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The Sending of the Holy Spirit


When Jesus went to the cross, one of His main responsibilities was to let His disciples know that though He would be leaving, they would not be left on their own. The Bible uses the Greek word parakletos in the Gospel of John 14:26: “But the Helper [parakletos], the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”[1] There are many thoughts in regard to the exact meaning of this term. Some have suggested Advocate, Counselor, one who is called alongside, or Friend. Strong’s defines it as an intercessor, consoler, advocate, or comforter.[2] One of the difficulties in defining such a term is that the role of the coming Spirit is so multi-faceted; as the work of the Holy Spirit comforts, convicts, encourages, comes alongside, corrects, gives wisdom, and speaks on our behalf.

However, it is also important to remember that the role of the Holy Spirit was to come alongside the New Testament believers because of the absence of Christ. Therefore, Andreas J. Köstenberger suggests that the best understanding of the word would be “helping Presence … as it captures the import of the term better than any other.” The reason he gives for this is that this is what Christ was to His disciples, as the description includes the different functions of the Spirit.[3] In the context of John 14:16, John later states that Christ would not leave them as orphans (vs 18). This would help the reader today understand the role of a Helper toward those who have lost their parents. Also, in John 14:16, John states further that the Helper will teach them all things and help them to remember what they have already been taught. This is the teaching ministry of the Spirit to the modern reader. The Helper will also come alongside the disciples (John 15:26); in other words, the Helper will work alongside them in the work of evangelism (vs 26-27). This is encouragement today for those who faithfully witness for Christ, giving them courage and the words to say. “[F]or the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say” (Luke 12:12).  Finally, in John 16:8, the Helper will enhance their evangelistic world by convicting the world of sin (vs 8). In other words, the modern-day evangelist is not alone trying to convince unbelievers of the truth. Though it is difficult to come down to one term, the phrases “come alongside” and “helping presence” are helpful. D. A. Carson adds that the other Comforter which is to come is the Spirit of Truth which is mentioned in John 14:17, 15:26, and 16:13. This enables us to understand another aspect of the Spirit, which is that He will guide us in truth. In a world that does not know the truth, the Spirit will give testimony of who Jesus is.[4] Again, the Christian community is not on their own as we proclaim Christ to an unsaved world.

Someone who comes alongside us is someone who is willing to do all that is required to grow us in our sanctification. If we need comforting, the Spirit comforts us; if we need correcting, the Spirit corrects us; and if we need challenging, the Spirit challenges us. Someone who is a good friend is often someone who will speak difficult words into our lives, even though we may not always wish to hear them. Likewise, if we are facing great difficulties, a good friend will come alongside us and try to understand what we are going through. Sometimes as we celebrate the Easter story, we forget the anxiety of the disciples when Christ spoke of leaving them. It is interesting how our Lord refers to the effectiveness of the Spirit, speaking as if the indwelling Spirit is even more valuable than living with Christ Himself. Jesus said, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7). This is also a reminder to us today as believers, the blessedness of the Spirit in our lives, something the Old Testament saints only experienced rarely. Our sanctification, the process of becoming more like Christ, is due to the work of the Spirit in us.


[1] Unless otherwise noted, all biblical passages referenced are in the English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008).

[2] Blue Letter Bible, accessed February 20, 2021, cfm?Strongs=G3875&t=KJV. 

[3] Andreas J. Köstenberger, Encountering John: The Gospel in Historical Literacy, and the Theological Perspective, 2nd ed (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academics, 2013), 146. 

[4] D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John: The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991), 500.