Ellet J. Waggoner
The Present Truth : August 14, 1890
When Christ told His disciples that He was about to go away, and that they could not follow Him, their hearts were filled with sorrow and anxiety. They dreaded to face an unfriendly world alone. He had been their guide and instructor, and they had learned much from His teachings. They knew of no one who could fill His place. Peter had echoed the sentiments of all the disciples when, in answer to Christ’s inquiry if they also would go away, he said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.” They knew that no one else could do for them what Jesus had done; and the thought of being separated from Him was a sad one.
To comfort them, Christ gave them the assurance that He would come again and receive them unto Himself, and that by this means they could again be with Him. But even this promise was not sufficient, for there would still intervene a long period during which they would be left alone. How could they do without the presence and counsel of their Lord?
Again Jesus meets the difficulty by promising that whatsoever they should ask in His name should be done for them; and He added, “And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth.” John 14:16, 17. This Spirit was to be sent in His name, and was to take His place until His return. Said Christ, “I will not leave you comfortless [orphans]; I will come to you.” This coming does not refer to His personal, visible coming, when He will receive His people to Himself, but to the Spirit who should come in His name. The Spirit was to be their guide, to prepare them for His coming at the last day.
The offices of the Spirit are many; but there is a special one pointed out in this discourse of our Lord. Said He: “These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” John 14:25, 26. It is as a teacher that the Spirit is here brought to view.
Many persons entertain very erroneous views as to the manner in which the Spirit operates. They imagine that it will teach them something which the Bible does not contain. When certain Bible truths are presented to them for their observance, they excuse themselves from all responsibility in the matter by saying that they are led by the Spirit of God, and do not feel it their duty to do that particular thing. They say the Spirit was given to guide into all truth; and, consequently, if it was necessary to obey that portion of the Scripture, it would have been brought to their notice. The fact that they do not feel impressed to obey is proof to their minds that there is no necessity for obedience. To such persons the Bible is of no account; they make its truth depend entirely upon their own feelings. And they actually charge God with the inconsistency of authorizing his Spirit to speak in contradiction of his revealed word. The fact that God cannot lie should convince anyone that his Spirit and his word must always be in harmony.
Christ prayed for his disciples, “Sanctify them through Thy truth; Thy word is truth.” The psalmist David said, “Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Thy law is the truth.” From these passages we learn that when Christ said, “When He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth,” He meant that the Spirit would lead them into a proper understanding of that which had already been revealed. He plainly stated this when he said, “He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” Many things that Christ said were not understood at the time; but they were made plain by the Spirit, after Christ had ascended to heaven. And it is thus that the Spirit teaches us now; it leads those who are humble and teachable into a proper understanding of the written word of God.
Paul gives testimony on this point which is not uncertain. In Ephesians 6:13-17, he describes the Christian’s armor. The following is the concluding portion: “Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Christ said that when the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, should come, He would “reprove [convince] the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” Paul says that “by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Both these passages are harmonized by the one quoted from Paul to the Ephesians. The Spirit does indeed convince of sin, but it is by impressing on the minds and hearts of men the claims of God’s word. The Bible is the sword, the instrument by which the Spirit pierces the heart and lays bare its wickedness. The Spirit is the active agent, but the word of God is that through which it works. The two always act in unison.
We should look with suspicion upon any ‘spirit’ that counsel’s opposition to the word of God. John tells us that there are many spirits, and that we are to try them. In Isaiah we are told by what we are to try them: “To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Isaiah 8:20. It is the spirit of darkness that leads men to act contrary to the word of God.