Summary: The Holy Spirit is our Comforter and Advocate.
The Holy Comforter
We are in the middle of what is called Jesus’ farewell sermon to the eleven disciples who remained, as Judas had already left as prophesied to betray Him. Jesus is preparing the disciples for both the short term issues concerning His upcoming arrest and crucifixion in addition to preparing them for their gospel mission after Jesus rose and ascended to the Father. The disciples were about to avoid the immediate persecution of Jesus by forsaking and denying Him. But after their restoration, they would undertake the mission which Jesus had diligently prepared them for. There would be many who would be won through their ministry. But there would also be a severe personal cost. They would undergo persecution, torture and eventually death for the sake of this same gospel.
One might ask why in the immediate danger that Jesus would undertake to teach them about the more distant future when the immediate prospects were devastating. This is of course a good question, but Jesus may be comforting them by saying what was about to happen was not the end but the means to a new beginning to their ministry. Jesus would also take time after the resurrection to finish the preparation of the disciples, but sometimes it took more than one time for things to sink in. The preparation of the disciples for the distant horizon of ministry and its cost is not unique to John here. In Matthew, when Jesus is preparing His disciples for their first mission tour, He tells them of their being betrayed and persecuted. From what we can read from the result of this first trial mission, the mission was quite successful in the eyes of the disciples. None of the warnings Jesus gave seemed necessary at that time. But what Jesus told them would br important in the future. Not all would go as well in the future.
Jesus had just reminded the disciples again in chapter 15 that they would be hated and persecuted for their witness to Jesus. From what we see in the upcoming scattering of the disciples at the arrest of Jesus, they were hardly ready to defend Jesus or the faith. Only Peter made a futile attempt and then ran. John would follow Jesus to the cross, but quietly. He did not open his mouth to protest the illegal trial and condemnation of Jesus. He hid in plain sight, while the others cowered in a locked room. How could they possibly be up to the rigors of the gospel mission where they would face ridicule, rejection, suffering and death?
Jesus alternates the them of persecution with that of the coming of the Holy Spirit. Jesus had protected them while He was with them. When the disciples were accused such as when they plucked grain on the Sabbath, it was Jesus who spoke up for them. But Jesus was going away. Were the disciples now going to have to answer for themselves? Who could be up to the wiles of Satan in their own strength. Could any amount of preparation make us able to confront the devil? But Jesus answers this by saying that He would sent the Holy Spirit who comes from the Father, who is the Spirit of Truth. Much controversy has split the church over whether the Spirit proceeds from the Father alone or both the Father and the Son. The west held to joint procession and confessed in in what is called the filioque clause and anathematized anyone who held differently. The Greek church held that the Holy Spirit preceded from the Father alone and anathematized other views. The unity of the church was shattered for what? It would be best to say that the unity of the Holy Trinity means that what one does, they all share in. It really is not necessary to answer this at all. I have a problem when the unity of the church is broken simply because we demand more information than Scripture gives to us. Heresy flourishes when people demand a fuller explanation.
Getting back on track, it is far more important to learn what the Spirit does than to figure out the exact way He came. He is called in the King James Version, the “comforter.” The Greek word here, paracletos, literally means “one who is called to the side of.” Modern translations tend to use “advocate” because of this. In a sense both are right. The believer should be comforted in that the Holy Spirit comforts the fears of the believer by advocating for the believer. The Holy Spirit is even more than called to the side of the believer. He lives in the believer. Jesus in preparing the disciples in Matthew said we should not fret when we are hauled before magistrates because of the gospel. Jesus says it will be given to you what to say in that very hour.” The source is the Holy Spirit. This is the same Spirit which guided Jesus. Even though Jesus was in His own right fully God, he nevertheless allowed the Spirit to guide Him in ministry as an example to the believers. It was the Spirit who allowed Jesus to avoid the traps the Pharisees and Sadducees set for Him. The same Spirit is available to us.