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The Paraclete
John 16

The Rev. Jason R. Grote

"It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you."

We interpret the term Paraclete that Christ employs for the Spirit in this verse as “Comforter”. I believe that this is not the greatest term to be used in the 21st Century. This is part of what contributes to the great emotional emphasis found in Churches today. We hear that term “Comforter” and we conjure up pictures of a broken-hearted individual being wrapped in the arms of a loved one. We think of someone wiping away the streams of tears that run down their cheeks. We imagine a parent gently tending to the wound of their child. But is this what was meant when Christ said that He would send us a comforter?

The term Paraclete is a compound word that literally means “one called to be along side”. It has the sense of someone that will aid and be near. It refers to someone that will speak on another’s behalf. In fact, the same term, “Paraclete”, is interpreted in 1 John 2:1 as “advocate” when referring to Christ. It is not simply a name for the Holy Spirit. Rather it is a descriptive name of one’s purpose.

When in a courtroom we hear attorneys referred to as Mr. or Mrs. Prosecutor. If any of us had the great opportunity of meeting George W. Bush we would not say “Hello George” or “What’s up G.W.” We would refer to him as “Mr. President”. The same idea is true here when Christ employed the term “Paraclete”. He was describing the ministry of the one who would called along side.

The Spirit is “one called to be along side” of Christ. The Spirit’s ministry is one that stands beside Christ’s ministry. The Spirit’s ministry supports Christ’s ministry. The Spirit’s ministry points to Christ’s ministry. The Spirit’s ministry continues Christ’s ministry. Christ speaks in His upper room discourse of all that the Spirit would do. He said that the Spirit would reveal truths to the disciples. He said that the Spirit would show the things of Christ to the disciples. He said that the Spirit would glorify Christ. He said the Spirit would recall to their minds all that Christ had taught them. He said that the Spirit would teach them. He said that the Spirit would testify of Christ. He said that the Spirit would reprove the world of sin and of righteousness and of judgment.

These are particular ministries of the Spirit and they all find their centrality in the ministry of Christ. Everything that the Spirit does is for the witness and ministry of Christ in the world. He is literally called along side of Christ.

Yet even further, the Spirit is called to bring Christ’s ministry to us. Christ came into the world to save mankind from sin. His ministry was a life-giving ministry. Christ continually said that eternal life was in Him. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whosever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” “I am the way, the truth, and the life” “Verily verily I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on Him that sent me hath everlasting life.” “For as the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself.” “Search the Scriptures. For in them ye think ye have eternal life and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye may have life.” All of these verses are words of Christ. St. John said, “In him was life and the life was the light of men.”

Christ was and is the sacrifice that abolishes the death penalty for our sin. Christ was and is the reconciliation that again creates harmony between God and man. Christ was and is the atonement that enables us to live in the presence of God for eternity. Christ was and is the new Adam that allows us to live unto righteousness. Christ’s ministry is that of life.

The Spirit, as one called to minister along side of Christ, is the one that brings that truth of Christ’s life-giving ministry to us. What Christ did as a representative for mankind the Spirit makes a reality in each our hearts and lives.

We often speak of being anointed by the Holy Spirit. I prefer the term animated though. The term anoint has an external connotation such as anointing one’s head or the anointing of Christ’s feet. The term “animate” has an internal emphasis. To animate is to give life. To animate is to control and direct. A cartoon cannot come to life unless the cartoonist controls and directs its action. A puppet will not seem alive unless the puppeteer moves its limbs and mouth.

Now we are not puppets or cartoon characters. We have life but that life is, in reality, death. It is a life unto condemnation and judgment. So in a very real sense we are lifeless. In sin we do not have the life that is in Christ. Christ’s work of redemption has made the way possible but we must have that life born in us. This is the Holy Spirit’s work and ministry. He comes to make His abode in our hearts, to quicken us, to bring Christ’s life into ours, and to animate us.

No better picture of the Spirit's breath of life is there than Ezekiel. The prophet Ezekiel was set before a valley of dry bones and asked by God, “Can these bones live?” He replied, “You know Lord”. And the Lord told Ezekiel to prophecy and say, “Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live: and I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and ye shall know that I am the Lord.”

Ezekiel followed the commandment of the Lord and then witnessed an amazing miracle. A great noise was heard and an intense shaking. The bones were gathered together and sinews, flesh, and skin clothed the bones. The breath of life came into them and they lived. God immediately said to Ezekiel, "Go and tell my people, I will open your graves and raise you up and you will know that I am the Lord. When I have opened your graves and brought you up and when I put my spirit in you and you live, then you shall know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it." This was a great example of the quickening power of God’s Spirit.

This is what the Spirit does in our lifeless lives. He breathes into us the breath of life that is found in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Like the tectonic plates that shift apart in the depths of the earth and radiate outward to its surface, the Spirit breaks apart our hard, cold, and death shrouded hearts and brings to us Christ’s life that radiates into every area of our new lives. He rends our hearts and builds us anew in the body of Christ making us ever aware that God has performed it.

As St. Peter said, “For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the Spirit.” And as St. John said, “Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.” And again as St. Paul said, “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you."

The Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, the One called along side of Christ is the one that makes Christ’s ministry and work a reality to us. He quickens us and forms us in Christ. But the Spirit is also called to be along side and to aid us in our ministry and life. Christ said just prior to the promise of the Paraclete, “I will not leave you comfortless.” One might think that this term “comfortless” derives from the same word we have translated “Comforter”. But it does not. It actually has its root in the word translated “orphan”. Christ was saying, “I will not leave you as orphans.”

To be an orphan, like today, was not the best of situations in which to be. Jeremiah, in his Lamentations, equates the suffering of the exile unto that of being an orphan. "LORD, remember everything that has happened to us. See all the sorrows we bear! Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers, our homes to foreigners. We are orphaned and fatherless. Our mothers are widowed. We have to pay for water to drink, and even firewood is expensive… Our hearts are sick and weary, and our eyes grow dim with tears."

To be an orphan was to be desolate. It meant that you had no caretakers who truly looked out for your well being. You had no provision and you had no inheritance. Often times you would be sent out to labor in another’s land. It was a life filled with only tears and weariness.

Christ promises that after He ascends to the Father He would send another that will walk along side His disciples. He promises that the Spirit would strengthen them and that they would have the provisions necessary for the spiritual battle that lay ahead. The Spirit would be Christ present in them and they would be ever assured of their inheritance as children of God.

This promise was made to the disciples and it is made to us. Christ will not leave us as orphans. He will be ever near us in the person of the Holy Ghost. He is along side of us when we are tempted to turn away from God in times of distress and disgust. He is along side of us when we doubt our salvation and inheritance of eternal life. He is along side of us when the devil attempts to turn our bodies into vessels of sin. He is along side of us when the lusts of the flesh tempt us with the pleasures of this world. He is our aid when we are confronted with those that hate us because of the life we have in Christ.

Can we see Him? No. Can we touch Him? No. But this is not cause for alarm. For the new lives that we live, the good works that we do in Christ, the perseverance in the faith that we have, and the continual worship we have for Christ are all evidences that the Spirit is with us, in us, and working through us. The Spirit’s working and ministry in our lives bears record that we are of God and that God has performed it.

Why was it expedient that Christ should go to the Father? So that the Paraclete may come and minister unto us. Praised be God. AMEN