Have you ever wondered how the apostles and writers of the good news of Jesus were able to record all the things he did while teaching and helping people? Not only did Matthew, Mark, Luke and John record the events of Jesus’ life, but they did it without contradicting each other.
How did Peter, Paul, James, Jude, and John know what to write in the letters they sent to the first Christians? How did they know what Jesus wanted written down about living the Christian life, not only for those living then but also for those who would be Christians in the future? Again, they did it without contradicting the other writers.
Jesus explained to the apostles how this would work – and more – before he was crucified. That last night Jesus spent with his apostles he had much to tell them. Sadly, there wasn’t much time and they weren’t ready to understand it. He told them, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now” (John 16:12 ESV). How would the apostles remember all these things and know what to pass on? The answer was the Holy Spirit.
“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 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 that I have said to you” (John 14:25–26).
Jesus would send the Holy Spirit to help them in these things. The Greek word used to describe him is parakletos. Like many words from another language, this does not have an exact equivalent in English. Older translations used “comforter” but that doesn’t describe him accurately in modern English. Current translations use “counselor”, “assistant”, “advocate”, and “helper”. All of these words also have drawbacks, as they could suggest someone who is lower-ranking or have too broad a definition. Perhaps if we thought of the Holy Spirit as all of these we would get a better idea about him.
The Holy Spirit would allow the apostles to remember what Jesus had taught them. They did not have to rely on their memory of what Jesus said (and there is no evidence that they were taking notes!). The Spirit would enable them to accurately teach and record what they had heard.
Notice, as well, that he would “teach you all things.” There were other things they needed to know that Jesus would not personally be able to tell them. The Holy Spirit would take care of this, too. Jesus went on to explain that the Spirit would guide them into all they needed to know.
“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:13–15).
These were promises made to the apostles. Although we receive the Holy Spirit as God’s gift when we are immersed into Jesus (Acts 2:38), we are never given these two promises. It would be difficult to bring to our minds what we never heard Jesus teach – we weren’t there! Although the Spirit does not guide us directly into all truth, we are guided into the truth through the words the apostles wrote down which they were guided in by the Spirit.
Are we listening to what the Spirit has revealed for us in the pages of scripture?
Readings for next week:
11 December – John 12
12 December – John 13
13 December – John 14
14 December – John 15
15 December – John 16