If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. – John 14:15-17 ESV
I think Jesus knew the disciples loved Him. I think He believed they truly wanted to keep His commandments. But He knew that they would find that task impossible in the days ahead, especially after His death, burial and resurrection. Which is why Jesus said He was going to send them a Helper – someone to assist them. The Greek word Jesus used was paraklētos and, like most Greek words, it is rich and multifaceted in its meaning. It refers to someone who is summoned or called to the aid and assistance of another. In the literal sense it meant “one who pleads another’s cause before a judge, a pleader, counsel for defense, legal assistant, an advocate” (www.blueletterbible.org). Jesus used this common Greek word to refer to the Holy Spirit who would “lead them to a deeper knowledge of the gospel truth, and give them divine strength needed to enable them to undergo trials and persecutions on behalf of the divine kingdom” (www.blueletterbible.org).
Jesus knew that His disciples loved Him and would be eager to keep His commandments, but they would find both tasks impossible to fulfill without divine help. Their love was going to be tested. Their desire to be obedient would weaken. And without Jesus by their side, they would find it difficult to remain motivated. So Jesus promised to send help in the form of a divine advocate or aid. They would not be left alone. They would not be left powerless. The same Spirit of God who they had seen actively present in the life of Jesus would be given to them. They would soon find themselves not only living in the presence of the Spirit of God, but living with the Spirit of God present within them. God the Son would ask God the Father to send God the Holy Spirit to come to their aid. What an incredible thought. What a remarkable reality. But one that we either take for granted or treat with a sort of doubt or incredulity. Our own experience seems to suggest that this Holy Helper is either absent in our lives or not nearly as helpful as Jesus seemed to suggest.
Jesus told His disciples that the Holy Spirit would live in them. The power and presence of God would no longer be an external force they witnessed, but an internal reality that would set them apart from the rest of the world. When Jesus performed miracles everyone was able to witness them and see the power of God at work. Anyone could hear the words of Jesus and be amazed at His teaching. But with the coming of the Holy Spirit, the followers of Jesus would find themselves possessed of a power that allowed them to not only hear the words of Jesus, but obey them. No longer would they simply be witnesses to the power of God, they would be the very conduits through which that power flowed.
As believers in Jesus Christ, we have the Holy Spirit living within us. Our ability to love Christ consistently is not left up to our own strength. We have a helper. Our capacity to remain obedient to His commands is not based on our will power and inner resolve, but on the indwelling presence of God. Jesus referred to the Spirit as the “Spirit of truth”. Because He is the Spirit of God and God is truth, the Holy Spirit speaks truth. He doesn’t bring new truth, but helps believers understand and apply the truth of God as revealed in the Word of God. We might wonder how the disciples of Jesus were able to remember all the things that He said and taught. Did they take copious notes and spend every evening writing down all that He said. Jesus Himself gives us the explanation. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26 ESV). Not only would the Spirit give them the capacity to remember the words of Jesus, they would be able to understand them and apply them to their lives.
This “help” we have been given is not to be viewed like some kind of divine Cliff Notes or study aid. He is the very essence of God Himself. He is the third person of the Trinity and He lives within all who have accepted the free gift of salvation made possible through Christ’s death on the cross. Because He lives within us, we have all the help we need to live the life we have been called to live. We can love consistently. We can obey fully. Not because we have the capacity to do so on our own, but because we have the presence of God within us. Jesus didn’t leave us defenseless, helpless or hopeless. He sent the Spirit of God to live in us, to help us, to empower us and transform us as we live our lives in anticipation of His return. We have all the help we need to prove our love for Jesus by living in obedience to His commands.