Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.
Each language has its grammatical rules and its cultural perspectives. In the English of today grammarians are seeking to correct what they believe to have been a long-ingrained bias toward men. In previous generations the third person pronoun for an unknown person has been “he” or “one,” such as “one has merely to ask.” But “one” seems too impersonal, too scholarly, too removed from common speech, so in biblical translations “he, his, him” were the chosen words, such as “out of his belly will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38), and this has been thought by some to be a slight against women – why not “out of her belly…”?
The correction to this has become, in the last twenty years or so, to use the words “they, them, theirs,” which to those of us who studied grammar in earlier years seems mechanically wrong. “They” is plural and used in this new way it is now indistinct on whether one is being addressed or many, and this is a very important matter for interpreting Scripture. Problems are not usually corrected by created new ones. English has another problem with the word “you” and that is an absence of differentiation between singular and plural. When translating the Scriptures these distinctions are critical for proper understanding and application. For example, 1 Corinthians 12:31 says, “But earnestly desire the greater gifts.” It is essential to understand that Paul was addressing the church and not the individual. The individual receives what he receives from God, a point plainly made in 1 Corinthians 12:11. God distributes as He will, and which of us can argue with God? But the church as a whole should earnest desire, meaning to value and esteem them, the greater gifts of the Spirit of teaching and evangelism. Many of the problems we have with interpreting the English Bible are cleared up when we realize that the apostle was addressing the church, not the individual believer.
The passage of John 14 is a passage where the opposite emphasis is made, that Christ was specifically addressing the individual. Judas, not Iscariot, asked a question in the plural, “to us,” and Jesus responded in the singular, “if anyone.” The clear emphasis here is on the individual believer and the promises of God to indwell him with His Spirit. With so much of the Bible as a whole and the New Testament in particular addressed to the community of believers, it is refreshing and spiritually uplifting to discover those passages where the individual is addressed. And on this subject in particular it is essential, for the emphasis of the New Testament is more solidly on the individual believer than is the emphasis in the Old Testament.
Certainly there are sections in the Old Testament that clearly emphasize the individual – “I am poor and needy, yet the Lord thinks about me” (Psalm 40:17), for example – but the Nation of Israel as a community received the blessings or the curses. In the New Testament the blessings and curses are more pronounced to the individual, though it also teaches that we cannot ignore the Christian community or the church.
In this passage of John Christ was teaching that the way the Spirit will be among His people will be through the individual believer’s faith. Throughout His public preaching and private ministry He taught this truth of the necessity of individual faith, “that whoever believes in him should not perish… (John 3:16), “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself take up his cross daily and follow after me (Luke 9:23), “If anyone serves me, he must follow me” (John 12:26).
This is the great emphasis of the gospel, the individual must repent and believe and the individual believer then receives the Spirit. The church as a whole has a collection of spiritual gifts given by the Spirit of God, and these gifts re-enforce our need of one another in the Christian community, but the individual believer receives all of God’s Spirit’s love and mercy and grace and help. God establishes personal, intimate relationships with each and every follower of Christ and He builds us up in our faith, opens our minds to understand His word, encourages us in our walk, uses us for His purposes, and hears our prayers – as individual believers.
God wants to hear from you, just as surely as He desires to speak to you.
Lord, we thank You for calling us as individuals and for knowing us as individuals. Thank You for Your Spirit’s presence in each of our lives. Amen.
 “They” is used in this section in the New International Version 2011 edition.