by William J. Stewart
We continue to look at the claim made by some that God speaks directly to them. Today, we want to consider some texts about the Holy Spirit, and the emphasis on the written word in the Bible.
John 14:26—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.
To many, this text is evidence that God speaks to them. Jesus said it would be so! Consider a few questions to help us understand the text.
Who was Jesus speaking to?
Some will boldly say He was talking to them. Let me state this as clearly as I can—Jesus could not have been talking to you, because you were not there. He was addressing the apostles.
What was promised here?
Let’s start with the latter portion of the text first. Jesus told the apostles the Holy Spirit would help them remember all that Jesus had said to them. Friend, you cannot remember something that you hadn’t heard in the first place. This is not about you or me. It is about the apostles.
If the latter clause is about the apostles, then so is the former. The promise that the Holy Spirit would “teach you all things” was made to the apostles and no one else.
If the Holy Spirit is teaching people all things today, then what purpose does the Bible serve? If knowledge is imparted to believers by direct revelation of the Spirit, then a written record is pointless. Below we’ll notice the emphasis placed on the written record.
John 15:26-27—But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.
Again, many will claim this text for themselves. The Lord said that He was sending the Spirit to me!! Did He? I have another question to help us set this text into its proper context.
Were you with Jesus from the beginning?
Jesus plainly reveals that those He was speaking to had been with Him from the beginning. The beginning of what? Creation? No. The beginning of His ministry. Were you there? Did you walk the dirt roads of Galilee with Jesus of Nazareth? Did you enter the gates of Jerusalem with the Son of God? The apostles did. That is who He was addressing.
Later, when it came time for another to be selected as an apostle, to fill the position vacated by Judas, Peter stated:
…of these men who have accompanied us all the that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection (Acts 1:21-22)
Of the 120 disciples who were with the apostles, it seems only a few met this qualification, Matthias and Joseph Barsabas. You and I do not meet the stipulation necessary to be an apostle of Christ, nor do we meet Jesus’ description of those whom He said the Spirit would testify to. As we shall see in a few moments, the Spirit testified to a select few, who became witnesses for Christ, and wrote down the message for us.
John 16:12-13—I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 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; and He will tell you things to come.
Bear with just a few more questions.
Who was Jesus speaking to?
This is the same context as the previous texts we have looked at. We were not in Jesus’ presence hearing His teachings. It was the apostles who were not able to bear the “many things” He wanted to share with them at that time.
Do you know all the truth?
Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would guide them into all truth. Can you quote the entire Bible? Do you understand every text in the Bible? Have you ever changed your belief on a Bible topic? If you answer these questions honestly, then you will come to the conclusion that you are not being led into all truth by the Holy Spirit. That promise was made to the apostles.
If the “guide you into all truth” clause was exclusive to the apostles, then so was the “things to come” clause. There is a long list of folks in our modern day who have claimed to know details about end time events, even to the point of declaring a date for the return of Christ. One by one, they have made their claims, attributed it to God, and then failed.
Emphasis On The Written Word
There are other Holy Spirit texts that have been misused, but these will suffice for now. Let’s turn our attention to the emphasis in the Bible on the written word.
Please take the time to read 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Though Paul himself received direct revelation, he didn’t tell his readers they would receive the same or that it was even necessary for them. He exalted the written word. When we read the Bible, we are reading theospneustos—God’s breath. Further, he states we can be complete (whole, mature) and are able to do everything God expects of us based upon what is recorded in the Bible. It is our source of doctrine, it is able to bring to light our sins, and will direct us in the way we should go. He doesn’t say a thing about direct revelation, dreams or visions.
Again, Paul acknowledged to the Ephesians that he had received revelation from God, but told them “when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ” (Ephesians 3:3-4). He doesn’t say the Ephesians would receive divine revelation. In order for them to understand what Paul understood, they were given a written record. When they read it, they could understand it. The same is true for us.
Peter wanted to make sure the Christians had a continual reminder of the truth (2 Peter 1:12-15, 19-21; 3:1-2). If every Christian received direct revelation from God, it wouldn’t be necessary. The Bible makes no such promise, and so Peter emphasized the written word.
Finally, Jude spoke very plainly about revelation from God (Jude 1:3). It would not be an ongoing process, but a one-time for all time thing.