We are continuing our study of The Upper Room Discourse, which takes place just hours from the time of our Lord's death. In this teaching Yeshua is preparing His disciples for the time when He would not be present with them. He has just said that they will find that the world is hostile to believers, and then He has also said that He is going away and He is going away for the necessary reason that if He does not go away the Holy Spirit will not come to indwell them:
Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. John 16:7 ESV
This is the great promise that was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came. And since then, every Christian is the Temple of the Holy Spirit. It's important for us to understand that the Spirit was promised to ALL believers not to a special group of believers who have met certain conditions:
Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'" Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Yeshua was not yet glorified. John 7:38-39 ESV
These verses makes it quite clear that the Spirit would be given "to those who believed" in Yeshua." The Rivers of Living Water is a reference to the ministries of the Holy Spirit. They were to receive the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, at the birth of the Church. This includes all subsequent believers of the New Covenant Age, in addition to the believers on the Day of Pentecost. So every believer has the Holy Spirit, all of Him.
In our last study we looked at the Spirit's ministry of prosecuting the world:
And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: John 16:8 ESV
Do you remember what I said about the word "convict" last week? This word has nothing to do with the Spirit making sinners feel bad. The word "convict" is not used here in a contemporary religious way. It's not, "I felt convicted about how I treated them." Convict is from the Greek word elegcho, which is a legal term, it could be understood in a purely judicial sense of bringing down a negative verdict, regardless of whether or not the convicted party admits any guilt. The idea here is that the Spirit prosecutes the world, He is going to render a guilty verdict, through the disciples preaching of the Gospel. Look at how Jude uses this word:
It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, "Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him." Jude 1:14-15 ESV
The word "convict" here is elegcho. The word for "judgment" actually refers to the act of judging, or administrating justice. Jude is talking about judging and convicting the apostates, God is carrying out justice.
So Yeshua is saying that the world is wrong about the chief nature of sin, about righteousness, and about judgment. And through the proclamation of the Word the Spirit will convict the world of ignorance of the true nature of sin, righteousness, and judgment. He will expose the sin of unbelief; He will reveal the righteousness of Christ; and Satan and every enemy of Christ will face judgment.
The world cannot receive the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Believers receive the ministry of Holy Spirit, and we are the instrumentalities by which the world is to be convicted of sin, righteousness. and judgment.
Now first and foremost this refers to the disciples that Christ was speaking to. They would go out in the book of Acts and prosecute the world through the preaching of the Gospel. But I believe that this also applies to us. We, you and I, are to convict/prosecute the world through the proclamation of God's Word. We are to render the world guilty of violating God's Law.
For our study this morning we are going to look at 16:12-15. These verses begin the fifth and final paraclete passage in the Upper Room Discourse (14:16-17, 26; 15:26-27; 16:7-11, 12-15). This passage focuses on the completion of the revelation.
In this text we are told that the Spirit will provide you all the truth we need so that we can prosecute the world.
"I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. John 16:12 NASB
Yeshua had much more to teach them, they had a lot more to learn, but not at that moment. They "couldn't bear them now"—the word "bear" is from the Greek word bastazo, which means: "to pick up a stone with your hand, to lift up a stone." This same verb is used in John 10:31 referring to the Jews lifting up stones to stone Yeshua. It is the word that is used later on for the physical carrying of His cross. The Lord uses it here to tell the disciples, "You can't handle it. It's too much for you; it's too weighty." It is a reference to their Spiritual incapacity. They don't yet have the Holy Spirit indwelling them. And because of that they really struggle with Spiritual truths. Part of the problem was they had an idea of Messiah that doesn't fit what the Lord was teaching. They viewed Messiah as a conquer who would set them free from Rome, establish the supremacy of national Israel. So the Lord teaches them spiritual things, but they just don't get it. Back in chapter 2 Yeshua told them:
Yeshua answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." John 2:19 ESV
They all thought He was talking about the Herodian Temple. But He was speaking of the Temple of His body. He was talking about dying and rising from the dead. But the disciples didn't get it.
When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Yeshua had spoken. John 2:22 ESV
Even Yeshua's disciples did not understand what He meant until after His resurrection. The Scripture they then believed was prophecy in the Tanakh concerning Messiah's resurrection.
His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Yeshua was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. John 12:16 ESV
This is another note by Lazarus to inform us that these events were only fully understood after Christ's resurrection. There was a lot more Yeshua wanted to say to them, but they were not in any position to receive it.
Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. John 20:8-9 ESV
Again we are told that they didn't understand the Scripture concerning Messiah's resurrection.
And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead might mean. Mark 9:9-10 ESV
Really, they didn't know what Yeshua was talking about, they had no idea. When it comes to Spiritual things they are clueless. Let's look at one more in Luke:
And taking the twelve, he said to them, "See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise." But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said. Luke 18:31-34 ESV
Okay, it should be clear that they don't get what He is telling them. Back to our text, so He wasn't going to say anymore to them about what was coming because they didn't understand what He had already taught them. Now after His resurrection and before His ascension He will teach them more (Luke 24:13ff.), but most of the teaching will be done by the Holy Spirit, after our Lord's ascension.
So let me ask you, Why were the disciples so clueless to the truths the Lord was teaching them? Why didn't they get it? They didn't get it because they did not yet have the indwelling Holy Spirit. We see in Acts that after Pentecost, after they received the Holy Spirit, the things that baffled the disciples, such as the cross and resurrection, suddenly became the whole center of their teaching.
So let me ask you this, "Do we today need the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit in order to understand the Bible?"
Someone wrote into Don Preston and asked him this question. Don responded to this question on one of his podcasts. Don answered, "NO, we do not. What we need is to understand the proper rules of hermeneutics." Although I certainly agree with Don that we must apply the rules of hermeneutics to understand the Bible, I also believe that the Spirit must enlighten us to the truth.
Don went on to say, "There are many people out there, good people to be sure, who take the position that man in sin, unregenerated man so to speak, is simply incapable of understanding the Bible, believing the Bible, and obeying the Lord unless God first opens his heart and mind to understand the Scriptures. I believe this is a fallacious view." )"Must We Have the Holy Spirit To Understand Scripture?"—Part 3" Published on Jun 17, 2013) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iTkfB0Vq7iI.
The position that Don calls fallacious is the view that I hold, this is the Reformed view. Let's look at what the Bible says about man and his ability to understand the Scriptures. I see the Bible as teaching that fallen man, in his natural state, lacks all power to commune with God, because man is spiritually dead. Apart from Yahweh giving life, man cannot even understand God. This idea is taught in:
Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: "Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, John 12:37-39 ESV
They did not believe, because they could not believe. It wasn't because they lacked an understanding of hermeneutics, it was because they were spiritually dead. Apart from the guidance or illumination of the Spirit nobody will understand the Scripture. Paul addresses the need for divine illumination in 1 Corinthians 2.
Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:12-14 ESV
Notice carefully what this verse says, "Natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God…". That would definitely include His Word. Paul says, "He is not able to understand them." Who is the natural man? The word "natural" comes from the Greek word psuchikos. Jude uses this same Greek word:
It is these who cause divisions, worldly people [psuchikos], devoid of the Spirit. Jude 1:19 ESV
Jude says, "worldly people, devoid of the Spirit." So, the natural man is the man without the Spirit of God. God's effectual calling—regeneration, is absolutely necessary, because apart from it, man has no ability to understand or desire the things of God.
Two things are true of the natural man. First of all, he does not "accept" the things of the Spirit of God. The word that is used here for "accept" is a word used for receiving guests. His attitude toward spiritual things is like your attitude toward an unwanted guest visiting your home. This man does not welcome the things of the Spirit, because he considers them foolish.
Secondly, the natural man is not able to "understand" the things of the Spirit. He can't know them, because they are Spiritually discerned. The word "discerned" is a legal term that was used for a preliminary hearing, and it came to mean: "scrutinize, to examine, or make a judgement." The natural man has no capacity to Spiritually evaluate these things, because he does not have the Spirit of God. The natural man is like a man trying to pick up a radio station without a radio receiver— he cannot do it. He does not have the equipment to receive Spiritual things, because he does not have the Holy Spirit. This is not Calvinism, this is Bibleism.
Yeshua asked the disciples who they thought He was, Peter responded,
He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Yeshua answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. Matthew 16:15-17 ESV
Yeshua tells Peter, "Flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven." The whole point is that Spiritual truth must be revealed to us before we can truly understand and grasp it.
One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. Acts 16:14 ESV
This is the only place in the New Testament that uses the phrase "…opened her heart…," and the Bible gives the whole credit for this "opening" to God's power and not to man's will. Arminianism insists that man's free will must furnish the willingness or power, and the Bible says that the Holy Spirit of God furnishes that power or ability in the new birth.
Notice exactly what God did. God the Spirit opened Lydia's heart (or gave her faith), so she was able to believe. Her natural mind was blind, her natural heart was averse to God, and her will was in bondage to sin and spiritual death. Only the power of God can free her from this Spiritual depravity. The giving of this life and power is solely the work of the Spirit of God. Notice that the Bible explicitly gives God alone the credit for Lydia's heart being opened. It is impossible not to see that in this text, unless you simply refuse to accept what God clearly says.
Look at the words carefully: "the LORD OPENED her heart…." If you try to deny that the one single reason that Lydia understood and believed the Gospel was because God deliberately opened her heart and enabled her to believe, you are fighting God's Word. If you try to get man's "free will" as the one determining factor into this text, you are consciously corrupting the Word of God.
People, when it comes to grasping divine truth, not even study at the academic level is adequate to absorb it. A person can have advanced degrees in the study of the Bible or Theology and still not know God nor understand redemption through Christ. God's truth requires divine work for sinful man to grasp.
"I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. John 16:12 ESV
"I still have many things to say to you"—what I see the Lord saying here is a kind of pre-authentication of the New Testament. Earlier He said,
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. John 14:26 ESV
This is talking about reminding them of the things that He had said when He was here upon the earth. In other words the Spirit would remind them of the things that Yeshua had taught them, but the Lord is saying something else here. He is talking about things He cannot say to them now. He has already said the things that are found in the Gospels to them, so this is something different. In other words the many things are the teaching of the New Testament. This is Yeshua saying, all the things the Holy Spirit will later teach you come from Me. The New Testament is My teaching.
"But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. John 16:13 NASB
This is our Lord speaking concerning the Holy Spirit's work in giving us, in particular, the New Testament.
"He, the Spirit of truth"—this is the third time we see this title for the Holy Spirit (14:17 and 15:26). In John 14:6 Yeshua said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life."
So this title for the Holy Spirit emphasizes His role as the revealer of Yeshua.
He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. John 16:14 ESV
The Spirit's job is to reveal Christ.
"He, the Spirit of truth"—the combination of "He" and "the Spirit" is an unusual grammatical construction in Greek, because "Spirit" is a neuter noun that normally would take a neuter pronoun, but the pronoun is masculine, "He." Now whether the Spirit is masculine or feminine that's determined by the context. It is grammatically neuter, but here the Lord says, "when He" and uses the masculine pronoun, the masculine demonstrative pronoun. I bring this out because it's important for us to see that the Holy Spirit isn't a force; He's a person, the third person of the eternal Trinity, fully God in every way.
The Jehovah's Witnesses, deny the personality of the Holy Spirit (because they deny the Trinity). But as we've seen (John 15:26), the Spirit bears witness about Christ; a force cannot bear witness. Here, the Spirit guides the disciples; a force cannot give guidance. He speaks, He hears, and He reveals what He has heard to the disciples. We also see that Peter told Ananias that he had lied to the Holy Spirit, whom Peter calls God (Acts 5:3-4). You can't lie to an impersonal force.
"He will guide you into all the truth"—there is good manuscript authority for the word "in" instead of "into." Which would mean that the Spirit would guide the disciples within the whole sphere of the truth.
I think that this refers primarily to the inspiration of the authors of New Testament. This is talking about the "many things" that He still has to say to them from verse 12. The many things are the teaching of the New Testament. Yeshua will inspire them and guide them in all the truth. Since in the context of the Last Discourse, Yeshua is preparing His disciples to carry on His ministry after His departure, it seems best to take these statements as specifically related to those disciples. The Spirit guided them in unique, authoritative (inspired) ways. But in a secondary sense, our Lord's words here apply to us, in that the Holy Spirit opens up the truths of the Bible to us as we diligently study it in dependence on Him.
There are three terms that we must understand in relation to the Spirit's work and the Scriptures. REVELATION—This is God unveiling Himself to man. Revelation is complete in the Bible. INSPIRATION—This is the infallible recording of what God has make known to us. This is what our verse in John is talking about, those first century disciples were given revelation and inspiration. Both revelation and inspiration are closed. God is done writing His Word.
But for believers today we have what is called ILLUMINATION—this is the Holy Spirit giving us an understanding of the inspired revelation. This doesn't mean that we read a verse and say, Lord teach me what this means, and then God gives you insight into linguistics, and culture and history. I don't think we can understand the Bible apart from the Holy Spirit. Notice what Paul said to the Ephesians:
having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, Ephesians 1:18 ESV
The word translated "enlightened" is from the Greek photizo, which means:"to give light, to shine, to enlighten, illumine, to bring to light, render evident, to cause something to exist and thus come to light and become clear to all."
Paul's prayer is that the Spirit would illumine their understanding that they may understand spiritual truth. "Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened"—are an amplification, an explanation of the words of verse 17—"a Spirit of wisdom and of revelation."
Other texts of Scripture reveal a strong emphasis on the fact that divine "wisdom" is necessary to understand God's inspired "revelation" in Scripture. In the Tanakh, the psalmist prayed for the wisdom required to understand the Law of God:
Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. Psalms 119:18 ESV
We have to have our understanding opened by the Lord to perceive spiritual truth.
Back to our text, "He will guide you into all the truth"—in the history of the Church this phrase has been used and abused. It is from this promise that the Councils of Vatican I and II pronounced the Doctrine of Magisterial Infallibility. This doctrine states that the Pope alone and/or the Bishops united with the Pope, the successor of St. Peter, are divinely protected from teaching error when they define matters pertaining to faith and morals. (See CCC# 768, 889-8892)
Cults have formed on the basis of someone claiming to have a revelation. Joseph Smith claimed to have a revelation of the angel Moroni and the golden tablets known as the Book of Mormon. Multiplied millions have followed this heretical revelation. Today multitudes of professing Christians are following men and their revelations, which they call the guidance of the Spirit, and leaving the Word of God behind!
Since the Pentecostal movement began a little over 100 years ago, there has been a lot of emphasis in evangelical circles on the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Particularly in the area of His guidance. But there has also been a lot of confusion and error. John MacArthur wrote, "It is a sad twist of irony that those who claim to be most focused on the Holy Spirit are in actuality the ones doing the most to abuse, grieve, insult, misrepresent, quench, and dishonor Him. How do they do it? By attributing to Him words He did not say, deeds He did not do, phenomena He did not produce, and experiences that have nothing to do with Him. They boldly plaster His name on that which is not His work." (John MacArthur Strange Fire, Thomas Nelson, p.XIII)
MacArthur goes on (p. 6) to cite many examples, "Whole congregations doing the 'Holy Ghost Hokey Pokey,' people 'tokin' the Ghost' (pretending to inhale the Holy Spirit and get high, as if He were an invisible reefer), and women writhing on the floor, miming the process of childbirth." He cites several Pentecostal preachers who say that the Holy Spirit told them to punch, kick, and violently assault people in an attempt to heal them. An elderly woman died at a Benny Hinn "miracle crusade" when he pushed her over backwards (p. 7).
The Holy Spirit will never guide in contradiction to the written Word of God. His "guidance" is always in agreement with the written revelation. This is where some folks really mess up. They claim to have some guidance from God, sometimes termed 'a word from God', but it is contradicted by the written Word. We see this a lot in Charismatic circles.
Let me say a word here about, "All the truth"—as I said earlier this refers to all truth about Yeshua, it is the truth which God wanted contained in the Scripture. "All the truth" does not mean all the truth about science or math or world history. It doesn't mean that the Spirit is involved in absurd speculation of how many angels can stand on the head of a pin. It refers to all Spiritual truth that the apostles and the Church needs for growth in godliness. Lazarus tells us that his Gospel is just a portion of the things Yeshua said and did:
Now there are also many other things that Yeshua did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. John 21:25 ESV
So "all the truth" here is all the truth, which is necessary for the Church will be revealed through the writings of the New Testament.
Don Carson says this, "The notion of 'guidance' (the Gk. verb is hodegeo) in all truth has nothing to do with privileged information pertaining to one's choice of vocation or mate, but with understanding God as he has revealed Himself, and with obeying that revelation" (The Gospel According to John, [p. 540]).
"He will disclose to you what is to come"—as I said earlier, this is a pre-authentication of the New Testament, which was yet to come. This revelation would include yet unknown facts about the future (eschatology), but it's broader than that, the expression covers all that would be ahead for the disciples following Yeshua's separation from them. This would include the full significance of Yeshua's passion (14:26) as well as all the revelation now contained in the New Testament.
Leon Morris says, "'The things to come' is a way of referring to the whole Christian system, yet future when Jesus spoke, and to be revealed to the disciples by the Spirit, not by natural insight." (The Gospel According to John [Eerdmans], p. 701)
"He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. John 16:14 NASB
God the Holy Spirit will continue the teaching mission of Yeshua to bear witness to the truth. Just as Yeshua was the perfect expression of the character of God, so the Holy Spirit continues that ministry of making God known.
The New Testament consistently views the revelation, that Yeshua gave the apostles through the Spirit following His ascension, as a continuation of Yeshua's revelation. Just as Yeshua never acted on His "own initiative," but only in obedience to the Father. So the Spirit, who would reveal "the truth," would do the same.
"He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you"—when Yeshua was with them He continually said things like:
So Yeshua said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. John 5:19 ESV
So the Son reveals the Father and the Spirit reveals the Son. He discloses Yeshua to us. This tells me that we don't discover truth. Truth is disclosed to us, and when we have the Bible as the revelation of God before us, we gain understanding of it through the illumination of the Holy Spirit. He uses secondary tools like principles of interpretation, but the ultimate teacher is the third person of the Trinity as He gives us things that Christ desires that we know. This emphasizes the fact that we must rely on the Holy Spirit, not upon our intellects.
This description implies the Spirit's complete equality with Yeshua in the Godhead. The Spirit would not give revelation that conflicted with what Yeshua had taught. The source of both the Son's and the Spirit's teaching was the Father.
"All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you. John 16:15 NASB
Yeshua is revealing some of the aspects of the mystery of the Trinity: the unity of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. He is teaching that the three divine Persons have one and the same nature when He says that everything that the Father has belongs to the Son, and everything the Son has belongs to the Father, and that the Spirit also has what is common to both God the Father and God the Son.
The Bible assumes that the Holy Spirit shares with God the Father and God the Son in eternal, personal deity. He, along with the Father and the Son, is God— one of the three persons in the three-persons-in-one-God whom the Christian Church describes as a Trinity: one God, existing as three distinct persons, all equally God, all equally eternal, all equally present and active at the same time.
When we consider the Trinity, we must realize that each Person of the Godhead has specific functions or roles in redemptive activity. For instance, when it comes to our salvation, the Father elects, the Son redeems through His atoning work, and the Holy Spirit applies the work of redemption personally and individually.
This helps us to realize that though Yeshua no longer stands before us in flesh and blood, He is still present, He is still here, living within each believer individually and in the Church corporately.
We have a divine teacher whose ministry is to glorify Christ by guiding us into an increasingly richer knowledge of Him. But you'll never get to a place in this lifetime where you can say, "I know it all; there's nothing more for me to learn from the Bible!" So keep reading your Bible over and over, asking the Holy Spirit to reveal Christ to you.