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 (John 16:13).
It is difficult for us to even imagine, isn’t it? These men and women had been with Jesus from the beginning. Spent countless hours walking together; spending nights in who-knows-where type of places.
They watched in awe as he performed miracle after miracle, healing after healing. They knew he was special. Eventually, they also knew he was the Messiah. The Chosen One. The Son of God.
Jesus was forever teaching them. Helping them. Guiding them. And yet…
They also watched as he challenged — no, confronted is more like it — the religious leaders of the day. He stood up to them. Defied them. And those he challenged didn’t like it.
His disciples knew it was a dangerous game and they feared for him — and for themselves. They feared the worst, and the worst came to pass. What would they do then? What would happen next? What did the future hold?
More than once he told them that he was going to be leaving them soon. Knowing their doubts and fears, as he always does, Jesus reassured them he would not leave them alone. He would leave them with an advocate. A counselor (John 14:25-27).
And he gave them an inkling into who the Advocate is and what he would do:
When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father — the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father — he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning (John 15:26-27).
Why Is the Spirit of Truth Significant?
The Bible is so much more than just words written on a page. It is more than what the words seem to mean in whatever language or translation version we happen to be reading.
It is far more than a list of do’s and don’ts, rules and regulations, or rites and rituals. Yet so many of us have failed at some point to move to the next level of understanding.
Often, the disciples themselves did not understand the teachings found in Jesus’ words. They asked him why he taught in parables (Matthew 13:11-13).
But despite their lack of understanding, Jesus did not leave them without a hope to eventually understand the spiritual intent of Jesus’ words (John 14:16-21; 16:12-15).
“I have more to say to you, more than you can now bear.” Jesus knew the disciples would be unable to understand the spiritual meaning, the spiritual truth, of His words at that moment.
The Holy Spirit was with them, but not yet in them (John 14:17) — thus, they were hearing the words but were not yet able to grasp a full understanding.
It would not be until they received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, after Christ’s death and resurrection (Acts 2:4) that they would have the power to begin to understand the Truth of who Christ is, and the true spiritual meaning of his teachings.
And boy, how it changed them.
The Spirit of Truth Is Revealed to Us
In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul referred to these two levels of understanding: mind vs. heart; human understanding vs. spiritual understanding; born of the flesh vs. taught by the Spirit of God.
No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written:
“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” — the things God has prepared for those who love him — these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words (1 Corinthians 2:7–13).
- God’s wisdom — a mystery (v. 7).
- Which none of the rulers of this age understood (v. 8).
- Wisdom “no eye has seen or ears has heard, and no human mind has conceived the things God has prepared for those who love him” (v. 9).
- These are things that God has revealed to us by his Spirit (v. 10).
Clearly, we can possess human knowledge, math and the sciences, and the like. But there is knowledge we humans are not capable of knowing, or discerning, without the help of the Spirit.
That same knowledge, which God reveals to those who give themselves to Jesus. Those he calls by his Spirit.
God’s Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth. He guides us so that God’s wisdom can travel the 12 inches from our heads to our hearts.
Just as the “spirit of the world” enables us to understand the things of the world, so God’s Spirit helps us understand the spiritual truths of God.
The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit (v. 14).
No one who does not have the Spirit of Truth living within them can begin to understand the spiritual truths of God. They are considered foolishness to them.
Jesus knew his words would fall on many deaf ears. It was not his intent that the multitudes would understand the spiritual meaning of his teachings — yet. So, when the disciples asked, “Why do you speak in parables?” Jesus answered with the Truth.
He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them” (Matthew 13:11).
And then Jesus said this:
But God has blessed you. You understand what you see with your eyes. And you understand what you hear with your ears (v. 16).
What Does This Mean?
Will we have all the answers? Of course not. But the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, enables this understanding within us, so that we can begin to comprehend and appreciate things beyond the physical world we see, know, and understand the Truth.
And the Truth will set us free (John 8:32).
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Greg Grandchamp is the author of In Pursuit of Truth, A Journey Begins – an easy-to-read, conversational-toned search that answers to most common questions about Jesus Christ. Was he real? Who did he claim to be? What did he teach? Grandchamp offers perspective as an everyday guy on the very same journey as his readers and listeners – as a disciple of Christ Jesus, and learning life's lessons along the way.