‘When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. 27You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.
‘I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. 5But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, “Where are you going?”6But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. 7Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgement: 9about sin, because they do not believe in me; 10about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; 11about judgement, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.
12 ‘I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.15All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
Translation: But when the One Called Alongside comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, the one who goes out from alongside the Father, this one will witness to me, and you also will witness because you are with me from the beginning.
But I did not say these things to you from the beginning because I am with you. But now I am going to the one who sent me, yet none of you asks me, "Where are you going?" But because I have said to you these things, sorrow has filled your hearts. But I say to you the truth, it is advantageous for you that I go away, for if I do not go away, the One Called Alongside will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And that one came, he will put the world to shame concerning sin and concerning justice and concerning judgment--concerning sin truly because they are not trusting into me, but concerning justice because I go to the father and you will see me no longer, but concerning judgment because the ruler of this world has been judged.
Yet, I have much to say to you, but you are not able to bear now. But when he comes, the spirit of truth, he will lead you in all truth, for he will not speak from himself, but as he hears he will speak, and the things coming he will announce to you. That one will glorify me because out of me he will receive and he will announce to you. All the father has is mine. Because of this, I said that out of me he will receive and he will announce to you.
Background and situation: The word parakletos literally means "called alongside." It is variously translated "helper," "advocate," "counselor." You might think of your lawyer in a court. The lawyer is one "called along side" to argue your case.
Or, one might think of it in the context of the book of Revelation (12) where the devil accuses people of sin, and you have the Holy Spirit "called along side" in your defense. (Also note: People who accuse other people of sins are doing the devil's work.)
Here, the parakletos is also called "the spirit of truth" who witnesses to Jesus the Truth (1:14, 14:6). Wherever Truth is present, or emerging, the Spirit is there. There is one "called alongside" who, many times unbeknownst to us, is urging us toward Truth.
Words of encouragement for the Johannine community: In this excerpt from Jesus' long address (John 13-17), the parakletos is said to aid and help the church in times of difficulty. The passage is not, primarily, a theology lesson, but speaks, rather, of assistance in time of need.
The Spirit also brings encouragement. The parakletos not only "testifies"--martyresei--to Jesus, but helps the disciples to do the same in the face of opposition from the "world."
Jesus asserts that he is now going "to the one who sent me." He also seems slightly peeved that no one has asked him where he is going. (16:5) In fact, Peter, in 13:36, had asked this very question: "Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, where are you going?’ Jesus answered, ‘Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterwards.’"
Why this clear contradiction? Wes Howard-Brook asks: "Can it suggest that Peter is not one of the 'you' to whom Jesus is currently speaking?" (p. 344) Probably yes. The "you" most likely refers to the Johannine community of which Peter was not a part.
Because Jesus has said he is going away, "sorrow has filled your hearts." In 15:11, Jesus had said that his purpose was to speak so that "your joy might be fulfilled." Here, however, he speaks of their sorrow at his departure. Nevertheless, he asserts that it is actually to their "advantage"--sympherei--or "benefit" that he goes. Without his departure, the parakletos would not come.
What the Spirit does: When the parakletos comes, it will do the following:
And that one came, he will put the world to shame concerning sin and concerning justice and concerning judgment--concerning sin truly because they are not trusting into me, but concerning justice because I go to the Father and you will see me no longer, but concerning judgment because the ruler of this world has been judged.
The word I'm translating as "put to shame" is elegchei, which can have a number of meanings, among them: "convict," "convince," "reproach," "reprove," or "expose." One might think of it here as convincing the world of its errors.
Note, too, that the parakletos does not witness only to the disciples of Jesus, but also to the world itself. The Spirit is not limited to working through the church, in other words, but may also move and act directly with the "world." (In the Johannine view, "world" refers not to the physical earth, but to the powers and systems--the sin--that runs the world.)
The first thing the parakletos does is "convict" the world "concerning sin." The antidote for sin is to "faith"--pisteuein--in Christ.
The NRSV has "believe" here and not "faith," which is, in my view, very misleading. "Believing" is more an intellectual act of will. "Faith" is radical trust. The problem is that "faith" used as a verb sounds odd in English so that even good translations, quite typically and very unfortunately, usually translate pisteuein as "believe."
Clearly, the author intends that the remedy for sin is faith. Faith trumps sin, you might say. Yet, isn't our common assumption that the opposite of sin is virtue? Isn't our common assumption that the remedy for evil is to try to be good?
That would not be the teaching of the fourth gospel. The opposite of sin is not virtue, which no one can ever achieve anyway, but faith. (It should not be surprising that the fourth gospel was Luther's favorite.)
The world is not just; follow the Way: The parakletos will also convict the world regarding justice--dikaiosyne, often translated as "righteousness," but more properly translated as "justice."
For the world to need convicting regarding justice is to say that what the world considers "just" is not, in fact, justice. The world's "justice" issues in inequality and poverty. The world's "justice" issues in oppression and want. That is not just, says the fourth gospel.
Finally, the parakletos will convict the world concerning "judgment"--kriseos, which means "separating," or derivatively, in English, "crisis."
Again, the normal processes of the world are judged and found wanting. The world does not understand its own situation. The reality of the situation is that ruler of this world has already been judged. Things are different than the Powers think. There is a "judgment."
When the parakletos comes, he "will guide--hodegesei--into all truth." Hodgesei includes within it the word hodos, or "way." The fourth gospel, quoting Isaiah, said right off the bat: "Make straight the way--hodos--of the Lord." In chapter 14, Jesus himself is "the way" (14:6). The parakletos will guide the people into Christ and onto his "way."
The phrase "he will announce to you" is used three times. Thus, the parakletos will not only "convict" the world of sin, justice, and judgment, but will also "announce" God's truth to the disciples. They are not able to do this without the parakletos, but, with the parakletos, the one "called alongside" to help, they will.
Trinitarian note: The word "trinity," of course, never appears in the Bible, and it's not clear that any particular Biblical author would even recognize the later debates concerning the trinity. The formal and final expression of trinitarian thought took a good three or four hundred years to reach full flower and reach adoption as orthodox teaching.
Trinitarian theology became a particular focus of Eastern Orthodox Christianity. The Holy Spirit was integral to its conception of theosis, or "growing into God." In Eastern Orthodoxy, the contemplation of the trinitarian mystery was, in itself, of spiritual value. More than that, it was the work of the trinity that brought a person into union with God.
The trinity debates, however philosophical and rational they may read, are ultimately about mystical experience and spiritual transformation. For example, try on this quote from the theologian and mystic, Gregory of Nazianzen:
No sooner do I conceive of the One than I am illumined by the splendor of the Three, no sooner do I distinguish them than I am carried back to the One. When I think of any One of the Three, I think of Him as the whole, and my eyes are filled, and the greater part of what I am thinking of escapes me. I cannot grasp the greatness of that One so as to attribute a greater greatness to the rest. When I contemplate the Three together, I see but one torch, and cannot divide or measure out the undivided light.