For the Love of God, Volume 1/March 24
From Gospel Translations
Exodus 35; John 14; Proverbs 11; Ephesians 4
THE FAREWELL DISCOURSE, beginning in John 14, includes some extraordinarily rich material on the Holy Spirit. Some highlights:
(1) In Greek, every noun is grammatically designated masculine, feminine, or neuter. The word for “spirit” is neuter. When a pronoun referring to “spirit” is used, it too should be neuter. In this chapter, however, the pronoun is sometimes masculine, breaking grammatical form, a way of gently affirming that the Holy Spirit is personal.
(2) Among his titles is “Counselor” (14:16), or, in some English versions, “Comforter” or “Helper.” When Comforter was coined, it drew from Latin words that meant “to strengthen” or “to strengthen along with.” Today a comforter is either a thick quilt or someone who helps the bereaved, and is therefore too restrictive to convey what is meant here. The Greek word is capable of a variety of nuances, so some do not translate it but merely transliterate it (i.e., put it into English spelling) as Paraclete. He is certainly someone who is called alongside to help and to strengthen. Sometimes the help is legal: he can for instance serve as prosecuting attorney (16:7-11), and he may be our legal “Counselor.” (The word should not conjure up pictures of camp counselors or psychological counselors.)
(3) He is, Jesus says, “another Counselor” (14:16, italics added). In older Greek, this word for “another” usually had overtones of “another of the same kind.” By the time of the New Testament, that meaning is fairly rare; it cannot be assumed, but must be demonstrated from the context. In this case, Jesus is clearly promising to send someone who will stand in his place. Intriguingly, apart from its use in the Farewell Discourse, the word rendered “Counselor” is found in the New Testament only in one other place, viz. 1 John 2:1 (NIV: “one who speaks to the Father in our defense”). So Jesus is the first Paraclete. At his impending departure, he promises to send the Holy Spirit, another Paraclete, to and for his followers.
(4) He is also called “the Spirit of truth” (14:17). This not only means he tells the truth as opposed to lies, but that he is the true Spirit, the one who mediates the very presence of the Father and the Son to the believers (14:23).
(5) The Spirit, Jesus promises, “will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (14:26). Since the “you” are being reminded of what Jesus said, in the first instance they must be the first disciples. The Spirit will enable them to recall Jesus’ teaching, and flesh out its significance in the wake of the cross and resurrection. How secure would the links have been without his work?