John 16:12-15

Commentary Excerpt by Tom Boomershine

This story is part of Jesus' farewell discourse to the disciples. You, the storyteller, present Jesus talking to the audience as his disciples gathered around the table. So you want to create an atmosphere of intimacy, reminding the audience of the setting.

Jesus is talking to them on the evening prior to the time when he will be arrested and crucified. They are all aware that this is the last time Jesus is going to talk to them. The problem that Jesus addresses in this brief part of a much longer speech is that he has many other things to say to them but they can't absorb them now. This is more than they can bear. Jesus asks, "How is it that I will continue to communicate with you?" The way will be by the coming of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit will come and will speak whatever the Spirit hears, that is, what it hears from Jesus. Jesus will continue to communicate to his disciples through the Holy Spirit.That is how he will continue to be made known to them in the future. This is an explicit statement of ongoing revelation: that more is to be revealed by the Holy Spirit after Jesus is gone. To paraphrase what Jesus says: "The Spirit will make known what the Spirit is told from the Father. The Spirit will declare the things that are coming in the future and will make my thoughts known to you. It will receive my words and declare them to you."

This part of Jesus' last talk with the disciples in John is one of the central sources of a major doctrinal controversy, called the filioque that has divided the church. The description of the Holy Spirit in the Nicene Creed is that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. This was the form of the Creed that was originally approved at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD. Later in the context of the ongoing controversies with Arian theology,the Western Church began to add that the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father and the Son. Filioque means "and the Son" in Latin.

In the eleventh century, the Western Church (Roman Catholic) added the filioque to the Nicene Creed. The Eastern Church (Orthodox) was greatly offended by this violation of the rule that had been established by an ecumenical council, that nothing would be added to the Nicene Creed without the approval of a full ecumenical council of the Eastern and the Western church. The result was a schism between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. In the eleventh century, the split became official and is with us today.

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