I was having a little trouble deciding on what to write about tonight – chocolate or the Holy Spirit? They are both good topics. Excellent, truth be told. Since I’m feeling all migraine-y which makes me think of spiritual things (albeit not all that deeply since it makes the headache worse), I’ll write about the Holy Spirit.
A couple of nights ago, I read John 16 in the NIV 2011 on www.biblegateway.com. I really like that they have so many translations, but things can get a little confusing. In John 16, I’m used to the Holy Spirit (paraclete is the transliteration, I believe) being called the “Comforter” from the days in my childhood when I used the King James Version. The NIV 1984 uses “Counselor” and the ESV says “Helper”. But, the NIV 2011 uses the word “Advocate”. Hmmmmm. That got me thinking. Why did the NIV change from “Counselor” in the 1984 version to “Advocate” in the 2011 version? As far as I know, there haven’t been any recent manuscript discoveries – although, not being a biblical scholar, I wouldn’t have known about it anyway. What were the translators trying to express?
So, off to my trusty Broadman Bible Commentary and Barclay Commentary (thanks, Dad – they’re getting a lot of use these days!). One thing that I have learned over the last several years is that words can change meaning over long periods of time. That’s why I don’t use the King James Version for much real Bible study, preferring instead the NIV (and I’ve like the ESV on Bible Gateway although I don’t have the actual book version with all the notes). I realize that my Broadman commentary is from 1970, but the authors do a nice job of explaining important words like “paraclete”. The Broadman authors talk about the “paraclete” having two roles: the outward role of confronting “the world with the necessity of a drastic change in its notions of sin and of rightesousness and of judgement as a result of the coming of Jesus”; and the inward role to the church of guiding the church “into all the truth”. Broadman translates “paraclete” as “Counselor” which emphasizes His role of convicting the world of the truth of the Messiah and His role of providing Christians with “insight to understand and of courage to apply those truths which the church has received.”
Barclay has a little more detail. He says that “paraclete” is really an untranslatable word. The closest meaning is “someone who is called in.” Ummmm, what? The Greeks used this word when they wanted to talk about someone who is called in to help “during a time of trouble or need.” (And, in fact, Comforter was a pretty good translation when Wycliffe used it. Over the years, though, the meaning has changed. I think of a “Comforter” as someone who gives me a hug and tells me everything will be OK. “Comforter” originally had the connotation of helping someone who is feeling dispirited to be brave.) Barclay would use the word “Helper” to connote someone coming alongside to help another.
Dictionary.com defines “Advocate” as “a person who speaks or writes in support or defense of a person, cause, etc.” When we read in John 16 that Jesus is going to send the “Advocate”, we are to understand that the Holy Spirit will not only comfort us in our times of trouble, but will guide us in truth and give us strength for the trials of life. There is a sense of loyalty in the word “Advocate”. It’s also a word of strength. When life gets overwhelming, the Holy Spirit is our advocate, who walks with us to give us strength for the days ahead.
That’s what I need. Comfort is important, but I need strength to get through days of migraines, to parent my children with love and grace, to stand with others who are facing illness and loss. That’s what the Holy Spirit does; every minute of every day, if we allow Him, He’s right beside us, giving us whatever help we need right then. (I’m listening to The Hiding Place on audiobook. Corrie’s father tells her that the Holy Spirit gives us the faith that we need for each moment, not all at once. And we don’t need to worry because the Holy Spirit is always here with us.)
What have you learned about the role of the Holy Spirit? How has His presence affected your life?
John 16:33b - “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”