But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming (Jn 16:13).
Now that we’ve established that God wants us to know the truth and that the Church is the guardian of that truth, we need to look at some important words from Jesus. In John’s Gospel, the Lord tells us that the Holy Spirit will guide us to the truth. Initially a comforting statement, further reflection makes us wonder how this is possible. What if you and I both ask the Holy Spirit for guidance and end up with different versions of the truth? In reality, this is a common problem which occurs in many Christian churches. The idea of personal infallible interpretation of the Bible (under the guidance of the Holy Spirit) falls apart the minute any 2 Christians disagree about a doctrinal matter! If the Holy Spirit is guiding us to ALL truth, then no two believers could ever come up with conflicting beliefs. There must be something else to Our Lord’s promise…
If the Church is the “pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Tm 3:15) and the Holy Spirit will “guide us to all truth” (Jn 16:13), then doesn’t it follow that the guidance of the Holy Spirit must lie with the Church and not with individuals? As we continue our search for the one, true Church, we need to find a Church which claims to teach authoritatively under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Tomorrow: A look at Church authority (Matthew 18:15-18)