KEY THOT: Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as the “Spirit of truth”. The reasons He gave are as follows:
- “he will guide us into all the truth”: The Spirit does not guide us into some truth, but into all the truth. In NT theology, “truth” is not just a theological or religious propositional statement. Truth refers to what is really real in the spirit, social and material realms. Truth is ultimate reality. It covers spiritual, psycho-social and scientific truths. Jesus told the disciples that he still had "many things to say to you, but you cannot bear (receive, carry, take up) now” (v.12). While we may be inclined to limit the “many things” to theological truths, I would like to believe that Jesus’ understanding of truth may be more comprehensive. It covers truths about all of human reality which the disciples are not ready to receive and carry at their level of pre-scientific knowledge and understanding.
- “he will not speak of his own authority”: He is not only the guide to truth, He is also the channel of truth. The truth that is communicated by the Spirit does not originate from his own authority but it is based on the revelation of God in Christ for “whatever he hears he will speak” (v.13). Any theological “truth” that contradicts Jesus’ teaching may be assumed to have its source not from the Holy Spirit, for He cannot contradict Jesus' teaching who alone has "all authority" (Mt 28:18). There is no other foundation upon which we may build the Church, except Jesus Christ as revealed in the four Gospels. In fact, Jesus himself affirmed Peter's confession by saying: "on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it" (Matt 16:18).
Scripture is quite clear that whatever truth we believe must be based on the foundational teaching of Christ as contained in the Gospels. While the law came through Moses, “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (John 1:17). There is a popular but unbiblical teaching going around that bothers on heresy: it suggests that Jesus was still “under Law” as he was “pre-Cross” (implying pre-Grace) and whatever he taught in the Gospel is therefore law and irrelevant to grace-believers. But Paul is very unequivocal about Christ as foundational: “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 3:11-12) and “God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone” (Eph 2:19-20).
When Peter and the eleven wanted to find a replacement for Judas Iscariot, the main prerequisite for potential candidates was that they must “have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John's baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection” (Acts 1:21-22). So, the apostolic focus was on the foundation established by Jesus’ teaching and life as recorded in the Gospels. Unfortunately, some bible teachers have undermined Jesus' authority by subtly shifting the foundation of truth from Jesus to Paul to justify their particular doctrine of grace.
- “he will glorify Me”: Not only will the truth revealed by the Spirit be comprehensive and derivative from God the Father and Son, its ultimate purpose is to exalt Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life. In other words, he will not glorify any preacher, pastor, doctrine or denomination. He will only glorify Christ. Therefore, any teaching or doctrine that draws us away from glorifying Christ to a particular personality, church or denomination is not from the Holy Spirit.The Spirit will always point us back to the authority of Jesus' teachings as recorded in the four Gospels, not to the authority of man.
May these three principles of discernment help us discriminate between truth and error—no matter who says it or how it is justified.
Father, we thank You that You have given us the Spirit of Truth, for through Him we can discern what is true and what is false. Thank You that His revelation is always consistent with Jesus’ grace and truth as revealed in the Gospels. Amen.