The Guide into All Truth
John 16:12-15
I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.…

This is our Lord's last expansion of the great promise of the Comforter. First, He was spoken of simply as dwelling in Christ's servants. Then, His aid was promised, to remind the apostles of the facts of Christ's life, especially of His words; and so the inspiration and authority of the four Gospels were certified for us. Then He was further promised as the witness in the disciples to Jesus Christ. In the preceding context we have His office of convicting the world. And now we come to that gracious work which He is to do for all those who trust themselves to His guidance. We have here —


1. Earlier we have our Lord asserting that all things whatsoever He had heard of the Father He had made known unto His servants. Is it possible to make these two representations agree? Yes! There is a difference between the germ and the flower; between principles and complete development. All Euclid is in the axioms and definitions, yet when you have learned them there are many things yet to be said, of which you have not grown to the apprehension. And so our Lord, as far as confidence and fundamental and seminal principles were concerned, had declared all that He had heard. But yet, in so far as the unfolding of these was concerned, the tracing of their consequences, the exhibition of their harmonies, the weaving of them into an ordered whole in which a man's understanding could lodge, there were many things which they were not able to bear. And so our Lord declares that His spoken words on earth are not the completed revelation.

2. We cannot but contrast the desultory, brief, obscure references which came from the Master's lips with the more systematized and full teaching which came from the servants, especially in reference to the atoning character of His sufferings.

3. What then? My text gives us the reason. "You cannot bear them now," not in the sense of endure, tolerate, or suffer, but in the sense of carry. And the metaphor is that of some weight — it may be gold, but still it is a weight — laid upon a man whose muscles are not strong enough to sustain it. It crushes rather than gladdens. So our Lord was lovingly reticent. There is a great principle involved here. A wise physician does not flood that diseased eye with full sunshine, but puts on bandages, and closes the shutters, and lets a stray beam, ever growing as the cure is perfected, fall upon it.

(1) So from the beginning until the end of the process of revelation there was a correspondence between man's capacity to receive the light, and the light that was granted; and the faithful use of the less made them capable of receiving the greater. "To him that hath shall be given."(2) Now that same principle is true about us. How many things there are which we sometimes feel we should like to know, but compassed with these veils of flesh and weakness we have not yet eyes able to behold the ineffable glory. Let us wait with patience until we are ready for the illumination.

4. People tell us, "Your modern theology is not in the Gospels. We stick by Jesus, not Paul." What then? Why this, it is exactly what we were to expect; and people who reject the apostolic form of Christian teaching because it is not found in the Gospels are going clean contrary to Christ's own words.


1. Note the personality, designation, and office of this new Teacher. "He," not it, He, is the Spirit of Truth. "He will guide you" — suggesting a loving hand put out to lead — "into all truth." That is no promise of omniscience, but the assurance of gradual and growing acquaintance with the truth which is revealed, such as may be fitly paralleled by men passing into some broad land of which, there is much still to be possessed and explored. "He shall not speak of Himself, &c. Mark the parallel between the relation of the Spirit-teacher to Jesus and the relation of Jesus to the Father. "All things whatsoever I have heard of the Father I have declared unto you." The mark of Satan is "He speaketh of his own;" the mark of the Divine Teacher is, "He speaketh not of Himself, but whatsoever things," in all their variety, in their continuity, in their completeness, He shall hear. Where? Yonder in the depths of the Godhead — whatsoever things He shall hear — "there, He shall show to you." And especially, "He will show you the things that are to come." Step by step there would be spread out before them the vision of the future and all the wonder that should be, the world that was to come, the new constitution which Christ was to establish.

2. Now, if that be the interpretation, then —

(1) This promise of a complete guidance into truth applies in a peculiar and unique fashion to the original hearers of it. One of the other promises of the Spirit was the certificate to us of the inspiration and reliableness of these four Gospels. In these words there lie involved the inspiration and authority of the apostles as teachers of religious truth. And so for us the task is to receive the truth into which they were guided. The Acts of the Apostles is the best commentary on these words. There you see how these men rose at once into a new region; how the things about their Master which had been bewildering puzzles to them flashed into light. In the book of the Apocalypse we have part of the fulfilment of "He will show you things to come;" when the seer was "in the Spirit" on the Lord's day, and so the heavens were opened, and the history of the Church was spread before him as a scroll.

(2) This great principle has an application to us. That Divine Spirit is given to each of us if we will use it. Only we do not stand on the same level as these men. They, taught by that Divine Guide and by experience, were led into the deeper apprehension of the words and the deeds of Jesus. We, taught by that same Spirit, are led into a deeper apprehension of the words which they spake. And so we come sharp up to this. "If any man thinketh himself to be a prophet, or spiritual," &c. That is how an apostle put his relation to the other possessors of the Divine Spirit. And you and I have to take this as the criterion of all true possession of the Spirit of God that it bows in humble submission to the authoritative teaching of this book.


1. "He shall glorify Me." Think of a man saying that! So fair is He, so good, so radiant, that to make Him known is to glorify Him. The glorifying of Christ is the ultimate and adequate purpose of everything that God the Father, Son, and Spirit has done, because the glorifying of Christ is the glorifying of God, and the blessing of the eyes that behold His glory.

2. "For He shall take of Mine, and show it unto you." All that that Divine Spirit brings is Christ's. So, then, there is no new revelation, only the interpretation of the revelation. Christ said, "I am the Truth." Therefore, when He promises, "He shall guide you into all the truth," we may fairly conclude that the "truth" into which the Spirit guides is the personal Christ. We are like the first settlers upon some great island-continent. There is a little fringe of population round the coast, but away in the interior are leagues of virgin forests and fertile plains stretching to the horizon, and snow-capped summits piercing the clouds, on which no foot has ever trod.

3. "All things that the Father hath are Mine, therefore said I," &c. (ver. 15). What awful words! Is that what you think about Jesus Christ? He puts out here an unpresumptuous hand, and grasps all the constellated glories of the Divine nature, and says, "They are Mine;" and the Father looks down from heaven and says, "Son, Thou art ever with Me, and all that I have is Thine." Do you answer, "Amen! I believe it?"Conclusion:

1. Believe a great deal more definitely in, and seek a great deal more earnestly, and use a great deal more diligently that Divine Spirit that is given to us all. I fear that over very large tracts of professing Christendom men only stand up with very faltering lips and confess, "I believe in the Holy Ghost." Hence comes much of the weakness of our modern Christianity, the worldliness of professing Christians.

2. Use the book that He uses — else you will not grow, and He will have no means of contact with you.

3. Try the spirits. If anything calling itself Christian teaching comes to you and does not glorify Christ, it is self-condemned. And if the great teaching Spirit is to come who is to "guide us into all truth," and therein is to glorify Christ, and to show us the things that are His, then it is also true, "hereby know we the Spirit of God," &c.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.

WEB: "I have yet many things to tell you, but you can't bear them now.

Teaching Should be Adapted to the Condition of the Mind
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