Chapter 6 – Uncomfortable Comforter

From the book: “Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community” by Brett McCracken

The English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible uses the phrase “The Spirit of the Lord” 27 times: in 9 Old Testament books and in 3 New Testament books. It uses the term “Holy Spirit” 99 times: in 2 Old Testament books and 16 New Testament books. The most “Holy Spirit” intensive book is Acts, which uses the Holy Spirit 40 times.

But who is this Holy Spirit? (And it is “Who” and not “What”!) Just like with the multiple characteristics that refer to God, it references the “Holy Spirit” in different contexts. Here are four prevalent ones: Advocate, Comforter, Guide, and Fruit.

  • Spirit as an Advocate

This comes from the Greek word parakletos. Most commentators agree that this is a passive term that is best translated as “called to the side of” or “called to one’s aid.” This is translated as Advocate, Counselor, or Helper; depending on the translation. One view of this is the Holy Spirit being your advocate or intercessor with God the Father. Romans 8:26 specifically states that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us in prayer.

Identifying this characteristic of the Holy Spirit is almost exclusive to the Apostle John. (John 14:16, 14:26, 15:26, 16:7; 1 John 2:1). In John 14:16, Jesus tells the disciples that he is the paraclete living or abiding “with them” or at their side. However, when God the Father sends the Holy Spirit, this paraclete will be within them. Even Job referred to his “advocate on high” (Job 16:19).

  • Spirit as a Comforter

In the same way that He comes alongside you to be an advocate, He can also come alongside you to comfort you. Therefore, another characteristic of the Holy Spirit is as Comforter. In the same scripture passage as the use of the term paraclete, additional verses expand on what this means.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” (John 14:27, NRSV)

Jesus anticipates the disciples’ sense of loss upon his departure and informs them He will return.

“I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.” (John 14:18, NRSV)

God promises comfort.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, ESV)

The Holy Spirit provides this comfort.

  • Spirit as a Guide or Teacher

Another characteristic of the Holy Spirit is as a Guide or Teacher. In the same scripture passage as the use of the term paraclete, additional verses expand on what this means.

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” (John 16:13, NRSV)

“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26, NRSV)

You have the choice to follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance or reject it. When you know the will of God but do not follow it, you are resisting the Spirit’s guidance. You are warned against this.

“Do not quench the Spirit.” (1 Thessalonians 5:19, NRSV)

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:30, NRSV)

Even more concerning are those who actively rebel or speak against the Holy Spirit.

“And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” (Matthew 12:32, ESV) (see also Mark 3:29, Luke 12:10)

“For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.” (Hebrews 6:4-6, ESV)

  • Spirit Gives Us Gifts and Fruits

With the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, you receive spiritual gifts for your work in His Kingdom.

“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.” (1 Corinthians 12:7-11, ESV)

In addition to the gifts for service, your life will be blessed with fruitful spiritual performance and spiritual growth.

“… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.” (Galatians 5:22-23, NRSV)

Your sinful nature will change to a spiritual nature as the fruits of the Spirit enable you to become more Christlike.

“And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another, for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 3:18, NRSV)

As our author writes:

“I’m increasingly convinced that this dual restoration of Word and Spirit is a recipe for a stronger, richer, more vibrant witness for the church in our changing world.” (p. 103)

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