SPIRITUAL - PART 7
Sunday, June 16, 2019
“I have much more to say to you, but you can’t handle it now. However, when the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you in all truth. He won’t speak on his own, but will say whatever he hears and will proclaim to you what is to come.
The Spirit may guide us in all truth, but that does not mean we have “all of the truth” about everything.
Sometimes truth may take generations to uncover or discern. How many centuries did astronomers study the skies before they realized the truth that the earth was round and revolved around the sun? Even when Copernicus first released this fundamental scientific truth, the church rallied against him declaring the scriptures such as Psalm 93 which declares that “God has fixed the earth as immovable and firm.” So was Copernicus listening to the Spirit of Truth or was the Church? It took generations to accept, but eventually the Church came to accept that they were wrong. This does not mean that nobody in the church was trying to listen to the voice of the Spirit, or that the Spirit was even directly involved in the natural discovery of scientific realities.
Throughout history, Christians across the globe have disagreed on countless “truth claims”. Early Christians argued over the divine nature of Christ and the Holy Spirit. Were they eternally begotten, co-equal with God, or where they created by God? Was Jesus fully Divine or fully human? Could he be both?
Century after century, groups of Christians separate over any number of “truth claims” ranging from the authority of the Pope to the method and meaning of Baptism. The Methodist Episcopal Church South and other Christians in the 1800’s stood firm on their “truth” that even slavery was an institution ordained and approved by God. Christians fought on both sides of the Civil War, the Civil Rights Movement, and virtually every other social and political conflict throughout history. Churches still split over almost anything and both sides of every split claim that their side stands on the “Absolute Truth” of Scripture.
Rev. James Howell notes that this “spirit of truth” is perilous, as too many Christians treat “truth” as some sledgehammer to judge or belittle others. St. Ephrem the Syrian (4th century) writes, “Truth and love are wings that cannot be separated, for Truth without Love is unable to fly, so too Love without Truth is unable to soar up; their yoke is one of harmony.” Denominations are lousy about truth; both “sides” blithely presume to have cornered it.
Good Bible believing Christians hold opposing views on countless political, ethical and even moral issues. Some may indeed be misinterpreting scripture. Some may be intentionally twisting scripture to fit their own agenda. But not all. Many people are sincerely trying to align themselves with God’s truth to the best of their ability and yet still come out on different sides of the aisle.
In Acts 15, we read the story of a conflict between Paul and Barnabas which ends in each of them parting ways. Who was right? Which one of them listened to the truth of the Spirit? Scripture doesn’t say, and perhaps it does not matter. In the end, the Spirit guided both of them in successful missionary journeys. Neither one was outcast by the church or by God and yet clearly they could not both have been “right”.
So where is this “Spirit of Truth”?
Why don’t we all hear the same truth when this Spirit speaks?
Perhaps we do. At least on the things that matter most. Holy Spirit reveals to us the nature of God. Holy Spirit teaches us the way of salvation. Holy Spirit convicts us of the truth of sin in our lives and leads us in the way of repentance. Holy Spirit resonates with our spirits to assure us that we are beloved children of the Most High.
Jesus told his disciples there were many things they were not ready to hear. In truth, there are still many things we are not ready to hear. There are many things good Christians have thought were true that are not so black and white. Just like Jesus, Holy Spirit knows the places in our lives where we are ready to see a bit more gray, to hear a more nuanced approach that isn’t always either/or, in/out, right/wrong. But Holy Spirit also knows the places in our lives we need a bit more certainty and assurance and the Spirit teaches us all that is spoken clearly by the Father and the Son. Holy Spirit is the Wisdom of God personified. Wisdom doesn’t simply teach us right and wrong. Wisdom also guides us in how to appropriately apply the truths we have learned.
We may know the truth, for example, that a tomato is a fruit, but wisdom reminds us not to put one in a fruit salad or smoothie.
Likewise, Holy Spirit guides us in all truth, but she also grants us the wisdom not to use that truth as a weapon against our brothers and sisters. She grants us the wisdom to be patient with one another, bearing all things in love rather than quarreling with those who hold to a different truth. She even gives us a discerning ear and heart to learn from one another, perhaps even to be corrected in our own misunderstandings of what we thought was true. She gives us humility to admit when we are wrong and the humility to reign in our arrogance and pride in being right.
First and foremost, Jesus says that Holy Spirit will remind them of everything he taught them. This third person of the Trinity, fully divine as Christ and the Father are Divine, will consistently point believers to the Father. The disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father”. Perhaps our primary question pray should not be, “Spirit show me the truth so I can be right,” but instead simply pray, “Holy Spirit, show us the Father.”