Another Counselor- John 14:15-17

In this passage, Jesus and His disciples are at the Last Supper. Judas has gone out to betray Jesus, and He is with His true disciples, teaching them many things prior to His crucifixion. In this section of His teaching, he is telling them that the Holy Spirit will come to abide in them after His departure. In verse 15, He begins by telling them that if they love Him, they will obey His commandments. Two things require special mention here. The first is that love is a verb. Love here is the present active subjunctive of agapao, love here is not a feeling but a doing, not an emotion but an action. Loving Jesus requires not merely feeling something but doing something, which leads to the second thing we must observe, that love here is equated with obedience. In Jesus understanding, to love Him means to obey Him, and those who don’t obey Him don’t love Him. This statement here serves to establish the context for what He is about to tell them in the rest of His message, for in verse 16, Jesus tells them they will receive the Holy Spirit to be with them forever, the Spirit will help them in loving Him by obeying Him. He refers to the Holy Spirit here using the Greek phrase allon parakleton, translated as “another counselor” in the NIV. The Greek allon here means “another of the same kind”, a counselor just like Jesus is. The Holy Spirit here is thus equated with Jesus, is God also, the third person of the trinity. This counselor will be with them “forever”, in contrast with Jesus, who was about to go away. The Greek term parakleton is the term Jesus uses here to describe the Holy Spirit, and Himself as well, they are both parakleton. We will now examine this Greek term more closely, in order to see exactly what Jesus is telling us through it, and why He chose this particular term. The term parakleton is a noun, derived from the Greek verb parkaleo. It is commonly taught that the verb parakaleo means to be “called alongside”, for that is its literal meaning, and it is concluded the Holy Spirit is one who is called alongside us to help us in our walk of faith. This is likely why the term is translated as “helper” in the NASB, ESV and NKJV translations of the Bible. While this is certainly true, I believe Jesus meant much more than this in His choice of the term parakleton. The term parakleton in Greek literature was used almost exclusively as a legal term, used to refer to an advocate who pleaded another’s case as a type of legal counselor, particularly in court. This is likely why the term is translated as “counselor” in the NIV, RSV and HCSB translations of the Bible. In the Greek language an unusual thing happened in their usage of the term parakleton, in that “the noun is used in a sense quite alien to the action of the verb”. While the verb meant to call alongside, the noun did not mean one who is called alongside, but rather an advocate in the legal sense mentioned above. This is likely why the term is translated as “advocate” in the NET and NLT translations of the Bible, The question which arises in all of this is what did Jesus mean in His use of partakleton? Is it helper, counselor, comforter (KJV,ASV) or advocate? It is our contention that he meant advocate in His use of this term, and He did so for a very specific reason. A very common teaching among the Hebrew rabbis, which they derived from the Old Testament, is the concept of the heavenly advocate. This heavenly advocate came down from heaven and performed two functions. The first was to represent the people in the heavenly court, to be their advocate and plead their case before the throne of God. The second was to remind the people on earth of what is right and wrong and to keep them on the right path. All of Jesus disciples were Hebrews and would have been quite familiar with the concept of the heavenly advocate, aware of what this advocate’s functions would be. In using this term then, Jesus is telling them (and us) that he and the Holy Spirit together function as their (and our) heavenly advocate. Jesus would perform the first function, representing them as their advocate in the court of heaven, pleading their case before the throne of God (1 John 2:1). The Holy Spirit would perform the second function, reminding them on earth of what is right and wrong, and keeping them on the right path. This is why we contend that this term should be translated as “advocate”, because this captures the concept of the heavenly advocate which Jesus tells them here both He and the Holy Spirit would fulfill. This is why the Holy Spirit is another advocate of the same kind as Jesus, our advocate on earth to remind us of what is right and wrong and keep us on the right path, just as Jesus is our advocate before the throne of God pleading our case in the heavenly court.

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