SERMON OUTLINE – JOHN 16:12-15
What are we to do with things in Scripture that we don’t understand? And how are we to figure out what God wants us to do in situations not specifically mentioned in the Bible? We see from these verses that it is God’s plan that his Church should work these things out, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. His purpose is that the Church should come to a mature understanding of his revelation and his will.
A good example of the Spirit at work in this regard is found in Acts 15:1-29 when the issue of whether gentile Christians had to obey the Jewish law emerged. Later on in Church history we see binding matters of faith decided in the same manner. E.g., in deciding what books should be included in the New Testament or in articulating the doctrine of the Trinity. Again, we see the Spirit at work through people, praying, thinking, studying Scripture and talking together to produce deeper understanding and maturity.
The Holy Spirit does the same work today. Today, with no centralised church authority and our exposure to countless Christian teachers through the media, how can we know when teachers, pastors, authors or other Christians are speaking truth from the Spirit or not? Here are 4 guidelines:
a) The Holy Spirit never contradicts or overrides what God has already said in the Bible.
b) The Holy Spirit speaks through people who walk in holiness
c) The Holy Spirit speaks through people who submit humbly to the whole church throughout history, not someone who claims most other Christians are wrong
d) When the Holy Spirit speaks He brings unity because the truth is profoundly persuasive. His truth corresponds to the whole of Scripture, matches the world around us and appeals to the consciences of those who desire to obey Christ.
Sadly, a plethora of denominations and practices exist in the Church because people have claimed to know God’s mind over issues that actually he has not spoken clearly about, this brings division rather than unity. What should we do about disputable matters? We should walk in love, pray, read Scripture, look to Church history and ask God to lead us. We should accept that there are some things that we cannot yet bear, or that there are things where God allows differences in opinion or practice, or that these things are an opportunity to show love by submitting to one another in what we believe or how we act, thus inviting the Spirit’s presence even more powerfully.