The Holy Spirit as Comforter
In His teaching in the upper room on the eve of His death, Jesus spoke at length about the Holy Spirit. He said, “I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper” (John 14:16). The word Helper is sometimes translated “Comforter” or “Counselor” and comes from the Greek word paraclete.
The first thing we notice in this passage is that Jesus promises another “Paraclete” or “Helper.” For Jesus to say that the Holy Spirit will be another Helper, there had to be a Helper before the Spirit. The New Testament clearly identifies the first Helper, or Paraclete, as Jesus Himself. John writes: “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1).
The title Advocate given here to Jesus is another translation of the Greek word paraclete. We see then that Jesus is the first Paraclete, and upon His departure from this world, Jesus prays that the Father will supply another Paraclete in Jesus’ absence. The Spirit is sent to be Christ’s substitute; He is the supreme vicar of Christ on earth.
In the ancient world, a paraclete was someone summoned to give assistance in a court of law. The Holy Spirit, in fulfilling this role, performs more than one task. One such task is the Spirit’s aiding the believer in addressing the Father. Paul writes to the Roman church:
Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26–27)
The Holy Spirit also aids the believer in addressing the world. He speaks on our behalf when we face conflict, as Jesus promises in Mark 13:11. The Spirit defends us against the world by convicting it of sin. The Holy Spirit works to vindicate the righteous against the attacks of the ungodly.
The concept of Paraclete also includes the role of Comforter. This has two aspects to it. He is a tender source of solace to the wounded, the defeated, and the grief-stricken. The second aspect is equally important. The word Comforter in its Latin derivation means “with strength.” The Spirit comes to us when we are in need of strength. He empowers us with courage and boldness. As Comforter, He both consoles and emboldens that in Christ we may be more than conquerors (Romans 8:37).
- Jesus is our first Comforter in His role of Advocate before the Father.
- The Holy Spirit is another Comforter who is a substitute for Jesus after His ascension.
- The Spirit acts as our present Helper.