And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him; but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
O, how we need one.
A Comforter is one who comes to our side to help us in our needs.
Our needs are many. Principally they pertain to our welfare as pilgrims who are traveling home. Jesus spoke to His disciples and counseled them concerning His Father’s house of many mansions. From this we know that beyond the grace there lies a resting place which constitutes the goal of our entire life. It’s home! In that heavenly home we will behold our Father in the splendor of His full revelation. We will see Jesus, our Bridegroom, face to face and seeing Him we will enjoy everlasting life in all its fulness. In that home we will enjoy perfect communion withal1 our brothers and sisters. Our hearts beat with anticipation as we think upon the joy of singing perfect praise to the God of our salvation. The pearly gates will house perfect saints as they walk the streets of gold within the New Jerusalem.
So frequently that home seems so far away. In faith we gaze to the future, but when we cast our hope filled eyes upon the present circumstances we cannot help but sigh. We recognize that not all men are heading home, not all share with us the joy of anticipating the Kingdom of Heaven. On the contrary, most people of the world do not even know God and consequently set their eye upon a different goal. We see them tearing down their barns and building larger. Their ambitions are founded upon material things on this side of the grave, for they try feverishly to see how much of the world’s goods they can hoard for themselves. They vainly imagine that there is no life after death, so they reason that if they are going to make the most out of the present, they might as well contribute some little portion to the dream of making this world a better place to live. In doing so they make certain that they don’t take life too seriously, they eat and drink and soon rise up to play.
As pilgrims we recognize that living in this kind of environment, we need help. It is so easy for us to lose sight of our goal and become so confused that we identify the cause of the church with that of the world. Besides this, we by nature would rather be part of the world who know not God, than to be a stranger in the midst of the world. We have our own temptations; we crave popularity. It is so easy for us to go along with the crowd; it even looks good to us to envision our making this world a better place to live and by so doing establish the kingdom of God here upon earth. If we do not go along with this crowd we soon learn that we do not have a place in their midst; they do not simply ignore us, but persecute us, for the world that does not know God will not even tolerate the pilgrim that seeks God with his whole heart, soul, mind, and strength.
We need help.
We are helpless.
Mark well, that what the child of God needs is not simply a little nudge, a little coaxing, or a good example. By nature we are dead. Initially, we need to be resurrected from the dead so that we are brought to a living knowledge of God and therefore of our place in His family. Only then will heaven become our home. Once lifted out of the dark abyss of unbelief, we need encouragement, instruction, warning, and a daily measure of strength to lift our feet on the pathway that leads home.
This kind of help man cannot give.
We need the Comforter!
This Comforter or Helper is none other than God the Holy Spirit. As the Spirit of God, He completes the perfect covenant of friendship between the Father and the Son. The Father breathes forth His love to the Son and the Son receiving that love of the Father returns it to the Father in the Holy Spirit. From this point of view the Holy Spirit of God, being very God, dwells in perfect union with the Father and Son. His breath is Holy for He personally is consecrated along with the Father and Son to perfect fellowship within the boundary of perfect love. This perfect fellowship is expressed in divine conversation. This is even reflected in a small way among men; friendship is expressed in our speaking with one another. In fact the more friendly we are, the more we really know one another and share our life together, the easier and more fluent we are with our speech. This is supremely true in God. His friendship within the Godhead is expressed in perfect conversation, the Father speaks to the Son and the Son to the Father in and through the Holy Spirit. This applies to God’s everlasting decrees. His counsel is really His perfect covenant life in which He speaks to Himself in the Friendship of divine love. The same can be said of His conversation which extends outside of Himself. This conversation is always an expression of the truth. He never lies, He never contradicts Himself, He always brings the truth and whatever He says is reality, it comes to pass. The covenant friendship of God with His people is expressed in the way of conversation, God speaks His truth to His people and they return that speech back to God by thankful praise.
The Holy Spirit is the One Who realizes this covenant friendship. He plants in our hearts the seeds of the new life by the wonder of regeneration. Before we even become conscious of God’s love, before we can even picture in our own minds the home that awaits us in glory, we must be born again. This re-birth is of the Holy Spirit. There is however, more than simply the planting of the seed, there is also the bringing forth of the new man! This the Holy Spirit does through the preaching of the gospel. He directs His efficacious Word to the regenerated heart, opens it up so that the seeds of divine love burst forth and become a controlling power in our lives. The result of this work is that we immediately recognize that God is speaking to us. God draws us into His covenant by speaking His truth in our hearts and filling us with love, so that we receive that truth with joy. This brings us to respond to that conversation of God by praising His name, by singing, by praying, by using our tongues to glorify Him, and by directing all our conversation in thought, word, and deed to acknowledge that He is the God of our salvation.
Through the means of grace, the preaching of the Word and the Sacraments, the Holy Spirit nourishes us in that truth, encourages us when we would be inclined to give up, warns us when we wander from the truth, exhorts us to be faithful, and draws us closer to God by speaking to us the truth.
Of this Helper, Christ said, “I will pray the Father and He will send you another Comforter.”
We might ask, who then was the first helper?
The answer is Christ. He helped us out of the state of guilt by satisfying the righteous judgments of God. Christ earned the right to draw us into the covenant friendship of God through His Holy Spirit. The holy God is also righteous. He does not and He cannot take into His arms of love those who are by nature liars and continue to speak lies. The righteousness of God demands that all liars will have to pay the penalty of lying and that penalty is death. From this point of view we see that all untruth, all distortion of reality, both as it applies to the Word of God and as the Word of God is applied to our daily lives, is a roadblock that separates God and man. When man lies, God removes man from His holy presence. The God of truth will not compromise His truth with the lie. This removal brings man into separation from His love and exposes man to the righteous judgments of His holy wrath. This is death.
In order for that kind of man to be taken within the arms of God’s friendship, Christ had to, “Go and prepare a place for you.” On behalf of the elect whom the Father willed to save, Christ bore the judgment of their lies by speaking the truth, even while the billows of God’s just wrath poured over Him. Always He shouted forth, Father I love thee! I love those whom thou has given me, I will redeem all their iniquities, let the chastisement of their peace fall upon me!
This work of our first Helper was accomplished when He shouted forth from the cross, “It is finished.” God sealed that work by raising Him from the dead. As Paul observed, “He was raised for our justification.” Having established perfect righteousness for His own, Christ assured His disciples, “I will pray the Father and He shall send you another Comforter.”
This He did.
Having ascended into heaven, Christ did not forget His needy children who were yet on earth. He prayed the Father that another Comforter might be sent to them. This Comforter was sent on Pentecost. He is that Helper sent from the Father. The triune God answered the prayer of Christ and gave to Him the Spirit, so that He in turn could send Him to the earth to help the helpless.
What a Helper!
He is the Spirit of truth. Through His help the disciples suddenly understood the entire Scriptures, including the purpose and necessity of the death of Christ. Through His powerful indwelling the bars of fear were broken, He kindled within the hearts of each one of His own the fire of holy zeal. As many as were ordained to eternal life believed. They came from countries near and far; each joined in their own way to praise the God who revealed to them the truth. Altogether they enjoyed the covenant friendship of God as the Spirit of truth spoke to their hearts.
Christ gave His Comforter to the church. It is not so, that Christ will give the Holy Spirit to just anyone, He knows those for whom He died and therefore it is through the ministry of the church that He draws His own unto Himself. Christ calls His own by name, and that call is a powerful call because He sounds it forth through the Holy Spirit. By this call the covenant friendship is established and we, too, are brought into the sphere of the truth to enjoy this conversation with God.
This Spirit abides with us forever.
All through our pilgrimage, we may rest assured that Christ will not remove the Comforter, He will continue to send Him even unto the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. Through the Spirit, Christ will certainly gather within the covenant all His own and not one will be excluded. He will speak His truth within our hearts, He will warn us when we wander from the truth whether in doctrine or life, He will exhort us to be faithful no matter what the cost, He will encourage us when we would be inclined to lose sight of our heavenly home, He will preserve us in the midst of temptations by giving us the grace of repentance from sin and the desire to strive after righteousness.
No matter what the circumstances, whether on our sick beds or in the full strength of life, whether in peace or war, whether in riches or poverty, whether we may have spiritual vitality or leanness, this is certain: the Holy Spirit of Christ abides with us forever. This is true for the individual Christian and also for the entire church. He constantly fills us with the truth, that we may within the sphere of that truth enter into holy conversation with God and with one another. He enables us to forsake the lie, to banish sin from our lives, to seek after righteousness, and thus to live to the glory of God now and forever.
Through the Holy Spirit God is certain of His glory.
To Him be the praise forever.