How can a mere human being understand the things of God?
I want us to understand the means by which God reaches out and touches us so that we can begin to understand him.
We will look at John 15:26-27;16:4-15 and discover how the Holy Spirit works in our lives.
John 15:26-27 speaks of the Holy Spirit testifying to the disciples on Jesus’ behalf and them testifying to what they had witnessed of Christ. To testify means to bear witness. A witness is there for all to see and hear whether we know it or not. We are witnessing at every moment. People see how we act and hear what we say. If we are always talking about ourselves or our denomination, are we giving witness to them and not to Jesus? The Holy Spirit gives witness not about himself but on behalf of Jesus. If we give witness to the Holy Spirit and not Jesus, we are perverting his mission. As the disciples gave witness to their personal experience with Jesus, so too do we. Our experience as followers of the Christ is the subject of our witness.
Acts 2 was an unusual Pentecost. John describes a daily Holy Spirit experience. He comes alongside to plead our case as accusers condemn our failures. He helps us testify to Jesus in the face of opposition. He puts the world to shame regarding sin, justice and judgment (16:8). The opposite of sin is not impossible law-keeping, but faith. The remedy for our failures is faith (16:9). The Holy Spirit convicts us that the world’s idea of justice is unjust and causes oppression, inequality and poverty. The Holy Spirit in us judges the world (16:11). The Holy Spirit guides us into the truth which is in Christ and nowhere else (16:13). Christian discuss our becoming like God in various ways as theosis, growing into union with God, divinization, spiritual formation or sanctification. It is a mystical experience.
The Spirit of Truth
The Holy Spirit is our advocate, encourager, comforter and helper. He is also the Spirit of Truth. We are told that he will guide us into all truth. Over the centuries many wacky and troublesome ideas have been proclaimed as being guided by Jesus Christ. How can we discern what is truth guided by heaven and what is just an idea pulled out of thin air by mere humans? First of all we note that the Holy Spirit will not speak on his own initiative, but only what he hears. Second, he will glorify Jesus not any human being or institution of human beings. Third, it is from Jesus that he will receive what is to be made known, not from a mere human being. Fourth, if it is something that receives wide acceptance in the church, it is a safer teaching.
How can we Christians be unified? We can keep unity by following God’s example expounded in John 15:26-16:15. Here we see the way Father, Son and Holy Spirit act in perfect unity. The Holy Spirit guides us into all truth. He is not a rebel, who speaks words that divide, but speaks only what he hears. From whom does he hear those words? It is from Jesus Christ that the Holy Spirit receives the words that he makes known to us. As we look down through Christian history, perhaps we can see that division comes from politics, lust for power and words of mere human beings. However, there is something that unifies us all, the words of Jesus. When we emphasis the truths that Jesus taught, we become more unified. The Trinity teaches us how perfect unity behaves.
The Work of the Spirit in the World
In John 16:8-11 we learn of the work of the Spirit in the world. He will prove to those in the world that they are wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment. 1) Those in the world are wrong about sin because they do not believe in Jesus. Sin here is not described as a moral failure, but a lack of faith. 2) Those in the world are wrong about righteousness because Jesus went to the Father. In other words, though the world condemns Christ, God shows his approval of what Jesus did. 3) Those in the world are wrong about judgment because the ruler of this world has been condemned. The ruler of this world whoever that may be, whether human or demonic, is condemned for bad judgment primarily because of unbelief in Jesus as King of Kings.
The Work of the Spirit in Believers
In John 16:12-15 we learn of the work of the Spirit in the Church. He guides us into all the truth. Some teachings of the Church have only been more fully formulated since the New Testament was written. What the Holy Spirit speaks will always be entirely consistent with the teachings of Jesus and glorify Christ, just as Jesus echoed the Father’s teachings. If the Spirit guides us into all truth, how can sola scriptura (the Bible alone) be our entire source of truth? Perhaps a more logical term is prima scriptura (first the Bible) and secondarily tradition which includes the Holy Spirit’s inspiration throughout Christian history. We could add to tradition reasoning and experiences that are consistent with the Bible. Worshiping God with our minds, and our experience of the Holy Spirit’s activities play important roles in Christianity.
Spirit of Truth
In Acts 2 the disciples spoke in tongues. What was their purpose here? It was to make the Gospel plain to people who spoke other languages. What is the Holy Spirit’s purpose? When John called the Spirit the Paraclete (the one called close beside us) he explained that his purpose is to to be with us forever, teach us everything, remind us of all that Jesus said, he will testify on Jesus’ behalf, to prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment, and guide us into all the truth (John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7-15). In our passage (John 15:26; 16:13) he is called the Paraclete, and the Spirit of truth, meaning the Spirit who communicates the truth. His purpose in Acts 2 was to reveal that truth to those who spoke other languages.
The Holy Spirit is here with us today to reveal to us the things of God. He convicts our faith, leads us to Jesus, helps us reject the world and guides us into all the truth.