And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; 17 Even the Spirit of truth
Most of Christianity is familiar with the verses quoted above as the promise from Jesus Christ that He would sent the Holy Spirit to indwell all believers after His ascension. The "Comforter" is a special title and role that the Holy Spirit takes in our lives as believers, but what does it mean. Typically, we understand the meaning of the word based on the Greek word underlying it: παρακλητοσ (parakletos). The two parts of the word mean para- alongside and Kaleo- to call from which we get the idea that the Holy Spirit is the one called alongside to help. He is an encourager and helper. This meaning is helpful and I am grateful for its meaning in my life. The Holy Spirit is there to give me strength to overcome sin when I have none. He is there to encourage me not to quit when life seems like an uphill battle. He comes alongside me and breathes new life into me when I am discouraged. As meaningful as this understanding of our parakletos is, this is not the only meaning associated with the word.
The other meaning of the word
Parakletos wasn't just used to refer to someone who comes alongside to help. Parakletos had a secular meaning which referred to a defense lawyer or an advocate. One of the few secular uses of the word can be found in a statement by Demosthenes who lived in 384-322 BC:
Citizens of Athens, I do not doubt that you are all pretty well aware that this trial has been the center of keen partisanship and active canvassing, for you saw the people who were accosting and annoying you just now at the casting of lots. But I have to make a request which ought to be granted without asking, that you will all give less weight to private entreaty or personal influence than to the spirit of justice and to the oath which you severally swore when you entered that box. You will reflect that justice and the oath concern yourselves and the commonwealth, whereas the importunity and party spirit of advocates serve the end of those private ambitions which you are convened by the laws to thwart, not to encourage for the advantage of evil-doers.
— Demosthenes, On the False Embassy 19:1
This usage of the word is not limited to secular writtings. We see this word translated "Advocate" in 1 John 2:1
My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:
Jesus Christ is called our advocate when we sin against the Father. The idea of an advocate fits with the etymology of the word because the advocate would be called alongside the defendant to help his case. This extra layer of meaning to the word has the potential to open up so much more meaning to the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
The Theology of the Advocates
This past week I was listening to a sermon about the Holy Spirit by Tim Keller in which he pointed out this principle about the ministry of the Holy Spirit. It got me thinking more about the role of Jesus as my advocate and then how the Holy Spirit plays into that role. We know from the verse quoted above that Jesus Christ is our advocate before God the Father. Often times when I think about Jesus in Heaven pleading on my behalf, I feel like every time I sin, Jesus has to beg for more mercy. In reality that is not the case. What is it that Jesus is really doing up there anyways?
The essential piece that so often we forget is that our sins past, present and future were completely paid for on the cross. Theologically, we know this from passages like Hebrews 10:14 which says "For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." So why do we need an advocate? Jesus ministry as an advocate is not to plead for more mercy but to defend our case on the basis that that sin has already been paid for. In fact, God would be unjust to punish us now for those sins since the payment has been received. On the scales of justice, they are not tipped against me or even hanging in the balance; they are forever and irrevocably tipped in my favor. Jesus serves as my first advocate to plead my case when Satan would seek to have me condemned.
Notice in John 14:16, the verse speaks of the Holy Spirit as another Comforter. He is another advocate, the second advocate who pleads on my behalf. In Greek, there are two words for another. One means another of a different kind, or a different one and another word means another of the same kind. It is this second usage found here. The Holy Spirit's ministry is the same as Christ's as our advocate. He serves as a second advocate on our behalf.
How is the Holy Spirit an Advocate?
The Spirit bears witness that we are God's children. Romans 8:16 says that the Spirit bears witness to our spirit that we are the children of God. Bearing witness is the idea of presenting a case in a courtroom. He marshall's in the evidence that we truly are sons of God. Sometimes our heart will condemn us, but God is greater than our hearts and His Spirit will testify to that fact.
He seals us until the day of redemption Ephesians 1:13 states that believers were sealed with the Holy Spirit until "the redemption of the purchased possession." A seal was basically a legal guarantee that the items belonged to a certain person and were protected until the possession was claimed. As an advocate, the Holy Spirit keeps us until the day that we see Christ face to face. This is part of the reasoning behind the doctrine of Eternal Security. This seal functions as a downpayment. If the owner were to renege on his promise that downpayment would be forfeit. My sin cannot take away my salvation once given. This is not to say that believer should or even could live just anyway that they want. Christ's Spirit within us will convict of sin and Hebrews tells us that God will chasten the believer.
He helps us to pray Romans 8:25-27 teaches that the Spirit intercedes on our behalf. Why does He do this? because of our weakness and lack of knowledge. We don't know what to pray for as we ought. He aligns our request with the will fo God and makes our case for us before the Father.
There is probably more that could be said about the legal ministry of the Holy Spirit, but I hope this has wetted you appetite to meditate on this concept further. Grace and Peace be with you.