HOW IS THE HOLY SPIRIT OUR HELPER? by Michael Horton for Core Christianity
Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:7)
In his teaching on the Holy Spirit, Jesus began by telling them that judgment would begin within the church. Although the world will judge the church, Jesus said that the ruler of this world had already been judged. Satan may persecute us now on earth, but he can’t prosecute us in heaven! Whatever horrible suffering we might experience on earth does not compare, Paul says, to the glory that will be revealed in us (Rom. 8:18). Because of the work of Christ—because he took his place at the right hand at the Father, because he took that throne, and because Satan has been cast out—all authority has been given to Jesus in heaven and on earth.
In John 16:1–4, Jesus says, “They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.” That is, your own parents, your own siblings, your own children will consider it an act of piety to turn you over to the police. There’s going to be an apostasy within the church itself. That’s already what John the Baptist had proclaimed—a pruning, a period of division within Israel. The Holy Spirit will be the prophet of all prophets. The Holy Spirit will come with that word of prosecution to his people—the word that cuts, that divides. But the Spirit who convicts through the law will also convince sinners of the gospel. The heavenly Paraclete, the heavenly attorney, will save his people.
What a wonderful word [paracletos] that is. Unfortunately, “helper” is just about as lame as you can imagine for this description. Part of our demotion of the Holy Spirit is due to our translation of the Greek. Jesus says, “I will send you allos paraklētos”—“another paraclete.” When we’re talking about Jesus as paraklētos, as in 1 John 2:1—“We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous”—we should think of Jesus. But when we think of the Holy Spirit as paraklētos, we should translate it as “comforter.” The ESV translates this word as “helper,” but that misses Jesus’ point. Jesus is not saying, “I’m sending someone of lesser importance.” Otherwise, why would he say, “It’s good that I go, but if I go, I will send you another paraclete”? That is, “He is equal to me but different from me. I didn’t hover over the waters, in the beginning, impregnating them. I didn’t hover over the waters of the Red Sea, parting them so that my people could pass through. I didn’t hover over the waters of my mother in my own incarnation. But this paraklētos did, and he is the one who will unite you to me.”