Blaise Pascal said: “Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so established, that, unless we love the truth, we cannot know it.” It can feel like the truth is impossible to access since we only have our limited experiences and there are so many conflicting ideas in the world. Yet we are not alone in our search for truth. The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of Truth, and one of his roles is to guide believers into all truth.
After Jesus announced to His disciples that He would be leaving them soon, He gave them a statement of great encouragement: “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of Truth” (John 14:16–17).
The Greek word translated “Comforter” or “Counselor” (as found in John 14:16, 26; 15:26; and 16:7) is parakletos. This form of the word is unquestionably passive and properly means “one called to the side of another”; the word carries a secondary notion concerning the purpose of the calling alongside: to counsel or support the one who needs it. This Counselor, or Paraclete, is God the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity who has been “called to our side.” He is a personal being, and He indwells every believer.
During His earthly ministry, Jesus had guided, guarded, and taught His disciples; but now, in John 14—16, He is preparing to leave them. He promises that the Spirit of God would come to the disciples and dwell in them, taking the place of their Master’s physical presence. Jesus called the Spirit “another Comforter”—another of the same kind. The Spirit of God is not different from the Son of God in essence, for both are God.
During the Old Testament age, the Spirit of God would come on people and then leave them. God’s Spirit departed from King Saul (1 Samuel 16:14; 18:12). David, when confessing his sin, asked that the Spirit not be taken from him (Psalm 51:11). But when the Spirit was given at Pentecost, He came to God’s people to remain with them forever. We may grieve the Holy Spirit, but He will not leave us. As Jesus said in Matthew 28:20, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” How is He with us when He is in heaven, seated at the right hand of the Father? He is with us by His Spirit (the Helper—the Parakletos).
To have the Holy Spirit as our Paraclete is to have God Himself indwelling us as believers.
The Spirit teaches us the Word and guides us into truth.
He reminds us of what Jesus has taught so that we can depend on His Word in the difficult times of life. The Spirit works in us to give us His peace (John 14:27), His love (John 15:9–10), and His joy (John 15:11). He comforts our hearts and minds in a troubled world. The power of the indwelling Paraclete gives us the ability to live by the Spirit and “not gratify the desires of the sinful flesh” (Galatians 5:16). The Spirit can then produce His fruit in our lives (Galatians 5:22–23) to the glory of God the Father. What a blessing to have the Holy Spirit in our lives as our Paraclete—our Comforter, our Encourager, our Counselor, and our Advocate!
An important verse in understanding the filling of the Holy Spirit is John 14:16, where Jesus promised the Spirit would indwell believers and that the indwelling would be permanent. It is important to distinguish the indwelling from the filling of the Spirit. The permanent indwelling of the Spirit is not for a select few believers, but for all believers. There are a number of references in Scripture that support this conclusion. First, the Holy Spirit is a gift given to all believers in Jesus without exception, and no conditions are placed upon this gift except faith in Christ (John 7:37-39). Second, the Holy Spirit is given at the moment of salvation (Ephesians 1:13). Galatians 3:2 emphasizes this same truth, saying that the sealing and indwelling of the Spirit took place at the time of believing. Third, the Holy Spirit indwells believers permanently. The Holy Spirit is given to believers as a down payment, or verification of their future glorification in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 4:30).
This is in contrast to the filling of the Spirit referred to in Ephesians 5:18. We should be so completely yielded to the Holy Spirit that He can possess us fully and, in that sense, fill us. Romans 8:9 and Ephesians 1:13-14 states that He dwells within every believer, but He can be grieved (Ephesians 4:30), and His activity within us can be quenched (1 Thessalonians 5:19). When we allow this to happen, we do not experience the fullness of the Spirit’s working and His power in and through us. To be filled with the Spirit implies freedom for Him to occupy every part of our lives, guiding and controlling us. Then His power can be exerted through us so that what we do is fruitful to God. The filling of the Spirit does not apply to outward acts alone; it also applies to the innermost thoughts and motives of our actions. Psalm 19:14 says, "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer."
Sin is what hinders the filling of the Holy Spirit, and obedience to God is how the filling of the Spirit is maintained. Ephesians 5:18commands that we be filled with the Spirit; however, it is not praying for the filling of the Holy Spirit that accomplishes the filling. Only our obedience to God’s commands allows the Spirit freedom to work within us. Because we are still infected with sin, it is impossible to be filled with the Spirit all of the time. When we sin, we should immediately confess it to God and renew our commitment to being Spirit-filled and Spirit-led.
In Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer, Jesus prays to His Father, saying, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). In this verse, Jesus communicates two important facts: God’s Word is truth—God’s Word equals truth—and it’s by that truth that God sanctifies us, or sets us apart for holy service to Himself.
In the same prayer, Jesus prays for His disciples and all who will believe in Him through the gospel (John 17:20). Believers accept God’s words (John 17:6) and accept Jesus as God’s Word (John 17:8). God is truth, and His truth brings salvation to all who accept it (Titus 2:11). Further, God’s written and living Word will sustain believers as they are in the world (John 17:14).
In the High Priestly Prayer in John 17, Jesus confirms that He brought the message of salvation to the world: “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3). Jesus’ mission of bringing the truth has been accomplished (John 17:4), and He turns the focus of His prayer to God working through the disciples and other believers. He confirms that believers will be rejected by the world for believing “Your word is truth,” but believers are also assured joy, God’s protection from the evil one, and sanctification by God’s Word (John 17:13–19).
The Old and New Testaments both affirm that the words recorded in the Bible are God’s words and that they are true. Since God cannot lie, His Word is truth: “As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless” (Psalm 18:30). Since God is eternal and unchanging, His Word is always the same: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matthew 24:35; cf. Isaiah 40:8). Jesus uses the Word as He rebukes the devil who was tempting Him: “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4; cf. Deuteronomy 8:3).
If we want to know truth, we will look in God’s written Word (2 Timothy 3:16–17) and look to Jesus Christ (John 14:6; 2 Corinthians 4:6; Hebrews 1:3). John refers to Jesus Christ in John 1:1–2, saying, “In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” The Word is God’s total message, and Jesus embodied that full message, which is why He is called the “Logos,” or “Word,” of God (Colossians 1:19; 2:9). God is truth. His Word is truth. Salvation comes by accepting Jesus and agreeing that “Your word is truth.”
Jesus said, “Your word is truth.” When we look at the Bible, we see truth. The Bible does not merely contain the truth; it is the truth. Every word is truth, in every part of the Bible. “The words of the LORD are flawless, like silver purified in a crucible, like gold refined seven times” (Psalm 12:6). This is the doctrine of the verbal, plenary inspiration of Scripture.
How we respond to God’s written Word and the Word made flesh has an eternal impact on us. Since God’s Word is truth, rejecting the Bible and rejecting Jesus is rejecting God Himself. Believing, cherishing, studying, and obeying God’s Word is the key to salvation, understanding God, and living abundantly (John 10:10). No matter what we may face in this world, we are sustained by the truth prayed over us in Jesus’ prayer: “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17).
"But 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." - John 16:13