The Promised Helper
'And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you for ever.’ (John 14:16)
When we hear the word ‘counsellor’ these days, we are unlikely to picture what Jesus had in mind when he promised to send his disciples someone who would be this to them. For us, a counsellor is either someone from whom we get help with our problems, or (if we live in North America) our lawyer. But both of these meanings are a long way from what Jesus was thinking of when he promised to send the Holy Spirit as our ‘counsellor’.
An illustration from the Bayeux Tapestry, portraying the Norman invasion of Britain in 1066, might help. In one scene an English bishops is prodding his spear into the backside of a soldier, and underneath it says: ‘He comforts his troops.’ That may seem a strange way of ‘comforting’! But what he was doing was saying, ‘Go on; you can do it! Don’t give in now!’ And that is exactly what the Holy Spirit does for us. He is there within us saying, ‘Go on – you can do it! I’m here! I’ll help you! Don’t give in now!’ He is ‘the one who comes alongside us to help us’ – which is the literal translation of the word used for ‘counsellor’ in the Greek New Testament. Because it is quite difficult to express that idea in just one word in English, it has been translated in several ways – ‘Comforter’ (KJV), ‘Helper’ (NASB, NKJV, NCV), ‘Advocate’ (NRSV, The Jerusalem Bible), ‘Friend’ (The Message), ‘Someone to stand by you’ (JB Phillips). But whatever word we use, the message is the same: we are not left alone! The promised Holy Spirit is always there, right alongside us in all we do.
This promise of the Holy Spirit is not automatic however, Jesus said. He said that the Father would give him, first to all who believed, and second, to all who asked. Fulfil these two conditions, Jesus promised, and you will never be alone; for the promised helper will surely come!
But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counsellor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:7)
Copyright © 2017 Martin Manser and Mike Beaumont
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