The Holy Spirit: Our Comforter
In our Chronological Bible reading, we have now entered into the part of the redemptive story called “The Church Age”. The Church was launched when Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to the Apostles in the upper room. Let’s read about that inaugural event:
2 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested[a] on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”
Peter’s Sermon at Pentecost
14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day.[b] 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
18 even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
20 the sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus,[c] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. 25 For David says concerning him,
“‘I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
my flesh also will dwell in hope.
27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One see corruption.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’
29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, 35 until I make your enemies your footstool.”’ 36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit is a multi-faceted topic. In our Bible-believing circles, we’ve all seen the pendulum swing– from never talking about the Holy Spirit, to attributing every feeling and urge to the Holy Spirit. We’ve seen probably seen some excesses, which may make us shy away from talking about the Holy Spirit.
What I hope to accomplish in our time together is to consider what Scripture says about the Holy Spirit. We will be focusing particularly on two aspects of the role of the Spirit in the life of a follower of Jesus Christ:
Indwelling and Illumination.
Before Jesus went to the cross, He assured His followers that they would be given a Helper to live within them (Indwelling) and that this Helper would be the Spirit of Truth (Illumination).
John 14:16-18 says:
16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”
This passage helps us answer the question: Who is the Holy Spirit?
The Holy Spirit is the Helper of those who follow Christ
What does this word mean? Some translations say “Advocate”, “Counselor”
The Greek word “Parakletos”: literally means, “called to one’s side,” i.e., to one’s aid; it suggests the capability or adaptability for giving aid. It was used in a court of justice to denote a legal assistant, counsel for the defense, an advocate, one who pleads another’s cause, or an intercessor. In the widest sense, it signifies a “comforter.”
How is the Holy Spirit a Helper, advocate, counselor, and comforter?
- One way that the Holy Spirit helps is by fulfilling His unique role of Indwelling each follower of Christ. The indwelling Holy Spirit allows the believer to live as Abba’s child, giving up the destructive patterns of an orphan mentality and pursuing life in relational oneness with the Father.
- This passage speaks of a very personal and relational connection that believers have with God as Abba, Father, through the Holy Spirit:
- One of the first things we see is that it is a forever relationship: Jesus spoke to His disciples saying: this other Helper would be with them “forever” as opposed to the physical manifestation of Jesus, who was going to leave the disciples in the near future. As Jesus anticipated his physical departure, He reassured them that they would not be on their own. They were not orphans, they were children of a loving Heavenly Father. Jesus’ physical departure would allow for the Father heart of God to now be internalized in each one through the Holy Spirit without the constraints of the incarnated human body that Christ had on earth with them. So in some instances the Holy Spirit is also called the Spirit of Christ, for He brings the essence of who Jesus is into the heart of the individual, reassuring followers that they are indeed Abba’s child.
- This safe and secure Father-Child relationship is further explained in Paul’s epistles:
- Romans 8:14-16 “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (ESV). By this last phrase “children of God” we know that Paul is including both male and female followers in the concept of “sonship.”
- Galatians 4:4-7 “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive ADOPTION AS SONS. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying ‘Abba, Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God” (ESV). Here Paul contrasts sonship with slavery. The Holy Spirit brings a sense of freedom, also reinforced by 2 Cor. 3:17 which says: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (ESV).
- From these passages, we see that The Holy Spirit assures us of our adoption so that we do not have to live in fear or live outside of relationship with the Father. We are not condemned to live as orphans (fending for ourselves) or as slaves (serving a harsh master in bondage).
- The gift of the indwelling Spirt of God comes with important relational loyalties — tying the believer’s heart back towards God. Paul confronted the Corinthian church as they were taking the indwelling of the Spirit lightly and not respecting the gift:
- “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).
- In Ephesians 4:30, Paul says that we can “grieve the Holy Spirit”—implying that there are relational connections and loyalties that should now motivate us to be changed people. The Holy Spirit brings awareness and sensitivity to our soul of God’s personal nature, so that we have a stronger attachment to Him than our previous allegiance to self.
- The indwelling Holy Spirit allows the believer to live as Abba’s child, giving up the destructive patterns of an orphan/slave mentality and pursuing life in relational oneness with the Father.
- The second way the opening passage in John’s Gospel talks about the Holy Spirit, is to speak of his Illuminating work. Jesus called The Holy Spirit “The Spirit of truth” meaning He leads people to know the truth, to understand the truth, and to be persuaded of the truth
- We know from Peter’s 2nd epistle that the Spirit is the One who inspired Truth as recorded in the Word of God. He says “No prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21).
- As the Author of Scripture, the Holy Spirit inherently has inside knowledge as to what His Word means. He is then able to shine a light on His Word of Truth to our hearts, so that the power of the message is personally weighty and accessible for our understanding.
- 1 Cor. 2:12 tells us that no one understands the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Therefore, the believer is wholly dependent on the Spirit of God to reveal the heart of the Father to us. This is part of the illuminating work of the Spirit.
- Ephesians 1:17-18 records Paul’s prayer for the believers that they would be given the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, having the eyes of their hearts enlightened to the abundant resources now available to them as saints. We see Paul depending on the illuminating work of the Spirit to reveal and apply truth for life change.
- The implications of the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit for the Christian life are far reaching. At the very least we can expect the Holy Spirit to use the Word of Truth to comfort us, convict us, strengthen us, guide us, and train us in righteousness.
One final thought that can explain the importance of the Helper:
We talked about Indwelling and Illumination.
Consider this equation:
- Titus 3:5: “he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (ESV).
- Galatians 5:16 ff: “walk by the Spirit” and so produce the fruit of the Spirit.
- The indwelling of the Spirit of God in the life of the believer and the illuminating work He does gives us confidence that He can change us from the inside out. He helps us to know the truth, to understand the truth, and to be persuaded of the truth so that we might surrender to the truth of God’s invitational nature to walk as dependent children of the Father.
We need not fear or shy away from talking about the Holy Spirit, rather as indwelled, illuminated, and empowered children, we embrace and praise Him.