The Spirit of Truth
“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come” (John 16:13).
The subject of the Holy Spirit generates a lot of excitement among some religious people. Unfortunately, it has also resulted in more than its share of error. Jesus said three things about the Spirit in this verse.
The Spirit Will Come
Jesus made this promise on the eve of His death. It was part of His effort to prepare the apostles for His impending departure back to the Father. Jesus would be leaving, but He would not be leaving them alone. He would come to them in the person of the Spirit to help them in their work (John 14:18).
It is important to note that this promise was specific to the apostles. The Spirit’s help pertained to their role of bearing witness for Christ (John 15:26-27; Acts 1:8) and revealing divine truth (Ephesians 3:3-5). This promise was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost (Acts 1:4-5; 2:1-4). Jesus did not promise to send the Spirit to every believer as a personal guide to truth. If the Spirit were guiding us all, we would all be in agreement!
The Spirit Will Guide
Jesus promised that the Spirit would guide the apostles into all the truth. Jesus Himself had begun this great work. But the apostles were often slow learners, just as we are. They could only absorb so much in the brief period Jesus was on the earth. “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now” (v. 12). Even at this hour, they were struggling mightily with the concept that Jesus would die and they would be separated from Him.
Did the Spirit do what Jesus promised He would? Yes, indeed (2 Peter 1:3; Jude 3). All truth was revealed to them. That has important implications. It means that if we want to know the truth that makes us free, we must listen to the apostles by reading their writings, the New Testament. It means that books which claim to be revelations from God written in later centuries are bogus. It means that men and women who boast today that the Spirit is revealing things to and through them are fraudulent.
The Spirit Will Listen
Where would the Spirit get the information He would reveal to the apostles? “He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak.” Just as Jesus spoke only what the Father gave Him to say (John 12:49-50), so the Spirit would speak. In fact, Jesus went on to say that what the Spirit would disclose to the apostles would be the things that the Father had given to Jesus (16:14-15).
Again, consider the implication. If the apostles’ message was Jesus’ message, then what they said is just as authoritative as what He said personally. To hear them is to hear both Jesus and the Father (John 13:20); to reject them is to reject the Lord.