In interpreting Scripture, attention should be paid not only to the speaker and his message but also to the parties addressed. Some passages are universal in their application, others that are national, and still others that are addressed to individuals only. Many promises are addressed to children of God only and do not apply to those who are not citizens of Christ’s kingdom. Again, some commands are addressed solely to men in a state of condemnation and have no relevance when applied to the children of God. Christ uttered many things to his chosen ambassadors, chosen to establish his kingdom [over the] earth, which was never intended to be applied to any others. It is a mistake for the Christian of today to make universal, promises that were intended by our Lord for select individuals. It confuses the whole scheme of redemption and makes a mystery out of Scriptures that are entirely clear when proper limitations are made. Things addressed to a chosen few have been wrongly applied to all, and great confusion has resulted from there. It is my purpose in this chapter to notice some of these.
The fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth chapters of John contain a record of a private talk with our Lord to the Twelve, and to them alone. Jesus was approaching the close of his earthly ministry. He had chosen his apostles, and they had left all to follow him. He had eaten, slept and spent time with them. He had taught them the great truths upon which his kingdom would be founded. They had learned to depend on him for advice, instruction, comfort and guidance. They confessed this when they said, “Thou hast the words of eternal life.”
He was soon to leave them, and knew that they would feel that they were “as sheep without a shepherd.” He wishes them to know that they should not be left orphaned. He tells them, “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter that he may abide with you forever,” or to the remotest age. That is, as long as you shall have need of him. The Greek word translated “forever” does not necessarily mean unlimited duration. It is often applied to much shorter periods, even to a lifetime. Gerald L. Borchert offers us insight into the “Helper” of John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7.
The term Paraclete (paraklētos), rendered “comforter” in the KJV, “counselor” in the RSV, NIV, HCSB, and NLT, “helper” in the TEV and NKJV, and “advocate” in the NRSV, is a verbal adjective carrying a passive force. It is derived from parakalein and has the same meaning as ho parakeklēmenos, the articular perfect participle that means “the one called alongside.” It was sometimes used within the Greek legal system, but in the Roman legal system the comparable Latin word advocatus became a technical term referring to a defense counsel.
The term is only used by John in the New Testament and is similarly applied to Jesus in 1 John 2:1, where Jesus is said to be the Christian’s Paraclete with the Father. Also by implication John may consider Jesus to be a Paraclete here at John 14:16 because the Spirit of truth is said to be “another” Paraclete. The only other uses of the term in the New Testament are in this Gospel and refer to the Holy Spirit (14:26; 15:26; 16:7).149 The term does not appear in the Septuagint.
This Paraclete is a distinct gift to the twelve, to take the place of the personal presence and guidance of the leader who is preparing to leave them.
What is the nature of this promised one? By examining the lexicons, we find that Paraclete (Helper) is:
- One called or sent to assist another.
- One who pleads the cause of another.
- A monitor.
- An instructor.
- A guide.
- A helper.
- A supporter.
- A comforter.
Of this Paraclete (Helper) Jesus says:
- Whom the world cannot receive.
- He dwelled with you and shall be in you.
- He shall teach you all things.
- He shall bring all things to your remembrance whatsoever I have spoken unto you.
- He shall testify of me.
- He shall convict the world of sin.
- He shall convict the world of righteousness.
- He shall convict the world of judgment.
- He shall guide you into all truth.
- He shall show you things to come.
- He shall receive of mine and show it unto you.
Here we have eleven distinct things that the Paraclete is to do for the apostles.
The apostles in their work of proclaiming Christianity and establishing the church needed all these offices of the Paraclete. They were ignorant and unlearned, humanly speaking, and could never have gone forth to success without this supernatural Paraclete. They took no thought what they should say, for it was given them at the proper time. Others have to take thought. Paul tells Timothy to “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15, NASB) Timothy had to study because he did not possess the Paraclete. Yet Timothy did possess the gift of the Spirit. “For which cause I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee through the laying on of my hands.” – 2 Timothy 1:6
Men today are required to study that they may know what to say. A failure to observe this exhortation of the apostle is the reason why a great many do not know what to say. The Paraclete was not only an instructor, but he was an infallible guide. This is evident from the fact that no apostle ever contradicted another nor said anything foolish. I never heard a man of to-day lay claim to being guided “into all truth by the Spirit,” who did not say something foolish in the next five minutes. If any man claims the direct guidance of the Spirit to-day, he cannot consistently deny that same claim to others. However, we have all sorts of men teaching all kinds of doctrines, often contradicting each other. Does the Spirit guide one man to preach up Universalism and another man to preach it down! The same is true of Calvinism, Mormonism or any other ism.
This teaching places the Spirit in a very unenviable position that of preaching four or five different teachings at the same time, each within a half-mile of the other. Suppose a preacher were to do that! What would the people think of him? It would ruin the reputation of any preacher in Christendom. There is something wrong, and that something is to apply to the world the promise of the Paraclete, which was only given to the apostles.
Paul tells Timothy: “what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Tim. 2:2, ESV) Would that not have been a bold or rude, lack of respect on Paul’s part if Timothy had the same divine leading as he? Was it not bold or rude, lack of respect in Jude to say that the faith was “once for all delivered to the holy ones,” if there were deliverances being constantly made? What need to preach the gospel to the heathen world if God is directly leading men into the truth? What need for a New Testament if all men possess this Paraclete? How can one man deny the claims of another whom he admits to be divinely guided into all truth?
Some had thought that Christ bestowed the Paraclete upon the apostles when he breathed upon them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” At best that was a prophetic and not an actual bestowal, for after that on breathing we find Peter (Acts I) calling upon the assembly of brothers to take a vote as to who should succeed Judas in the apostolic college. If he had possessed the Paraclete at that time, he would not have been compelled to resort to the judgment of his brethren to determine such a question.
Moreover, Christ indicated when the Paraclete would come, by stating the work that would follow his coming: “And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” How did he do this?
- His first act at his coming was to baptize the apostles in the Spirit and endow them with the Paraclete. “You will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (Acts 1:5)
- When the Spirit baptized these apostles with divine guidance he began his work of convicting the world through them.
To Convict the World of Sin
(a) Not of sin in general. It is a mistaken idea that the Spirit is sent to convict a man of the sin of lying, stealing or defrauding his neighbor personally. The above passage teaches nothing of the kind, nor does any other passage in the New Testament teach it. There is not a case in the New Testament where the Holy Spirit ever made an issue with a man to convict him personally of sin. The Spirit convicts all men of sin, but it is the Spirit working through the preaching of Spirit-filled men. “And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me.” (John 16:8-9, ESV) They called him a blasphemer, they rejected him, they took him with wicked hands and crucified and slew him; and the first thrust of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost was at this sinful act of the world: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” – Acts 2:36, ESV
The righteousness of Jesus Christ
(b) “Concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer.” (John 16:10, ESV) If this passage teaches that men are individually convicted of sin, it also teaches that they are individually convicted of righteousness, and this would be a most herculean task, even for the Spirit, to perform. It is a contradiction of terms to say that the Spirit convicts a man of sin, then, in the next breath, that he convicts the same man of righteousness. And yet, the Spirit was to convict men “of righteousness;” but whose righteousness? “Concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer.” (John 16:10) When Jesus was on earth he claimed to be the Son of God; he claimed to come down from heaven; he claimed to be God manifest in the flesh; but, at the same time, he was a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” “There was no beauty that we should desire him.” On this account the Jews refused to accept him as the Son of God; they denied his claim to divinity and called him a blasphemer for making himself equal with God; they believed that he was unrighteous in making that claim, and Jesus died because his claims were not accepted by his people; but after his death he was crowned with glory and honor at the right hand of the Majesty on high, and the Spirit came to demonstrate the righteous claims Jesus made while on earth. The Spirit came to convict men of the righteousness of Christ, and not their own righteousness.
A simple illustration will probably throw light upon this thought. Forty years ago, my father lived in a little village in the State of Illinois, midway between St. Louis and Indianapolis. One afternoon two young lads, covered with dust and dirt, came to his house and told him they were sons of an elder of a Christian Church in Indiana; that they had been robbed in St. Louis, and were making their way home on foot; they asked for something to eat. My father doubted their claims; he felt that they were impostors; but my mother, who had boys of her own out in the world, and who always believed the best of everybody, said, “We will feed them and care for them during the night.” Their wants were supplied, and they were given lodging for the night and sent on their way the next morning with a good lunch for the day. Six months afterward, I preached in Monroe County, Indiana, and, stopping with one of the elders of the church, two young lads were introduced to me as his boys. They asked me if my father lived in Illinois. I told them he did. They then recounted their experience at my father’s home, and said to me, “We would be glad when you return home if you will tell your father that you stopped at our house and that you know we were what we claimed to be when we sought his aid.” When I returned to my father’s home, I convicted him of the righteousness of those boys in the claim that they set forth, and which he had hitherto doubted. In a similar manner, the Spirit of God came down to convict the world that had rejected the claims of Jesus, of his righteousness in making those claims.
(c) Paul warns us, “Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:11-12) Do we fully understand this? Think about it, Satan the Devil has an invisible, extremely powerful organization of demonic angels. Jesus Christ himself called Satan “the ruler of this world.” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11) The apostle said that Satan is “the god of this world.” – 2 Corinthians 4:4.
This Paraclete continued with the apostles until the end of their ministry, guiding, leading, and showing them “things to come,” bringing all things to their remembrance that Christ had spoken unto them. Under this direct and supernatural control, they preached the gospel to all the nations of the earth and established the church with all its officers, ordinances, privileges and duties. They wrote the epistles to the churches and gave to mankind the New Testament, “the perfect law of liberty.” The work of the Paraclete being finished, and his mission ended, no man has been guided, shown and directed personally by him since. God does no unnecessary work, and the work of the Paraclete is not necessary now. His work remains in the teachings and lives of the apostles. There are many things in the above-mentioned chapters that rightfully have a universal application, but the special promises concerning the Paraclete are not included in those things.
Ephesians 4:8, 11-13 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
8 Therefore it says,
“When he ascended on high he led captivity captive,
and he gave gifts to men.”
11 And he gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as shepherds and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the holy ones or the work of ministry, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the accurate knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
 See Westcott, John, 2.189.
 Cf. BAGD, 618; TDNT, 5.800–801.
149 Cf. Morris, John, 587–89.
 Gerald L. Borchert, John 12–21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 122–123.
 Unlearned in the sense of not having been taught by the Jewish teachers at the Jewish schools, like the apostle Paul with Gamaliel. This did not mean that they were unable to read or to write.
 Or struggle
 Epignosis is a strengthened or intensified form of gnosis (epi, meaning “additional”), meaning, “true,” “real,” “full,” “complete” or “accurate,” depending upon the context. Paul and Peter alone use epignosis.