John 16:13


“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth . . . .”

Among Evangelicals this verse is uniformly regarded as proof that the Holy Spirit leads us in interpreting the truths of the Bible. This would appear to be a flawed interpretation to me because there are so many different views of the meaning of scripture. They can’t all be right.

Furthermore, this is part of Jesus’ Upper Room Discourse at which only the 11 faithful disciples were present (so far as we know). So He was talking to these 11 men.

In view of this, what is the Catholic understanding of John 16:13? Is it a promise to all of us or only to the disciples?

If it is only to the disciples, what are we to make of other parts of the Upper Room Discourse? For example, John 15:12: “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you." Doesn’t this have universal application? And if it does, why doesn’t John 16:13 have the same universal application? Jesus made both statements to the same group of men within a few minutes of each other.


The key difference is that John 16:13 is a promise, whereas 15:12 is a moral commandment. God does not have different moral laws for different people, so naturally, the latter would apply universally. However, God obviously can make and fulfill different promises with different people, so 16:13 almost definitely only applies to the Apostles. After all, I don’t think that the Holy Spirit can guide people into 30,000+ different truths.


In Jn 16:13 Jesus is promising the power of the Holy Spirit to lead the disciples (and their successors to this day) into the Truth, it is Christ’s promise that the Church will never teach error (which it never has in 20 centuries) and is along the same lines as Lk 10:16, “He who hears you hears me…” It is a promise of a special gift that Christ gives to the Church for the benefit of all mankind.

Jn 15:12 is a moral command, one that all Christians must obey, including the apostles and their successors.

Christ doesn’t promise the same gifts to all Christians (see 1 Cor 12), but He demands us all to follow the same moral law.

God bless.


Ask an evangelical if there was a sound of a rushing wind, and if a tongue, as of fire, parted and came to rest on him. If so, he’s good to go.

If Jesus was speaking to all Christians, and the Holy Spirit would guide them all, then why would John admonish us to “test the spirits”? 1 John 4:1


That verse appears to be spoken directly to the Apostles; to me, their ‘receiving’ would have been guaranteed in order to be equipped to preach the Gospel without Jesus’ physical presence. And the Apostles also ‘baptized in the Holy Spirit’ for a time. I don’t know if it is still possible today or if it was like a ‘Pilot Program’. :wink:

However, there are many other verses that apply to all. 1 Cor 12:3 - “…no one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.”

Rom. 8:9 - But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.

My understanding of ‘testing the spirits’ is that before I have the Holy Spirit, I test the spirits against the New Testament. After I would have the Holy Spirit, I would test the spirits against what Deepak Chopra calls ‘the Internal Reference’; the Holy Spirit Within.

The reason that there are so many interpretatons of the Bible, seems to me, is because the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit appears to be so rare in our time. People definitely have Insights/Grace when studying or pondering but that serves to increase Thirst.

When I read the many writers from the 1750s to mid 1900s, the texts read differently than more modern ones. Maybe it’s because, to a large extent, Reason tries to substitute for Inspiration today? (And some are too emotionally sweet.) In the past, I tried to find the key to how so many in GKC’s (et al) time seemingly found the Residing Holy Spirit (wordly/cosmic event of some type?), but didn’t find anything.

There are a dozen views about everything until you know the answer. Then there is never more than one. - C.S. Lewis (That Hideous Strength)


Huh? What does that mean?

However, there are many other verses that apply to all. 1 Cor 12:3 - “…no one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.”

That’s correct. Catholics believe that our faith is entirely by God’s grace.

Rom. 8:9 - But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.

That verse doesn’t say that the individual will be guided in their personal interpretation of Scripture.

The reason that there are so many interpretatons of the Bible, seems to me, is because the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit appears to be so rare in our time.

Then how do you know that you have the Holy Spirit guiding you?

Sola scriptura hinges on the idea that the Holy Spirit guides every individual reader of Scripture. Yet that clearly is not true.


According to St. Thomas Aquinas, “God…does not give life to the soul as its formal cause, but as its efficient cause.” The formal cause concerns the form of the soul, and the efficient cause is how it is moved. We do not take on the form of God as if he were a cause from a prior mover, for he is before all things which proceeded out from nothing. When we say “indwelling” we say with Peter “partaker with the divine nature” (2 Pet 1:4), we are moved by him in time. Hence, we walk to “all truth”.

Same with conversion we are moved in a process of justification, which does not happen as if a form took place at origin and we are saved. No we are moved.

Have you been saved? (Past event)
“for in hope we were saved” (Rom 8:24)
“by grace you have been saved through faith” (Eph 2:5, 8)
“he saved us, called us, according to his grace” (2 Tim 1:9)

Have you been saved? (also, a present process)
“work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12)
“as you obtain the goal of your faith, salvation” (1 Pet 1:9)

Have you been saved? (also, a future event, not possessed by one individual, but yet accomplished for all the elect)

“he who endures to the end will be saved” (Mt 10:22)
“he who preseverers to the end will be saved” (Mt 24:13)
“whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Mk 8:35)
“we shall be saved through the grace of Jesus” (Acts 15:11)
“since we are justified, we shall be saved” (Rom 5:9, 10)
“salvation is nearer now than first believed” (Rom 13:11)
“he will be saved, but only through fire” (1 Cor 3:15)
“deliever man to Satan so his spirit may be saved” (1 Cor 5:5)
"Jesus will appear second time, to bring salvation (Heb 9:28)


All right. You and JamesThe Just have posted that we must distinguish between commands and promises. Commands are for all people and promises are to people to whom they are made. However, Jesus also promised: “I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” We seem to regard this promise as universal to all persons. Therefore, we can’t really dichotomize on the basis of promises vs. commands, and my question remains, "Why can’t all Christians claim the benefit of John 16:13?


Sin begets spiritual sickness, and one cannot be instructed by the Word unless they are healthy in the context of choice of repentence. (cf. St. Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, 1)

St. Bonaventure says, “we must find our rest in the Most High, both by knowing the supreme truth and loving the supreme good; the first comes about through the gift of understanding, the second through the gift of wisdom, in which there is true repose.” (Breviloquium; 5, 5, 7)

And as I said in the prior post, the Holy Spirit as the utlimate principle moves us in his own life rather then forms us as his own life.

If we seek true repose in frequent contemplative prayer in the Sacred pages, we find a spring of salvation which leadeth to all truth, for all the elect, as public revelation realized. This can come with much toil of study of Divine Revelation how it moves the Church in Tradition and the Scriptures. But it is evident that the symbols of faith proposed in the Church as creeds, give the content to assent to all truth, and they are evident public manifestations.

And grant it, the World Baptist Alliance formally agreed with the Catholic Church a number of years ago, that the first four ecumenical councils were valid statements of faith. This was the fruit of the spirit which leads to all truth.


If that promise were the only one Christ had given about Heaven, then you would have an argument. But, as animalis showed earlier (post #7), He made many other promises about salvation, some of them to the general population.


I understand John 16:13 to be addressed to the 11 and not to all those who try to follow Christ. We are privy to that conversation after the Last Supper so that we know where authority lies. I consider other statements by Christ that put special authority on the Apostles. Here is a short list:
*]go and teach, if they reject you walk away
*]parables to the people then deeper explanation to the Apostles
*]Jesus said and did much more that is not written here
*]God made His choice among you that through my mouth [Peter’s] the Gentile would hear the word of God and believe (ACTS 15:7)
*]some of our number without any mandate from us have upset you with their teachings (ACTS 15:24)
[/LIST]If it were that each person could properly interpret God’s expectations for us because each person claimed the Spirit of Truth was in him, there would be no heresies.

It is the Truth that we receive the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion. Many think not. It is the Truth that, through Confession, our sins are forgiven. Many think they can just confess privately to God. Where is the Spirit of Truth in these opposing views?


I don’t disagree with what you are saying but how can I approach the Bible, knowing some of it was meant for everyone and some for the apostles only and discern the difference?

By way of example, I know thousands of Baptists and every one of them would maintain that John 16:13 was meant for all Christians. In fact the common wisdom is that all the promises of the Bible can be claimed by them. If this is not the case, how can you know the difference?


Getting closer to the issue it seems to me, that the Catholic Church has made a recent distinction of Jn 16:13 as pertaining to the apostles as the foundation of the Church with the Prophets (cf. Eph 2:20). From this foundation we have the prophetic office of the Church, which is shared with two others, vis., kingly and priestly. (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 897-913)

In para. 243 of Catechism it quotes Jn 16:13:

Before his Passover, Jesus announced the sending of “another Paraclete” (Advocate), the Holy Spirit. At work since creation, having previously “spoken through the prophets”, the Spirit will now be with and in the disciples, to teach them and guide them “into all the truth”. The Holy Spirit is thus revealed as another divine person with Jesus and the Father.


Matthew 18:15-17 is also meant for them. What do they do then? Where is the central Baptist authority that decides for all of them? Or, is it the lack thereof that has caused all of the fractures in the Baptist world?


Just read whether the quote was directed at the Apostles or the general population. If it’s the latter, it’s meant for all. If it’s the former, it’s not.


Jeanne1184 #5 Re: John 16:13
The reason that there are so many interpretatons of the Bible, seems to me, is because the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit appears to be so rare in our time. People definitely have Insights/Grace when studying or pondering but that serves to increase Thirst.

The are so many misinterpretations of the Bible because of the misapprehensions which give rise to the misrepresentations of selfist explanations. Jesus didn’t give us a Bible, He gave us His Church, whose followers wrote it. The books, and no more nor less, which comprise the Sacred Scriptures have been authorized only by His Church.

It is plainly ridiculous to imagine that any one of the thousands of different sects all teaching something different could have the fullness of truth.

The failure to understand Christ, His Church, Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture and the Magisterium, is highlighted in Sacred Scripture, and solved only by Christ’s Catholic Church:
St Paul’s epistles have “some things hard to understand, which those who are unlearned and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.” [2Pet 3:16]

“…no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man but, but holy men of God spoken as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” [2Pet 1: 20-21].

The Ethiopian eunuch reading Isaiah was asked by Philip who had been moved by the Holy Spirit – “Do you understand what you are reading? And he said, ‘How can I unless some man show me?’ And he asked Philip to come and sit with him.” [Acts 8:30-31].

Zenas #12
how can I approach the Bible, knowing some of it was meant for everyone and some for the apostles only and discern the difference?

By acknowledging that the Bible was written by followers of Jesus who established His Church based on St Peter as His Supreme Vicar.

Christ wrote nothing and used quotes from the OT, as He established His Church and explicitly made four promises to Peter alone:
“You are Peter and on this rock I will build My Church.” (Mt 16:18)
“The gates of hell will not prevail against it.”(Mt 16:18)
I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of heaven.” ( Mt 16:19)
“Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven.” (Mt 16:19) [Later also to the Twelve].

Sole authority:
“Strengthen your brethren.” (Lk 22:32)
“Feed My sheep.”(Jn 21:17).

“And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.’ (Jn 21:25).


There is another specification considering the movement to “all truth” and that is coined in a term known as the “final cause”, which indicates the intention, or end in view.

Dr. Oliver O’ Donovan in his “The Problem of Self-Love in St. Augustine” says, “The order of things which rational love acknowledges is a teleological order, which is to say that each object has not merely a place within the structure but a destiny, a telos, to fulfill within it. Apart from, whose telos is his own being and who is therefore always at rest, all beings are in motion toward their final cause. Just as we ourselves are drawn by the pull of the supreme good, so is all that we observe; and we cannot understand the place in which a fellow creature stands unless we also know the place to which he is being drawn.” (Wipf and Stock publishers, 2006, 1980; Chapter 1, p. 32-33)

I said prior to this in Bonaventure’s words, we relate to the supreme truth and supreme good
in the context of rest. Dr. Donovan speaks of all that exists concerns an intention, that which can be seen subjectively as a question of destiny.

The destiny of the apostles, as was the cause of the prophets, was to be justice to a world that need it, all in God’s efficient cause. The Creed states that the Holy Spirit “has spoken through the prophets”, this same Spirit as justice for all (all truth) will work in a new way proceeding from the New adam and his Father who begeted him. This working is on the “foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Eph 2:20). “The word of God, who worketh in you that have believed” (1 Thess 2:13) is a gift. And the virtue of justice is also a mode of gift. The apostles percieved their destiny when they heard from the Word, that they will be lead to all truth. We know from the Gospels, that Jesus worked with their preception to point to future events, vis. transfiguration, the baptism of Jesus, the star of bethlehem, ect.

They are the foundation of the church and a principle of causality to the notion of all truth, which is the destiny of the Body of Christ.


While I’m at it I might as well speak of the material cause in the concern being lead to “all truth”. If the apostles where the material cause of the Church, then the Church would not have a belief in God but rather a belief in the apostles.

St. Thomas Aquinas says, “Whatever is in material things is in them as bound up and compounded with matter. The reference of material beings to other things is accordingly not free but dependent upon the necessity of a natural disposition. Material beings are therefore not the cause of their own reference as if they directed themselves to the end to which they are in fact directed. They receive that direction from elsewhere, namely, the source from which they get their natural disposition. They are consequently able to have only a natural appetite.” (De Veritate, q. 23, art. 1)

The Angelic Doctor is saying that concerning the condition of us having a natural appetite we cannot move on our own principle. The truth of the Apostles was not their principle, nor is a reader of the bible the principle of the Word - we are efficiently moved into all truth, by the perfection that wisdom orders in the context of peace in place of our own principle of self-realization which naturally tends to injustice.


This is a little off the subject, but what does the Baptist World Alliance accepting the first four ecumenical councils have to do with an understanding of scripture?


Post deleted as possibly being redundant.

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