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Theology 101 Paraclete Promises (Part 1 of 4)comment (0)

June 12, 2014

By Jerry Batson


In the course of the evening before His crucifixion, Jesus spoke several times to the disciples about the coming of the Holy Spirit. In doing so, He used a rather unique term, referring to the Holy Spirit as the paraclete. This term, of course, simply repeats the Greek word with an English spelling without translating it or interpreting its meaning. A brief survey of English versions reveals a variety of attempts to express the meaning of paraclete: Comforter, Advocate, Counselor, Encourager, Intercessor, Helper.

The Greek word itself is composed of two parts. The prefix (para-) means “alongside of.” We find this prefix in our English word parallel — something lined up alongside something else. The second part of Jesus’ term (cletos) expressed the idea of “called” or “summoned.” When we put the two parts together, we get the idea of “one called alongside” us. This results in a rather neutral meaning. It takes the context in which Jesus spoke the word to help us understand the purpose for which the Holy Spirit is “called alongside us.” Most likely, the English translation “Helper” keeps a rather neutral meaning, thereby allowing the context to tell us how Jesus meant the Spirit would help us. Rather than seeking the Spirit’s ministry in the meaning of the word paraclete, let’s seek it in the context of the four times Jesus used it with reference to the Holy Spirit, all found in the Gospel of John.

Another Helper

The first paraclete passage is John 14:15–18. Last week we noted that Jesus worded His reference to the Holy Spirit in this passage in a way that closely identified the Spirit with Himself. He did so by calling the Spirit “another Helper,” using the word for another that means “another of the same kind.” Having so said, Jesus quickly elaborated on the promised Helper, adding the further identification “even the Spirit of truth” (John 14:17). Although Jesus would later in the evening elaborate on the Spirit’s ministry as related to truth, at the outset He alerted the disciples that the ministry of the Spirit would be related intimately with revealed truth.

Indwelling Helper

Jesus continued by explaining that while the Holy Spirit was already “with” them, a time was coming when the Spirit of truth would be “in” them (John 14:17). Not only was the Holy Spirit to be connected intimately to God’s truth, He would be connected intimately with believers of that truth. As believers, we know the indwelling of the Spirit in our hearts.

Jesus wanted His closest friends to know that His departure from them to return to the Father would not leave them bereft of His presence as if orphaned in an unfriendly world. “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18). Apparently Jesus wanted them, and us, to think of the indwelling Spirit as His own personal, earthly representative.

Helper in Prayer

So we go about our Christian lives with Jesus indwelling us by means of His earthly representative while He is our exalted heavenly representative at the Father’s right hand. As one example of the practical importance of the Holy Spirit, consider His ministry when we pray. We have the privilege of prayer in which the Holy Spirit intercedes within our hearts (Rom. 8:26), while our Savior intercedes for us with the Father (Rom. 8:34). Prayer has a divine connection at both its earthly end and its heavenly end.

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