Posted by: rcottrill | October 24, 2014

The Comforter Has Come

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Words: Frank Bottome (b. May 26, 1823; d. June 29, 1894)
Music: William James Kirkpatrick (b. Feb. 27, 1838; d. Sept. 20, 1921)

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T he title “Comforter” (KJV) is given to the Spirit of God by the Lord Jesus (Jn. 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7), but that may not be the best translation of the Greek word. The problem we have is that there is no single English word that can represent the original Greek word, parakletos. Though “Comforter” was used by the translators of the King James Version, it does not adequately cover the full meaning.

A paraclete is literally one called alongside (para = beside + kaleo = to call). So, the Holy Spirit, in His present ministry, is One called alongside believers, summoned by the Lord Himself. But why? To comfort, yes. But much more than that. Though there are many ministries of the Spirit (e.g. see Jn. 16:7-11), here are two that relate significantly to the word parackletos.

1) He is an Advocate or Intercessor, who pleads on our behalf.
The same Greek word (parakletos) is translated Advocate, when used of the Lord Jesus, in His present ministry at the Father’s right hand (I Jn. 2:1). He is Advocate of the saints in the sense that His finished Calvary work is recognized by the Father, and as a result we are “saved to the uttermost [completely and forever]” (Heb. 7:25). The Holy Spirit is said to be our Advocate and Intercessor in prayer, the Advocate in our supplications.

“The Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered….He makes intercession for us according to the will of God” (Rom. 8:26-27).

So many times, in praying for ourselves or others, we are uncertain what the will of God is. We are unsure of how to pray for a dying family member, for example. Is it the will of God to promote them to heavenly glory? Or should we pray that they be raised up to health again?

The assurance Romans 8 gives us is that we can lay our requests before the throne of God, in thankful submission to His will. In that we can trust the Holy Spirit to express the desires of our heart, and interpret them according to the will of God.

2) He is a Helper, called alongside, to teach and guide us, to the glory of Christ (Rom. 8:14, 16).
This is the particular emphasis in Christ’s “Upper Room Discourse” (Jn. 13–16). “The Helper [parakletos], the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (Jn. 14:26, NKJV).

“When the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me” (Jn. 15:26). “When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you” (Jn. 16:13-14).

It is just here that I’m concerned about the emphasis of Mr. Bottome’s song. Yes, the Holy Spirit has come to engage in the ministries that are particular to the present time (i.e. after death and resurrection of Christ, and after Pentecost). The entire hymn is a celebration of the coming of the Spirit. But the Spirit’s ministry is to glorify Christ, not Himself (Jn. 16:14). It is important to know about the Holy Spirit and His work, and to honour Him, the third Person of the Triune Godhead. But I believe the focus should be kept on our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.

I did a little experiment. I don’t claim that it proves anything, but it’s interesting. Knowing that the Bible is inspired by the Spirit of God (II Pet. 1:21), I wondered how much He talks about Himself, and how much He has to say about Jesus. Terms such as the Holy Spirit, or the Spirit of God are used in Acts and the epistles 67 times. Words such as Jesus or Christ are used 789 times (ten times more).

Perhaps that suggests where our emphasis should be. It is certainly where I feel most comfortable focusing my praise and worship. The Lord Jesus Christ is “the brightness of His [God’s] glory, and the express image of His person” (Heb. 1:3). “In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9). The “long, long night” (CH-2) of sin’s deadly grip was broken when Christ, “the Dayspring [Dawning] from on High” visited us (Lk. 1:78), the One who is the “Bright and Morning Star” (Rev. 22:16), “to whom be glory forever and ever” (Heb. 13:21; cf. Rev. 5:12).

CH-1) O spread the tidings ’round, wherever man is found,
Wherever human hearts and human woes abound;
Let every Christian tongue proclaim the joyful sound:
The Comforter has come!

The Comforter has come, the Comforter has come!
The Holy Ghost from heav’n, the Father’s promise giv’n;
O spread the tidings ’round, wherever man is found–
The Comforter has come!

CH-2) The long, long night is past; the morning breaks at last;
And hushed the dreadful wail and fury of the blast,
As o’er the golden hills the day advances fast!
The Comforter has come!

1) Is it possible to put too much focus on the Holy Spirit, and not enough on the Lord Jesus Christ?

2) Is this a hymn you would find useful in your church?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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