T HE WORD is parakletos. It is used only five times in the Bible. Four times in John’s Gospel. Once in 1 John.
It is hard to tie down to a single meaning. Your English translation of the Bible might use the word “Comforter” “Advocate,” “Counselor,” or “Helper.” But it’s more than any one of those. John probably intends all of them as he defines or describes the Holy Spirit.
John says the Holy Spirit does the following: teach, remind (14:26), abide (14:16), and testify about Jesus (15:26). Like Jesus, the Holy Spirit deals in truth. This word “paraclete” combines all those attributes and abilities.
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JESUS REFERS to the Holy Spirit as Another Paraclete. Another of the same kind. If the Holy Spirit is another Advocate, then that means there has been an Advocate already — that Advocate is Jesus.
Jesus is still talking to his disciples in what is called the “farewell discourse.” He is going away to prepare a place. But he will not leave them alone, orphaned. He will give another Advocate (our translation) to help and be with the disciples forever.
Now, an advocate is a person who speaks on behalf of or in support of another person, place, or thing.
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WHAT APPEARED TO BE bad news to the disciples — namely Jesus’ departure from them — turns out to be the best of news for both them and us.
While Jesus walked the earth, his ministry was limited to one locale and one person, himself. Upon Jesus’ ascension, the “Paraclete” continues the work of Jesus.
As the years pass, people will be called to believe in a Jesus they have never seen or heard. It is the Advocate/Counselor that makes trust possible.
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SOME HAVE COMPARED coming to faith as comparable to falling in love. One cannot fall in love in the abstract.
Love comes through an encounter with another person. The same is true of faith. If faith is a relationship with the living Christ and the living God who sent him, then faith can only come through an encounter with them.
And the “Paraclete” is the one who makes God’s presence known to us.
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OCCASIONALLY I’M ASKED to be an advocate for someone. Perhaps it’s writing a letter of support for a college scholarship or a job reference. Sometimes it might be on behalf of a person in court.
Some advocates press the legislature to act on behalf of a certain cause. Other advocates champion people who face developmental, mental health, or other life challenges.
You are an advocate whenever you:
■ help an elderly neighbor figure out how to get meals on wheels delivered so she can have healthy meals.
■ contact school officials after learning a child was bullied at school.
■ look out for a sick person to make sure proper medical care is provided.
■ speak out for meat processing workers during this pandemic.
■ help women of domestic abuse who feel too afraid to speak for themselves.
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THE HOLY SPIRIT is our Advocate, speaking up for us, supporting us. The Holy Spirit is also our Counselor. Walking with us as a source of help.
When you have problems, you call someone to be by your side and give you strength. For example, when there is a sudden tragedy in our life, most of us want to have someone there with us to give us strength.
Or when we face an important decision, we want input from other people as we go about making this decision. So, we call someone to be by our side, to talk through the options.
That is what the word “counselor” means: to call someone to be at your side, to give you strength and help as you sort out your decisions. The “Paraclete” is both our Advocate and our Counselor.
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I’M NOT A TRAINED COUNSELOR, but I have met with people to counsel them on a variety of family and personal matters. One thing I know is that I can talk with and guide a person or couple, but I cannot do the work for them.
I can offer a book to read. Or give the phone number to Dr. Kim Whitchard. Or advise them to ask for forgiveness from a spouse. But they must do the work.
Some people believe that God the Spirit, the Advocate, the Counselor, will solve all our problems. That is not true. The Spirit enables us to become stronger. The Holy Spirit helps us grow toward maturity and wholeness.
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THE SPIRIT/COUNSELOR does not make decisions for us.
Sometimes, that is just what we want; we want God to make the decisions for us, especially difficult decisions. Rather, God the “Paraclete,” comes to our side and gives us the strength and new resources and new insights, so we can make difficult and painful decisions.
The Advocate/Counselor does not solve our problems or make decisions for us but teaches us, reminds us, testifies about Jesus. The focus is on love and wisdom growing inside, whereby we can make the best choices.
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WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR YOU that the Spirit is your Advocate, your Counselor? What does that mean for you personally, in your real life? I want you to think about that question.
I want to hear from you. Write a brief statement in the comments section of YouTube or Facebook. Or send me a text.
Jesus is not with us, but Another Advocate/Counselor is with us. The Holy Spirit. What does that mean to you?