June 18, 2024

Another Helper

Sinclair Ferguson
Another Helper

On the night before His crucifixion, Jesus promised His disciples that He would ask the Father to give them “another Helper” (John 14:16). Today, Sinclair Ferguson tells us what this title for the Holy Spirit reveals about Him.


This week on Things Unseen, we’re thinking about the person of the Holy Spirit. And like everything else in the Christian life, we can’t just sit down and say, “I’m going to think about the Holy Spirit.” We don’t think up what we think. In some ways, it’d be more accurate to say that our thinking needs to come down to us. I mean, the knowledge of the Holy Spirit needs to flow down into our minds from the mountain of Scripture and its teaching. But where do we begin?

Well, we could take a leaf out of Julie Andrews’ book and say, “Let’s start at the very beginning; it’s a very good place to start,” and turn to Genesis 1 and then work our way forwards in Scripture. That would certainly make for a great Bible study, but it would be a lengthy one and fairly slow, especially if you’re a new Christian. So, I often think the best place to start with teaching that’s either new or even difficult for us to take in or even accept, a good place to start is to ask this question: What did the Lord Jesus believe and teach about this? Especially if we find something difficult to accept, I think it really helps us to get over the emotional hurdles we sometimes feel, because if Jesus believed something, then we want to believe it too if we’re Christians. And if it was important to Him, then it’s important to us. And if we’re His disciples, we want to try to understand it and to believe it.

The Lord Jesus spoke to His disciples on a number of occasions about the Holy Spirit. He assured them that the Father wanted to give them the gift of the Spirit, but it seems it was only in the last hours of His life that He taught them more fully. So, perhaps the place to look for His fullest teaching is in what He said in the upper room in those last hours before He was taken out to be crucified. I’m thinking, of course, of those wonderful chapters in John 14–16.

What did Jesus tell His disciples about the Spirit? Well, He said they were already believers; they were already clean. And then the first thing He tells them about the Spirit is this: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper”—the Greek word is paraklētos, our English word, paraclete—“He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:16).

Another paraclete, another helper. Perhaps you know that in Greek there are two different words that can be translated “another.” Our English word, another can mean either, another of the same kind—your little boy eats a cookie and says, “May I have another?” He means he wants another cookie of the same kind. But another can also mean another of a different kind. Maybe your little boy takes a bite of the cookie and says: “I don’t like chocolate chip cookies. May I have another one?” He means another one of a different kind. And the Greek language usually, although not always, used different words in these two different situations. And in John 14:16, the word “another” in “another paraclete” is the word allos, which means another of the same kind.

Who can Jesus mean here? Well, He means He’s going to ask the Father to give the disciples another Helper, just like the Helper they already have; that is, the same kind as Jesus Himself. They won’t have Jesus with them the way He was with them in the upper room, but the One who will be with them will be another just like Jesus. The Holy Spirit will be everything to them that Jesus has been to them because that’s who He is.

Later on, in John 16:7, Jesus says something further about this that must have staggered the disciples, and it still staggers us today, I think. He said it was to the disciples’ advantage that He was going away because otherwise the Spirit, the other Helper wouldn’t come to them. Perhaps these words are the best litmus test of how well we know the Spirit, because most of us, like the disciples, would surely be inclined to say, “Jesus, I’d far, far rather have You with me the way you were present in the upper room than have the Holy Spirit.” Imagine being able to hear Jesus’ voice, to see His gesticulations, to listen to His words, to gaze on His face and feel is presence. Imagine what the beloved disciple, who was reclining at table close to Jesus, must have felt when he heard these words. Nothing could substitute for Jesus. How could Jesus leaving and another Helper coming possibly be to his advantage?

Well, of course the answer is that the Spirit is another just like Jesus. We need to think more about that today, don’t you think? In fact, we’ll need to return to it tomorrow, so I hope you’ll join me then. But in the meantime, today, remember that if you are a Christian, the other Helper, just like Jesus, is with you, and as we’ll see, He’s more than just with you.