Jesus told his disciples that “the Holy Spirit will guide you into all truth”. Later, the apostle John wrote the book of Revelations describing visions received while he was “in the spirit”. The apostle Paul never saw Jesus, but received his revelations about the gospel while not knowing whether he was “in the body or out of the body”. So clearly the revelation of the gospel of Jesus Christ did not end when Jesus left this earth. It continued as a work of the Spirit at least through the time of the apostles.
But what about after that?
I just started reading A Manual of Church History by Heinrich Guericke, written in the 1800’s and translated from the German by William G.T. Shedd in 1881. The introduction section includes this passage: “In the gift of the gospel, and at the first establishment of the Church, the entire sum and substance of Christian truth was given. But this body of dogma was by no means fully understood by the human mind, in the outset. The clear apprehension of this … is a gradual process, becoming more and more self-consistent and all-comprehending, but even now not complete.”
The implication of this position is that there will be no new revelation of Christian truth after the time of the apostles and the establishment of the Church, but that there will be ongoing development of our understanding and application of that truth. Should we expect that gradual process to be in the hands of certain religious leaders? Or should it be much more personal than that?
Most of today’s Christian doctrines were developed after the time of the apostles. The church leaders who established those doctrines have generally claimed and believed that the doctrines they espoused resulted from the guidance of the Holy Spirit and that they are totally consistent with the teachings of Jesus and apostles. But what do we do with those doctrines that seem to be inconsistent or in competition with each other? What are we to think about eternal security, or the meaning of the Eucharist, or the method and age of baptism? Where does the Spirit of Revelation enter into all this for those of us in the post-apostolic era? Is it possible that the Spirit reveals one truth to one believer, but a seemingly different truth to another?
This brings me back to a consideration of the paths of Christianity. It is apparent that Christianity has taken many paths over the centuries. How are we to say that one is true and all others are false? And how would we identify the single true path in any case? But I submit that such a decision isn’t up to us anyway. I believe that what is up to us, as individuals, is to learn what we can about the basis of our faith, and then to follow the Spirit of Revelation in our own lives so that we can establish our personal spiritual paths accordingly. After all, we aren’t responsible for the paths that others may take. We are ultimately accountable only for our own path.