"And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in YOU." John 14:16, 17.
"The Holy Spirit is a comforter as well as a reprover."—Testimonies to Ministers, page 176.
One of the most heartening aspects of the work of the Third Person of the Trinity is His role as Comforter. This term is translated from the Greek word parakletos, and is sometimes referred to as "Paraclete." Literally it means "one called alongside." This title was first borne by Jesus in His capacity as advocate. 1 John 2:1. Note that He promises in John 14:16 to send "another Comforter," since He is about to leave the immediate presence of His people. Now that He can no longer be personally with those who stand in need, He makes available to us the mighty power of the Third Person.
The church is too prone to see this divine Person as merely a reprover, one who fulfills the promise of John l&8 to keep the saints from becoming too comfortable or complacent. We tend to forget and so make it difficult for the watching world to understand that He is the One who brings joy and peace and hope to the people of God.
"In the great and measureless gift of the Holy Spirit are contained all of heaven’s resources. It is not because of any restriction on the part of God that the riches of His grace do not flow earthward to men. If all were willing to receive, all would become filled with His Spirit. … There is nothing that Christ desires so much as agents who will represent to the world His Spirit and character. … All heaven is waiting for channels through which can be poured the holy oil to be a joy and blessing to human hearts. … The indwelling of the Spirit will be shown by the outflowing of heavenly love. The divine fullness will flow through the consecrated human agent, to be given forth to others."—Christ’s Object Lessons, page 419.
One has only to study the book of Acts to see clearly the work of this member of the Trinity. When His work is understood as it should be, and the sanctification He guarantees received as it may be, then the saints will present to the world a picture of a people whom God makes happy, holy, and on fire with godly zeal and an overwhelming love for souls. Each of the twenty-eight chapters of Luke’s treatise on the progress of the early church provides fresh views of the benefits to those willing to place their lives at the disposal of Christ’s Vicegerent. Through the mighty Spirit of God His church is more closely united with her Redeemer than when He walked among a few of them in Galilee and Judea. The church has every reason to be comforted and encouraged.
In chapter 1 of the book of Acts we see the angels bringing comfort and hope to the bereaved apostles after the ascension of their Lord, and the spirit of unity coming in among those who had heretofore been jealous and eager for personal advantage. Chapter 2 presents the glorious spectacle of Pentecost, with its endowment of spiritual gifts to meet every exigency, the gift of tongues being the most needed in the first century with its task of spreading the gospel message throughout the Roman Empire with its polyglot population. Chapter 3 records the possession of healing power used to glorify God and awaken interest in the God who bestowed the gift. Chapter 4 pictures the leaders of the infant church as being triumphant over the powers that be, not in their own strength and wisdom, but secure in the possession of the power of the Spirit.
Chapter 5 reassures the church that it need fear no incursion of sin as long as it remains under the control of the Third Person who is quick to detect unrighteousness. This chapter also brings heartening assurance that no prison bars can contain a child of God when God desires him free to present the truth. Chapter 6 teaches that spiritual gifts are for the laity as well as the clergy. Chapter 7 presents the masterly sermon preached by Stephen and assures us that heaven brought comfort and strength to this faithful layman, even though he was called upon to lay down his life as the first Christian martyr at the beginning of a promising career for Christ and the church.
Chapter 8 shows another layman, Philip, doing a mighty work for God in Samaria and proves that God does not depend on the limited vision of man nor on his unpredictable impulses to bring the truth to those in darkness. The Spirit of God knew just where the treasurer of Ethiopia would be at a given time, and He undertook to bring Philip to that very spot in the desert of Gaza, to teach a seeking mind. Chapter 9 brings Gods light and truth to the darkened understanding of the Pharisee Saul, held in the bondage of prejudice and tradition. Although the church could see in him nothing but a persecutor to be abhorred and shunned, the Spirit of God saw in him a potential evangelist to awaken the Gentile world. Chapter 10 brings further heartening evidence that the Comforter of Israel knows the circumstances and longings of individual hearts. The Roman Cornelius is brought into contact with the apostle Peter in a manner calculated to change both their lives henceforth. Chapter 11 affords us the view of the young church accepting its first lesson in the removal of traditional prejudices which was to prepare it for its world-wide mission. Only the power of God could have accomplished this change, and only the agency of the Holy Spirit could make this power available.
Chapter 12 presents the picture of Peter peacefully sleeping in prison on the night before his scheduled execution, secure in the protection of the Comforter— a far more reassuring spectacle to the church than was his deliverance by an angel of the Lord, had they but recognized it. Not all the saints were to be thus delivered from the wrath of the "dragon." James had just been executed by orders from King Herod, and Peter had no reason to expect any other fate. His calmness in the face of what appeared to be certain death should show the church all down through the ages that no matter what man can do, God’s own may have power to sustain them in any emergency, available through the mighty Comforter. Chapters 13 through 20 start the church on her missionary career with ample evidence that, through the power of God, she would prevail against determined opposition from the forces of evil. Paul presents to the dominantly Jewish group at Jerusalem the problems faced by the converted Gentiles in joining a church whose members retained some of the old customs. A decision made in favor of this minority group shows a church maturing under the leavening effect of the Spirit of God.
Chapter 21 opens a new phase in the ministry of the apostle Paul. Paul has long desired to see Rome and to conquer that citadel of Satan, but has been prevented from doing so. Now the Spirit of God takes a decided hand in the affairs of the young church and of her most illustrious apostle. Although Paul has been put in chains, the Holy Spirit used this situation for the further spread of the gospel light. In chapter 22 the Comforter provides a Roman captain to rescue Paul from the unreasoning hatred of his fanatical countrymen. In chapter 23 He discloses a plot against Paul’s life to a young kinsman, who arranges with Roman authority to foil it. In chapters 24 to 26 the Comforter permits three dignitaries in the Roman government, Felix, Festus, and Agrippa, to have opportunity to hear the message which could mean eternal life should they accept it.
Chapter 27 tells the story of the company en route to Rome imperiled by storm, receiving assurance of safety through the angel of the Lord who "stood by" Paul during the night. They are shipwrecked, but no life is lost. The close of the book of Acts, chapter 28, depicts the apostle as he is permitted to live "two whole years in his own hired house," free to receive "all that came in unto him," while the gospel is preached to the city of Rome, penetrating even to Caesar’s household. Surely in this one book of Scripture we have encouraging and definite proof of the effectiveness of the work of the Spirit of God as He guided the footsteps of the infant church. The recorded fact that in Paul’s day the gospel had been "preached to every creature which is under heaven," so that the opposition in Thessalonica could accuse Paul and his company as "these that have turned the world upside down," attests to the power of the gospel when delivered through the might of the Third Person. Colossians 1:23; Acts 17:6. This accomplishment by a joyous and triumphant people, in spite of the wrath of a decadent church and a pagan society, attests to the function of the Holy Spirit as Comforter of Gods people.
What the church today needs to realize and accept is this wonderfully encouraging phase of His ministry. As Comforter He stands just as ready to support Christians in the twentieth century as He did in the first. "‘At all times and in all places, in all sorrows and in all afflictions, when the outlook seems dark and the future perplexing, and we feel helpless and alone, the Comforter will be sent in answer to the prayer of faith. Circumstances may separate us from every earthly friend; but no circumstance, no distance, can separate us from the heavenly Comforter. Wherever we are, wherever we may go, He is always at our right hand to support, sustain, uphold, and cheer."
"The disciples no longer had any distrust of the future. They knew that Jesus was in heaven, and that His sympathies were with them still. They knew that they had a friend at the throne of God, and they were eager to present their requests to the Father in the name of Jesus. … Pentecost brought them fullness of joy in the presence of the Comforter, even as Christ had promised."—The Desire of Ages, pages 669, 670, 833.
"With the consecrated worker for God, in whatever place he may be, the Holy Spirit abides. The words spoken to the disciples are spoken also to us. The Comforter is ours as well as theirs. The Spirit furnishes the strength that sustains striving, wrestling souls in every emergency, amidst the hatred of the world, and the realization of their own failures and mistakes. In sorrow and affliction, when the outlook seems dark and the future perplexing, and we feel helpless and alone,—these are the times when, in answer to the prayer of faith, the Holy Spirit brings comfort to the heart."—The Acts of the Apostles, page 51.
What the world is awaiting is a living evidence in the lives of Christ’s professed followers that the transformation of character promised in the word of God is a glorious reality, and not a standard to aim at with no hope of attaining.
"The church members need to know from experience what the Holy Spirit will do for them. It will bless the receiver, and make him a blessing. It is sad that every soul is not praying for the vital breath of the Spirit; for we are ready to die if it breathe not on us. …
"Some have treated the Spirit as an unwelcome guest, refusing to receive the rich gift, refusing to acknowledge it, turning from it, and condemning it as fanaticism. …
‘They are not willing to be deprived of the garments of their own self-righteousness. They are not willing to exchange their own righteousness, which is unrighteousness, for the righteousness of Christ, which is pure, unadulterated truth."—Testimonies to Ministers, pages 64, 65.
"The Holy Spirit comes to the soul as a Comforter. By the transforming agency of His grace, the image of God is reproduced in the disciple; he becomes a new creature. Love takes the place of hatred, and the heart receives the divine similitude."—The Desire of Ages, page 391.
"Joy in the Holy Spirit is health-giving, life-giving joy. In giving us His Spirit, God gives us Himself, making Himself a fountain of divine influences, to give health and life to the world."
"God can use every person just in proportion as He can put His Spirit into the soul temple. The work that He will accept is the work that reflects His image. His followers are to bear, as their credentials to the world, the ineffaceable characteristics of His immortal principles."—Testimonies, vol. 7, pp. 273, 144.
"As the plant takes root in the soil, so we are to take root in Christ. As the plant receives the sunshine, the dew, and the rain, so are we to receive the Holy Spirit. … So the divine Husbandman looks for a harvest. He is seeking to reproduce Himself in the hearts and lives of His followers, that through them He may be reproduced in other hearts and lives."—Education, page 106.
"As those who have been cleansed and sanctified through a knowledge of Bible truth engage heartily in the work of soulsaving, they will become indeed a savor of life unto life. And as daily they drink of the inexhaustible fountain of grace and knowledge, they will find that their own hearts are filled to overflowing with the Spirit of their Master, and that through their unselfish ministry many are benefited physically, mentally, and spiritually. The weary are refreshed, the sick restored to health, and the sin-burdened relieved."—Prophets and Kings, page 234.
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