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In his final extended teaching to his eleven faithful disciples Jesus said:

‘I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth’ – John 14:16.

The word translated ‘counselor’ by the 1984 NIV (parakletos) is also translated ‘Comforter’ (KJV), ‘Helper’ (NASV & GNB), ‘Advocate’ (NEB), and ‘advocate’ (2011 NIV). The Amplified Bible has ‘Comforter’ expanded to ‘Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener and Standby, which is far more informative and comprehensive than the Message’s rather reduced interpretation - ‘Friend’.

It is important that we do not minimize the power of this word – parakletos. Literally, it means ‘called to one’s side, called alongside’. W.E.Vine explains:

‘It was used in a court of justice to denote a legal assistant, counsel for the defence, an advocate; then, generally, one who pleads another’s cause, an intercessor, advocate, as in 1 John 2:1, of the Lord Jesus. In the wider sense, it signifies a succourer, comforter...’

Leon Morris comments:

‘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 parakletos does.’

We need also to keep in mind that what Jesus promised was ‘another’ parakletos, that is ‘another just like me’, not another of a different kind. There are two Greek words for ‘another’ – heteros – which refers to another of a different kind, and allos – which refers to another of the same kind, the word used in John 14:16. Whatever the Holy Spirit is, he is just like Jesus, doing for us what Jesus did for his disciples while he was among them. But not only that. John refers to Jesus’ present role as that of ‘Advocate’:

‘But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defence – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One’ – 1John 2:1.

Here the 1984 NIV phrase ‘one who speaks ...in our defence’ is simply the word parakletos. Other translations have ‘an Advocate’ (2011 NIV, KJV, NASV), ‘one to plead our cause’ (NEB), ‘someone who pleads ...on our behalf’ (GNB)

Hebrews speaks of this intercessory activity of Jesus Christ – that he is our permanent priest who enables our access to God ‘because he always lives to intercede for them’ (Hebrews 7:25), and through whose substitutionary death and priestly mediation we have permanent, confident access into God’s presence (Hebrews 4:14 – 16; 10:19 – 22). And Ephesians 2:18 teaches that our access to the Father is through Christ and by the Holy Spirit.

Now our question is: in what way is the Holy Spirit the same kind of ‘Advocate’ as Jesus Christ? We find some answers to this question in the New Testament:

That the Holy Spirit is God’s seal of ownership, guaranteeing our on-going and final salvation – Ephesians 1:13, 14; 4:30; 2Corinthians 1:22; 5:5.

That the Holy Spirit confirms to us that we are God’s children – Romans 8:15, 16.

That when life is so difficult and complex that we do not even know how or what to pray, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with an agony too deep to vocalize – Romans 8:26, 27.

The two Romans texts, and particularly the second, are in the context of suffering, and suffering was commonly understood as an indication of God’s judgement on the individual. It is in the context of such accusations that the intercession of Christ is mentioned, and the accuser, the adversary, is also mentioned without being named, along with his words aimed at the destruction of our faith and the denial of our salvation – Romans 8:31 – 34. But the truth about Christ, taught to us by the Holy Spirit, renders the accuser’s words legally invalid. And it is in the context of suffering, along with its accompanying accusations, that the Holy Spirit is said to intercede for us.

And here we discover also who the opposite of the parakletos is: While the parekletos is our defending Counsel, assuring us of our secure salvation, assuring us that we are God’s children, his opposite, the prosecution, the adversary, is the one bringing charges against us, the one accusing us: Satan (the ‘accuser’ – Revelation 12:10; the ‘adversary’ – 1Peter 5:8).

Jesus did not leave us as ‘orphans’ to fight the battle of faith alone, to live for him vulnerable to the accusations of the enemy. He did not leave us ignorant of the complete salvation he accomplished for us by his death. He sent the Paraclete, the Advocate – who, by his presence, and by his teaching of the truth about Jesus Christ, reassures us of our unshakeable union with Christ, and gives us peace in the midst of the accusations and deceptions of the enemy – John 14:18 – 20.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2024