to whom does the writer speak?Are you talking to me? There are times when the wife talks to the dogs in another room of the house, and I think she’s talking to me. (No jokes now, you hear?) And two or three times now I’ve sent an email to the wife with some information (or a declaration of love) without noticing that my email service, which does an auto-complete on the name of the recipient, has sent it to a friend of ours with the same name. Fortunate for us that she is an old friend who’s not shocked by my mistakes.

In the same way, we must understand to whom Jesus speaks in John 13-16. Note this:

When the Advocate comes, whom I will send you from the Father – the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father – he will testify about me, and you also will testify, because you have been with me from the beginning.
John 14:26-27 NET

In this block of teaching, Jesus is speaking mainly to the Twelve. His promises about the inspiration of the Holy Spirit are made to those who have been with him “from the beginning” of his ministry. This promise is not for all.

A basic rule for interpreting the Bible, and one of the most neglected, is to note who is speaking or writing and to whom one is speaking or writing. Any principle or truth gleaned from this passage must be a secondary application, and some things, like the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, do not apply to us today.

Be careful when you read the Bible. Maybe God is not talking to you.


11 thoughts on “Are you talking to me?

  1. Excellent post Randal. The failure to understand who is speaking, and even more often, to whom one is speaking is a major cause of error in the religious world.

    • Thanks, Jason. Even those this is a light devotional by nature, there’s room now and again for something more substantial. Or technical, I guess I should say.

  2. So, do you think I shouldn’t be building this ark?

    I knew a man in Christ who, soon after he was converted, was in court as a conscientious objector. He told his lawyer he was not worrying about his testimony, because the scriptures said that the Spirit would give him the words. The lawyer, who was not a believer, pointed out that it did not necessarily follow that a promise to the apostles was a promise to him in the 20th century. If only God’s people were as astute as that pagan lawyer!

    • Brett, you’re welcome to build that ark. But don’t count too much on those rain clouds. That pagan lawyer apparently knew his Bible.

  3. Though in error on matters of salvatation, the church, eschatology and other sundry matters, the late denominationalists Vernon J. McGhee once stated that “all Scripture is writtern FOR us but none of it was written TO us.” The OT is a “schoolmaster” to bring us to Christ while the NT is a pattern for faith and practice. Having said that, no book or letter in the Sacred Page was addressed to anyone living in the 21st century though “ALL Scripture is profitable for…” If we are not careful, the imagination would lead us to believe that God speaks directly to people just like the delusional mideval cleric, Thomas Aquinas. He believed and taught that OT prophets, NT apostles and even Jesus Christ Himself would “appear” to him and “explain” difficult passages. Lest we think that such does not happen today, in 2006 a well known preacher within the church of Christ said on live video tape that the Holy Spirit had spoken to him directly advocating the use of instrumental music in worship! “IF” God were to speak directly to us as individuals, He would then be a “respector of persons,” which He is NOT.

  4. I was talking to a Pentecostal the other day and asked him about how the “speaking in tongues” part of worship went down. He said someone would start speaking in tongues and then someone else would stand up and start interpreting. Now the person talking in tongues had no idea what they were saying so they couldn’t verify what the interpreter was saying. Of course we can logically see the holes, but they really can’t see the Biblical principals as to why that’s wrong? Great discussion, that came to mind in reference to the pagan lawyer.

  5. Love that you put that little pic there. One of my instructors @WVSOP told us, “When you read John 14,15 & 16, remember you’re opening someone else’s mail” (Emanuel Daugherty).

What do you think?