In John 16:12-15 Jesus tells us that, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” In this verse Jesus covers several critical things to understand about the ministry of the Holy Spirit. When you think of the Holy Spirit as guide what do you usually think of? I suspect that most of us think in terms of God guiding us in our daily decisions, but, is that what Jesus means here? To understand this passage, we should remind ourselves again of the original audience. Jesus tells the disciples that the Spirit would guide them into all truth. This is an important to keep in mind because they would be the repository of the content of the gospel that would then give the forming church its truth message. If that message is lost, confused, altered or tampered with then all generations would be lost. Jesus is here affirming that the Holy Spirit will be the one who will guide these men and then the church that is formed as a result of their witness in a way that protects the integrity of its message. That being said, what then should we understand by the words “all truth.” Jesus clarifies this for us by saying that the Holy Spirit will not come with his own agenda. “He will not speak with his own authority, but whatever he hears that he will speak.” This is critical because often people think that the Holy Spirit has his own truth. Jesus is good the Holy Spirit is where the action is, is the sentiment. To this Jesus says, NO! Rather, “He will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
It is important to remember that truth is a person. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, the life.” “All truth” then means that the Holy Spirit will guide the disciples and the church (that comes from their witness) into the truth about Jesus. If they and consequently the rest of the church including us don’t understand the truth about Jesus in his life, death and resurrection then we are all lost. Thus, the Holy Spirit guides the believing community starting with the disciples into a right understanding concerning who Jesus is and what he has done for us.
Secondly, the Holy Spirit guides the church in “things to come.” What does this mean? Again, we are tempted to think about our present time, but what would this have meant for these disciples. It would mean that the Spirit would guide the church in its inception, its continual growth all the way through to the end. Jesus has in mind the whole sweep of the church age. Just think for a moment about the critical moments in which the Spirit’s guidance would be needed. The disciples would need the Spirit’s guidance at Pentecost, the Jerusalem council, Peter and Paul’s conflict at Antioch, through the persecutions of Nero, the church councils of Nicea in 381, Chalcedon in 451, the Reformation, Tyndale’s translation of the Bible into English and many other key moments in church history. This promise continues today, for we still need the ministry of guidance in “all truth” over the body of Christ. Finally, the Holy Spirit guides the church in glory. Jesus says, “He will glorify me.” How does the Spirit glorify Jesus, but that when the truths of Jesus become real and central in our lives is Jesus glorified. This is what the Spirit delights to do, make Jesus big in our lives. It’s when the truth of Jesus hits home to us personally that Jesus is magnified.
Is that happening in you? Paul gets at this when he says, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord are being transformed in the same image from one degree of glory to another.” (2 Cor 3:18). While the Spirit does guide us in our individual daily lives, the primary ministry of guidance is the guide the church in the truth of Jesus from the beginning all the way to the end so that he might bring us safely home where our ultimate glory awaits us.
With affection, Pastor Paige