Monday, April 11, 2011

The Spirit, Truth and St. John’s Gospel (Ch. 14-16)

Over fifty years ago, he had walked closely with the Lord. Now as the only living Apostle, John reverently took up pen to add to the memoirs of the Messiah.

The Spirit brought to John’s mind the evening Jesus led His eleven disciples towards Gethsemane and assured them:

"I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.”

Now, through the Holy Spirit, John had become able to bear these things--the deepest spiritual mysteries the Apostles were unable to comprehend until after the Resurrection. With this in mind, John related all that his master had taught, probing the depths of its meaning. Toward the end of his story in chapter fourteen, John recalled the profound, heartfelt instructions of Jesus even as the the Cross was overshadowing the evening.

At Gethsemane, as one disciple was at that very moment betraying him and the rest were about to scatter, Jesus thought not of his own spiritual battle but encouraged his Apostle’s with these words:

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me....I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever--the Spirit of truth. ...But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

Jesus continues in the following two chapters:

When the Counselor 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. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.

Guiding Us Into All Truth

There are two ways that believers have interpreted these words of Christ.

  • Many assume Jesus’ promise was universal, that the Holy Spirit directly deposits truth into all true believers’ minds and hearts.

  • The traditional view is that Jesus is speaking of the church that He was establishing. The promise was spoken to the Apostles as the leaders of this church, not to all individual Christians. John was not writing this to let everyone know they were going to personally know all truth, but He was telling the readers that the church established by Christ would be given the Holy Spirit--as an entire body--so that they could be assured that the church would not lead them astray.

This is why I believe the second interpretation is correct.

Jesus made that statement to those Apostles who were there--specific to them because they had heard what He had said throughout His ministry. Jesus knew there would be false prophets and shepherds who had heard Him who would twist His message. He knew there would come a day when things would become chaotic with everyone claiming they knew what Jesus had said and each vying for authority on His words. The Spirit would come to those God had placed in charge of the church so that insecurities wouldn’t arise, they could be utterly confident in their memories and their authority as His representatives.

As His appointed, anointed leaders who were to go out and spread the gospel, they would need miraculous help to remember all that he had told them personally. If you notice the context, Jesus says that the Counselor will remind them of what He has said and how to testify, as they had been with Him from the beginning. (Christians today cannot be reminded of what He said for we never heard Him say it while on earth--we were not there, nor were we with Him from the beginning.)

If Jesus meant that the Holy Spirit would bring all Christians into the fullness of truth directly, why warn against false teachers and prophets? Why set up a system of teachers and a church if the Spirit brings us truth directly as individuals? Why commission the gospel to be preached if all you needed was the Holy Spirit to bring you to all truth? If absolute, infallible truth is implanted into the individual Christian heart and mind, then there would be no need for a church with teachers, apostles and certainly no need for Scripture.

Sola Scriptura

Without realizing it, many Christians today place into the text the idea that the Holy Spirit will come into the individual’s mind to interpret the Bible. If you will read the context of what Jesus was saying to the Apostles, nowhere is scripture mentioned nor implied. It is a promise to bring us into the fullness of truth--through the Spirit--not through scripture. If we are going to take the text at face value, then none of us will ever need the Bible. This puts those who believe in sola scriptura in a dilemma.

All Christians receive the Holy Spirit upon baptism and all of us are led personally by the Spirit. But to assume that each of us as individual Christians will be guided into all truth is a misreading of the text. Perhaps the text is not meaning that God will bring us as individuals into complete truth. As individuals knowing all truth--it would probably explode our heads! We are not the entire body neither are we as individuals given the entirety of truth. We each have something to add to the body, we are each a piece of the puzzle, but we are not the entire body nor the complete truth. It keeps us humble, it keeps us dependent upon God's church and it shows us the necessity of Christian unity.

John is writing is that Christ’s Apostles, as leaders of His church, will be given the fullness of truth so that when they speak as a group--not individuals--His Spirit will be there reminding them of all Christ had taught them. Then all truth can be passed down from within the Church. The Body of Christ as a church body will be lead into all truth.

The church and its appointed leaders can be trusted and we can be at peace knowing when we listen to God’s appointed leaders, they have all truth and will not deceived us.


Arik said...

Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Luke 11:13 13If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

Are you forgetting the gifts of the SPIRIT?

1 Crinthians 12:7But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.
Wisdom, knowlege, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, and tongues.

11But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

12For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.

13For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

I have noticed that some people when they want to interpret the Bible in the manner that is to their liking usually stick to one maybe two passages. But clearly the Holy Spirit is given to all, and no where is it ever stated that only the leaders are given the Spirit of Truth! You are taking great liberties with this verse of John's. Anyone who wishes to know the Truth of Jesus Christ will be guided and directed by the Holy Spirit to know Truth.

"If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself.

Teresa Beem said...

Arik, the Holy Spirit was promised to us all. I stated that in the article. Yet I also pointed out that the Spirit was given to the Apostles in a special way, as heads of the church, in order to bring us into ALL truth. The context is exclusive. If you read the post you will see WHY I believe the context is exclusive. WE were not with Him from the beginning.... We will not be able to "remember" what He said to us.

Arik said...

1 Crinthians 12:7But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.
Wisdom, knowlege, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, and tongues.

So the Spirit is promised to all except to guide us into truth? That is only reserved for leaders? The Bible doesn't say that, that is your'e own interpretation.

John 7:17-If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.

James 1:5-If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

These verses alone suggest plainly that the Holy Spirit is not just reserved for leaders in guiding into Truth.

The Scriptures do not say if you want truth- go to your'e leaders and ask them. The "traditional view" is the Catholic view only.

Teresa Beem said...

All truth....

That is what I am addressing.

Do you believe the Holy Spirit has guided Christians into all truth individually?

Arik said...

I believe the Holy Spirit has guided all Christians into as much truth as each individually would allow.
So if you are refering to the disunity that exists in the Christian world, it is not due to Truth being given only to leaders, but rather on an individual level each person has ,knowing or unknowing, held onto some false concept of truth.
presuppositons, preconceived ideas, how we were raised, to mention a few, all play a part in our understanding of the Scriptures. But I am convinced that all who surrender what they know or think they know to God, and start fresh with much prayer and diligence, the Holy Spirit can take that heart and guide it into truth. Ask and ye shall receive, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened.

Teresa Beem said...

I never brought up denominations. I was pointing out that the context of what Jesus promised about bringing us into all truth--ALL TRUTH-- was not meant for the individual (especially individual's today.)

The context makes it exclusive to the Apostles. Please explain where I am wrong about this point. So far you have simply explained that the Holy Spirit isn't exclusive, which we agree on. Truth isn't exclusive, which we agree on.

However the context of this particular promise of bringing them into ALL truth cannot be for us today because Jesus specifically said He would bring back to the Apostles what He had said to them since they were with Him from the beginning. That would take it out of the idea of a universal promise.

How we can understand it for today is not individualistic because Jesus was speaking to His Apostles--His chosen leaders who were to begin the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. It was for the church as a whole. That is how we could apply the promise for our world.