Luke 12:11-12

When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”

– Luke 12:11-12, NIV

In Luke 12:1-12 Jesus encourages the disciples to be bold witnesses in the face of persecution. The disciples will face intense persecution, but they should maintain a strong witness. For a fuller discussion of this entire passage, see my comments on Luke 12:10. Here, I will comment specifically on verse 11-12.

The Courts

As verse 11 says, the disciples will be brought before “the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities.” The synagogues are the local Jewish courts. In these courts 23 judges could order scourging with rods as a penalty. Jesus mentions “rulers” and “authorities” but leaves their identity indefinite. He may have had in mind the Gentile courts.

The Advocate

When these courts charge the disciples with wrongdoing, the Holy Spirit will help them. Jesus says (verse 12), “the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” The same saying is found in Mathew and in Mark. In Mark 13:11 Jesus says, “for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit.” This saying is paralleled in Matthew 10:20. According to Matthew 10:20, Jesus declared, “For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.”

The disciples need not worry about their defense. The Holy Spirit will teach the disciples them what they ought to say. As Robertson explains (p. 174) Jesus literally says, “what thing is necessary (dei) to say.” This assistance is a direct and miraculous intervention by the Holy Spirit. The disciples will have the very finest advocate to help them with their defense!

In Acts 4:8, Luke records a fulfillment of this promise. Peter and John were arrested, taken before the High priest, and questioned. While being questioned, Peter was “filled with the Holy Spirit” and spoke powerfully to the high priest. Among other things, he said that men could be saved only (Acts 4:12) in the name of Jesus. Peter and John were threatened and then released.

Our Helper

The Holy Spirit will help us not only in court, but also in all kinds of circumstances. Speaking broadly, Jesus declares (John 12:26), “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” With regard to all aspects of life, the Spirit teaches us and helps us to remember what Jesus has said. In addition the Spirit speaks through us. The vocal gifts of the Spirit include (I Corinthians 12:8-10) prophecy, the word of knowledge, the word of wisdom, speaking in tongues, and the interpretation of tongues.


Lenski, R. C. H. St. Luke’s Gospel. Columbus: The Wartburg Press, 1946.
Marshall, I. Howard. The Gospel of Luke. Exeter, The Paternoster Press, 1978.
Robertson, A. T. Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vols. 1-6. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1930.

Copyright 2000 © George M. Flattery

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