The Paraclete

When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning” (vv. 26–27).

- John 15:18–27

Applying the redemption purchased by Christ to us is the work of the Holy Spirit, but this application is multifaceted. We have seen that He is the agent of regeneration, changing our hearts in the new birth so that we might believe in Jesus (John 3:1–8). He also convicts the world concerning sin and righteousness, revealing the darkness of our hearts and pointing us to the surety of forgiveness in Christ (16:7–11). The Spirit illumines the Word of God to bring us to faith and to encourage our growth to Christian maturity (1 Cor. 2:11–12). And He is the agent of sanctification, conforming us more and more to the image of our Savior over the course of our lives (1 Peter 1:1–2).

God uses trials to sanctify us (James 1:2–4), and today’s passage gives us insight as to how He does so. John 14–17 records the final teaching Jesus gave to His disciples just before His crucifixion. During His Upper Room Discourse, our Savior reminded them that they would face hatred and persecution from the world because of their faithfulness to Him (15:18–25). However, the disciples would not be left defenseless at such times, for the Lord promised to send the Helper, the Spirit of truth, from the Father to be with them and bear witness about Him (vv. 26–27). When faced with demands to surrender or compromise the faith, the Holy Spirit is with us to strengthen us in the truth, to present a compelling witness to the truth of the gospel in our hearts and minds, and to enable us to stand firm in the faith. The Spirit sanctifies us in our trials by confirming us in the knowledge of His truth and giving us what we need to present it to others.

Such assistance is confirmed in the title Paraclete, which is given to the Spirit. In today’s passage it is translated as “Helper.” Older translations render it “Comforter.” To be more precise, the Holy Spirit is “another Helper” or “another Comforter” (John 14:16). The first Comforter is Jesus Himself. He is the first Paraclete, as that is the word translated as “advocate” in 1 John 2:1. In the first century, a paraclete was like a modern-day attorney, one who would come alongside people to help them in times of trouble. Jesus is our Advocate or Paraclete before the Father, who pleads the case of our righteousness in Him secured by His blood. The Holy Spirit is our Advocate, Comforter, or Paraclete before the world, who comes alongside us to give us strength and courage when we must stand for Jesus amid hostility and persecution.

Coram Deo

Today we speak of a comforter as one who comes to wipe our tears away and console us. While the Spirit does perform this work, that is not what we mean when we call Him our Comforter. Dr. R.C. Sproul notes that the Latin roots of the term Comforter (cum and forte) mean “with strength,” which accords well with the meaning of paraclete in Greek. The Holy Spirit is no mere shoulder for us to cry on but the sustainer of our faith and courage in the darkest of times.

Passages for Further Study

Psalm 28
Jeremiah 16:14–21
Luke 12:8–12
Ephesians 3:14–21

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