Wednesday, November 01, 2017

What Is the Guidance of the Holy Spirit in John 16:13?

Today among church leaders, you will hear a message of Holy Spirit guidance.  For the most part, the concept is ambiguous.  Specifically John 16:13 says,
Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.
Jesus is speaking to His disciples in His upper room discourse, actually on the way to the Garden of Gethsemane, having left to go there at the end of chapter 14.  He's speaking just to them and John 16 records it.  The "you" of "guide you" and "show you" is the eleven that are left there after Judas had left.

A doctrine of the guidance of the Holy Spirit would need to depend on John 16:13 a lot, because it is the only place in the New Testament that teaches the Holy Spirit guiding.  We do get, "led by the Spirit," but even with that concept, it is in only two places, Romans 8:14 and Galatians 5:18.  In both of those, it is a title of believers, people who are led by the Spirit.  It doesn't say how.  We would need to look at parallel passages to get the how.

One might think that the New Testament is packed full with Holy Spirit guidance and "led by the Spirit."  It's not.  The word translated "guide" is found in any form only 5 times in the whole New Testament.  Twice it is used of the blind being leaders of the blind (Mt 15:14, Lk 6:39).  In Acts 8:31 it is used of "some man guiding" the Ethiopean eunuch.  Then in Revelation 7:17, it is Jesus in the midst of the throne, guiding the heavenly inhabitants to the living fountains of water.  So, again, you can see that we just have John 16:13 for Holy Spirit guidance, and what is that?

John 16:13 is speaking of revelation.  Jesus, through the Holy Spirit Whom He would send, would complete the New Testament.  Besides that, at the most, believers would know that something is scripture.  "Truth" or literally "the truth" (tes aletheia) is scripture.

John 16:13 is not the Holy Spirit guiding believers through an impression, a voice in their head, or a great new idea.  The Holy Spirit is not doing this.  Believers will be led by the Spirit of God, but the two places that teach that don't say how.  Again, one should not believe that this leading occurs through new revelation.  God leads by means of scripture, which is sufficient (2 Tim 3:16-17) and is "the sword of the Spirit" (Eph 6:17).

People who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God (Rom 8:14).  These are people who are obedient to scripture.  Those filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18) are those with the word of Christ dwelling in them richly (Col 3:16).  The Holy Spirit will lead a believer, because the Holy Spirit indwells every believer.  He leads through scripture.  He doesn't lead again through impressions, a voice in the head, and a novel new method.

The new method is more in line with man's wisdom of 1 Corinthians 1 and James 3, that the Greeks seek after.  You're clever.  You thought of something that works.  You then say the Holy Spirit gave it to you, which gives it authority.  You call it guidance or leading of the Spirit.  That is not true.  That is not what the Holy Spirit does.

After someone is "guided" or "led" by the Spirit to something novel and clever, and then he gets "good results," that is the authentication of the Spirit to the one who heard from Him in this "guiding" and "leading" experience.  This is going way out on a limb on the matter of guiding and leading.  It's not what it is or how it is.

Some of this being led, I've heard, goes something like the following.  You talk to someone in evangelism, you're running into a brick wall, and then something pops into your head, and it works.  The conversation continues and you have a much better opportunity than what you had before.  There is no biblical basis even to call that the Holy Spirit guiding and leading, because it isn't defined.  Maybe it is the Holy Spirit -- we just don't know, so we can't say that it is.  When we claim that it is, we are opening up the realm of the Holy Spirit talking to us beyond using scripture.  We should not venture into thinking that the Holy Spirit does any more than the furthest extent of what is taught in scripture for the Holy Spirit for the age in which we live.

I do know that the Holy Spirit is leading at least in everything that He said in His Word.  If people are not doing that, they are not being led by the Spirit.  It is not more spiritual if someone is getting regular ideas, while he disobeys scripture.  The Holy Spirit is going to look like scripture, not as your new cleverness and better way than what's already written.

Some will piece together all sorts of experiences and circumstances and say, look the Holy Spirit was doing this and He was doing that.  They don't know that.  God either caused it or allowed it, but that doesn't pass as something unique in leading.  God can close a door that way.  You can't do something because it isn't possible to do it.  Is that God?  Yes, because God either allows or causes everything. At best and as the normal way of explanation, someone should say that various beneficial events came together out of God's providence.  This is God providing through His sovereign power.  Those circumstances can't necessarily be called the leading of the Holy Spirit or His guidance.  God does that kind of providential work with everyone, including unbelievers. That is not what scripture is talking about as it relates to the Holy Spirit guiding and leading.

The two texts on being led by the Spirit are statements of fact.  Believers are led by the Spirit.  What is it though?  It is being led by the Spirit and not by something or someone else, such as yourself, your flesh, the world, popular norms, the devil.  How does He lead?  He leads by scripture.  You do what He says in the Bible, not what you want.  That means application, and I believe He helps you apply and does that in part through the church, agreement of the church.  That is the leadership of the Spirit, not something mystical, unverifiable, and subjective.

The apostles got direct messages from the Holy Spirit.  They were moved by the Holy Ghost to write Holy Scripture.  They were transported other places in a truly miraculous way.  The apostolic age is over and now we sort out what the Bible says and do it within the context of a church.  That is a person guided by and led by the Spirit of God.

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