March 25, 2024

The Promise of the Comforter

One of the last conversations that Jesus had with His twelve disciples before His death is recorded in John 14-16. It was an intimate occasion; they had just eaten the Last Supper together and Jesus had washed their feet. Then, He let them know that He would soon be departing and that they would face tribulation. He also told them that there was no need to fear. Everything would unfold according to the Father’s plan and for His glory.

Among the many encouraging and inspiring words Jesus shared that night was the promise of the Comforter. This is the first mention of the Comforter in Scripture. It was a new teaching for the disciples. Today, I would like to consider what Jesus revealed about who the Comforter is, the comfort He provides, and those who are comforted. In doing so, we come to understand that the Comforter is one of the most precious gifts ever given to the Church, and one we can depend upon.

Who the Comforter is

In John 14:16-17 Jesus said, “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth . . .” We read in John 14:26 that Jesus said, “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost . . .” In these verses, the Comforter is identified as “the Spirit of truth” and as “the Holy Ghost.” He is also at times called “the Spirit of God” and “the Holy Spirit” in the Bible. These names all refer to the same Person, so we can use them interchangeably.

The Spirit of God is revealed in Scripture from the very beginning at the Creation account. In Genesis 1:2 we read, “The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” Continuing through the Bible record, as historical events unfolded, the Holy Spirit worked to accomplish God’s will in the world. For example, the Lordship of Christ was revealed to David through the Holy Spirit (Mark 12:36). At times, individuals were divinely appointed to proclaim messages to the world through the Holy Ghost (2 Peter 1:21). When Christ came in the flesh, God revealed Him to John the Baptist through the Holy Spirit (John 1:33). And when Christ departed the earth, He promised that God would send the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost (John 14:17).

The name “Comforter” reflects the role that God’s Spirit began to fill after Christ’s ascension. Each member of the Trinity had a specific part in the redemption plan: the Father set forth the plan from the beginning of time, Jesus accomplished the plan through His perfect sacrifice, and then the Comforter came to carry out the plan in individual lives. When Christ died, rose again, and ascended to the Father, His work in the redemption plan was done. After He returned to the Father, the Comforter came to earth to help mankind in the saving work of Christ. The Comforter did not come to replace Christ; He came in Christ’s stead, but not in the sense that Christ ceased to exist in the Church. Christ loves the Church and gave Himself for it. He is still “the head of the body, the church” (Colossians 1:18). The Comforter came to fulfill His part of the redemption plan by testifying of the truth (Jesus Christ) and establishing the truth in the hearts of those who believe.

In John 16:7 Jesus said, “It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.” When the disciples heard this, they did not understand how the Comforter could be of greater benefit to them than Jesus was. Jesus had walked with them, lived among them, taught them, and loved them. However, the Lord in His human form could not touch every individual. He would only cross paths with certain people, and we read about those amazing events in the Bible. Yet in this world of lost souls, there was a need to reach all people everywhere. The Spirit would be present in a measure and way that the world had not seen before.

The Comfort He provides

The name Comforter is a translation of the Greek word parakletos, which some also render as “advocate” or “intercessor.” It has a sense of “one who comes alongside and walks beside.” Jesus had been walking with the disciples and they could literally take His hand. The Comforter does the same in a spiritual sense; He takes our hands and shows us the way. He comes alongside us to teach us, guide us, and ultimately deliver us from the situations that would otherwise destroy us.

It would be impossible to compile a comprehensive list of what the Comforter does for God’s people because His work is limitless in nature. Yet, in John 14-16 Jesus identified some of the important ways that He helps us, including the following.

He abides forever. John 14:16 says, “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever.” Jesus could not stay on the earth forever in His human form, but the Spirit of God comes to live with us forever. Verse 17 goes on, “Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” Through belief in Jesus, the disciples had received a measure of the Spirit of truth, as all believers do when they are saved. Jesus used the words “he dwelleth with you” to describe that state. Yet, God wants us to have more. Jesus mentioned a different state, using the words “shall be in you.” Having His Spirit “in” us indicates a greater measure of the Spirit than what is given at salvation. Christ’s followers would come to know the power and influence not only of the Spirit with them, but in them.

He teaches. We read, “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things” (John 14:26). The Comforter will teach us what we need to know about the Gospel—not man’s failed ideas and empty philosophies, but the truth. He teaches us about Christ and what it takes to have Him in our lives. John also wrote of troubles that were coming, such as the spirit of antichrist, tribulations, and the “spirit of error.” The enemy of our souls wants to undermine God’s work in our lives, and he promotes a spirit of error to deceive us. We need to have the Spirit of truth teaching us so we will not be deceived.

He reminds. The Scripture continues, “. . . he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26). These days, I have a hard time remembering many things, but the Spirit of God is faithful to remind me. He whispers to my heart, “Remember what God has done for you,” and, “Remember what the Scripture says.” That is the type of help He gives.

Jesus had brought His disciples to the way of righteousness when they believed and followed Him, but the Spirit of God would keep them in that way. He will keep us too; the Comforter continues what Jesus started. We need not worry about doing everything on our own. The Comforter will lead us, remind us, and help us stay in the way of righteousness.

He testifies of Christ. In John 15:26, Jesus said, “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.” The Gospel is about Christ. All things point to Christ: the Father pointed to Christ; the prophets pointed to Christ; John the Baptist pointed to Christ; and the Holy Spirit points to Christ. In fact, we are also called to point others to Christ. We have not seen Jesus as the disciples did, but we have the Comforter who points us to Christ. When we look back on how God brought us to salvation, we can recognize the ways the Spirit witnessed to us of Christ. His work of testifying of Christ did not stop when we were saved; He continues to reveal Christ to us, helping us to grow in the faith that we might be witnesses to others.

He reproves. Though the promise of the Comforter was primarily to Jesus’ followers, sinners also benefit from His work. John 16:8-11 says, “And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.” The great sin of the unsaved is that they “believe not” on Christ and thus reject Him. The prince of this world (Satan) has been judged, and judgment will also fall upon all who reject Christ. In mercy, the Spirit calls all to follow Christ so those who respond will not be judged with the enemy. To the Church, the Comforter comes as a Helper. To the unbelieving world, He comes to convict people of sin and point them to the Savior.

He guides. We read, “When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come” (John 16:13). We have a Guide for the decisions in life that we do not know how to make, situations that we do not know how to handle, and topics that we do not understand. We do not know the future, but God does, and He can reveal what we need to know about the future through the Comforter. We need divine direction in our decisions and in our prayers every day, and He will guide us.

He empowers. Though this benefit was not mentioned in Jesus’ conversation with His disciples after the Last Supper, He later promised that the Comforter would empower the Church to be witnesses of the Gospel. At His ascension Jesus said, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). This promise was first fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost when 120 sanctified believers were filled with the Holy Ghost. Through that experience, they were empowered to serve God with a greater impact than they ever had before.

The nature of the power that comes from the Comforter is entirely different than the power that dominates in the world. Being filled with God’s Spirit is not like an academic or intellectual advantage; it was said of the early Christians that they were ignorant and unlearned, yet today we have great words recorded in Scripture by them. Nor is this power like having political or financial influence. After receiving the Holy Spirit, Peter said to a disabled begging man, “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee” (Acts 3:6), and that man was healed! This power is not charisma or some social power to influence others. In fact, those who encouraged me the most spiritually over the years were just common men and women, filled with the Spirit of truth. The power given through the Comforter is far greater than any earthly power. It is power to fight spiritual battles, and all the forces of Hell cannot prevail against it.

Recipients of the Comforter

Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter . . . whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him” (John 14:15, 17). This indicates plainly that the Comforter is not sent to the lost. He is sent to those who love God and keep His commandments. This is one of the requirements to receive the Comforter. While sinners benefit from the work of the Spirit calling them to repentance, only those who repent and turn away from sin can enjoy the many other blessings of the Comforter.

In John 14:12 we read, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to my Father.” The disciples must have wondered how anyone could ever do greater works than what Christ did, but He had the Church in mind—a multitude of individuals who would preach the Gospel through the power of the Holy Spirit. Imagine what God could do through a church of Holy Ghost-filled individuals—not only in our own lives, but for our families, places of work, communities, and beyond! I believe God would add to the Church daily, just as He did for the Early Church.

Thank God for sending the Comforter. Today, we have the privilege and the responsibility to avail ourselves of this wonderful promise from God. If you have been missing out on any aspect of His work in your life, seek Him today with your whole heart and you will surely find Him.

apostolic faith magazine