The Truth That Sets Us Free | Part 5
Being Led to Truth
The previous articles in this symposium explained that Jesus is the truth, that we must disown ourselves, that we must primarily know the life and ministry of Jesus, and that we must imitate Jesus’ spiritual life. Yet after getting this far, we have only just begun the race for life. There is so much more to know and do. This is where the Spirit of Truth comes in. During the first Memorial Supper, Jesus told his apostles:
“I have many things yet to say to you, but you are not able to bear them at present. However, when that one arrives, the spirit of the truth, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak of his own impulse, but what things he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things coming. That one will glorify me, because he will receive from what is mine and will declare it to you.”
– John 16:12-14
On this night at the end of his ministry, Jesus had taught his disciples all they were able to assimilate at that time. But there was much more he wanted to tell them that had to be deferred until he poured out the Spirit of Truth who would ‘guide them into all truth.’ This occurred on Pentecost 33 C.E., approximately 50 days after Jesus said the above words.
On the day of Pentecost, the apostles and other men and women disciples, totaling 120 people, were not at the temple celebrating. They were gathered together in an upper room praying. (Acts 1:12-15) They recalled that Jesus had told them before ascending to heaven:
“You will receive power when the holy spirit arrives upon you, and you will be witnesses of me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the most distant part of the earth.”
– Acts 1:8
And as Jesus said, when the spirit was poured out upon them, they were empowered and had an unusually strong desire to bear witness to Jesus and the hope he brought for all men:
“Now while the day of the [festival of] Pentecost was in progress they were all together at the same place, and suddenly there occurred from heaven a noise just like that of a rushing stiff breeze, and it filled the whole house in which they were sitting. And tongues as if of fire became visible to them and were distributed about, and one sat upon each one of them, and they all became filled with holy spirit and started to speak with different tongues, just as the spirit was granting them to make utterance. . . . this is what was said through the prophet Joel, ‘And in the last days,’ God says, ‘I shall pour out some of my spirit upon every sort of flesh, and your sons and your daughters will prophesy and your young men will see visions and your old men will dream dreams; and even upon my men slaves and upon my women slaves I will pour out some of my spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.”
– Acts 2:1-4, 16-18
Though the spirit initially only affected the 120, as others became familiar with the life of Jesus through Peter’s eloquent and bold speech (Acts 2:14-36), they, too, experienced the pouring out of the spirit upon them, including their children and future generations:
“Now when they heard this they were stabbed to the heart, and they said to Peter and the rest of the apostles: ‘Men, brothers, what shall we do?’ Peter [said] to them: ‘Repent, and let each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the free gift of the holy spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children and to all those afar off, just as many as Jehovah our God may call to him.’”
– Acts 2:37-42
Today, we have much more than the words of Peter. We have the gospel accounts, and the apostles’ letters – the ‘meat and potatoes’ of the Bible. And as we come to know the true authentic Jesus, we too can be filled with the Spirit of Truth, poured out once for all time, and be progressively led into all truth.
How the Spirit Leads Us
Once we have emptied ourselves and taken in the plain and open teachings of Jesus, then the Spirit of Truth fills the void that used to be occupied by the mundane ideas and dead theories of men. And when we are free from man’s leading, the spirit can lead us.
The Spirit of Truth takes us from learning facts to understanding them (information), from understanding facts to wise application of them (wisdom), and from the wise application of facts to living the truth (knowing by personal experience). This is how our ‘perceptive powers are trained to distinguish both right and wrong.’ (Hebrews 5:14) This is how the word of God remains active in our lives and why Paul could say:
“For the word of God is alive and exerts power and is sharper than any two-edged sword and pierces even to the dividing of soul and spirit, and of joints and [their] marrow, and [is] able to discern thoughts and intentions of [the] heart.”
– Hebrews 4:12
The spirit does not necessary reveal new facts; more often it imparts new meanings to the facts already known. We have been studying the Bible practically all our lives, yet the same scriptures that we have read thousands of times have taken on new meaning. It is as if new verses have been added to the Bible because somehow we never saw them or understood them before. Now, when we read the Bible, we see a whole new picture which has given us a whole new look at life and death, and the afterlife. It is like the Bible is a new, undiscovered book. That new discovery is the Spirit of Truth at work.
We often get emails from our brothers who write: “How did I miss that? This is so clear. I’ve been studying the Bible for 30 years and never saw this!” Perhaps you have had a similar experience. Some scriptures seem to have appeared out of nowhere. Like this one that tells us if we are not pursuing the upward call, our mental attitude is off:
“I am pursuing down toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God by means of Christ Jesus. Let us, then, as many of us as are mature, be of this mental attitude; and if you are mentally inclined otherwise in any respect, God will reveal the above [attitude] to you.”
– Philippians 3:14-15
And this one that tell us not to focus on earthly things:
“If, however, you were raised up with the Christ, go on seeking the things above, where the Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Keep your minds fixed on the things above not on the things upon the earth.”
– Colossians 3:1-2
Another example is that every time we read Revelation 7:4, 14:1-3, and 5:8-10, we thought it meant the 144,000 were to be kings and priests. For years, we held that view, and even convinced others that was what it said. But now when we look at it, it doesn’t say that at all! This led us to write the article The Great Crowd of Partakers.
We also believed that those before Christ did not have the heavenly hope, until we read these scriptures which lead to write the article Faith Sons and the Heavenly Hope.
“But I tell you that many from eastern parts and western parts will come and recline at the table with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of the heavens.”
– Matthew 8:11
“In faith all these died, although they did not get the [fulfillment of the] promises, but they saw them afar off and welcomed them and publicly declared that they were strangers and temporary residents in the land. For those who say such things give evidence that they are earnestly seeking a place of their own. And yet, if they had indeed kept remembering that [place] from which they had gone forth, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they are reaching out for a better [place], that is, one belonging to heaven. Hence God is not ashamed of them, to be called upon as their God, for he has made a city ready for them.”
– Hebrews 11:13-16
We held the view that the heavenly hope of sonship with God was a contingency plan to offset the sin of Adam and Eve. Then we read this scripture which led us to write the article Foreordained from the Founding of the World.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for he has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in union with Christ, just as he chose us in union with him before the founding of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before him in love. For he foreordained us to the adoption through Jesus Christ as sons to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.”
– Ephesians 1:3-5
It caused us to look again at the Genesis account of Adam and Eve which led us to write Why Does God Permit Evil and Suffering?
Another “ah-ha” (or "Abba") moment was when reading these scriptures which led to write the article Everlasting Life Now!:
“And this is the witness given, that God gave us everlasting life, and this life is in his Son. He that has the Son has this life; he that does not have the Son of God does not have this life. I write you these things that you may know that you have life everlasting, you who put your faith in the name of the Son of God.”
– 1 John 5:11-13
“Most truly I say to you, He that believes has everlasting life.”
– John 6:47
“This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.”
– John 17:3
“Most truly I say to you, He that hears my word and believes him that sent me has everlasting life, and he does not come into judgment but has passed over from death to life.”
– John 5:24
We could go on! The point is that the Bible has become a playground of discovery for us. It seems every week, we see something new – a new meaning or different application. All of that is the Spirit of Truth at work!
And we acknowledge that our experiences of spiritual enlightenment were achieved by some long before they became evident to us, but before they became evident to others. This fact should cause all of us to refrain from judging others. While some may not understand or see clearly at this time, they may very well understand in the future – possibly the near future – depending on their own individual love for truth and their individual capacity to comprehend spiritual things.
This was evident in the first century with the Apostle Paul. He was given enlightenment which enlarged his spiritual vision more than even that of the 12 apostles. We recall his profound and unusual experience on the road to Damascus. (Acts 9:3-9) It appears that this experience was more than meets the eye when we read Paul’s later writing:
“I know a man in union with Christ who, fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know; God knows—was caught away as such to the third heaven. Yes, I know such a man—whether in the body or apart from the body, I do not know, God knows— that he was caught away into paradise and heard unutterable words which it is not lawful for a man to speak.”
– 2 Corinthians 12:2-4
This experience no doubt gave Paul his tremendous insight into spiritual matters. His writings are unlike any of those written by the 12. His writings, while in harmony with what Jesus taught, evidence a deeper understanding of those matters. And we recall that he was not in the upper room at Pentecost! Clearly, the Spirit of Truth continued to operate over 14 years later, leading Paul “into all truth.”
Yes, the Spirit of Truth was poured out ‘upon all flesh’ everywhere and continues throughout time, including our time. It is here, now, around all of us waiting for an opportunity to assist and enlighten us individually. That is how it works. In a group, we can learn facts, but we can only know truth through personal experience in company with the spirit. That is the meaning of John’s words:
“And as for you, the anointing that you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to be teaching you; but, as the anointing from him is teaching you about all things, and is true and is no lie, and just as it has taught you, remain in union with him.”
– 1 John 2:27
For too long, man has seen the Christ through the eyes of other men. The Spirit of Truth enables us to see Christ though Christ’s own eyes:
“However, when that one arrives, the spirit of the truth, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak of his own impulse, but what things he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things coming. That one will glorify me, because he will receive from what is mine and will declare it to you.”
– John 16:13-14
The individual nature of the operation of spirit is troublesome to those who seek to corral and control the Father’s children, and those whose motive is to impress others with their vast knowledge. They see the idea of spiritual independence as an earmark of false religion. But spiritual independence is the goal – independence from the stewardship of men, that is.
“Now I say that as long as the heir is a babe he does not differ at all from a slave, lord of all things though he is, but he is under men in charge and under stewards until the day his father appointed beforehand. . . . Now because you are sons, God has sent forth the spirit of his Son into our hearts and it cries out: “Abba, Father!” So, then, you are no longer a slave but a son; and if a son, also an heir through God.”
– Galatians 4:1-2,6
“Now Jehovah is the Spirit; and where the spirit of Jehovah is, there is freedom.”
– 2 Corinthians 3:17
The idea that we must all be taught the same thing at the same time is what stifles spiritual freedom. When we are forced to say “This is what we believe” or “This is our current understanding,” right then and there our freedom is forsaken and we become slaves of the group. This is the problem with organized religion, it robs us of the freedom to grow and expand by means of the Spirit of Truth and, consequently we become stagnant – spiritually dead. When learning and growing in our faith ceases, and is not stimulated by constant exercise, we lose our strength and we forfeit the power of the Spirit of Truth, therefore silencing the Father’s will for us.
How much better to have an interchange of encouragement where we stimulate each other to take full advantage of the operation of the Spirit of Truth, to strive for the crown of life and to pursue the ultimate mandate to ‘be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.’ (Matthew 5:48) All of these things we do at our own pace. Done this way, we are enabled and empowered to stand with conviction because we are personally living all of the truth we know.
Man’s failure to understand and work with the Spirit of Truth is the reason Christianity is still stuck in the first century. We know that we cannot have the mind of God, but we can have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16) Yet, Christianity, as a whole, actually punishes those who dare to use that mind! But by means of the Spirit of Truth, we gain ‘the wisdom from above’ (James 3:17) and pass down our enhanced meanings and values of spiritual things to future generations so they can continue to grow in the Christ. This is one way the enemies of Christ are subdued. (Psalms 110:2)
Yes, the ‘new wine’ of Jesus continues to be poured out by means of the Spirit of Truth. And if we carry with us the ‘new wineskins’ of the mind of Christ, we can catch and carry some of it! When we do, then we experience the freedom that comes from knowing truth.
In our final article in this symposium, Being Free, we will discuss ways that we can exhibit and exercise our Christian freedom.