Another Comforter

The issue on the nature of the Holy Spirit has always been debated and it looks like it would never end. Some people believe the Holy Spirit is merely the power of God — nothing more. On the other hand, some others believe the Holy Spirit is not just merely power but also a person — one of the persons of the Trinity. They claim the Holy Spirit is God. So what is the truth?

Well, that would really take some in depth study but in this blog, let me just focus on one point regarding the term “another Comforter”  used by Jesus in the gospel of John.

Who is the Parakletos?

In both 1 John 2:1 and John 14:16, the word translated Comforter or Advocate comes from the Greek word, parakletos. Other Bible translations or versions render it also as Helper, Paraclete or Counselor. Let us just use the word Comforter for simplicity.

Both passages come from the same author, John. The context is quite clear in 1 John 2:1 that John is referring to the Lord Jesus Christ as the Comforter. This is not in doubt.

But on the other hand, it is also quite clear — very clear! — based on context in John 14:16-17, 26 and John 15:26 that the Comforter being referred to here by Jesus himself is the Holy Spirit and not himself. Jesus made a clear distinction between himself and the Holy Spirit. Who then is the Comforter?

Jesus is Our Comforter

Well, as I understand it, Jesus Christ is our Comforter. When Jesus said “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever” (KJV John 14:16-17, 26), I take it to mean that Jesus was referring to himself as the Comforter while he referred to the Holy Spirit as another Comforter. That is quite clear in this passage.

The Holy Spirit is Another Comforter

A Greek theologian, Dr. Kyriakos Stavrinides explained this very important word another to the Worldwide Church of God ministers in the Philippines sometime in 1993-1994. He said that there are two Greek words that Jesus could have used for the word “another” namely, allos” which means another of the same quality and status and heteros which means another of a different quality and status. 

It is interesting to note that Jesus (and the author, John) chose the Greek word, allos to mean that the Holy Spirit that he is sending is of the same quality and status just like him! Jesus (and author, John) could have used heteros but he did not! Jesus knew what he wanted to say and what he meant! And John wrote it that way! The Holy Spirit is God just like Jesus is God.

Jesus is the Comforter and the Holy Spirit is ANOTHER Comforter of the same quality and status whom Jesus sent when he went back up to heaven. They are one with the Father. The Father and the Son are in us because the Holy Spirit is in us to comfort us, guide us and lead us until Christ be formed in us.

There is no doubt in my mind — the Holy Spirit is God!

Differing Forms of Spirituality

All One in Christ

We are all one in Christ. God loves all of us regardless of whether one is a Jew or Gentile, male or female, a freeman or a slave as Paul said. We are all beloved of God. We are his children and he wants us to be included into his life and love for all eternity. We are all created equal in this sense.

Different Temperaments, Personalities

But when it comes to Christian spirituality, we are somewhat different. We each have our own unique ways of connecting to God which may differ from others. This is because we have different personalities and temperaments. Some would love to spend their time studying God’s word and would even enter the seminary to further study and learn more and more about God and his  Word, the Bible. For some others, they focus more on acting and doing. They want action right away. They want activism. For some others, they want to connect to God through worship singing or maybe by fasting and overnight prayers.

These differences can become a source of misunderstanding among church members when one imposes their brand of spirituality on others. It’s good to be aware of the various forms of spirituality.

Six Forms of Spirituality

There are six forms of spirituality which I found helpful in distinguishing what type of spirituality a Christian may have. Knowing these six types has helped me become more respectful and not judgmental of how Christians connect to God based on my personal preferences. I learned about these six forms of spirituality from Dr. Dan Rogers. He got his information from a book, Pastoral Spirituality by Ben Campbell Johnson. May I quote from Dr. Dan Roger’s article:

Evangelical Spirituality

This form of spirituality is usually found in conservative churches with a puritan or revivalist tradition (Johnson 1988, 68). Persons encounter God through his Word by setting aside times for prayer and Bible study on a regular basis. The Scriptures are authoritative, and by studying them one can discern the will of God in order to obey it. Meditation and fasting are also used to seek God’s will and make it one’s priority in life.

Evangelical spirituality has a strong appeal to the sensate and extroverted type of person who likes to have everything in life spelled out clearly. These Christians are usually passionate for God and are willing to work hard and sacrifice their lives. The weakness of this form of spirituality is that it can have a tendency toward legalism and the development of a judgmental spirit.

Charismatic Spirituality

This form of spirituality is found primarily in Pentecostal and nondenominational congregations. Charismatic spirituality is associated with the gifts of the Holy Spirit and his present activity in the church. God often is experienced through the Spirit. The Bible may mediate the experience of God, but the experience can also be drawn from such activities as small group meetings and charismatic praise and worship services.

Some groups believe that speaking in tongues is the evidence of possessing the Holy Spirit and they seek to exhort other Christians into seeking this experience. This form of spirituality often finds support in group settings where the experience is shared and the gifts practiced. Charismatic spirituality tends to appeal to the extroverted, intuitive, feeling temperament.

Sacramental Spirituality

This form of spirituality is found primarily in the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Episcopal churches. In Sacramental Spirituality, the presence of God is mediated through the sacraments and the liturgy of the church year. The church festivals and celebrations provide the structure; both nature (viewed sacramentally) and history (viewed as God’s unfolding story) contribute to this spirituality. Corporate worship is the focus for strengthening Sacramental Spirituality. Its practice tends to appeal to the thinking, sensate type of temperament.

Activist Spirituality

This practice is found mostly in the left wing of mainline denominations and in various religious issue-oriented groups (e.g., feminist, peace, and ecology groups). However, there is some increase in interest in activist spirituality among some evangelical Christians.

The activist engages God primarily in social service and in political action rather than in church or private devotion. The practice of this spirituality seeks to find solidarity with God who is actively transforming the world. This form of spirituality tends to appeal to an extroverted, intuitive, feeling temperament.

Academic Spirituality

This form of spirituality involves Christians who think about God and systematize their thought, thus expressing their relationship with God through the mind. It tends to be found among scholars, theologians, teachers and studious clergy who express their spirituality in a lifestyle of study, analysis, reflection and teaching. Its practice would appeal most to the introverted, intuitive, thinking temperament.

Ascetic Spirituality

This form of spirituality is found mostly among nuns and priests in religious orders and in Protestant holiness movements. For the ascetic, God is engaged in the daily devotional routine of prayer, meditation and the reading of spiritual literature. The ascetic expresses devotion to God by a life of contemplation and self-denial. It is a simple lifestyle often marked by vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Its practice appeals most to the introverted, sensate temperament.

The Pastoral Task

With these different approaches to spirituality, it is important for a pastor if he is to be successful in leading his church members to Christ to be aware of such differences and also tell his church members about it. Each type has its strengths and weaknesses. Dr. Dan Rogers suggests that pastors should be able to model an “eclectic” type of spirituality if he is to help his members grow to Christian maturity.

Do Not Judge!

This bit of information is also good for all Christians so that we may not judge and berate others because they do not conform to our personal preference of what Christian spirituality is all about.

Source: Leading in Spiritual Formation by Dr. Dan Rogers