Updated: Nov 5
"But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes,
He will guide you into all the truth;
for He will not speak on His own,
but whatever He hears, He will speak;
and He will disclose to you what is to come.
He will glorify Me, and He will take from Mine and will disclose it to you.
All things that the Father has are Mine;
this is why I said that He takes from Mine and will disclose it to you."
- John 16:13-15
This, to me, is one of the most important passages in the Christian scriptures, especially concerning how Jesus laid out the transmission of His Way to His followers. Unfortunately, in the cessationsism that crept into the Church with the Protestant reformation in the 16th century, some dismissed this verse and relegated it as a promise from Jesus only for the Apostles.
Jesus makes it clear that this promise is for all of His followers in the follow chapter of the Gospel of John when He prays, "I am not asking on behalf of these alone, but also for those who believe in Me through their word, that they may all be one; just as you, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me (John 17:20-21).
Jesus makes the impartation of the Holy Spirit to every believer the hinge-pin of what defines us and separates us from the world. This is the witness to a lost world that we belong to God. The evidence of the Christian that they belong to Christ comes by being in the Father and the Son through the Holy Spirit. That's why Jesus commissioned his disciples to make more disciples, and then to baptize them into the Trinity (Matthew 28:16-30).
It is also through the interplay of the Trinity that the impartation of Jesus' Way is transmitted. We see that clearly in John 16:13-15. Jesus makes it clear that His truth comes from the Father and through the Holy Spirit to us. He actually says that it is the Spirit speaking to us that will impart His truth to us.
Jesus never indicated that we would come to know His truth through scripture. In fact, He says to opposite earlier in the Gospel of John. Speaking to the Jewish religious leaders Jesus said, "You examine the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is those very scriptures that testify about Me; and yet you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life" (John 5:39-40).
In Jesus is eternal life. The eternal life Jesus has comes from the Father and through the Spirit. Our journey into the life of Jesus is facilitated by the Holy Spirit. Scripture is given to help us understand how to grow in our connection to Jesus through the Spirit. Without the Spirit of truth, the truths in scripture are inadequate to lead us. What we will end up with, if we do not learn how to be taught by the Holy Spirit, is human teachers.
Human teachers can only impart human wisdom. The truth and wisdom of the Spirit is different than human wisdom in every way. But the main difference is that human teachers will lead us into our own mind and understanding, just as they have been led into their own mind and understanding. We cannot get to God truth through human sources. We need a greater source for this. That greater source is the Holy Spirit.
Of course, God uses people. God gives wisdom to those who ask, as scripture says (James 1:5). But what's the difference between human wisdom and Spirit wisdom? The Apostle Paul addresses that question very specifically in his first letter to the Church in Corinth.
In chapter two of that letter Paul wrote, "Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God" (1 Corinthians 2:12 NASB). The spirit of the world is not a vague reference to human culture, but a specific reference to the kingdom of Satan. Remember, Satan offered Adam and Eve an alternative way to know truth in the Garden. He said they could be their own god and seek knowledge for themselves, in their own way, apart from God. The stark truth is that when we seek understanding apart from the Spirit of God, we are seeking truth from the spirit of the world.
The whole point of Satan and his system is to separate us from God in order to kill us. It is no harmless thing to seek truth and understanding apart from the direct leading of the Holy Spirit.
That's why Paul chastised the Church in Galatian for departing from the leading of the Holy Spirit. "Having begun by the Spirit," he wrote, "are you now being perfected by the flesh?" (Galatians 3:3 NASB). As he concluded two chapters later, "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16 NASB).
In our walking with Jesus through the Spirit, the point isn't what we know, but how we live.
It's not enough to get some good Christian truth and data into our heads. That's not the point. That is something we can learn from human teachers and know through our own efforts. The point is the kind of Godly wisdom that produces Godly character. That's why the Spirit of Truth produces the fruits of that same Spirit. As Paul wrote a little further in Galatians, "but the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law" (Galatians 5:22-23 NASB).
Paul summed all this up in chapter five of his Galatians letter with this admonition, "If we live by the Spirit, let's follow the Spirit as well" (Galatians 5:25 NASB).
Jesus didn't come to the earth, live life, teach His Way to the Apostle, leave, and then send them the instruction manual for His Way of Life. Jesus spent time discipling twelve guys, left, then sent the Holy Spirit. Jesus specifically told His disciples not to attempt His great commission until they received the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49). After they received the Holy Spirit, they not only jump started the first century Church, they also wrote down a record of some of the things Jesus did and said.
The starting of the Church and the writing of the Gospels were both facilitated and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
These are the three things we need to be the Church and further the Kingdom mission of Jesus on the earth. We need the Spirit, we need Scripture, and we need the Church.
Local church bodies are places where spiritually mature Elders can spend time with youngers, teaching them how to walk with Jesus through the leading of the Spirit. Scripture is given to help in that process. But what we are learning isn't truths in a book, but a Way of Life in relationship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. That can only be learned in relationship with others who are further down the path than we are in that process.
Jesus came to show us the Way back to the Father. It is a person we are coming back to, not a set of truths, or an institution with good ideas, principles, and practices. That's why every Christian needs to grow to the point of being able to keep in step with the Spirit for themselves. Only the Spirit can translate the truth of Jesus into our hearts and minds, because the truth of God is an embodied, internal way of being in relationship with God, spirit to Spirit.
As Paul wrote in Romans, that "the Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God," and also that "all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons and daughters of God" (Romans 8:16,14 NASB).
In a Church that has largely forgotten how to hear and keep in step with the Spirit, how do we begin to get back to this kind of personal knowing of God through the Spirit.
Figuring that out has been my journey.
After committing to read the Bible every day at age fourteen, and reading the Bible all the way through ten times, I came to understand the need for the Spirit to lead me in what I was reading and trying to understand. So, I began to pray as I read. Then, I began to pray out of what I read. Out of that I developed a growing, lively conversational approach towards God. I started talking to God about what I was reading, and trying to understand. I began asking God to show me, as if He could.
For a long time, it felt like a one way conversation. But over time, I began to recognize that God's truth was coming to me. God was giving me truth and understanding, instead of me trying to understand it on my own.
This was a subtle and long growing shift in my search for truth and understanding. But it has made all the difference between my attempt to know things through human wisdom and understanding and receiving wisdom and understanding from God.
As James wrote in the very beginning of his letter, "but if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him" (James 1:5 NASB).
I guess the question for each of us is, "who are we looking to for wisdom?" Are we looking to human teachers? Are we looking to ourselves? Or are we looking to God?
I know who I'm going to look to.
How about you?