The Holy Spirit (Part Twenty-two)

John 14:22-26; 16:12-15

In our last article about the Spirit of God, we saw that the Holy Spirit had a crucial role in the production of the New Testament Scriptures, just as he did in the Old Testament Scriptures. By the way, this is why it is simply silly to pit the Spirit against the Scriptures. The written word is the voice of the Spirit. He caused people to write what the Father through the Son decided to reveal about himself, his work, and his redemptive activity in the whole Bible. He acted to guarantee that what was written was the word of God.

Next, let’s consider the qualification of the Spirit for this important ministry. What are his credentials? Listen to what Jesus says. The Spirit is qualified because he is the “parakletos”. There has been much misunderstanding about this word, which is used only five times in its noun form in the New Testament Scriptures (John 14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7; 1 John 2:1). All refer to the Holy Spirit, except the reference in 1 John where it refers to Jesus. Part of the problem is that there is no exact English equivalent for this noun. The verb form is used over 100 times with various meanings, like invite, call upon for help, urge, exhort, encourage, request, comfort, cheer up, and beg. But the noun is used differently. “Comforter” is definitely an inadequate translation.

We should not try to determine a word meaning by breaking it up into its “root” parts. Nonsense can result! (Think of our English words butterfly and pineapple. The parts of each word bear little connection with the word meaning.) So, let’s avoid such methodology in our understanding of Biblical words. Since the word as used in the Greek of that time had legal overtones of a friend helping another friend in court, but falling short of what we would call a lawyer, perhaps the best translation in all five passages would be, as Ferguson suggests, “the Friend at court”. The Spirit does whatever is necessary to produce what is in our best interests. Since Biblical revelation is instruction that is binding upon us, the “Friend at court” acted in our best interests by making sure that we have a clear record of that revelation.

The Holy Spirit is qualified because he is “the Spirit of truth” (16:13). This phrase is used three times in John’s Gospel in reference to the Holy Spirit (14:17; 15:26; 16:13). Since Jesus is “the truth”, we can again see how the Spirit is “another Friend in court” like Jesus (14:16). Yet as used here, the emphasis is on the Spirit communicating truth. “If the Holy Spirit is the one who completes the revelation of Jesus Christ by explaining things the disciples could not then bear to hear (16:12-15), then it is reassuring to learn that truth characterizes him; for we may be sure his testimony will be true. Just as Jesus authenticates the veracity of the biblical revelation before him (e.g., Matt. 5:17-20; John 10:35), so also he authenticates the veracity of the biblical revelation still to come” (Carson, The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus, p. 53).

Let us thank the Lord, who came to reveal the Father, that he left the New Testament revelation in such competent hands! It all points to the glory of our Redeemer and his love and mercy for us. Thank him for the provision of the Spirit and the Scriptures today.

Grace and peace, David