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Gems in the Gospel of John



Part 63 – John 14:26b

Authority?



Authority is a dirty word in modern Western culture. Philosophers and other opinion formers seem to have convinced people that anybody claiming any sort of authority over them is only in it for their own good and are trying to establish an undesirable level of control over them and anybody else who falls within their grasp. Perhaps. But then those parts of the world which try to reject that sort of thinking are almost invariably corrupt and corruption stems from a rejection of lawful authority. So we have to conclude that mankind always needs authority, in the form of laws and lawful government, and always wants to reject it.

The disciples, and particularly the apostles had lived with matchless authority as they had walked and lived with Jesus as their Master and Teacher. We too, if we have set out to follow Jesus have accepted that his teaching will be the prime authority over us. The big question before those original disciples and now before us is: what did Jesus say about continuing authority after he left this earth? The answer is clear: the Holy Spirit would replace him. What is a great deal less clear is how that authority, coming from an invisible source, is to be conveyed to the people of God.

He said: “the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” And, in the chapter 16, “when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.” Fine – but how were they to hear what he said?

Similarly we read about ‘walking in step with the Spirit’ but have the same problem. How do we walk in step with someone who is invisible?

Most of the answer is in this wonderful book – the Bible. John started his gospel by saying that Jesus is the Word. Teaching, in the sense in which Jesus taught, is always about words. It is not about drawing pretty pictures, or making things as primary school children will do. It is not about excitement or floods of emotion, as many people seem to think these days. It is not, dare I add, about the things we see and hear on our electronic devices these days. Knowing what we should do as Christian believers is about words, which is tough for those who cannot read and can only listen to those who can. I was amazed and shocked in Pakistan that when I asked a village pastor whether they taught their illiterate people to learn scripture by heart the answer was that they didn’t. They certainly should have done.

The function of the Spirit is to teach the things that Jesus had taught. But Jesus said more than that – he added an AND. He also said that “ and he, the Holy Spirit, will remind you of everything that I have said to you”. What he most probably meant is that we have to not only learn the things that he taught but interpret them, and apply, them to our very different cultures.

That is easy for me to write down and say but very difficult to put into practice. In our church we sing next to nothing but the latest songs and use a 5 year old translation of the Bible. A church 2 miles away boast that they only sing the Psalms, at least 1500 years old, and use a translation of the Bible made 400 years ago. Who is right? We fit into the modern culture; they stick to old, tried and well validated ways. Are we both right? There is material for a good argument there!

We do not read that Jesus taught people to speak in tongues or fall over when he spoke to them or many of the other things that have come into the modern church. Therefore those who teach such things may not be teaching from the Holy Spirit of God. Since it is clear from the epistles that such things were done in the early church and are now enshrined in our reliable scriptures they are not totally forbidden, but the main emphasis of our practice in the church should always be on the basic teachings of Jesus, our one and only Lord, Master and Teacher.

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