Chapter 4- His Ministries to the Believer (Part 1)
“My friend Mike seems to have no sense of his own sin, no awareness that he is lost before a thrice-holy God. How can I help him?”, Susan asked. My answer was quite simple: “We need to study the Spirit of God and avail ourselves of His various activities in the world and in the believer.”
While some believers overemphasize the Person of the Holy Spirit, many overlook Him and His many ministries in the world. We want a biblical balance as we study the Third Person of the Trinity.
As I study the Scriptures, I find over a dozen ministries of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Jesus-follower. We will look at two of those ministries and one primary title of the Spirit in this chapter.
(1) The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit
Scripture is clear that when a person trusts Christ he or she is immediately indwelt by the Spirit of God. We read in I Corinthians 3 —
16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.
We also read in I Corinthians 6 —
18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
What are the implications of having the Spirit of God indwell us? From these two texts in I Corinthians, it is clear that God cares about our bodies. We are not to destroy what God has given to us. We are also reminded that we don’t belong to ourselves! We’ve been bought with a price — and we are to therefore honor God with our bodies which are the temples of the Holy Spirit.
(2) The Baptism of the Spirit
One of the more debated ministries of the Spirit of God is His work of baptizing us into the body of Christ. Acts 2, many Evangelicals believe, is the beginning of the Church and the baptism of the Holy Spirit is the theological explanation of what takes place there at Pentecost. I think that a careful examination of Acts, chapters 2, 10, and 11, as well as 1 Corinthians 12:13 indicate that the baptism of the Spirit occurs when one is converted and it is the action by which the Spirit incorporates a new believer into the body of Christ.
This is a controversial topic among many believers, but it seems to me that the baptizing work of the Spirit is when He brings us into the family of God. We read in 1 Corinthians 12:13 — “For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.”
Luke writes the following in Acts 1 —
4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
It is easy to confuse water baptism with the baptism of the Holy Spirit. We read, for example, in the book of Acts —
Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ (11:16).
And in Romans Paul writes —
Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (6:3)
Water baptism is clearly referred to in such passages as the following —
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)
Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. (Acts 2:41)
As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” (Acts 8:36)
And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. (Acts 8:38)
(3) The Other Comforter
Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as “another Comforter” in John 14:16, and simply as “the Comforter” in John 14:26, 15:26, and 16:7 (KJV). In those contexts He also refers to the Spirit three times as “the Spirit of truth” (in John 14:17, 15:26, and 16:13), once as “the Holy Spirit” (in John 14:26), and once simply as “the Spirit” (in John 16:15). All of these titles are worthy of serious contemplation, but we want to focus on the controversial expression, “another Comforter.”
The Greek expression is simply allos parakletos – an adjective followed by another adjective (a substantive). The term allos carries the idea of “another of the same kind.” Jesus does not use the adjective heteros which would carry the implication “another of a different kind.” Swete says that the Spirit is “a second of the same and not of a different order.” The expression “another” Comforter raises the question “Other than what/whom?” One commentator argues that since Christ did not refer to Himself as a paracletos, He might mean “one other than yourselves,” that is, “another Spirit like yours but beyond yours.” But it must be pointed out that although Christ did not use the term paraclete of Himself, He did speak of performing actions which a Paraclete might well perform.
The traditional translation of the phrase as “another Comforter” has met strong opposition, especially from Samuel Chadwick. He writes,
It is deplorable that our English version mistranslates the Greek Paraclete by the word Comforter. Jesus did not promise another Comforter, but another Paraclete. . . . It is impossible to read the four passages in which the word occurs without feeling the inadequateness of Comforter for the office He fills. Instruction, witnessing, and conviction are not usually associated with the ministry of consolation. The translation entirely misses the mark, and is responsible for untold mischief in both doctrine and experience; and yet it has prevailed from the days of the Fathers to the latest version of the Scriptures. It misrepresents the Mission of the Spirit, has led believers to think less of obligation than of comfort, and has associated Christianity with soothing consolations rather than with conflict. The need is not comfort, but power. The call is not to pampered softness, but to the hardship of service and the strain of battle. The Holy Spirit is not given to be a nursing mother to fretful children, but the captain of a mighty host full of nerve and fire.
Carson wryly says, “In today’s ears, ‘Comforter’ sounds either like a quilt or like a do-gooder at a wake, and for most speakers of English should be abandoned. ‘Helper’ (GNB) is not bad, but has overtones of being subordinate or inferior, overtones clearly absent from John 14-16.”
It must not be forgotten that Jesus is also called our paraclete in I John 2:1. The NIV translates that verse as “. . . But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” Six words are needed in English (“one who speaks . . . in our defense”) to translate the simple term paraclete. And in the context of I John 2, the need is not comfort, but defense for the believer who has sinned.
Beasley-Murray compares the Holy Spirit and Jesus in light of this use of paraclete for Jesus in I John 2:
Here Jesus is depicted as an intercessor in the court of heaven, representing the cause of his own, whereas the Holy Spirit is the Paraclete from heaven, supporting his own in the face of a hostile world. The ministries of the two Paracletes, however, are thought of not as simultaneous, but as successive. The Spirit-Paraclete takes the place of the Paraclete Jesus after Jesus’ departure to the Father.
Although the term paraclete is explicitly used only once of the Lord Jesus, by implication John 14:16 should also be considered a reference to Jesus as paraclete (“another Comforter”). Because the logical meaning is that the Spirit would be to the disciples as Jesus was to them, there are a number of implications which we will notice momentarily.
The term parakletos has generated much discussion concerning its definition. Being passive in form it has the literal meaning of “called to the side of.” Morris points out that “As a substantive it was used (though not often), like its Latin equivalent advocatus, as a legal term indicating the counsel for the defense.” Therefore it could be defined as “called to one’s aid, in a court of justice.”
However, “Advocate” might not be the best translation in all contexts. When the Spirit engages in activities like arguing and instructing, these are not necessarily actions associated with an Advocate. One commentator points out that “Such a person would certainly argue, but on behalf of his client. He would instruct, but not the client. He would instruct the court. In John the paracletos is found instructing those whose paracletos He is.” In short, paracletos “as the Greeks knew this legal functionary was not as precisely defined as our counsel for the defence.”
John Wycliffe gets the credit or blame for the translation “Comforter,” according to Leon Morris. “Comforter” can be defended as a translation if the English word is taken in its etymological sense (Latin, con, “with” and fortis, “strong”). It will then have the implication of “Strengthener” or “Helper.”
But in modern times “comfort” has come to have a meaning like “consolation.” It points to a making the best of a difficult situation, whereas the idea in paracletos is not so much this as that of providing the assistance that will deliver from the difficult situation. “Helper” is rather better, but it does not really face the fact that the word is not active in meaning.
C.K. Williams opts for the translation “Friend.” Others suggest especially a legal friend. Knox has renderings like “another to befriend you.” Morris points out that “It seems that it is something like this that is needed, though the legal background of the term is not to be overlooked. John is thinking of the Friend at court . . .”
Morris concludes the discussion on the meaning of Paraclete by writing,
The One who stands for us as the Friend at the heavenly court will perform functions that would not be required in any earthly court. Thus He will remind us of what Christ has said (14: 26). For heavenly purposes in certain circumstances this may well be the most important thing that can be done. So with His teaching of us, of His bearing witness to Christ, His convicting of the world, and the rest. In all these things He is the legal helper, the friend who does whatever is necessary to forward their best interests. But it is impossible to find one English word that will cover all that the paracletos does. We must content ourselves with a term which stresses a limited aspect or aspects, or else use such a term as “Paraclete.”
Implications of Our “Other Comforter”
R. E. Brown provides a helpful summary when he writes that
the Paraclete is a witness in defence of Jesus and a spokesman for him in the context of the trial of Jesus by his enemies; the Paraclete is a consoler of the disciples; more important, he is their teacher and guide and thus, in an extended sense, their helper. No one translation captures the complexity of these functions . . . Christian usage has given a peculiar connotation and status to [paracletos – a connotation not entirely independent of related Hebrew concepts and of the secular Greek meaning of the words, – but a connotation that is unique just the same.
Jesus says the Holy Spirit would be “another paraclete” to His disciples. Would the term “comfort” be the first to come to mind when we think of how Jesus was to His disciples? He rebukes them for their unbelief, for their sleeping, for having no faith. He defends them when they are accused of violating sacred rules of ceremonial washing or ignoring Sabbath observance. He “comes alongside” them when their faith is too weak to exorcize a demon-possessed boy.
“Comfort” seems to imply bringing solace to one who is weeping. The disciples (during the earthly ministry of the Lord) did not know enough to weep. He does not “comfort” them – He challenges, chastises, corrects, and even cajoles them. “Comfort” is far too weak a term. And sometimes the last thing the believer needs is a sympathetic companion who wipes away his tears. We need One who is fully divine to come alongside of us and put His finger on our sins and remind our hearts, “You belong to Your Heavenly Father.” We require One who will motivate and empower us to take risks for the Kingdom of God, One who will not be satisfied with one-seventh of our week, with the leftovers of our hours and days. We need One who will be “called alongside of” us even when we ourselves don’t have enough wisdom to invite His intrusive presence.
In an age of comfort food, we need the Bread of Life broken to us by the Spirit who yearns for our sanctification. We desperately require a Defender in the face of undeserved, snarling rebukes by an unbelieving world – and in the face of deserved charges of our sins by the great Accuser, Satan himself. The Spirit is not a soothing Teddy Bear, but the Hound of Heaven who will not let us be.
Our primary need is not for Someone who will say, “There, there. It will all be okay. It really doesn’t matter.” We require Someone who will remind us that life matters greatly, that we might well die for the sake of the gospel – and we are no fools if such happens to us. We need Someone who will remind us of our sonship even when Satan, the world around us, other Christians, and even our own conduct seem to contradict the very idea that we could be loved and forgiven by God. We need to be rescued from our consumeristic culture and transformed into God-centered, other-focused ambassadors for the King. In our postmodern atmosphere where it seems no one knows who they are and have stopped asking such questions, the Spirit reminds us of our adoption into God’s family. In our subjective circles of pooled ignorance, often punctuated by “Here’s what the Lord says to me,” we need the determined Applyer of the truth of Scripture to do His mighty work in conjunction with the serious attention to the meaning of the Word. Surrounded by moral relativity and a resistance to anyone who defends the concepts of right and wrong, we desperately need the inner conviction of the Spirit who does not debate moral matters with us, but puts His divine finger on the shortcomings of our thoughts and actions. In brief, we need Someone like Jesus.
1. How are we to understand the baptism of the Holy Spirit?
2. How is “Comforter” not necessarily a good translation of paracletos?
3. How does the ministry of the Spirit differ from the ministry of Christ, do you think?