HOW THE SPIRIT GUIDES US INTO ALL TRUTH
FF Chong — London, United Kingdom
One of the great divine
initiatives of Jesus’ departure is to open a way for us to follow; that where
He is, we may be also. Jesus, being the Holy Spirit Himself, is going to direct
us from within to help us reach our ultimate destination—the heavenly kingdom.
The purpose of the Holy Spirit is
to guide us into all truth concerning Jesus Christ, and this truth is given to
us in the Bible. It is the blueprint that instructs us to live the way Jesus
expects us to live.
In this light, understanding the
truth in the Bible through the help of the Holy Spirit is one of the most
important pursuits of our life.
Recognizing that the two completes
and reveals the truth to us will keep us from misinterpreting the truth,
generating different views of God’s teachings, and causing conflicts in our
How, then, does the Spirit guide
us into all truth?
THE BIBLICAL PERIMETER
Paul often urged Timothy to
consider his teachings about the truth. In his second letter to Timothy, Paul
encouraged Timothy that God will give him understanding in all things (2 Tim
Similarly, the Spirit guides us
when we are keen to submit to Him and to seek out “all truth.” What the Spirit
reveals is what God wants us to know, but it must fall within the biblical
Three components of the Bible form
the perimeter in which the Holy Spirit works to reveal God’s truth. They are:
Jesus’ words, the Old Testament Scriptures, and the apostolic teachings.
Together, they form the canonized
Bible, and there is an apparent way to explain their connection—they revolve
around Jesus Christ, the source of all truth (Eph 4:21; 1 Cor 3:11).
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father
will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your
remembrance all things that I said to you. (Jn 14:26)
Jesus mentioned “all things”
twice and the second qualifies the first. Here, He defines the perimeter of
what the disciples would know to be His teachings through the Holy Spirit.
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…He will glorify Me,
for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the
Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will
take of Mine and declare it to you. (Jn 16: 13-15)
But we must not over-read the
intended meaning of Jesus in this passage. Otherwise, we might mistakenly think
that God’s truth is incomplete in the Bible.
We might be led to believe that
this is the proof that there is no limit to His revelation through the Spirit;
as if the Spirit overrides biblical teachings, or that it reveals additional
truths outside of the Scriptures.
Since Jesus is the complete
embodiment of the truth, as the truth is in Jesus (Eph 4:21), and whatever the
Spirit imparts would not exceed what He has said and what He wants the Spirit
to say about things concerning Himself.
The Spirit, according to John,
works at the instruction of Jesus (Jn 16:13), and the Spirit is there to
testify of Jesus and His work (Jn 15:26).
The Apostolic Teachings
He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you
rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me. (Lk )
Jesus knew there were many things
the disciples could neither yet know nor accept if He chose to tell them at the
moment when He first found them. So He allowed the Spirit to reveal His truth
to His followers later on (Jn ,
13), when it is time.
Obviously, there are things that
the disciples teach that are not found in the gospels. Examples include baptism
in the name of Jesus, speaking in tongues as evidence of receiving the Holy
Spirit, and the understanding that we receive salvation through grace.
Jesus, foreseeing the need to
make His word complete, authenticated the word of His disciples (Lk 10:16, Jn
15:20; 1 Jn 4:1ff).
Take the case of circumcision.
When it was time to reveal that circumcision should not be enforced on gentile
believers, this truth had to come through revelation because the apostles had
only the Old Testament Scriptures at the time (The OT does talk about salvation
for the gentiles as well).
God had to unfold His truth
through His Spirit to the apostles in order to resolve the growing tension and
conflict in the church at the time. The Holy Spirit gave the apostles authority
to shed light on this controversial issue.
This revelation was the key to
help the community of faith understand that salvation was no longer under law
but under grace (Acts 15:1ff).
But can this be considered an
additional truth revealed by the Holy Spirit outside the biblical perimeter,
since the salvation of Gentiles and their exemption from circumcision was never
mentioned in the Mosaic Law?
We will return to this question a
Old Testament Scriptures
These are the words which I spoke to you while I
was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the
Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me. (Lk 24:44)
Many of Jesus’ teachings find
their basis in the Old Testament Scriptures (Mt 22:27ff; Lk 4:18ff). Jesus
preached and even defended His actions often by referring to Old Testament
In fact, the entire Old Testament
Scriptures point to Him (Jn 5:46). God’s awesome and transcendental revelations
are found in Him (Jn 5:39), and they are part of the ‘all truth.”
Therefore, when Jesus came into
this world, His plan and completion of salvation also fulfilled everything that
God revealed to His prophets and the promises He made to His chosen people, the
At times, an Old Testament quote
may appear to have been taken to illustrate or develop into a totally new
teaching in the New Testament. One example is the teaching of “an eye for an
eye”, which seemed to be replaced by the instruction to “love [our] enemy” (Mt
The “eye for an eye” rule was
given on the ground of civility (Ex 21:24; Lev 24:20; Deut 19:21). Since it was
a civil law, a violation of it on the part of a person would be recompensed
with a punishment equal to the degree of damage inflicted upon the sufferer.
These laws focused on those who
are in authority and have the obligation to look after the welfare of the
people. At the same time, it serves as deterrence, for the people of God, from
infringing on the rights of their fellow countrymen.
In the New Testament, Jesus
shifts the focus to the sufferers themselves, who must show great strength in
their faith to love their enemies. In fact, this has been the spirit of the Old
Testament Scriptures (Lev 19:18), which is part of the moral law.
THE BIBLE IS COMPLETE
This cause us to return to the
important question: Does the Holy Spirit reveal additional truths outside of
Scriptures, and do these “truths” override the teachings of the Bible, as in
the case of circumcision as well as the shifted focus from “an eye for an eye”
to loving our enemies?
The Spirit does not and will not
reveal any teaching that is not biblically founded. What the Spirit does today
is to lead us into greater and fuller understanding and realization of the
It is not the disclosure of
further or additional truth to what is God-inspired in the holy Bible.
Otherwise, we can probably write other books, thinking that they are of equal
authority to the Bible.
Rather, it is the Holy Spirit that
further unfolds the meanings and mysteries of God’s teachings and the message
of Jesus Christ, which leads us closer to the ‘all truth’.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God,
and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in
righteousness. (2 Tim 3:16)
This reminds us that the
Scriptures, in this case the OT Scriptures, was given
by God’s inspiration. It is the basis of our faith in Christ Jesus and is
through the Bible that we have a future hope of eternal life through Jesus
Christ Himself (Col).
The Old Testament is written for
believers of the apostolic times and today (Rom 15:4), and it is consistent.
Unless we can confirm that the Bible cannot give us the spiritual wisdom to receive
salvation and have hope in Jesus, we are required to hold on to its absolute
THE SPHERE OF THE SPIRIT’S WORK
Identifying the sphere of the
Spirit’s work further helps define the perimeter of the truth.
The work of the Spirit is well
detailed in the many pages of the Bible; the most notable passage is John
And when He has come, He will convict the world
of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not
believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no
more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
These are the three areas of the
work of the Spirit.
The first is the sin of unbelief.
Gentiles do not believe in God despite the testimonies to His existence by the
existence of the universe (Rom 1:20). Many, although having seen the works and
power of, and heard about the gospel of Jesus, refuse to believe in Him.
This unbelief is a sin (2 Thess
1:7, 8). Peter, by the power of the Holy Spirit, awoke many to their senses to
become aware of their sin of unbelief, which led them to crucify Jesus (Acts
2:22; 3:13ff). Today, the Spirit does just that.
The second is to disclose the
righteousness of Jesus Christ. A righteous God is both just and merciful, and
the outpour of the promised Holy Spirit after Jesus’ ascension firmly
underlines the righteousness of Jesus (Acts 2:33).
Though we have not seen Jesus in
person or heard His teachings from His lips, our conviction remains steadfast
in His word. The work of the Spirit here is to help us believe in the word of
Jesus, which is written in the Bible.
The third is His judgment. Here,
Jesus specifically talks about the judgment that He has brought upon Satan; the
ruler of the world. Jesus Christ is infinitely more powerful than Satan.
Otherwise, Satan cannot be brought to justice for all his evil deeds against
God and His people.
The Holy Spirit confirms that
Jesus has overcome Satan by His redemption, which He has freely offered to us
(Rev 12:11). By relying on the Holy Spirit, we can be victorious over the evil
forces and see through all of Satan’s schemes.
These, then, have been the key
focus of the entire Bible. And we can see that our understanding of the truth
is within the scope of the Spirit’s work, and the two agrees and confirms all
truth to the believers of Christ.
Anything outside the perimeter of
the Scriptures and not revealed through the Spirit puts us at risk of
corrupting the word of God.
OUR ATTITUDES AND APPROACH
It is when we start to interpret
the Bible using our own understanding without relying on the Holy Spirit that
we start to encounter differences in opinions about the word of God.
In searching the truth, we must
unite our minds by losing our wills in the sovereign will of the Lord, and
resolve our disagreements and conflicting words of His teachings.
This unity in the truth is made
possible by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, which draws us closer to one
another in doctrines, in works, and in understanding.
Humility must come into play as
well so that we are able to think with spiritual astuteness. To admit that at
times we can be wrong in our interpretations of the Bible, something that is
human nature to resist, will enhance the Spirit’s
guidance in our pursuit of His word.
The church must also establish a
set of biblical principles on which ordained workers must agree in order to
govern the interpretation of the Bible, and to prevent misinterpretation of the
truth from confusing the believers.
The word of God follows a pattern
within which our understandings must fall (Rom 6:17; 2 Tim 1:13). It is
important for us to come to the truth in the Bible through the right patterns.
We must also be unafraid to
improve upon our understanding of the Bible where previous misinterpretations
may have prevented us from being taught further into God’s truth.
With the proper attitude and
approach, we will make ourselves conducive for the Spirit to guide us into
understanding all truth.