Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Holy Spirit as Teacher of the Church

When I first began reading and studying the Bible, I noticed this Person called the Holy Spirit. Now it was not, to the best of my recollection, about Gifts of the Spirit or the Baptism in the Holy Spirit or even the fruit of the Spirit. It was about the Holy Spirit as the Teacher of the Church. This idea derives mainly from the last sermon that Jesus delivered to his disciples before the cross. In my mind, that makes it important. People who are about to die generally only say things that are very important while they still can.

Now you may not have heard this expression, "the Holy Spirit is the Teacher of the Church" before, but it's a concept that I have learned and relied upon. "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. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you." (John 16:13-14) Also, "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." (John 14:26) I expect the Holy Spirit to do just that and He has always done it.

These have been two very important scriptures in my life. I do not talk about them much and I do not even think about them all that often, but they are foundational to both my personal devotions and to my study and teaching of the Word. I rely on the Holy Spirit in everything, but especially when I am in the Word.

Of course, as I say this some may be thinking that I turn off my brain when I read the Bible. That is not exactly correct. I understand it the best I can while leaving myself open for the Spirit to show me something. Have you ever had the experience of reading along in the Bible and something just jumps out at you and speaks to you? I don't know of anyone who has not had that experience. It is the Holy Spirit interpreting and applying what He wrote through the human authors of scripture long ago. If you keep a teachable Spirit and stay in close fellowship with the Lord, there is no limit to what He can show you.

Also, He will guide us into all truth. So this is not just some sort of individualist thing or private interpretation. The Holy Spirit has showed a few things to others as well. So we need to be a little humble and allow our "revelation", if that what it is, to be compared to what others say as well. I do not like to teach something that I have never heard another teach because we can all be mistaken. Let me give this warning: if you are the only one who truly hears from the Spirit, the spirit you are listening to is not holy.

Reasons to listen to the Holy Spirit: The main reason to listen to the Holy Spirit is that your little brain cannot figure out the Bible all by itself. Sorry, but none of us is that smart. I have heard too many Christians say that we should listen to the best scholars and use reason alone to figure out the Bible. (The "best" scholars are always the ones who agree with them.) Scholars have their place, but I think that we have given them too high a place in the church sometimes. We need people with great learning and ability, but many times those of great intellect tend to rely too much on their intellect and can fail to listen to the Spirit.

Another reason to listen to the Holy Spirit is that we view the scripture in light of our own thinking and experience. We are, frankly, biased. I remember interacting on the internet with some postmodernists. Postmodernists are people who do not believe that we can know truth objectively since we are bound by our own culture. There is not objective truth but only subjective truth. What may be true for you may not be true for me. They concluded that the Bible then could not be absolute truth. In fact, even if it were absolute truth, we could not truly understand it. I told that that was why we need the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit lifted those who wrote the scriptures above themselves, so to speak, to write the truth in the language and expression of their own culture. We also need the Holy Spirit to interpret the Bible so that we do not end up simply with our cultural or religious understanding.

I know what some will say (because I have heard them say it). What about when people run around proclaiming some so-called Spirit-inspired revelation that is contrary to the written Word of God? This is a good question, but like many good questions it has a good answer. We need to "test all things; hold fast that which is good". That, of course, is the apostle Paul who was admonishing the Thessalonian church to not despise prophecy. (The revelation or illumination of the Word by the Spirit is not precisely prophecy, but it is similar enough that we can apply the same principle.) Why was prophecy despised? Simple. There were people who thought they had a prophecy and were delivering to the church or to individual members and they were mistaken. It was not the Holy Spirit. However, notice Paul's response. He does not rebuke those who prophesied mistakenly, but rather chides those who now were turning against a gift of the Spirit because some got carried away. Paul gives a simple solution: test everything and keep what is good. In other words, if some prophecy or revelation does not line up with what we know about the Word, then don't accept it. If you are not sure about it, then you can set it aside until you are able to judge it. Notice 1 Corinthians 14:29 - "Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge."

With all this said, I want to encourage you to rely on the Holy Spirit. You may be surprised of the understanding you receive. You can also pray for this as well. There is a prayer in the scripture for this very thing. "Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come." (Ephesians 1:15-21) A Bible teacher who I respect very highly said that he prayed this prayer over and over for months until the Holy Spirit began to teach him, and correct him, in a way that transformed both his life and his ministry. Perhaps you might give it a try.


  1. I have been thinking about this topic recently. We tend to treat the Holy Spirit as an "it"instead of our teacher and Paraclete. He prays when we do not know how to. Many times I cannot pray effectively for someone because while I may know a general need, I do not know the specifics, but th Spirit does and can pray effectively for that person. And I think we would be more united in doctrine if we depended as you show, on the Spirit and not on men.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I once went to a conference that had a seminar about the Holy Spirit and the "importance of It in our lives." I skipped that one.