Is the fact that the Holy Spirit replaced the Lord Jesus as “another Comforter” (John 14: 16) sufficient warrant to speak to Him?
The Lord said “And I will beg the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever” (John 14: 16). Greek has two words for another: the first means another of the same kind or quality; the second another of a different kind or quality. The first word is used in this verse. Now the disciples certainly conversed with the Lord and asked Him questions, and the fact that He told them that the Holy Spirit would “teach you all things” (v26) further enhances the argument for questions to the Holy Spirit. The matter seems settled when we learn that the English word solicitor gives a more precise meaning to the Greek word paraklhtoV than comforter—for surely one can ask one’s solicitor questions? However, we must be governed by Scripture, not human logic.
We do not have to go outside John 14: 16 itself to see that the Greek word alloV, while meaning another of the same quality (that is, not inferior to the first), does not carry the thought of identity. Thus while the Lord’s time with His disciples was limited, the verse tells us that the Holy Spirit would “abide with you for ever”. From elsewhere we learn that the Lord “in the days of his flesh” (Heb. 5: 7) could only be in one place at a time; the Holy Spirit has no such limitations.
Again, the Greek word paraklhtoV (Comforter) is a participle or verbal adjective, of passive signification acting as a noun derived from the verb parakalew. Its meaning is one called to the side of another. Now the active verbal form of parakalew occurs many times in the NT and is translated as beg, entreat, beseech, exhort etc. depending on the context. In keeping with the lowly place He has taken, this active verbal form is never once used in relation to the Holy Spirit.
Immediately preceding John 14: 16 we have “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (v15) and the Lord continues to raise the matter of love throughout this section on the Comforter. Christ was, and is to be, the object of the disciples’ love. On this account the Father also would love the disciples (see v21). Love should be mutual—the one who loves another expects a corresponding response. However, nowhere is the Holy Spirit presented as the object of love for believers, not here or anywhere else in the NT. Correspondingly, there is no record of the believer’s love for the Holy Spirit. Love is rather the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5: 22)—one of the results of His labour. (The phrase “by the love of the Spirit” in Rom. 15: 30 is not an exception, for the Greek preposition dia (by) has the sense of by means of. The apostle there is speaking about the love that the Spirit forms in us that would cause us to strive together in prayers to God). All this is in keeping with the lowly place He has taken, a place which is subjective and not objective.
This is further borne out by the fact that while the Lord speaks of “my name” eight times in John 14–16 (see John 14: 13, 14, 26; 15: 16, 21; 16: 23, 24, 26), and though we read of the Father’s name elsewhere (John 12: 28; 17: 6, 11; etc.), the NT never once speaks of the name of the Holy Spirit distinctly as such. (Matt. 28: 19 is not an exception to this rule, for the Holy Spirit is combined with the Father and the Son under a single name). Why is this? Because the thought of name draws attention objectively to the one to whom it belongs. The Holy Spirit as the Spirit of truth would “not speak from himself” (John 16: 13) for His service, as the Lord said, is “to glorify me” (v14).
There is, however, one striking fact that conclusively dispenses with the idea of conversing with the Holy Spirit. John 14–16 is the only section of Scripture in which the Lord details the coming of the Holy Spirit as “another Comforter”. It is in these chapters that the Lord also encourages the disciples in this very matter of asking (see John 14: 13, 14; 15: 7; 16: 23, 24, 26). If believers were meant to ask questions of the Holy Spirit, then it is in these very verses that we would expect to find such instruction and encouragement. Yet not once is the Holy Spirit presented as the One to whom requests are to be made. It is always to the Father and in Christ’s name. Furthermore, nowhere in the rest of the NT do we read of any instruction to converse with the Holy Spirit, nor can examples be found of believers doing so.
If it is objected that I have focused on what the Scriptures do not say rather than on what is positively taught, then readers need to take account of what is often overlooked, namely that the Bible is now complete and we thus have an aid to interpretation that was not available when it was being written. A complete Bible means that what is omitted takes on a significance of its own, since it gives emphasis to what is actually in Scripture. We can either adhere to both its positive and negative teaching, or introduce our own, seemingly pious, innovations.