Who are we?

In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Precious title (14:16-17)

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

We know that many titles are given to the Holy Spirit in the Bible as well as many images from the natural world in order to help us appreciate his person and his work. He is the Spirit of God, which indicates his deity; he is the Spirit of Jesus, which points to his mission as the ambassador of Christ. He is likened to fire, which stresses his purity; to a dove, which emphasizes his gentleness; to a fountain, which denotes his ministry of refreshment. Each of these titles and images give us insight, and therefore they are all precious to believers. 

Jesus, here, uses another precious and beautiful title for the Holy Spirit when he says that he is the Paraclete. Various words are used by different translations to convey its meaning: comforter, helper, counsellor being some options. The term itself literally means ‘one who comes alongside to help’ and it was used of various individuals in the ancient world. For example, it was used of a person who defended another person in a court of law. We find this idea in the well-known statement of 1 John 2:1: ‘My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.’ The term translated ‘advocate’ is ‘Paraclete’. 

‘The word translated “Comforter” is used in the New Testament five times. In four instances it is applied to the Holy Spirit – John 14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7. In the other instance it is applied to the Lord Jesus – 1 John 2:1: ‘We have an advocate (Paraclete –Comforter) with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.’  It is used, therefore, only by John.  

Jesus, in these verses, calls him ‘the Spirit of truth’, which indicates that in his ministry as the Paraclete the Holy Spirit will always tell the truth. One obvious way in which he will function as a counsellor occurs when he convicts us of our sins. What is conviction of sin but the Spirit telling us the truth about ourselves. Yet he is doing this as one giving helpful counsel by pointing out to us our dangerous state by nature. And he convicts us in order to show to us our need of Christ.

Then we can think of how the Spirit uses the truth to defend us as our comforter. In our inner lives as Christians we can be accused by the devil or by our own conscience concerning our sins. We know that the accusations have a basis and our response can be very weak, even when we remind ourselves of God’s forgiveness. In such a situation we should cry to Jesus to send the Spirit to defend us. When we sin, Jesus is our Advocate in heaven, presenting his representative life and atoning death as the basis of refuting the accusations made against us. Similarly, our Advocate on earth, the Holy Spirit, takes the same means to refute our earthly accusers. And he brings comfort to us when we repent of our sins.

The Spirit also helps us by working in our lives according to God’s plans. These plans are the ultimate truths that exist. The Spirit was privy to them and knows them in exact detail. All he does in our lives is according to that standard of truth. 

Again, he works in our lives according to the truth contained in the Bible. He brings about the answers promised in the Bible to our prayers. When we pray for spiritual blessings, he brings them to us. When we need guidance, he provides it. There are many ways by which he works according to the truth of the Bible.

It is good for us to have such a Paraclete. We should give thanks to God the Father for promising the Spirit to Jesus, and give thanks to Jesus for procuring the Spirit for us by his work of redemption. And we should thank the Spirit for coming to us gladly and lovingly to fulfil in us the great plans that God has for us.

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