One of the questions that I think most Christians run into at sometime or another is “If we all have God’s Holy Spirit within us, Who, we are told, will guide us into all truth (John 16:12-15), how is it that we have so many differing opinions?”
And that is an excellent question because it’s pretty hard to ignore the fact that this is a reality. And myself being nothing more than a common lay person, I don’t presume to know all the in’s and out’s that are associated with this particular question but I am going to try to take a shot at it. And yes, just so you know, I have indeed asked, through Jesus, that His Holy Spirit, guide me in putting this post together.
As I prayed about this, two things came to my mind. False assumptions and pride. There could be other aspects involved but that is what I got and I have some thoughts on both.
1. We think that because God’s Holy Spirit is within us that He will always lead us toward God’s truth. I believe this is true but His intent and our cooperation with Him are not always one and the same. We see examples of this within the Scriptures, with Paul’s dealings with Peter (Galatians 2:11-13) and conflict between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:36-41), plus there are others. I’m thinking that these conflicts are in the New Testament to show us that our wills or understanding are not always going to be 100 % lined up with God’s will. Our minds can indeed lead us down a path that God does not necessarily want us to walk it. God can and does correct us but that usually takes some adjusting on our part, to God’s revealed will and that can take time. I’m pretty sure that we all have experienced examples of this. I know I definitely have.
2. There is a fine line between the leading of God’s Holy Spirit and where our own mindful understanding intersects. Jesus tells us that those who worship the Father must worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23). Problem being, God’s perspective of spirit and truth do not always line up with our perspective of spirit and truth. Even though God’s Holy Spirit is within us, there are few of us who have not had to deal with the difficulty of forgiveness at one time or another. Forgiveness is a biggie with God and the older we become, having experienced life’s lessons, the reality of this truth about forgiveness and the spirit behind it, takes on a much more decisive meaning. Again, this takes time.
3. We are categorically told that we now know in part (1 Corinthians 13:9-10). Correct me if I am wrong but that would lead me to believe that there are some things where our understanding is not complete. What those areas specifically are, is obviously open for discussion but I would think that the end times, free will and the Elect and a number of other controversial subjects might just be on that partial understanding list. When we encounter opposing opinions, as long as it does not move away from any of the main tenants of Christianity (which in itself could be problematic), we should acknowledge the limitations of our understandings. I have an opinion about how creation happened that may and does differ from how some other Christians view it happened. That difference of opinion does not necessitate a breaking away of fellowship from Christians who hold a different opinion from my own as long as we both agree that God initiated and orchestrated it. We can indeed hold differing opinions in specific areas and yet be in fellowship.
4. There are acknowledged different levels of faith, weak and strong and I would also submit, somewhere in between (Romans 15:1-2). That would indicate, that even though we all have the Holy Spirit within us, our understanding is not necessarily all the same. In fact, I think it’s pretty clear that our understanding does indeed differ, from one to another. Yet, in far too many cases, that which we have come to understand is put forward as a prerequisite of acceptance for fellowship with others. This is not in all cases Biblical. In fact, we are warned about pre-judging others within the Church in Romans 14 with regard to food and the observance of one day above another. I know this can be dicey but it is not difficult to see how God’s will is that we exercise some accommodation and understanding to others who may not have the understanding that we have acquired at any given point in time, as long as it does not violate any pillars of the doctrines we have once been given.
1. If you don’t think this is a major factor in why there are differences of opinion within Christians, who all have God’s Holy Spirit within them, you would be wrong.
2. One of the main teaching points of Jesus is to examine ourselves before we start to examine others. And what does that specifically entail? It means that we take a good hard look at our levels of understanding on any given number of topics before we start to voice our opinions. To automatically assume that we have the same level of knowledge and understanding, as a person who has dedicated their whole life in a given field of science, such as medicine or biology as examples, is nothing short of ludicrous, yet it happens every day. Many Christians make misguided assumptions based on nothing more than hearsay from others, without taking the time, at the very least, to do some basic homework and acquire a basic knowledge overview of both the pros and cons on any given subject.
3. The Apostle Paul advocates that we should study the Scriptures to show ourselves approved, so that we might rightly divide God’s word (2 Timothy 2:15). Makes good sense, doesn’t it? You need to basically know what you are talking about BEFORE you start advocating what others should or should not do with regard to following God’s will, as revealed within God’s Holy Word. Does this logic apply in other areas? Apparent not. The Internet is awash with conspiracy theories today that many Christians are buying into without first checking into the credibility of the source accusations and taking the time to validate as to whether the accusations are factual or not. I could give you numerous examples but I have already covered this deficiency in previous posts, here and here.
4. Where pride comes into play is that some Christians seem to assume that because they pray and ask for the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit, they can abandon biblical principles that have repeatedly been given to them and just dive right into a particular subject matter were accusations are being made and then, without any further consideration, disseminate the same information without checking into the validity of what is being inferred . I am going to give you an example of this that I encountered yesterday. Take a look at this short Facebook video here.
Notice that it has been viewed 2.7 million times (at this particular point in time that I viewed it) due to the number of reposts. It basically states that the media is playing us with regard to the number of new cases of the corona virus being documented. You type in three random numbers into Google Search along with the two words “new cases” and regardless of what random three numbers you type in, something always comes up documenting that particular random number of new cases. The accusation is that obviously we are being played by the media. Sounds plausible doesn’t it? Only problem being, this is a query to the Google Search database and considering the fact that literally hundreds of thousands of articles have been posted on the Internet during the last five or so months, when you enter this random three digit number followed by the words “new cases”, you will in fact almost always get results. Note that the dates on the results are different, note that the locations where the articles originate are different. This is how a query to a database works. It goes into all available data and returns what you are specifically asking for. You could use the same process with say two digits and the word “arrests”. I did it with “10 arrests” and got a response. Obviously “10 arrests” will have fewer results because we are not dealing with the literally hundred of thousands (if not more) of reports that have made available on the Internet with regard to new cases, due to the corona virus. Does this validate that, in this particular accusation, that the media is “playing us”? No it does not. It validates that the Google database is functioning properly. But of course, if you are not aware of how a database responds to a query, you wouldn’t know that, would you.
5. Just because God has promised to guide us through His Holy Spirit does not absolve us from following common sense Biblical logic. To assume that God’s guidance automatically authenticates anything and everything that you look at, is not only not Biblical but it is also presumptuous and it basically says that you don’t have to take the time to study, because you are special. Guess what, if Timothy wasn’t special in that specific area, then neither are you or I. And keep in mind, that Paul indicates that Timothy was called to be an evangelist. As ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20), we all have a responsibility to take the time to know what we are talking about.
When we study God’s Word, we learn, over time, to slow down and relish every word and as God has promised, God’s Holy Spirit does indeed, open His truth to us, so that we who were once blind, now see and we who were once deaf, now hear. Our knowledge of God’s will grows as we grow in our knowledge of Christ, and to the best of my knowledge, that takes time, for all of us. Don’t be so fast to disseminate that which you do not really know. Don’t be so fast to illustrate how little you care.
John 16:12-15 NASB reads as follows and bear in mind this is Jesus who is saying this:
“I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.”
Jesus spoke the words that were given to Him by the Father to bring glory to the Father.
Our Father has glorified His Son because Jesus followed His will.
The Holy Spirit speaks to us that which brings glory to Jesus.
If we seek God’s glory, to whom should we speak, but the Son.
Focus on Jesus.
Worthy is the Lamb! Blessings!