Understanding the mission of the Holy Spirit is the key to understanding
what the New Testament teaches about the Spirit’s work — in both the
miraculous age and today.
Because the subject of the Holy Spirit — the third person of the Godhead — has been clothed with human mystique, there are those who believe every unexplainable feeling they have is the Holy Spirit “nudging” them or prompting them to do something. In years past, this was known as “better-felt-than-told religion.” That meant one couldn’t really understand God’s purpose for his life unless he had some kind of experience of good feeling, rather than simply hearing and obeying God’s word.
Most religious people today have the Holy Spirit running around on earth doing everything from zapping lost souls into salvation to finding parking places for Christians on busy streets. That kind of nonsense is easily dispelled by Bible teaching, but few want to hear the real truth concerning the Holy Spirit.
The 14th through the 16th chapters of John constitute Jesus’ last discourse to his apostles on the night he was betrayed into the hands of the Jews. He fully understood what his apostles didn’t. He knew that he would soon be taken and crucified. He also knew this would not be his end, but they did not understand what lay ahead. Thus, Jesus sought to tell them things that would strengthen them and give them hope for the dark ordeal looming on the horizon.
Culminating about three years of personally teaching them, he would soon be taken away. In view of this, he promised them “another Comforter” (John 14:16). In connection with this promise, he said, “I will not leave you comfortless” (John 14:18).
The language in this passage is, literally, “I will not leave you orphans.” The word “orphanos” in the original means “bereaved” and in this context in English it indicates one bereft of parents. One so bereft has no guidance, protection, sustenance or aid for living and functioning. As Jesus had been with them for about three years, guiding them into a knowledge of God’s will, protecting them from the doctrines of men, and supplying every spiritual need, so the Comforter — or the Holy Spirit — would come to them after Jesus’ departure. In the absence of Christ, the Holy Spirit would do for the apostles what Christ had done for them — and would do had he remained with them. The work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the apostles was simply an extension of Christ’s work.
Jesus further stated the purpose of the Holy Spirit’s coming in John 14:26: “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” The “all things” of this passage referred to the gospel scheme of redemption and Paul so used that phrase in First Corinthians 2:10. That plan of redemption had begun to be taught by Jesus while he was with them. “These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you.” (John 14:25; cf. Acts 1:1). But that revelation would be completed when the Holy Spirit came to the apostles. “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost...he shall teach you all things.” (John 14:26).
Thus, the Holy Spirit was promised to complete that which Jesus had begun in person. There were some things Jesus hadn’t revealed to them that would be revealed by the Holy Spirit. Not only would the Spirit reveal additional truth to them, but he would enable them to remember “all things” Jesus had personally taught them. (John 14:26). The single mission of the Holy Spirit was the revelation of all truth necessary for men to be saved, live the Christian life and go to heaven. That singular mission was accomplished in the two-fold function of reminding and revealing. The Spirit would remind the apostles of all Jesus had taught and further reveal all additional truth necessary to those ends. Furthermore, the promises Jesus made in John 14 through 16 were made only to the apostles and to no others living then or now.
The word translated “Comforter” in John 14-16 is paracletos in the original. It refers only to the Holy Spirit and his relationship to the apostles in the four times it occurs in this context. It never refers to the Holy Spirit’s relationship to mankind in general and it is an abuse and misuse of the Scriptures to refer to the Holy Spirit as anyone’s “Comforter” today.
The word paracletos really has no adequate English equivalent. Hence, it was translated “Comforter.” Z. T. Sweeney says, “There is no word within my knowledge that will fully express in English the Greek word. It is much better to Anglicize the word into the English “Paraclete.” The word is used of the Holy Spirit only four times in the New Testament, and only used by the Saviour in his private address to the 12, found in the 14th, 15th and 16th chapters of John. It is never applied to the work of the Holy Spirit in relation to mankind in general. It is promised only to the chosen, and Jesus tells them that the world cannot receive ‘him.’ This Paraclete is a distinct gift to the 12, to take the place of the personal presence and guidance of the leader who is preparing to leave them.
“...By examining the lexicons, we find that “Paraclete” is:
The Comforter (The Holy Spirit) was promised to the apostles alone for the single purpose of revealing God’s complete will. He would accomplish this mission through the apostles by reminding them of all Jesus had taught and guiding them into additional truth essential to man’s relationship with God. That is illustrated in the diagram accompanying this article.
The Holy Spirit had a two-fold function in revealing all truth.
1). He reminded the apostles of all Jesus taught while he was on the earth. (John 14:26). One example of this is found in Paul’s farewell address to the Ephesian elders. “I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35). These words of Jesus are recorded in none of the four gospel accounts. How then did Paul know them? As an apostle, he was reminded of them by inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
2). He guided the apostles into all truth, or additional truth Jesus had not previously revealed to them. (John 16:13). An example of this is found in Paul’s epistle to the church at Corinth. “But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.” Paul did not offer a contradictory statement to Christ’s law of marriage. He merely said that Jesus had not spoken on this aspect of marriage while he was on earth, but now revealed this through the inspired Paul. This constituted part of the “all things” into which the Holy Spirit guided the apostles. (John 16:13).
The Holy Spirit not only revealed the will of God to the apostles, but through them for all men for all time to come. This was done by giving the apostles the very words by which God’s will is expressed.
The only way to reveal the will of your mind to another is through words. Words are vehicles of thought and by them we transfer thoughts from one mind to another. Man was made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27) and endowed with the faculty of reason. It is to this faculty of man that God directs his will.
Because God’s will is directed to the mind of man, God chose the medium of his words to make his will known. The Holy Spirit revealed the will of God through the medium of words. That’s the thrust of the entire second chapter of First Corinthians. Quoting Isaiah 64:4, Paul said, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Cor. 2:9). He then explained that these things — “the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” — have now been revealed by the Holy Spirit. “But God hath revealed them to us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. (1 Cor. 2:10).
In verses 11-12, Paul then shows that those “things” could not have been known by man until God made them known by the Holy Spirit who had been promised and given to the apostles. “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.” The “things freely given to us of God” in verse 12 are the things which in previous dispensations had not entered into the heart of man. In verse 9 they are referred to as “the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” In verse 10 as “the deep things of God,” in verse 11 as “the things of God,” and in verse 12 as “the things that are freely given to us of God.” All of these references connect with Jesus’ promise to the apostles in John 14:25-26, “He shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance whatsoever I have said unto you.”
Then Paul caps his explanation of revelation in the apostles by explaining the how of it. “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which [words] the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” (1 Cor. 2:13).
The mission of the Holy Spirit was the revelation of all truth through the apostles and he did that through the medium of words which he miraculously gave them. The truth of God, revealed in Jesus Christ came not in words chosen by men, but in words selected and delivered by the Holy Spirit. The phrase, “comparing spiritual things with spiritual” simply means that the spiritual truths expressed by the apostles were expressed in words of the Holy Spirit himself.
Once all truth was revealed through the apostles and confirmed by the signs and wonders they performed, the Holy Spirit’s mission was completed. (Heb. 2:1-4). There is no more revelation to be given. All things necessary to man’s relationship with God has been given. (2 Pet. 1:3; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). That means the Holy Spirit no longer speaks to men today as he did in the days of inspiration. All truth has been revealed. At one time it was in the inspired man, styled an “earthen vessel” by Paul. (2 Cor. 4:7). But now all truth has been committed to the Book. (Jude 3). Moreover, a curse is pronounced on any man or angel who would presume to preach another gospel than that which the Holy Spirit revealed through inspired men of the first century. (Gal. 1:6-9).
The Holy Spirit completed his work of revelation and any person today who claims another revelation — whether he be Joseph Smith, Mohammed, Charles T. Russell, Benny Hinn, or Mary Baker Eddy — is a liar. When the Holy Spirit finished his work of revelation, he ceased his miraculous work on earth.
1 -- [ The Spirit And The Word, Gospel Advocate Co., Nashville, 2nd, p. 67-68. ]