After the “Last Supper,” Jesus taught his disciples some crucial things that would comfort and strengthen his disciples for the ordeals to come. One of these topics concerned the Holy Spirit and his part in their lives—and by extension, our lives as well. In his teaching, Jesus refers to the Holy spirit as a paraklētos like himself.
What is the meaning of paraklētos, and how is it significant for you and me?
One of the first things we learn is that the paraklētos is a ‘Who,’ not a ‘what.’ And just so you know, you pronounce it as para-KLAY-toss. You may also see this word transliterated as “paraclete.”
Let us begin by exploring the meaning of this Greek word, paraklētos.
Paraklētos is a rich, multi-dimensional word.
Vine’s Dictionary points out that this word combines “para + kaleō,” carrying the literal sense of “called to one’s side.” Another Greek-English dictionary (BDAG) has a similar entry: “one who is called to someone’s aid.”
Various Bible versions translate paraklētos as Counselor (NIV), Helper (ESV, NASB, and NKJ), Comforter (KJV), and Advocate (NRS, NLT, and NET). This understanding is consistent with non-biblical literature, which also renders the word as a mediator or intercessor.
These roles are similar in that they describe someone who comes to another’s aid, but they are also diverse. A comforter is different than an advocate, even a helper.
Some scholars believe that we cannot translate the complex meaning of paraklētos with a single English word. Edward Klink chooses to refer to this title as “the intimate presence of God with his people,” thus combining all the concepts of counselor, helper, comforter, advocate, and much more.
Paraklētos is found five times in the New Testament. Four of these occurrences are in Jesus’ Farewell Address (John 13-16). The fifth occurrence refers to Jesus Christ (1 John 2:1-2).
Let’s look at each of the occurrences in John 13-16.
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Paraklētos to be with [meta] you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with [para] you and will be in [en] you.
In each instance, I have retained the word Paraklētos. I invite you to think in terms of this being “the intimate presence of God with his people.”
In this text, Jesus identifies the Paraklētos as “the Spirit of truth” here and in 15:26. In 14:26, he refers to him as “the Holy Spirit.”
1. Identity: As mentioned earlier, the Paraklētos is not a ‘what’ but a ‘Who’—the indwelling Holy Spirit. As such, the intimate presence of God indwells each Christian, coming to our side to equip, encourage, and empower us.
2. Relationship: Furthermore, Jesus subtly indicates the Spirit’s relationship with his people in three eras distinguished by three prepositions meta, para, and en (inserted in the text above). Let me explain.
Our past: During the period in which Jesus spoke to his disciples, the Spirit was with his people. The word “with” translates para, indicating that the Spirit was “beside” his people.
Our present: After the events on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), the Spirit was en or “in” his people. Here began the actual indwelling of the Spirit of God within his people.
Our future: When (I propose) we are with the Lord Jesus in “my Father’s house,” the Spirit will be meta or dwelling “with” God’s people. This suggests an even greater presence of the Father, Son, and Spirit in the age to come.
Together, these two roles identify the Paraklētos as the Holy Spirit who has been, continues to be, and will eternally be “the intimate presence of God with his people.”
But the Paraklētos, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
3. Teaching: The Holy Spirit is the pre-eminent teacher of God’s people. Without this teaching role, we would be completely lost; with His teaching, we become aware of who God is, who we are, and what God is calling us to be.
The Spirit teaches us as the instrumental agent for the composition and illumination of the Bible. He also teaches in and through those with the gift of teaching (1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11).
When the Paraklētos comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.
4. Testifying: This is the word that a witness uses for what has been seen, heard, and experienced. The Spirit, and God’s people by the Spirit, provide accurate and authoritative evidence of what they have observed and experienced. This, in part, is the evangel, the Good News of Jesus Christ.
I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Paraklētos will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
5. Convicting: Another courtroom word. This time, the action of a judge condemning those who are guilty.
We, humans, resist change, even when we know it is for the better. This is especially true when it comes to bowing our knees and hearts to Jesus Christ as King and Lord of all areas of our lives. Often, it is only in times of extremity—when burdened by the conviction of our sin, God’s righteousness, and impending judgment—that we make the vital life-changing choice to receive Christ.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we cannot bring about this conviction within others by our judgmental attitudes or cajoling words. It is the work of the Holy Spirit—often through our lives—that is the necessary trigger of this conviction.
We have examined a few verses and discerned only five roles of the Holy Spirit, who is “the intimate presence of God with his people.”
I encourage you to ask yourself, how do these roles of the indwelling Spirit inform your life?
For me, it leaves me with another question:
How can we participate or cooperate with the Spirit, allowing Him to exercise these roles through us more fully?
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