‘I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.’ John 16:12-14 (NIVUK)
These words of Jesus are important because they explain why he didn’t write anything down. It would be the Holy Spirit’s task to perpetuate the things Jesus revealed during his earthly ministry after his departure. It is here that a danger lies. Many have seized on this passage in John 16 claiming that we can expect new revelations of the Spirit, even today. However, that’s not what these verses are saying.
When Jesus used the word ‘you’ throughout this discourse he was not speaking directly to you and me but to the 11 disciples, who became the Apostles. Back in John 14, Jesus said to his disciples:
‘…the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.’ (John 14:26). The Holy Spirit cannot remind us of what Jesus said in the same way he could remind the disciples since we have not heard Jesus speak in the flesh as they did.
These verses in John’s gospel cannot be used to justify the belief that new truth is being discovered by the church today. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit will guide the disciples
‘into all the truth’ (John 16:13, emphasis mine), not some of it. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would give a total revelation of the truth to the Apostles.
You do not find the Apostles telling the church to look for other inspired apostles who will continue to reveal new truths. On the contrary, we find that the church is built on the foundation of the Apostles
(Ephesians 2:19-20), and church leaders urged the church
‘…to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.’ (Jude 3).
The Apostles had been with Jesus from the beginning; Paul spent three years receiving direct revelation from Jesus
(Galatians 1:11-12, 17-18), and they would be reminded of what he said by the Holy Spirit, enabling them to write reliable, faithful, and inspired eyewitness accounts of the significance of Jesus’s life, ministry, and gospel teaching.
In Jesus’s discourse with his disciples, he anticipated an important work of the Holy Spirit for the church – the inspiration and birth of the New Testament. The work of the Spirit for the church today is to illuminate the minds of people as they read these words. The Apostles were inspired by the Spirit to understand and record new truths revealed by Jesus, for example, that the messiah would die and be raised again and the significance of these events. We today are illuminated by the Spirit to understand these same truths.
That’s why the Apostle’s sermons and writings have gone into the Bible, and mine had better come out of it.
Thank you Father, for the Holy Spirit’s work in the church of reminding the Apostles of all Jesus said and inspiring the New Testament. May the Holy Spirit continue to work in the church illuminating our understanding of Jesus through the written word. This we pray in Jesus’s name and for his glory,
Have a joyous Trinity Sunday,