Saturday, November 11, 2017

More on the Holy Spirit's Ministry As Comforter

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John 14:16-17 "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you."


In our last post we began considering the role of the Holy Spirit as "Comforter" or "Helper". We looked at the Old Testament background for this title - noting that reference to the Holy Spirit as "Comforter" or "Helper" asserts His divine nature as truly God (a divine nature He shares with the Father and with the Son). We then noted Jesus' teaching on this subject. Today's post aims to conclude this short study on this vital truth about the identity of the Holy Spirit. 

1. So why the word "comforter"?
When the King James Translators (as well as other Older English Translations, such as the Geneva Bible, 1560 and 1599 translations) were producing Bibles, many of the scholars were learned men who being theologians knew Latin. The Latin term that they knew of that was used in the Bible translation called the Latin Vulgate was the term "comfortis". This term is made up of two Latin words: "com" meaning "with" and "forte" meaning "to strengthen". Thus, you have likely heard of a "fort" or "fortress" - i.e a place of strength, protection. In music we will run across the term "forte", which means to make the music "louder" or "stronger". Thus, when the English translators were producing those early English Bibles, they simply took the best Latin word they knew and put English letters to it - hence the title "Comforter". 

In our day and age we often think of a "comforter" as someone who soothes and makes us fell better. Without a doubt the Holy Spirit can do those things and does by way of His peace for example (Galatians 5:22). However, when considering what the word "comforter" was intended to mean, as well as Jesus' terminology and the Old Testament revelation, we discover that the Person of the Holy Spirit is literally God Himself coming alongside and strengthening us inside. It is His comforting strength that urges us on to complete the work He has called us to do and to live the Christian life He convicted and converted us to at saving faith.

2. The Holy Spirit's comforting or strengthening ministry in the early church

In light of the last post and this one, it is hoped the reader will understand the significance of this title of the Holy Spirit. Luke's statement about the early church in Acts 9:31 is connected to  outcomes that are attributed to the Holy Spirit's comforting ministry:

a. Peace. Acts 9:31a "So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace....".

b. Edification or "being built up". Acts 9:31a "being built up...."

c. Feared the Lord. Acts 9:31a "and going on in the fear of the Lord." This "fear of God" speaks of a deep reverence and desperate dependence upon God, fearing what life and ministry would be like if He were to remove His hand or if we were to do anything to provoke His Fatherly discipline.

These first few statements describe for us the effects that were taking place in the life of the church in the wake of Saul of Tarsus' conversion and the temporary reprieve from persecution that the church would enjoy as a result (compare Acts 9:1-22 and 9:23-30). But now what is the ultimate Cause or Agent behind the peace, the building up and the increased dependence or fear of the Lord in the early church? The next part of Acts 9:31 gives us the answer: "and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase."

The first part of 9:31 views the mighty effects and activities that were taking place, whereas the second part takes us in the walls and behind the scenes and inside the people to see Who the source is - the Holy Spirit, the Mighty Comforter Himself. He is the One who "comes alongside" and Strengthens the church to do the bidding of the Lord. Peter's healing of Aeneus in Acts 9:32-35 and the raising of the little servant girl Tabitha in 9:36-43 following on the heels of the statement of the Holy Spirit's comforting ministry in 9:31 shows us Who is responsible for any ministry done in and among God's people.

Closing thoughts:

Were it not for the Holy Spirit, the Great Comforter or "Helper", there would had been no ability for Peter to say to Aeneus to "take up his bed and walk" nor for Aeneus to have such an ability. Also too, the same can be said of how the Spirit's worked through Peter to raise the little girl Tabitha from the dead. The Spirit of God is the author of life - both physically and spiritually. Because the Holy Spirit performs all these operations in the life of His people, it can be seen why He is the Mighty "Comforter" or "Helper" of the Christian.

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