I’m a fairly poor multi-tasker.
The only set of skills that provide me with multi-tasking abilities are culinary in nature. I can bake whole wheat bread while brushing the potato croquets with butter topping and stuffing the almond-crusted chicken breasts before dipping the strawberries in chocolate, and have it all ready at the exact moment I finish hand-washing all the dishes. The only kitchen task I cannot perform simultaneously with anything else involves pouring a glass of water from our filtered water dispenser. I’ve emptied that 5 gallon bottle more times than I can recall, and never seem to remember doing it until I’ve done it again.
Therefore, in light of my limited multi-tasking abilities I should not be surprised at my weakness in juggling the united roles of the Trinity, especially if I need a glass of water.
Recently I stumbled across a quote from someone famous – perhaps John Piper – that said something like “Denying the inspiration of the Scripture amounts to denying the work of the Trinity.” Maybe it was the other way around. The author had in view John 16:12-15:
12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 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. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”
This brief passage contains five really solid concepts to help readers understand the role of the Trinity in the inspiration of the Scriptures.
- Jesus has already told the disciples quite a bit.
- Jesus wants to tell them new things.
- The Spirit will come and tell it to them.
- The Spirit will only say what it receives from Jesus.
- Jesus will give what He co-owns with the Father.
Jesus Has Already Taught
In verse 12 Jesus clearly states he has already told His followers stuff, important things. Why say, “I have much more to say to you…” if you have not already said something? Matthew, Mark, et. al., filled their writings with all sorts of lessons, sayings, and monologues. Even in this section, during the Passion, Christ continues to teach.
Jesus Wants to Tell Them New Things
Jesus taught the disciples; of course, the Bible frequently points out their struggle to understand His meaning. One view believes the “more to say to you” refers to the illuminating ministry of the Spirit in helping the disciples to understand what Jesus said during His earthly ministry. However, if Jesus referred back to what had already been said, why phrase it as “more to say”? Why not instead say, “I have much more I want you to understand, more than you can now bear”? Seems to be the “more” in view here is new stuff, new teaching. With Jesus nearing the end of His teaching ministry, one has to wonder just what He plans.
The Spirit Will Come and Tell it to Them
Jesus promised two chapters earlier He would not abandon them as orphans. The Spirit would come and minister to them. In chapter 16 Jesus more clearly defines the role of the Advocate: He would tell them that which Jesus wanted to say but that they could not bear.
The Spirit Receives from Christ
The Spirit did not freelance. In verse 15 Jesus summarizes what He had already said: “..the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”
My father sometimes levels the (accurate) claim that Christ seemed to revel in ambiguity. “Why say it so vaguely? Just spit it out!” Here, though, Christ clarifies beyond all doubt: He would give to the Spirit all that the Spirit would share with the disciples. The Spirit would “…not speak on his own” and would “ …speak only what he hears…” f
The Father is The Source*
From whence comes Christ’s message for the Spirit to share with the disciples? If we all paid attention to both John 14 and John 16:15, we’ll know the answer: the Father.
Just as Christ made no moves without the Father (John 5:19), so also He teaches nothing that does not come from the Father.
*I recently re-watched “The Matrix Reloaded” and the notion of The Source figures heavily. I typed this last section with an un-erasable mental image of a black-coated Keanu Reeves kung-fu fighting with a a gaggle of robed, bearded fishermen in the Upper Room.
Let us now re-write our key passage, putting it in an order that feeds into our linear, Western logic.
“My Father makes all things known to me, and the teachings I receive from Him I will share with the Spirit. When the Spirit comes, He will teach you these things. These are new things, things you are not ready to hear. The Spirit will only share what He hears from me, which of course is exactly what I have received from the Father.”
The only lessons from the Spirit-taught disciples to which we have access are the contents of the New Testament.
We’ve seen a deterioration of respect of the doctrine of inspiration in the church in America. Whether the fault lies with historical critical analysis of the 19th century, the post-modernist’s rejection of absolute truth, or the current generation’s distrust of monolithic institutions, the fact remains that more Christians than ever struggle with the idea that the Bible comes from God through inspired men. Oddly, some of the same people (at least that I’ve seen) who question the inspiration of the Bible have no issue with the doctrine of the Trinity. Three-in-one poses no problem; multiple authors of an inspired book covering hundreds of years and lasting for thousands more is just too uncertain. As the unknown author who inspired this missive pointed out, if you accept the doctrine and work of the Trinity, you have to accept their work in biblical inspiration.