Why Is the Holy Spirit Called the Spirit of Truth?
- Jessica Udall Contributing Writer
- Updated Jun 28, 2021
"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
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.
What Is the Spirit of Truth - Meaning, and How it Relates to the Holy Spirit
Jesus speaks about the Spirit of Truth soon after the last supper he ate with his disciples (John 13), where loving service had been the theme of his actions and teachings. He has told the disciples some troubling things, including the fact that one of them will betray him and that Peter will deny him three times. But he encourages them: “‘Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me….I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:1,6).
Philip misses the point of Jesus’ encouragement and says: “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us” (John 14:8), and it gives Jesus the opportunity to emphasize the fellowship and unity of the Trinity, saying: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (John 14:9,11). But Jesus doesn’t stop there. He also includes the Holy Spirit in the discussion: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17).
The disciples must have been feeling rather bereft and lost contemplating their lives without Jesus in the flesh by their side. How could anything possibly be better than what they had experienced, walking and talking with Jesus day by day? Yet Jesus seems very sure that the coming Holy Spirit will be even better than anything the disciples could yet imagine. Jesus comforts the disciples: “‘I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18). This verse as well as the following statement that “in that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you” shows the intricate relationship of the members of the Trinity.
Yes, Jesus is leaving them in a bodily sense, but he is not truly leaving them. In verses 16 and 17 mentioned above as well as in verse 26 all three members are mentioned: “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name...will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” In the next chapter, Jesus teaches about abiding in Him, which carries the meaning of being continually held and kept in him, not departing but remaining present with him (source: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G3306&t=ESV). “But how is this abiding possible?” the disciples must have wondered because Jesus again begins to comfort them with the assurance of the impending arrival of the indwelling Holy Spirit: “when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me” (15:26).
Jesus continues leading the disciples through their grieving process as the transition between his earthly ministry and the coming of the Spirit is set in motion. He empathizes with them: “Because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:6-8). Finally, a few verses later, he says the following: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” John 16:13).
Why Does Jesus Give Name of Spirit of Truth to the Holy Spirit?
The Holy Spirit is called “The Spirit of Truth” because our connection with him is what enables us to obey the command of 1 Timothy 2:15: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” The disciples of Jesus both then and now are not expected to figure everything out on their own. Instead, they will be guided by the Helper. We will experience his guidance minute-by-minute as he applies God’s Word to our hearts and lives.
The Holy Spirit is described using many names in the Bible. Besides being referred to as the Spirit of Truth, he is also called:
2. The Spirit of life
“For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2).
3. The Spirit of wisdom and revelation
“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him” (Ephesians 1:16-17).
4. The Spirit of grace
“How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?” (Hebrews 10:29)
5. The Spirit of glory
“If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1Peter 4:14).
What Does This Teach Us about Truth?
Believers are not on their own as they search for truth. Rather, they will be “guided into all truth” by the Spirit of God. And this is a wonderful comfort as we walk through the world, knowing that Jesus says: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32) and prays for those who follow Him: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). Through his power, “speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Ephesians 4:15).
The Holy Spirit is called many things in the Bible, but his identity as the Spirit of truth is highlighted in the book of John. We can thank God that we will be guided into truth as we learn to “keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16-26). And we pray: “Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long” (Psalm 25:5).
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/shunli zhao
Jessica Udall holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Bible and a Master of Arts degree in Intercultural Studies. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Intercultural Studies and writes on the Christian life and intercultural communication at lovingthestrangerblog.com.
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