Select Page
Read Introduction to John

17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.

17 the Spirit of truth,

Jesus had referred to Himself as “the truth” a few verses earlier (Jn 14:6) and now the Holy Spirit was called the “Spirit of truth.” Not only would He indwell the believer permanently, but He is also “the Spirit of truth” (Jn 15:26; 16:13). Jesus had given the corpus of His teaching, but the Spirit would inform the church of God’s truth. The Spirit’s major role is to communicate this truth. He is the successive witness to God’s truth to people since Jesus’ departure to heaven. The Holy Spirit reveals God’s truth (1 Co 2:10-11), inspires it in words (1 Co 2:12-13), and illumines or makes God’s truth clear (1 Co 2:14-16).

whom the world cannot receive,

Those who are not converted cannot connect to God’s truth because they do not have spiritual life (1 Co 2:14). The “world” represents those who are in systemic rebellion against God. This system cannot accept the truth of God or the Spirit of truth because it is profoundly hostile against Him.

Note that Jesus did not say that the world would not receive the Spirit but that it “cannot receive” Him. Yet this does not mean that there will not be some who will receive Him. It means that those operating under the world system will not be able to accept Him.

“Whom” is in the neuter gender. This does not mean that the Holy Spirit is not a person, but it is simply a grammatical issue because “whom” agrees with “Spirit,” which is in the neuter. Elsewhere the masculine gender is used of the Holy Spirit as a person (Jn 14:26; 15:26; 16:7, 8, 13, 14).

because it neither sees Him

The Holy Spirit is invisible to lost people. The world cannot perceive the Spirit; it cannot grasp how He works in the world. This is especially true when it comes to truth. The world system begins with man and limits itself to finite knowledge. The Spirit of truth functions supernaturally; it is only through the Spirit that people can break through finite understanding to infinite understanding.

nor knows Him;

The world cannot personally know the activities of the Spirit because it does not have the means of doing so. It is no surprise that the world did not know the Spirit, because it did not know Jesus when He came into the world (Jn 1:10).


It is impossible to become a Christian by operation bootstraps.


People want to assume for themselves the right to determine what is true. If man begins with man, he will go no further than man. Finiteness can never find infiniteness. If God is the only infinite being, then man is at the mercy of God to reveal Himself. To use a philosophical term, man is epistemologically at the mercy of God. If truth lies beyond finiteness, then the Holy Spirit must take the initiative to communicate what is real, and man must open his will to it.

Steven Hawking died in March 2018. As a physicist he wrote “The Theory of Everything.” He tried to explain everything in terms of the material world, but he failed in that attempt. Even the greatest finite minds cannot arrive at an answer for creation if they limit truth to themselves (solipsism) or to a limited presupposition.

Are you frustrated in the attempt to find God on your own terms? If so, why not let the Holy Spirit speak to you through the Bible? The Bible is God’s revelation about His infinite being and His plan for you.