R.C. Sproul on the Other Comforter

from Jul 20, 2016 Category: Ligonier Resources

In this excerpt from his teaching series, “What Did Jesus Do?“, R.C. Sproul considers the meaning of the Greek word paraclete and the purpose of the Holy Spirit’s coming at Pentecost.


In that same period of the Upper Room discourse that Jesus had with the disciples as recorded for us in John, Jesus explains to His disciples that He’s going away in order that He may send to them another Paraclete. Often when we use the term Paraclete, we’re thinking that we’re referring simply to the Holy Spirit. No, the Holy Spirit is not the Paraclete — the Holy Spirit is the other Paraclete. The original Paraclete is Christ Himself as we looked at — as His being the consolation of Israel. The old English translations of it in the New Testament speak of the Holy Spirit as the Comforter. And we think that the purpose of the Holy Spirit’s coming into the life of the church is to bring consolation to those who are in pain and suffering and who need to be consoled. Well, He does that, but that’s not the primary meaning of the term comforter as it was used in the old English. The old English translation of the Paraclete was the English word comforter, based on the original meaning of comfort, meaning ‘with strength.’ So it’s not solace so much that is in view as it is power and strength.

The paraclete was the name given to the family attorney in the ancient world. And if you had a difficult problem that you were facing you would summon the paraclete. Parakletos means one who is called to stand alongside of you. And Jesus tells His disciples that ‘you are going to be dragged into prisons, and you are going to be hated and despised. But when you’re delivered up to these councils, don’t be worried, don’t be afraid. Because I will send the Comforter, the Paraclete, to give you the strength, to stand beside you, that you may be faithful in times of crisis.’

Remember that He also instructed His disciples after, that He was going to leave them, He said ‘you are to go to Jerusalem and tarry there. Wait for a while because you shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you.’ And again Jesus says to them ‘I won’t let you alone. I will be with you even though I’m going away in one sense, in another way I’m going to be with you until the ends of the earth.’ The last question the disciples ask Jesus before the ascension was ‘Lord, will you now restore the kingdom to Israel?’ What did Jesus say? He said, ‘it’s none of your business when I’m going to restore the kingdom of Israel, but your responsibility is this: you shall be My witnesses, after that, the Holy Ghost is come upon you.’

And so one the most important reasons for Jesus’ ascension to the right hand was that Pentecost would take place — that the Father and the Son would pour out the Holy Spirit upon the church. And the purpose of that outpouring of the Holy Spirit was to empower the church for its earthly mission, to empower the church for ministry. Again, to witness for Christ in a corrupt world requires strength greater than our own.