Vol. 11 No. 7 July 2009
In an effort to understand a passage of Scripture, two questions among others should be considered, namely, who is the speaker and to whom is he speaking. This will contribute greatly to the right exegesis of a passage of Scripture. We have no problem in understanding that it was God who was speaking to Noah, instructing him to build the ark (Genesis 6). It was to Abraham that God directed to offer up his son Isaac upon an alter (Genesis 22). It was of the rich young ruler that Jesus required to sell all that he had and give to the poor (Mark 10). This principle would be true in the study of the epistles that men who were inspired of the Holy Spirit wrote to various congregations and individuals. Some of the most misunderstood passages in the New Testament regarding the Holy Spirit are found in the Gospel according to John, chapters 14-16.
It is plain to see that the setting of these particular chapters in John is the occasion when Jesus was eating the Passover Supper with his twelve apostles. (See Matthew 26:20; Mark 14:17; Luke 22:14.) Therefore, Jesus was the speaker and the twelve apostles were the ones to whom Jesus was addressing when He spoke of the promise of another Comforter who would be sent to help and assist them in the preaching of the truth after His departure. Religious leaders of various denominations often apply what Jesus said to the apostles about the Holy Spirit to all believers in Christ. This is the case among some teachers and writers who are members of the church. For example in a devotional type publication that provides wonderful inspirational thoughts for each day of the year one writer asserted:
When Jesus went back to His Father, He sent the Holy Spirit as a Comforter and a Guide to teach us all things and to bring all things to our remembrance. We have the power on our spiritual journey. When faced with a mountain, don’t fear or cry out. Take action! Use the power He has given us. Say, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthened me” (Philippians 4:13).
While recognizing the sincerity and integrity of the Christian who wrote the preceding words, it must be brought out that this is a misunderstanding and a misuse of this passage of Scripture that is found in John 14:26, which reads, “But the Comforter, even the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (ASV). In addition, John 16:13 records, “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, 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 tell you things to come.” The Holy Spirit would therefore assist the apostles in the following; (1) Teach them all things; (2) Bring to their remembrance what Jesus wanted them to know; (3) He would guide them into all truth; (4) The Holy Spirit would also tell the apostles things that were to come.
In Luke 24:49, Jesus, prior to His ascension, spoke these words to His apostles: “Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on High.” Basically, Luke records the same instructions as recorded in Acts 1:4. In verse 5 of Acts 1, Jesus informed His apostles that they would “be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Jesus also said, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). In Acts 1:1-4, we find the record of the twelve apostles being filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost as the Lord had previously promised them.
The apostle Paul declared to the elders of the church from Ephesus, “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:26-27). Concerning the great blessings promised aforetime to those who loved the Lord, the apostle wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:10, “But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.” Paul made it very clear that which He and the other apostles taught were of the Holy Spirit as recorded in 1 Corinthians 2:12-13. “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.”
The apostle also claimed he received what he proclaimed regarding the “mystery of Christ” “by revelation” from the Lord (Ephesians 3:3-6). Concerning the Gospel that Paul preached, he wrote in Galatians 1:11-12, “But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.” The whole of the writings of both the Old and New Testament came by the “inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
In the beginning of the church age, the inspired word was first in men. Later, as the men who were inspired of the Holy Spirit began to write the various epistles, the inspired Word was both in men and in written form. Eventually, the time came when that “which is perfect is come” that which “is in part shall be done away” (1 Corinthians 13:9-10 ASV). That is to say, the revealed will of God for man was now complete and no longer partly in man and partly in written form. Eventually, Jude wrote in his short epistle these words, “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (verse 3). The system of faith was once and for all time deposited, and there is now neither promised nor needed additional revelation from God. The work of the Holy Spirit in revealing all the truth necessary for our salvation has been completed.