June 8, 2014 A+D
St. John 14:23-31
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
John only uses the full title, “Holy Spirit” three times in his Gospel. The first time it is in the mouth of John the Baptist. He tells us that Jesus is the One who comes baptizing with the Holy Spirit. This time, from today’s Gospel, the title is in the mouth of Jesus. It is heard at the institution of the Lord’s Supper. The Lord uses it to be sure we are clear as to who the Paraclete, the Helper,is. He is the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of Holiness. The last time that John uses the term, it is again in Our Lord’s mouth. He is back in that same upper room, four days later, and He breathes on the apostles and says: “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
For the three times that he uses the term, Holy Spirit, four times John calls the Spirit of Holiness and Truth the Paraclete. The ESV translates it as Helper. The term Paraclete, sometimes heard in our hymnody, is a title unique to John. It is a transliteration of the Greek word. In ancient Greek it meant an advocate. It was someone who spoke in court on behalf of the accused.
The word was a bit more nuanced in Biblical Greek. Its meaning became shaded over time. The two words that make up the word Paraclete are “alongside” and “call.” So the Paraclete is someone who stands next to you, has been called to stand by you, who speaks in your favor to those who are against you, that is, an advocate, but it can also be someone who stands with you and speaks words of encouragement and strength.
That sounds like a motivational speaker, but it is not. It is more intimate than that. It is like a father cheering his son on in the special Olympics, a person who stands with you day after day speaking encouraging words.
Thus, I find the translation “Helper” a bit weak, but I am at a loss for a single word to get the idea across. Comforter may be the best we can do and, in fact, the verb form of the word paraclete, parakalew, is usually rendered as comfort.
Luther prefers the full title: Holy Spirit. That is because making us holy is the precise and encompassing work that the Son sends the Spirit from the Father to do in and for us. He begins and daily increases holiness of earth. He does this through the means of grace in the Christian Church. In this way, the Holy Spirit delivers and bestows on-going forgiveness of sins.
He does this because even though we are Christians, even though the redemption of Christ has already been bought and accomplished, we are still sinners. The old flesh clings to us. On this side of glory, we are in constant need of forgiveness and protection from the threats of our sins.
Everything the Holy Spirit does is to bestow this forgiveness. For the forgiveness of sins not only removes guilt, but it also strengthens faith and give the desire for holy things. This forgiveness leads ultimately to resurrection of the body and life everlasting. Then, at last, we will be perfected and freed from evil desires and shame. The good work begun in us will be complete.
Until then the Holy Spirit comforts and encourages Christians through His Word and Sacraments by revealing the Truth of the Son’s sacrifice, resurrection, and perfect love. The Holy Spirit 0is the inspiration of all the prophets, apostles, and holy writers which all testify and reveal Christ. He gave those writers the very thoughts and words to express and thus, we rightly call their words God’s Word. We trust those words and they are the sole source of all our doctrine and life. The Holy Spirit bestows His own Name and holiness in the waters of Holy Baptism by drowning us with Christ and raising us up again out of the Lord’s death. He calls us His own and enacts the miracle that causes that who cannot, by their own reason or strength, believe in Jesus Christ to not only believe that Jesus is Lord, but more precisely to believe and love that Jesus is their Lord. He is also the efficient cause of the risen Lord’s bodily presence in the Holy Supper. We don’t need, however, to call Him down. He comes down of His own accord and of His own mercy in order to reveal and testify and bestow again to the atoning Sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Still, there is more to the Holy Spirit and His sanctifying than that. He is also the Spirit bestowed by the Christ in the Upper Room for the purpose of Holy Absolution. The Lord Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whosever sins you forgive, they are forgiven.” So also does He intercede and pray for us. This is no small thing. Even as He convicts us of sin and righteousness, even as He rebukes our old man and protects us from our sins while absolving us for Christ’s sake and comforting us with the hope of things unseen, He also advocates for us to the Father and the Son, praying for us with words inexpressible by human tongues. He brings the inmost thoughts and needs of our hearts to the Father in Jesus’ Name. He is the Spirit who lives in us and works in and on us through and Word and Sacrament, who speaks also in the mutual consolation of the brethren, who maintains and blesses the Church on earth. He both prays for us and also causes us to pray and for our brothers and sister, who He declares righteous, to pray for us and the prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
So we life, day by day, hour by hour, and minute by minute, in and by the forgiveness of sins. The Holy Spirit has begun and is growing holiness in us daily by the forgiveness of sins. Meanwhile, “we await the time when our flesh will be put to death, will be buried with all its uncleanness,” when it will no longer need forgiveness, “and will come forth gloriously and arise to complete and perfect holiness in a new, eternal life. Now we are only halfway pure and holy. The Holy Spirit must continue to work in us through the Word, daily granting forgiveness until we attain to that life where there will be no more forgiveness. In that life” we will be His “perfectly pure and holy people, full of goodness and righteousness, completely freed from sin, death, and all evil, living in new, immortal and glorified bodies.”
Come, Holy Ghost, God and Lord with all your graces now outpoured.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.
 Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 418.