In what is called “The Synoptic Apocalypse” (found in variant forms in all three Gospels) as presented in Mark, Jesus says, “”But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given to you in that hour, for it is not you who speak , but the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 13: 9-11 ESV) In a similar passage in Luke the word defense is used: ” . . . they will lay hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be an opportunity to bear witness. Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate before how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.” (Luke 21: 12-15 ESV) The phrase “how to answer” translates the verb that can also be translated as “to prepare your defense.” (NRSV) In Luke 12 we find the same Greek verb. “And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” (Luke 12: 11-12 ESV) It is in the latter part of Luke’s work, Acts, that we have Paul’s defense before those in authority. Both the verb and noun for defense are found there.
The passage about the Holy Spirit as the guide in Mark is found in other places, not in the apocalypse, in Matthew and Luke (Matthew 10: 17-21 and Luke 12: 11-12). The idea is that the Holy Spirit will be speaking through the one who is making his defense (Luke is the one who actually uses the verb for defense). Christians are to be confident that their defense comes from the Holy Spirit. As Luke describes, the Holy Spirit is our mouth.
We are not to avoid defending the faith, because we do not feel confident to do this. The Spirit is behind our words. He teaches us as we speak! In the biblical text there are no reservations about this fact,, but should we have reservations? ls the Holy Spirit really speaking through me? We are sinners and may get it wrong. Much we do not know. Again, we may get it wrong. No advice about this concern does Jesus give us. We need only ask the heavenly Father, who gives all good things, to grant us the Holy Spirit for this task (Luke 11: 13).
In our witness and defense we call on the Holy Spirit to guide our words with confidence that He will. He will speak through us with the message and defense of the Gospel. We can rely on Christ’s Word: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth ‘ ‘ ‘ (John 16: 13 ESV)
Michael G. Tavella
July 1, 2019