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THE PROMISE OF THE COMFORTER

by R. H. Boll

Reprint from April 1927 Word & Work—-(Part 1 of 3 Part Series)

     “I will pray the Father and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may be with you forever.” (John 14:16). These words were spoken by the Lord Jesus on that last night before His death, His disciples being gathered around Him in the Upper Room. Judas had gone out into the night; and to the eleven He now spoke more freely. “I go” He told them; and “I come again.” (John 14:2, 3). There would be a period of absence; and He goes on to explain the necessity of that absence. “Because I have spoken these things unto you sorrow hath filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth: It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go net away the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I go I will send him unto you.” (John 16:6, 7).

     For above three years the Lord Jesus had been with them, and during that time He had been their Comforter. He had taught them, led them, helped them, warned them, rebuked them, consoled them, directed them. Now He is to go away, and what shall they do? “Lord to whom shall we go?” one of them had said a long while before. (John 6:68). Jesus had become indispensable to their life. How could they let Him go? How could they do without Him? Another Comforter? Alas, how could another fill the place of Jesus with them?- They did not want another; they wanted Jesus only and Him forever. Yet He speaks of going away and sending another. How could such an exchange be “expedient” for them, and how could the coming of that other Comforter be more essential to them than the personal presence of the Lord whom they loved? Yet so it was. He must go that that other Comforter may come. If Jesus does not go that Comforter cannot come— and the gain of the Comforter’s coming would outweigh the temporary loss of the Lord Jesus’ personal, visible presence. Who is that other Comforter that can thus more than fill the Lord’s place during His absence? And indeed how could Another do that?

THE OTHER COMFORTER.

      In the deeper sense this Other is really not another. He Is another but not a different one (“alios’’ in the Greek, but not “hetcros” ) . It is not a Stranger who would come to supplant Jesus in their hearts, or to turn their attention away from Jesus to himself. It will be as if the Lord Jesus’ inner self had come to them. For all that the disciples had seen in the Lord Jesus, and all they had heard from Him was really a manifestation of this Other Comforter—the Holy Spirit. He had rested upon and dwelt in Jesus Christ without measure. In all He said and did, Jesus was actuated by the Spirit. In His life the mind and way of the Spirit was seen and known; and the character of Jesus was but the exhibition of the mind of the Spirit, whose fruit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, meekness, self control. The Holy Spirit was therefore, no Stranger to the disciples, for in the Person of Jesus they had long known Him. “Ye know him, for he abideth with you, and shall be in you.” (John 14:17). It was to secure this latter benefit— that the Spirit should come to them to dwell in them as He dwelt in the Lord Jesus, and in them do His gracious work, that so Jesus’ other Self (if we may dare to use such a figure) might dwell in their very hearts, and that through the Spirit Jesus Himself might dwell in them, yea and the Father also with the Son, maKe His abode in them (John 14 :23)— it was for that Jesus went into heaven, there in the Presence of God to obtain that unspeakable Gift for us.

     THREE PERSONS— ONE GOD. For where the Spirit is there is also the Father and the Son; and though distinct in Person, the Spirit is never separate nor different. It is not three Gods that we know, but the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, in the inmost essence of their Divine Character and Being, as o n e. We see not the Spirit as a Being distinct and different from the Father and the Son: the Spirit does not direct attention to Himself but sets forth the Lord Jesus, and the Lord Jesus, in turn, does not alienate our attention and regard from the Father, but He came to reveal the Father to us, and that so through Him our worship may be to the true God. So the Spirit reveals the Son, and through the Son we know the Father. God is One. Jehovah is indeed a jealous God, and His glory will He not give to another. But the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, distinct in person, one in Being, character, and mind, and purpose, are a unity: what the Father does the Son does and the Spirit, and vice versa. Nor could we know or deal with the Spirit or the Son without at the same time dealing with the Father. Since Jesus Christ is the “image of the invisible God’’ (Col. 1:15), the “very image of his substance” (Heb. 1 :3 ), the Father’s full and perfect Representative (so that whosoever has seen Him has seen the Father, John 14:9) it follows that all faith in Him, all obedience and homage to Him, goes to the Father.

     The Son never does or speaks anything upon His own, private initiative, but He utters only what He has seen and heard from the Father (John 5:19; 14:10). So likewise the Spirit does not seek to set forth anything distinctive and peculiar in Himself, or to bring us a message of His own, but to bring us the Son, and through Him the Father. ‘I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now,” said the Lord Jesus to His disciples on that last evening. How were they to learn these needful things which He had not told them? Answer: “When he, the Spirit of truth is come, he shall guide you into all the truth: for he shall not speak from himself, but what things soever he shall hear, these shall he speak: and he shall declare unto you the things that are to come. He shall glorify me, for he shall take of mine and declare it unto you.” And when Jesus says “mine,” “my things,” He means the things of the Father. “All things whatsoever the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he [the Spirit] taketh of mine, and shall declare it unto you.” (John 14:12-15).

     But to turn from this digression— this Spirit who had been with them, whose way and power they had beheld these years of their association with Jesus, who had shone forth through all the Savior’s words and deeds and conduct, with whom they had thus become acquainted (“ye know him, for he abideth with you”), this Spirit should be in them. In order that this might be, the Lord Jesus must leave them. It must be a vast benefit indeed that could compensate for the loss, even temporarily, of the personal presence of the Lord.

THE PROMISE TO ALL CHRISTIANS

     Some have thought that since only the apostles were addressed in that Upper Room only the apostles were meant, and that the promise given them did not apply to the rank and file of common Christians, or only indirectly. But the apostles were nothing more than “common Christians”— brethren in the Lord, to whom indeed a very special and exclusive function was committed: they were to be witnesses of His resurrection; also they were to be the original, infallible, inspired proclaimers of the gospel— but aside from what pertained to this function which was exclusively theirs, nothing was said to them that does not apply to every one of us.

     Evidently the indwelling of the Spirit was intended to be shared in by all Christians; and we learn that actually He dwelt in the hearts of all who became God’s children through the gospel. To the church at Corinth Paul writes, “Know ye not” (for it was a fact commonly known, and should have been understood by them)— “Know ye not that ye [the congregation at Corinth, collectively] are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Cor. 3 :1 6 ). He dwells also in each Christian individually. “Or know ye not that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you. which ye have from God? and ye are not your own; for ye were bought with a price: glorify God therefore in your body.” (1 Cor. 6:19, 20).

     Clearly, then, the Lord Jesus meant that the Holy Spirit should be given to all His own, as an indwelling Spirit. To the very important questions that are commonly raised concerning the indwelling Spirit— Who has the Holy Spirit? How does a man receive the Holy Spirit? How can a man know that the Spirit dwells in him? What is the effect of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling, and what does the Spirit do for us?— we will seek an answer in future articles, as the Lord permits.




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That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10