In the midst of a context dealing with hermeneutics, the author of a good book said this about the Holy Spirit’s role. “As we will see, the role of the Spirit in understanding God’s Word is indispensable. The Spirit convinces God’s people of the truth of the biblical message, and then convicts and enables them to live consistently with that truth. The Spirit does not inform us of Scripture’s meaning. That is, the Spirit’s help does not replace the need to interpret biblical passages according to the principles of language communication” (“Introduction to Biblical Interpretation,” p. 4).
This is an interesting comment to me about biblical interpretation. I have heard this expression for years and have never really come to understand what some mean by it. The quote above comes closest to something I can analyze. It seems to me, however, the problem is that the “Spirit” seems to be confused concerning “the truth of the biblical message.”
Why would I say such a thing?
One is convinced of the truth of the biblical passage because the Holy Spirit convinces one of such, but the Holy Spirit does not give the meaning? There seems to be a disconnect to me in this! What if one is convinced of the truth of the biblical passage that baptism plays no role in one’s salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9), when a biblical passage expressly states that it does (1 Peter 3:21)? What about a preacher who expresses the opinion on Acts 22:16 like:
It is possible, as in Acts 2:38, to take these words as teaching baptismal remission or salvation by means of baptism, but to do so is in my opinion a complete subversion of Paul’s vivid and picturesque language. As in Rom. 6:4-6 where baptism is the picture of death, burial and resurrection, so here baptism pictures the change that had already taken place when Paul surrendered to Jesus on the way (Acts 22:10). Baptism here pictures the washing away of sins by the blood of Christ (Robertson’s Word Pictures).
Or another reputable source with this perspective:
Here, again, we have words which are not in the narrative of Acts 9. They show that for the Apostle that baptism was no formal or ceremonial act, but was joined with repentance, and, faith being presupposed, brought with it the assurance of a real forgiveness (Ellicott’s Commentary).
We have two reputable sources that speak to the same passage, but not with the same ideas on that passage. Could not both expositors say that the Holy Spirit helped them in their respective interpretations? One could if the above quote (1st paragraph) is the norm. If so, then it appears there is confusion on the part of one expositor (or the other), both expositors, or the Holy Spirit!
Since the Holy Spirit is not confused on anything, then perhaps the presupposition of the Spirit’s role is to be question.
Actually, I have an idea as to what is meant in this matter relative to the Holy Spirit’s work, but I hope to see that explicated in the reading of the book.
In closing, the passage often referenced for such a methodology is from John, chapters 14 through 16. If I understand the Gospel of John properly, the promise of Jesus to the apostles about the Holy Spirit guiding them into all truth was a miraculous matter and not one of hermeneutics like the rest of must utilize in study.