Whose Spirit? What truth?

by Rev Jason Phua

Readings: John 16:1-33; Psalm 22:1-18

READ (Verse/s chosen for reflection)
John 16:13 “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the 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.”

REFLECT
In John 16, Jesus gave one of his final teachings to the disciples; who told them that it is to their advantage that He went away so that the Holy Spirit can come. Jesus continued to say that the Holy Spirit is here to guide us in “all the truth”, for he will not speak on his own authority…

In my journey as a learner and teacher of the Word, I have encountered quite a variety of teachings about who the Holy Spirit is and what He means to the life of the believer. One form of teaching seems to suggest that the work of the Holy Spirit is distinct from how the authors of the books of the Bible are inspired by the same Spirit!

So for example, such a strand of teaching encourages the believer to interpret and apply bible verses to their own lives as the “Spirit leads”. It doesn’t matter if the original intentions of the authors are known and taken into account. It doesn’t matter if the historical or literary contexts are taken into account. The argument is that we should read the Bible as “it is” and through what we believe to be the Spirit speaking to us. However my questions for such thinking is: “Whose Spirit?” “How do you really know if the Holy Spirit is really leading you to interpret the bible verses without even acknowledging how the same Spirit has inspired the original authors?

Such teachings are seriously flawed because John 16:13 (as well as many parts of the Bible such as John 15:26) is saying otherwise. John 16:13 is saying that the Holy Spirit will guide believers in all truth based on the authority He shared with God the Father and the Son. Hence, whatever we sensed the Holy Spirit “speaking” to us, must be consistent with what is revealed to us as a whole counsel of God’s Word. And to discover what is revealed to us in His Word, we need to at least be informed of the original intent of God’s Word for His people written during a certain point in time. Otherwise it is easy to read God’s Word out of context since we all come from varied backgrounds and experiences. Granted that God’s Word is alive and some that points to Jesus might not even be known by the original authors; yet should we ignore such important contexts which should at least be our guiding post in discerning how “the Spirit leads”?

RELATE
My reflection for today’s passage is based on a longstanding prayer I have for the church today. I have personally known and encountered episodes where flawed interpretation of God’s Word (i.e. based on “Spirit lead” theology) led to deaths, departure from the faith and chaos in the family of faith. One of the episodes that will always be on my mind was the withdrawal of medication from a child who was sick. This led to the death of the child where simple, consistent dose of medication would have done otherwise. O Lord have mercy and help us!de

REST
No wonder Jesus said in verse 1 (chapter 16) that He had said these things to keep us from falling away and in verse 33; so that we can find peace in Him in the midst of tribulations. Help us Lord, to be faithful and be of good discernment on what is true and what is that which pull us away from You. Amen.

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