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The Holy Spirit #8: The Holy Spirit as Paraclete

The Holy Spirit #8: The Holy Spirit as Paraclete by Pastor Jack Lash

On the night before His departure, Jesus comforted His disciples – who are terrified about His departure – with these words:

"And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will behold Me no more; but you will behold Me; because I live, you shall live also. In that day you shall know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you." (John 14:16-20)

Jesus didn’t speak these words only to comfort the Twelve who had been with Him. He spoke these words to encourage us as well as we face the stern realities of this life. He knows we need help.

The poem "Footprints In the Sand" has captured the hearts of many Christians. Why? The powerful message which has touched so many lives is that even in our deepest struggles, the invisible God is with us. One of the most powerful – and easily forgotten – realities of the Christian life is that God is with us helping us even when we are completely unconscious of it.

We have seen that it is the Holy Spirit’s ministry to glorify Christ and to transform the human soul into the likeness of Christ. In this article we will see that the Holy Spirit is the One through whom the Father and the Son are present with us.

Perhaps you’ve heard the word PARACLETE before. It is the word translated "Helper" in John 14:16 above. In its derivation the word means "one who is called for." In Greek literature outside the NT, it means "one who is called in to help." It was often used of an attorney who represents you in court, but it was not limited to this. This has been a very difficult word for translators. The problem is that we don’t have a word big enough to translate this properly. Various terms have been used:

Counselor/Advocate

(which is too limited because it refers only to the legal sphere)

Comforter

(which was a fairly good translation in 1611 when the King James Bible was introduced, but this word has changed its meaning considerably since then – and now captures little of the meaning of the Greek word)

Paraclete

(which is merely a transliteration of the Greek word parakletos)

Helper

(which is the only word that makes sense in every context, but it still doesn’t capture the richness of the Greek word)

Let’s see what we can learn from the way Jesus uses this word. The word occurs five times in the NT, and four of them are in the context of this one talk (recorded in the gospel of John) Jesus gave to His disciples at His last supper with them when He spoke to them about the coming of the Holy Spirit. This is the first time it’s used, and here Jesus gives us the most definition of what He means, as is often the case when a concept is first introduced. Referrring to the Holy Spirit, Jesus says to them, "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever." (John 14:16). Jesus is referring to Himself as the first paraclete, saying that when He leaves He will send them another paraclete – the Holy Spirit. (By the way the fifth and only other time this word is used in the NT is in 1John 2:1 "My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.") A large part of what is behind this notion of the paraclete as Jesus introduces it, then, is "a new One to be with you, One who will stand in My place."

This is confirmed by the second, third and fourth uses of this word:

John 14:26 "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."

John 15:26 "When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of Me."

John 16:7 "I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you."

By paraclete, then, Jesus means Someone who is going to come and fill His shoes in His ministry to the disciples. The bottom line is this: the idea behind the Holy Spirit as paraclete is as broad and rich and deep as the role that Jesus played in the lives of His disciples during the three years when He walked with them. What Jesus had been to them, the Holy Spirit was now going to be to them – only better (as is clear from John 16:7 just above). He was to be their Teacher, their Shelter, their Corrector, their Companion, and the Sweetness of their lives.

But of course this isn’t just for them. What Jesus was to them, the Holy Spirit is to us. Or, what Jesus was to them in the flesh, Jesus is to us in the Spirit – and more! He is:

Our Strength in weakness

Our Peace in trouble

Our Wisdom in darkness

Our Guide in perplexity

Our Righteousness in sinfulness

Our Victory in temptation

The One who keeps bringing us back to reality when we wander off into worldliness

The Breast upon which to lay our heads

The Love in which to bathe our hearts

Jesus goes on to give us one more analogy that helps us to understand the Holy Spirit as paraclete.

"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." (John 14:18)

This is more than just the fact that He has been like a father to them. He has fathered them, He has given them life, He has caused them to be born (again). And now they are little children and their father is leaving. They are in danger of becoming orphans. And in the language of a dying father He tells them He will not allow them to become orphans. He is going to send them another father to walk with them and help them and teach them and protect them and guide them, for children are not able to take care of themselves. But here Jesus says something very strange. He tells His disciples that in order to not leave them as orphans, He will come to them. This shows us that the ministry of the Holy Spirit as paraclete is really the continued ministry of Jesus with us through the Holy Spirit.

All through His ministry Jesus made reference to the fact that He was going to be with His disciples on a continuing basis. E.g.:

Matthew 18:20 "For where two or three have gathered together in My name, there I am in their midst."

Matthew 28:20 "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

Well, it is through this new paraclete, the Holy Spirit, that Jesus is with His people. Jesus was our Immanuel: God with us. But now He is with God. And the Holy Spirit is our Immanuel. Or Jesus is our Immanuel through the Holy Spirit.

And this pattern can be seen through the rest of the NT:

2 Timothy 4:17 "But the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me, in order that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was delivered out of the lion's mouth."

Acts 18:9-10 "And the Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, ‘Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city.’"

Acts 9:31 "So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and, going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase." (The word translated comfort here is paraclesis, a derivative of paracletos.)

All of us want to experience the presence of the Lord with us in this way. How do we work to make this the pattern of our lives? Here are four steps which need to be taken:

1- The first step is to recognize our lack. God helps those who know they are weak and need help. Maybe we don’t get God’s help because we’re not really convinced we need it! How easy it is for me to head off into a new day without crying out to God for help. We are never going to grow strong in the Lord until we have experienced our own weakness and failure enough that we begin daily crying out to God from the depths of our souls for His help. When you feel weak, then you are just where God wants you. In fact, only when you are feeling weak are you in touch with the truth about yourself. The problem isn’t that we don’t have a Helper. The problem is we’re too proud to recognize our need for help.

2- Secondly, we need to take note of the promises of Christ. If you have a sense of how far short you are of what you should be, that’s good. But that’s just the beginning. You also need a sense of what you could be if you were filled with the grace of God. In Col.1:29 Paul said he was "striving according to His working which works in me mightily." In Eph.3:20-21 he said that God is able to "do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us." I can be someone different than I am, I can be a person who is ablaze with God, if God really gets hold of me. It’s good to have a sense of our own weakness. God wants us to feel weak. But He also wants us to walk in the knowledge of His strength – even as we are feeling our weakness. God said to Paul in 2Cor.12:9 "My strength is made perfect in [your] weakness." Sometimes we feel very weak. At other times we feel strong. But how rarely we have both a profound sense of our own weakness and yet also the confidence that God’s power is at work mightily in us and through us in spite of our weakness! God wants us to feel our need for help, but He also wants us to feel the presence of His Helper, the Holy Spirit.

3- The third thing to do is to begin to work to remember the Spirit’s involvement in our lives. Christians today are to a large extent unconscious of the presence and ministry of the Spirit of God in their souls. But "glorious things of thee are spoken"! You have a Helper, and He is with you. You have not been left alone! This is such good news for us when we feel weak, when we feel lonely, when we feel like God is far from us. Behold what love God has for us, that He would send us a Helper! How great is the love of Jesus that He did not want to leave us alone! He is not detached. He is not working on me by remote control. He is not just an impersonal power working from a distance upon my soul. He is close to me. He is with me. He is my Friend. Indeed, He is even in me. How slow we are at appreciating the preciousness of the fact that God is with us. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Phil. 4:13) ought to be our daily consciousness. O to have a constant sense that God is with me as my Helper and my Friend! We are a God-helped people — we must strive to think of ourselves as and live our lives like a God-helped people.

4- The fourth thing is to seek the expansion of the Spirit’s involvement in our lives. What kind of relationship with God do we want? Don’t we want to have rivers of living water flowing out of our innermost being (John 7:37-39)? That’s what I want. But that’s not my experience. My relationship with God is something I have to work on. In one sense I love communing with God but in another sense it is the hardest thing I have to do. I don’t love His fellowship like young lovers do theirs. I look into my heart, and there’s so little passion for Christ, so little heart-fire for His companionship. Why, I have to make myself pray! I have to make myself praise Him and thank Him. I pray because I know it is the right thing to do and because I owe it to Him. But to be honest it hardly ever happens if I don’t make myself do it. This is not how I want to be. I want to be someone who prays like a man in love, like a man who is enthralled, who is captivated. I want to run to prayer like I run to fun and run to food when I’m hungry. We need a determination to have this passion for God. We need to seek it by urgent, desperate pleading before God. There is an evil kind of contentment. There is a kind of contentment which destroys the soul. It is being content with the coldness of one’s heart. It is being content with deadness and apathy and lust and self-reliance and unbelief. It is lacking that holy discontentment which drives us to shake the doors of heaven with our prayers seeking God’s transforming grace.