Reflections on the Orthodox faith and life in this crazy 21st century world by an Orthodox priest and a few of his friends.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
He Will Guide You Into All Truth (John 16:12-15)
Traditional Coptic Icon of Pentecost. I found this very interesting.
12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 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. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.
In verse 12, Jesus informs the disciples that there are many more things that he has to tell them, but they cannot bear them now. They would be too much. In Fr. Farley’s view, these include such things as “the spiritual nature of the Kingdom and the inclusion of the Gentiles in it on equal terms with the Jews" (281). And this is how God works with us still today. He constantly challenges us to increase both our knowledge and our relationship with him, but he does it slowly, one step at a time, lest we be overwhelmed. Thanks be to God for his infinite patience with us!
In verses 13-15, Jesus once again speaks about another ministry of the Spirit that he has alluded to before. “He will teach the apostles the truth, even as Jesus taught them the truth” (Farley, 281). Let’s look at the exact wording of all three of Jesus’ sayings about the Holy Spirit’s teaching ministry:
“He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (14:26).
“He will testify of Me” (15:26).
“He will guide you into all truth…and He will tell you things to come” (16:13).
These verses were instrumental in my decision to convert to Orthodoxy. When I had been a Southern Baptist, I had of course read them dozens of times; still I had never quite comprehended their full significance. In these three passages (especially the third one), Jesus is assuring the disciples (who were the Church at that time) that after he has left the earth, the Spirit will remind them of all that he had taught them and also guide them into all truth. In other words, the Spirit will protect the Church (though not necessarily individual Christians) from error.
I further realized that if the typical evangelical belief that the Church had quickly fallen into error after St. John’s death were true, then Jesus did not keep these promises. And since Jesus’ promises are always true, he must have (through the Holy Spirit) kept his Body, the Church, from error. Therefore, not only could the first century Church be trusted, but so could the second century Church, the third century Church, and so on. Therefore the Orthodox Church can be trusted to have faithfully, with the help of the Holy Spirit, kept the teachings and practices of Jesus and the apostles.
Fr. Farley’s words on verse 13 are also helpful: “The implication of this for the authority of the Church should not be missed. By saying that the spirit will guide the Church in all the truth about God, Christ is assuring the disciples that they will not be left at the mercy of their own limitations. As men they are sinful and fallible, but they are not to be left alone. The Spirit will come to make up their deficiency” (281).
Finally, in verse 14, Jesus speaks of yet another ministry of the Spirit: to glorify Christ. The Spirit’s job is not to bring glory to Himself, and much less is it to glorify individual human beings. Rather, the Spirit brings glory to Christ and him alone. Jesus also assures them that everything that the Father has is also his, and that the Spirit will declare these things to the apostles. In other words, whatever they need to know that Jesus has not explicitly taught them, the Spirit will make known to them.