Yesterday we talked about what the Spirit does for the world, referring to nonbelievers: He convicts them of sin, righteousness, and judgment. He’s the one who draws people to Christ, shows them their need for them, and makes clear the Good News to them. Today we’re going to examine what the Spirit does for believers. Actually, we’re going to spend a few days on this topic, since that’s the bulk of what the N.T. says about his work. The Spirit was involved in every physical aspect of our salvation (the Incarnation, the atonement, the resurrection, etc.), but he’s involved in every spiritual aspect of our salvation as well.
The Last Supper was their version of the Passover. Since they were having it a day early, there were some modifications that were necessary, but it was supposed to be a celebration. It should've been, but it wasn’t. Jesus’ mood was very dark, as if a cloud hung over every piece of the conversation. He kept telling them what was going to happen to him, but they couldn’t understand, or they didn’t want to. But he kept trying to give them the hope they needed to make it through the next few days.
Like I said yesterday, John 14-16 has the most complete of any section of any teaching on the Spirit. He was trying to impress on them the necessity of his departure, and his main appeal was the imminent arrival of the Spirit after he left. Let’s take a brief look at it.
He says that when he returns to the Father he will send “another advocate” to them. There are two very important points to make here from the Greek. First, the word translated as "advocate" in the NIV, although it's been rendered various ways in different translations: "counselor," "helper," and "comforter." The Greek word is Paraclete, literally "someone called to walk along beside [to help someone]." It was used as a legal advocate, roughly equivalent to a defense attorney in a trial (used of Jesus in that sense in 1 John 2:1), or it could be used in the sense of "encourager" (used in that sense of Barnabas, the "son of encouragement" in Acts 4:36-37). So it's a really rich word which defies simple one-to-one translation . The NIV chose to translate it as "advocate" in today's passage, and that's as good as any. However you translate it, the Spirit was sent by the Father and Jesus to be the One called to help us, counsel us, comfort us, and encourage us .
The other major point is regarding the word "another." The Greek is very clear that it's "another of the same type." What Jesus was to his disciples while on earth, the Spirit is about to become to them and to us. Our Savior walked along them, providing comfort, power, encouragement, instruction, and rebuke to his followers. And he always did so in exact measure of what they needed moment by moment.
His promise is that the Counselor will do that same type of work for us. In fact, it'll be better. Jesus, under the Father’s plan, limited himself to time and space in a physical body. He could only see and help so many people per day. His personal attention was a zero-sum game: If he paid attention to person X, it could only be at the expense of person Y.
Not so the Spirit. If there are umpteen kajillion believers out there, the Spirit lives in each of them and gives them as much personal attention as if he only had one believer to attend.
The other reason it’s better than what the disciples had is because of internal instead of merely external instruction. We’re going to discuss this in further detail in a couple of days, but we can mention it here. The Holy Spirit has always been with believers in one sense: He’s the Spirit of truth, and no one knows God at all apart from his revelatory action. But Jesus here talks about something never seen before in human history: He was “with” you, but once this happens he’s going to be “in” you. He’s coming to live permanently. Not just until you screw up. Not just until he’s finished some task. Forever and forever and forever.
This is pretty comforting to me. The disciples certainly felt like Jesus left them as orphans over the next few days. Even his resurrection appearances, as wonderful as those were, were only a temporary respite until he ascended. But he would return in the sense of coming back in the Person of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is how Jesus comes to us. His presence is as real to us now as it was when he walked the planet with his followers.
We certainly don’t experience as intimate a fellowship as we’d like or as God would like. But he’s here. Right now. You can have a taste of his presence right this second. Why don’t you?
Lord Jesus, I thank you so much that I’m not an orphan. You are here in the Person of the Holy Spirit. I know I have you, but I want more. Please.