Friday, August 29, 2014

Strong Comforter

One of the names for the Holy Spirit is "the Comforter." The name comes from the Greek word, parakletos, which speaks of being "called alongside" with the purpose of help. From this idea of assistance, we've moved to a word that sounds more like a "sympathizer," or a warm blanket. That's not exactly the same, is it? 

Now don't get me wrong. God wants to encourage and shelter and console his people in this life. But if the Holy Spirit is just a warm fuzzy presence saying "there, there," I'm not sure that really helps.

But that is not what the title "Comforter" means. As R. C. Sproul noted as he taught and wrote on this subject, when parakletos was being translated into English back in the 1600s, they wanted to use a word that meant "to come along side with needed strength or aid." They chose the word "comforter" because, back then, it meant that. It was from two Latin words, cum, which means "with" and fortis which means strength (the musical term "forte" is from this word). The emphasis is not on feeling better, but on being provided needed strength or help. In fact, the ESV uses "Helper" instead of "Comforter" for this very reason. Languages evolve over time, and with the word "Comforter" we went from powerful aid to a down quilt.

Interestingly, the same Greek term (parakletos), when used of Jesus in 1 John 2, is translated "Advocate," a term used for a lawyer--that is certainly one form of aid we can understand.

So, when you think about the Holy Spirit, don't think of a spiritual "warm blanket." Instead, consider him to be the person of the Trinity who gives you, by his presence with you, all the strength and power you need for godliness.