When we learn another language, it brings the words to life and we better understand the nuances of what others are saying. Likewise, when we learn more about the languages in which the Bible was written, we understand more of what God is saying through Scripture. This article will consider the meaning of the word Paraclete in its original language.
Where Does the Word Paraclete Come From?
The New Testament was written in Greek and Aramaic, and the word Paraclete is a Latin transliteration of the Greek word, parakletos. The Apostle John used the Greek word four times in his gospel and once in his epistle of 1 John. Bible versions transliterate paraclete into English words for our understanding, and some examples of these are listed below.
In John’s gospel, different Bible versions render paraclete as Comforter, Helper, or Advocate (John 14:16, 26; John 15:26; John 16:7). Even though the root word parakletos is used in each case, the context provides the nuances so we may know what the writer meant as he penned what God inspired him to write (2 Peter 1:21). For this article, we will use the word we are familiar with, Paraclete.
Where Does the Bible Use Paraclete?
The context of the following passages centers on Jesus and His disciples during Jesus’ passion week when He prepared Himself and His disciples for His death and resurrection.
John 14:6 (ESV), “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,”
John 14:26, “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 15:26, “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness about Me.”
These passages are part of the discourse which took place in the Upper Room, where Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples, washed their feet, instituted the Lord’s Supper, and where Jesus revealed Judas Iscariot as His betrayer. After Judas left their presence, Jesus spoke from His heart to the remaining, loyal disciples—those He knew would obey His commands—even after a momentary falling away when Jesus was arrested (Mark 14:27, 50).
When Jesus spoke to them about the upcoming events, they did not understand—they wouldn’t until Jesus ascended and sent the Holy Spirit. We must understand the disciples’ fear and confusion as Jesus explained what would transpire within the next few days (John 16:6, 12). John 16 gives us a clear look at the conversation between Jesus and His disciples. He told them they would endure much because of Him (John 16:1-3). He knew they were sorrowful (John 16:6), and yet Jesus told them the truth about why He had to “go away” (John 16:7). In God’s sovereignty, he planned a Comforter for Jesus’ followers, and in verse 7, Jesus re-introduced the paraclete John revealed in chapter 14. The Helper would not come unless Jesus went “away.”
Jesus reassured His followers with His words about the role of the Paraclete. He then prayed for them and all who would hear Jesus’ words through them (John 17:20), and He did this while still in their presence (John 17 – the High Priestly Prayer). When John’s gospel references paraclete, it is Jesus who is quoted. In his epistle, John reiterated what he heard directly from Jesus, just as Jesus said would happen—that we would believe because of their words (John 17:20).
In 1 John 2:1, Paraclete takes on the meaning of Advocate. It’s the same Greek word, but the context gives us its meaning. “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” The Advocate spoken of here is the Lord Jesus.
How Does Paraclete Refer to the Holy Spirit?
After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the disciples were gathered behind a locked door for fear of the Jews. “Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you’” (John 20:19). Jesus then showed them His hands and His side, and again He said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you. And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:21-22).
After all of that, Peter decided to go fishing, and some others of the disciples joined him. Jesus (Whom they did not recognize) greeted them from the shore by calling them children and told them to throw their net to the other side of the boat, where they hauled in many fish. John recognized Jesus, and Peter made haste to the shore, where the Lord restored him (Acts 1:4-19).
In Acts 2:1-8, Luke (author of Acts) tells us the events leading to Jesus’ ascension. Jesus ordered the disciples to stay in Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father…you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 2:4-5).
Jesus reiterated they would receive power when the promised Holy Spirit would come on them, “and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 2:8).
Peter soon “stood up among the brothers” and spoke about what had to take place “which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand…” (Acts 2:15). Later, in Acts 4, Peter and John were set before the religious leaders and arrested for “teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead” (Acts 4:2). Acts 4:8 states Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit, and his life—as well as the lives of the disciples and Apostles—was never the same.
The promised Paraclete is the Holy Spirit! Anything written about Him is that which has been written of the Holy Spirit.
What Hope Can We Draw from Our Paraclete in the Holy Spirit?
Just as Peter, John, and Paul (Acts 9:17; 13:2, 3, 9) were filled with the Holy Spirit, we too are we who accept, obey, and love Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. We can gain security from the One called to our side as a Comforter, Helper, and Advocate. Jesus, who always speaks truth, promised His constant and abiding presence in our lives (2 Corinthians 13:14). Let’s look at His roles and how we are filled with hope because of them.
Comforter: The Holy Spirit dwells within us believers and shows us the things of Christ. What can give us greater comfort than that, for He is our peace (John 14:27)? As He teaches us through the Scriptures what is to come, we are calmed and encouraged, knowing everything is in God’s hands.
Advocate (Intercessor): As the Holy Spirit dwells within Christians, we can trust Him to convict us of all sin and righteousness and judgment (John 16:8). And we have a just God—perfectly just. Because Jesus sent His Spirit, we are enabled to do “greater things” (John 14:12). In 1 John 2:1, Christ is shown to be our Advocate, interceding for us and vindicating us before the Father.
Helper/Teacher: Imagine life with no teachers of any sort, beginning with our parents up through academic instructors and workplace training. What the Holy Spirit adds is eternal and includes pastoral teaching and the ministry of iron sharpening iron between fellow believers.
In His role as Teacher, the Holy Spirit reveals to us myriad things of Christ as we are sanctified more and more into His image. He gives us understanding of the Scriptures—from God’s history of humanity, of Jesus Christ, and of things to come. He also helps us be the people God created us to be as we proclaim Christ through faith, thought, and action.
The Holy Spirit—the Paraclete— is the most important possession in our lives. Because of what Jesus has done, when we stand before God at the judgment, He will not see our sin-filled selves. He will see Jesus Christ. Hallelujah!
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/shuang paul wang
Lisa Loraine Baker is a rock & roll girl who loves Jesus. She and her husband, Stephen, inhabit their home as the “Newlyweds of Minerva” with crazy cat, Lewis. Lisa is co-author of the non-fiction narrative, “Someplace to be Somebody” (End Game Press, spring 2022). She has also written for Lighthouse Bible Studies and CBN.com.