Summary: Year C. The Holy Trinity John 16: 12-15 June 10, 2001 Title: “The Spirit of Truth”

Year C.The Holy Trinity John 16: 12-15 June 10, 2001

Title: “The Spirit of Truth”

At the Last Supper during his farewell speech Jesus teaches that human beings can only absorb his revelation gradually and that the Spirit, who is identical with him as he is with his Father, guides this process.

The Johannine Jesus is the truth (14:6); the Paraclete is the Spirit of truth (14:17; 16:13). Just as Jesus received everything from the Father and while on earth is the “way” to know the Father, so when Jesus goes to the Father, he will send the Spirit who will have received everything from Jesus in order to be the “way” to know Jesus. The difference between Jesus and the Paraclete is that Jesus is the divine Word become incarnate and the Paraclete is not incarnate in one body or person but dwells in all who love Jesus by keeping his word. Like Jesus the Paraclete is in a hostile relationship with the “world” which cannot see or recognize him nor could those “of the world” truly “see” Jesus- even though they could see him on the physical level. He also, like Jesus, serves as teacher, only now he explains the implications of what Jesus said whereas Jesus revealed and explained the Father. These were the themes of chapter fourteen.. They are now revisited and even repeated in chapter sixteen. Just as in chapter fourteen here there are two Paraclete passages: the first in 16:7-11, matching 14:15-17, regarding his conflict with the world; the second in 16: 13-15, matching 14: 25-26, regarding his teaching anew what Jesus taught. But in 14: 16, 26 the Father is said to send the Paraclete; in 16:7 Jesus is said to send him. This illustrates what Jesus means by saying in 10:30 “the Father and I are one.”

In verse twelve, “Many things to say to you,” this is the second function of the Paraclete, namely, to give further instruction to the disciples. This implies that the full apprehension of the truth is a gradual process.

You cannot bear them now. The basic idea of the Greek bastazein, the verb used here, is that they cannot understand now. Only after the resurrection and giving of the Spirit will there be fuller understanding of what happened and was said during Jesus’ ministry. Bastazein also carries the meaning of “bear up under” in the sense of persevering, under persecution.

In verse thirteen, “he will guide you into all truth,” John thinks of the Spirit’s guidance in exactly the same terms as Jesus’ teaching.

He will not speak on his own: Jesus constantly claimed that he was not speaking on his own authority, but saying only what the Father had told him to say. In the same way the Paraclete, the Spirit, is no independent source or force, but the transmitter and communicator of the Father now that Jesus is no longer physically present on earth.

And he will declare to you: The word translated as “declare” is Greek anaggellein. The Greek prefix ana has the force of “re-“ in English. Greek aggellein means “to tell” or “to announce.” The compound Greek anaggellein became a technical term for preaching the Good News. Thus, the Spirit will re-announce or re-proclaim what Jesus originally announced or proclaimed.

The things that are to come. Clearly this does not mean further revelation after the ministry of Jesus, since Jesus is the revelation of the Father, the Word of God. Rather it means that the Spirit will guide Christians of later generations in interpreting the contemporary significance of what Jesus has said and done.

In verse fourteen, “he will glorify me,” the Spirit will glorify, that is, make present and felt, Jesus by making present in the disciple’s consciousness what Jesus taught and Jesus himself and by actually performing Jesus’ mission through them, the subsequent disciples, the Church. He will do this by taking “take what is mine, my historical teaching, and “declaring it to you,” re-preaching it in the present historical situation. They, in turn, are to make it known to the world.

In verse fifteen, There is complete identity between the mission of Jesus and the mission of the disciples under the Spirit’s guidance. God has revealed and expressed his entire will and plan for humanity through and in Jesus. The Spirit, like Jesus, is the emissary of the Father. Thus, what the Spirit declares as given him by Jesus is the same as what Jesus received from the Father. Thus the Spirit continues to interpret the Father throughout history as Jesus did at a certain time in history.


There are not three Gods in the one Trinity or each “person” of the Trinity is not one-third of the one God. The terms for the Trinity- Father, Son, and Spirit- are three different titles for the one God, describing a functional relationship. Just as the same person is father, husband, son, and brother, depending upon who is at the other end of these relational terms, so the same and one God is behind these three titles. Furthermore, each of these titles have sub-titles. The Father is also, in various contexts, called Creator, Sustainer, Most High, even Rock, Fortress, etc. The Son is also called Son of Man, Messiah, Redeemer, Savior, etc. The Spirit is also called the Paraclete, Spirit of Truth, even the Breath of God. So, the three terms that encompass and express the Trinity are different titles for the one God, titles, especially of address, more or less appropriate to a particular situation. Thus we use “Father” mostly when we experience and want to express God’s transcendence and our dependence or subservience. We use “Spirit” when we experience and wish to express and more fluid and less defined relationship with or experience of God. We, in fact, use many more titles for Christ- Word, Word Incarnate, Shepherd, Lamb of God, High Priest, King of Israel, Light. The list is long. Of course, these are more than honorific titles, just as father, son, uncle, brother, husband, wife, mother, sister are more than honorific. They describe functions and relationships we have with God. Moreover, “persons” in the Trinitarian formula refers not to “people-persons” but to its third century meaning of “aspect, mode, or movement.” Strictly speaking God is not a person, although Jesus is. God is more than a person, not less, not some impersonal or non-personal force.

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