"When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the
Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify
about me" (John 15:26–27 TNIV).
"But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you" (John 16:13–15 TNIV).
J. I. Packer finds the central metaphor for the Holy Spirit’s work in the Gospel of John. John emphasizes the Spirit as the Advocate or paraclete (one who comes along side). The Spirit comes alongside to do a very specific task which becomes the correcting and organizing center of what Packer calls the sweet "p’s": power, performance, purification, and presentation. That task Packer describes as, drum roll please,— presence. In his own words: "The distinctive, constant, basic ministry of the Holy Spirit under the new covenant is to mediate Christ’s presence to believers — that is, to give them such knowledge of his presence with them as their Saviour, Lord and God."
Accompanying this mediated knowledge are three distinctive features: fellowship with Jesus; personal transformation into Jesus’ likeness; and the Spirit–given certainty of being loved, redeemed, and adopted through Christ.
Packer’s theology of the Spirit is so constructed as to include the positive aspects of the four emphases mentioned so far and to protect against their imbalances. Presentation is associated with fellowship with Jesus. The three other 'p’s' — power, performance and purgation — are natural outcomes of being transformed into Jesus’ likeness. Packer’s added bonus is that the Spirit provides us with assurance of adoption.
All these benefits of the Spirit flow from a New Testament theology of Spirit and all are deeply related to the simple fact that the Spirit mediates the presence of Jesus Christ.
Jeff Sudaby, a theologically–inclined friend of mine, once told me that he would like to root all theology in the christological title Immanuel, or God with us. This is precisely what Packer has done. The Spirit’s ministry is to mediate God with us in Christ. One of J.I. Packer’s most imaginative and moving descriptions of the Spirit’s work reveals Christ’s first person telling of the way the Spirit takes what is His and gives it to us:
...all that is real and true about me as your divine lover,
your mediator, your surety in the new covenant, your prophet, priest
and king, your Saviour from guilt and the power of sin and from the
world’s corruptions and the devil’s clutches; and all that is true of
me as your shepherd, husband and friend, you life and your hope, the
author and finisher of your faith, the lord of your own personal history,
and the one who will some day bring you to be with me and share my glory,
who am thus both your path and your prize.
Not only does this short paragraph pack a Christological wallop it participates in the Spirit’s work by addressing us in a profoundly personal manner. It does what Packer says the Spirit does, indeed, it demonstrates it for us.
If such a Scripturally–rooted focus on the Holy Spirit can inspire us deeply, imagine the consequence if we thought of the Spirit, like the New Testament writers did, as the living freeing presence of the Risen One. The next chapter ought to help us get the idea of presence mediated by the Spirit quite thoroughly. Packer will survey the Bible’s (both older and new covenant) teaching on the Spirit.