with one of them to be preferred if we have to choose. Rather, both can be used rightly and both can be abused—remember our text.
Trying to Pick and Choose:
The apostle Paul knew that the Corinthian church (in many ways a basket case) was a gifted church. He put it this way: “So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:7). The Corinthian church was lacking in no spiritual gift, and his detailed discussion of spiritual gifts later in the book makes this even more clear. There was no gift that this church did not have. And if you have a church in which every spiritual gift is operative, that makes you a spiritual church, right? Wrong. “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ” (3:1). So it is clear that to have the gifts without the demeanor of grace is to be unspiritual. But the reverse is also true.
Faith without works is dead. A man may have a saintly glow on his face, but if he does not have love (the genuine article), that glow is worthless. Notice that Paul does not just contrast love with prophetic knowledge (1 Cor. 13:2), for which our poor cousin is reading tomes of systematic theology. He also contrasts it with philanthropy (v. 3) and martyrdom (v. 3). Head knowledge can be an enemy of real love, but so can heart knowledge.
How Fruit is a Blessing:
Return to the text. The Spirit’s work is honored when the Spirit’s way is imitated. Godliness does not focus inwardly, but rather away. Godliness looks to Christ on the cross, and Christ as the right hand of the Father. Godliness does not gaze at the branches of your heart in order to see if love, joy and peace are hanging there.
If we were all to hear the sounds of a terrible accident after church, and we looked up to see that a child had been hit by a car. Suppose someone ran toward the scene and they were the very fastest one. Suppose their mind was filled with thoughts like this: “This is great. I have been praying for more love, and look at this! A golden opportunity! I am overflowing with all kinds of love and compassion. What a godsend!” Such a person is filled with something all right, but it is not love and compassion.
The fruit of the Spirit is very much like their Giver—oriented toward the other, not self-absorbed, not self-centered. And so how should we mark this Pentecost? The way the Spirit always has—living out the new commandment, that we love one another.