The Promise of the Spirit

book-160876_1280William J. Stewart | Is That Really What It Means?

As we have stressed, it is important when we read the Bible to set things into their context. Here are a few guidelines to help us set a verse in context:

  1. Read at least 7 verses before and after, to give a 15 verse span. That is usually sufficient to set a verse in it’s literary context.
  2. Who was the original recipient of the text? Make sure our understanding or application of the verse doesn’t ignore its significance to them. Are we in a similar situation to the original recipient?
  3. What are the historical circumstances surrounding the text? Noting this will sometimes help us see the limitation or scope of a verse.

Our title speaks about the Holy Spirit, and we will get there, I promise. But first, I’ve got a question I want to ask. Have you started building your ark yet? You do know that Genesis 6:14 commands:

Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch.

In the next few verses, we are given details about the size of the ark, as well as how many decks, doors and windows to make.

I suspect all Bible students understand that the command given in Genesis 6 was intended for Noah and no one else. By applying the three principles mentioned above, we know this is not for us to obey. It is important for Bible students to realize some commands and promises are exclusive.

That brings us to the Holy Spirit. Don’t misunderstand, I am not saying that ye ol’ average Christian does not receive the Holy Spirit. The Bible certainly affirms that if we are God’s people, then we have the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:32; Romans 8:9-11; 2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Ephesians 1:13-14; etc.). However, that doesn’t mean everything that is said or promised regarding the Spirit is given to every Christian.

If we rightly divide the word, we will find that there are three different measures of the Holy Spirit. There is the indwelling of the Spirit (listed above), the baptism of the Spirit (Acts 2:4; 10:44-47) and the miraculous measure of the Spirit (Acts 8:14-19). All of God’s people have the indwelling of the Spirit. The baptism of the Spirit is exclusive, it happened just twice! And the gifts of the Spirit were given by the laying on of the apostles’ hands. Since there are no apostles remaining (and the purpose of the gifts has been fulfilled, Heb 2:1-4), the miraculous gifts have ceased (see 1 Cor 13:8-12).

In John 14-16, the Lord  promised the Holy Spirit to His disciples. Plenty of people have staked claim to these promises. Why are these folks not also building arks? They seem to know the ark command is exclusive, but fail to even consider the possibility that the promises of John 14-16 may be exclusive. Let’s consider the texts and their context.

Who were the promises made to? This was not a public discourse. Only the apostles received these promises. In fact, Judas was gone before Jesus told them about the Spirit (13:31-33).  This doesn’t necessarily  exclude us, but it is important to note.

What is promised? A special relationship with the Spirit is presented in the text. The Spirit is the parakletos,  which means Helper or Comforter. This is the only time this description is used of the Spirit. Just as their relationship to Jesus differed from the average follower (not just disciples, but apostles), so their relationship to the Spirit would be unique.  John 14-16 gives details about that relationship.

Stop for a moment and read John 14:16-17, 26; 15:26-27 & 16:7, 13.

How do we know this describes an exclusive relationship of the Spirit and the apostles? Many claim this relationship for themselves, but if we are honest with the text, we will see that it is no more about us than the command to build an ark. There are 4 things in particular Jesus said the Spirit would do for them.

Teach you all things (14:26). This is not the subjective “leading of the Spirit” some claim to have.

Jesus didn’t say he’ll give warm fuzzy feelings and confirm what is in your heart. The Spirit would be their teacher, and give them ALL THINGS. Others, like Timothy, must give attention to reading (1 Tim 4:13, 15-16).

Bring to your memory all things Jesus said(14:26). If you were not there, if you did not hear it in the first place, then you cannot remember it. They would remember ALL THINGS Jesus said.

Guide you into all truth (John 16:13). The Spirit would give the apostles perfect knowledge of God’s word. Sadly folks who claim to be led by the Spirit often disagree with one another on this or that point of doctrine. The apostles were guided into ALL TRUTH.

Tell you things to come (16:13). I’ve met some who claimed to have the gift of prophecy. In each case, I was baffled at their utter lack of knowledge and respect for what the Bible says. If someone is unable to correctly speak about God’s word (the first 3 gifts), then what should make us think they can correctly reveal the future?

The promise of the Spirit in John 14-16 is not for all, but was for the apostles alone.

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