Compare and Combine (1)

The Spirit is our Teacher.

Growing in the Knowledge of Christ (5)

We need to learn the way our Teacher likes to teach.

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
1 Corinthians 2.12, 13
As for the saints who are on the earth,
“They are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.”
Psalm 16.3

The Spirit our Teacher

Jesus has told us that the Holy Spirit is our Teacher (Jn. 16.7-15). We may study a lot, listen to many sermons, take courses, read books, listen to podcasts, and subscribe to teaching letters. And all those are good, and can be very helpful. We should do as much of these things as we can.

But we must always remember that the Holy Spirit is our Teacher. The goal of all His teaching is to transform us increasingly into the image of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 3.12-18). He leads us into all truth, both that which is to be gained from Scripture, and that which we may learn from others and from the works of God in creation. We need to understand as much as possible how the Holy Spirit teaches, so that we can bring our efforts at learning Jesus into line with His preferred instructional methods.

Here is not the place to unpack that large study. We may summarize the teaching work of the Holy Spirit as Paul does, by saying that He compares – and combines – spiritual things with spiritual things, so that we might learn Jesus, bear witness to Jesus, boast about Jesus, and love as Jesus loves.

And the starting point for all this comparing and combining is the work we do in searching the Scriptures daily, that we might know Jesus better, love Him more fervently, and be more faithful, fruitful, and consistent in serving Him.

Three aspects of the Spirit’s work of teaching are particularly important. If we neglect or skip any of these, we will not benefit as much as we might from the teaching of God’s Spirit.

The core curriculum
The teaching work of the Holy Spirit – once He has convicted us of sin and brought us to new life in Christ – begins by His laying a foundation in our souls that will enable us to live the love and good works outlined in the Law of God. Put another way, we might say that the core curriculum of the Holy Spirit revolves around the Law of God (Deut. 20.1-10; Ezek. 11.19, 20; 36.26, 27). The Law of God consists of the commandments, statutes, precepts, ordinances, symbols, types, and testimonies God revealed to His people through Moses during their sojourn in the wilderness. We have it recorded in the Old Testament books of Genesis through Deuteronomy.

This is a life-long, progressive, and ever-expanding project. Meditating on the Law of God day and night (Ps. 1) provides the discipline within which the Spirit can do this most foundational work of teaching in our souls. The Law of God is holy and righteous and good (Rom. 7.12); it is the go-to place for learning how to love God and our neighbors (Matt. 22.34-40). And it is here that Jesus in all His sacrificial, priestly, magisterial, and holy glory is first symbolized, typified, taught, and glimpsed in the revelation of God.

The Law of God must be part of our daily, ongoing study and contemplation of God’s Word. The Spirit will teach it to us line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little (Is. 28.9, 10), until He establishes it as a solid foundation for all the other teaching He wants us to receive. Skip school here, and you cut the legs out from under your discipleship program.

On that foundation, the Spirit can use two other disciplines to help us compare and combine the spiritual things of God into solid teaching that transforms us increasingly into the image of Jesus Christ.

The analogy of Scripture

The first is what theologians call the analogy of Scripture. It’s what we see throughout the New Testament, when writers like Paul pull together passages from various parts of Scripture to shed light on a point they’re trying to make. As for example in Romans 3. Here Paul is explaining the power of sin and the reason why we need Christ to deliver us from it. To make his point, he draws on passages from the Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, and Isaiah to outline and support his teaching. The effect of comparing and combining passages like this is to pile the weight of Scripture against a subject, so that it opens to us with greater clarity and power.

The writer of Hebrews provides another excellent example of the analogy of Scripture. He uses the Psalms, Israel’s wandering in the wilderness, the faithful example of saints from throughout the Old Testament, and many other passages to argue that Jesus is the only High Priest and Savior we need.

Many Bibles are set up to help us make good use of this discipline. Their marginal notes or footnotes point us to supportive passages where we may find additional light on the matter we’re reading, studying, or contemplating. We should look these up, and see how they contribute to our understanding of God’s Word.

But we should also begin making catalogs of our own, connecting what we read in one place in Scripture with what we’ve read elsewhere. Fill your journals with cross-references, parallel texts, and supportive passages for whatever you’re studying. Thus we give the Holy Spirit plenty of Biblical material to feed our souls as we are growing in the knowledge of Jesus.

The analogy of faith
A similar discipline is called the analogy of faith. In the analogy of Scripture, we compare Scripture with Scripture, to see how the Bible clarifies itself. In the analogy of faith, we look to teachers, theologians, commentators, preachers, and writers from throughout the course of Christian history, to shed light from their experience into our efforts at learning Jesus.

A wide variety of tools are available to help you use this discipline as part of your regular program of seeking to know Jesus better. Bible dictionaries,  single-volume (or two- or three-volume) sets of commentaries, larger tomes from previous generations and contemporary theologians – our libraries ought to have some of each of these. Online resources by the score exist, and you should find a few that are particularly helpful to you. The saints who are in the earth – whether in the ground or living on the earth at present – can bring us much delight, confirmation, and expansion of learning as we consult the spiritual things the Spirit has taught them to help us in growing to know Jesus better.

We said this was hard work – a “burdensome task” to recall Solomon – but learning Jesus from the Holy Spirit is the most exciting thing you’ll ever do. To see Him in His glory, increase mightily in love for Him, and become better equipped to serve Him day by day is the greatest adventure anyone can know. But we’ll need to rely on the Spirit and His curriculum and compare-and-combine teaching method, if we’re going to benefit as much as we can.

For Reflection
1. How can we know what the Holy Spirit wants to teach us about Jesus?

2. Why is it important to compare Scripture with Scripture as we’re trying to increase in the knowledge of Jesus Christ?

3. Why is the analogy of faith an important discipline for learning Jesus?

Next Steps – Preparation: How will you bring these three disciplines into your own growth program? Share your thoughts about this with a Christian friend.

T. M. Moore

For a more complete treatment of the subjects broached in this article, order a copy of our book, The Joy and Rejoicing of My Heart, by clicking here.

We hope you find ReVision to be a helpful resource in your walk with and work for the Lord. If so, please prayerfully consider supporting The Fellowship of Ailbe with your prayers and gifts. We ask the Lord to move and enable many more of our readers to provide for the needs of our ministry. Please seek Him in prayer concerning your part in supporting our work. You can contribute online via PayPal, or by sending a gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 360 Zephyr Road, Williston, VT 05495.

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore