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.


The Bible is a common-sense book. It was written for the common man. Anyone can read and understand the message it contains. The rules that help us to understand it are, generally, the same rules for any type of communication or writing.

1. Understand the purpose

Jesus “had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen” (Acts 1:2 ESV). The book of Acts records this statement in its opening and shows how the apostles did indeed obey those commands. (Paul uses the same term for “command” in Acts 13:47 in referring to the mandate “to bring salvation to the farthest corners of the earth.”) Continue reading