15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, 17 the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you.
If we now have some hint at what we mean by “commandments,” what does it mean to “keep” (tereo) them? The basic meanings of this word [TDNT 1:21 ff] are:
- keep watch over, guard
- keep, hold, reserve, preserve someone or something
- keep = not lose
- keep = protect
- keep, observe, fulfill, pay attention to
NOTE: that “obey” is not one of the meanings (although perhaps implied by “observe”).
Brian Stoffregen’s paraphrase of tereo as “hold dear” or perhaps, “consider important” seems to capture the sense of the passage. This interpretation goes beyond mere obedience. One may detest the words that one is hearing and obeying. One may detest the one giving the orders, but to avoid punishment, one obeys them. In contrast to this, phrasing it, “Holding Jesus’ word dear,” implies having a positive attitude towards that Word and the Word-giver. That is, wanting to hear and obey it out of love for the speaker.
Loving Jesus and “holding dear” what Jesus said and did are inseparable. In chapters 14-15, twice “love” comes before “keep” (14:15; 23) and twice “keep” comes before “love” (14:21; 15:10). In addition, “keeping” is used with “commandments” (entole) (14:15, 21; 15:10) and with “word” (logos) (14:23, 24; 15:20). Loving Jesus and “holding dear” his word and commandments are inseparable.
The connection between love and keeping (i.e., holding dear) the commandments is illustrated by Jesus himself in v. 31. He is doing what the Father has commanded him, so that the world might know that he is loving the Father. The purpose of Jesus’ obedience is witnessing. The results of that witnessing are given in v.23:
- The Father will love that one
- The Father and Son will come to that one
- The Father and Son will make a dwelling with that one
The promise we have from Jesus is that he (and his Father) will be present to those who, out of their love for Jesus, keep (i.e., hold dear) his word. These are those to whom Jesus will reveal himself.
In contrast to these who love Jesus and keep his word, Jesus next talks about “Whoever does not love me does not keep (hold dear) my words” (v. 24). Presumably these non-lovers and non-keepers do not receive the Father’s love or the abiding presence of the Father and the Son. This is understandable if the love and presence comes through the Word that one “holds dear” or “considers valuable,” those who do not have this relationship with the Word will not have the presence of the divine in their lives.
The Advocate. This is the first occurrence of the noun parakletos in the Fourth Gospel. This word occurs five times in the NT. It is used in 1 John 2:1 to refer to Jesus; and four times in John’s Farewell Discourse (14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7).
Perhaps it best not to translate the Greek word paraclete because there are too many possibilities. While the literal meaning of the related verb (parakaleo) means “to call to one’s side,” usually asking the other for help, the noun took on a legal meaning as “helper in court”. Thus we have translations like “counselor,” “advocate,” or “one who speaks for another” as well as the too general translation of “helper”.
If the Paraclete is a “helper in court,” whose helper is it? Clearly the Paraclete has a role as helper to the disciples (and, now, our helper); but there are also indications that it is Jesus’ helper. The Paraclete comes to speak to us for Jesus. In 14:26, it will teach us everything and remind us of all that Jesus has said to us. In 15:26, it will testify on Jesus’ behalf. The Paraclete comes to speak to us on behalf of Jesus. In our text, the Paraclete will teach us “everything” and remind us of “all” that Jesus has said to us. (In 16:8; its topics are more specific: the truth about sin, righteousness, and judgment.) It is not too much of a stretch to say that the Paraclete “helps” us to hear Jesus’ word, which, as noted above, brings the continuing presence of Jesus and his Father to us. The Paraclete reveals Jesus to us, but those without the help of the Paraclete will not properly hear or remember the word of Jesus’ presence.
What the Paraclete does is not new, but is a continuation of the work of Jesus. This can be seen clearly in the description of the Paraclete as the Spirit of truth in v. 17. To call the Paraclete the “Spirit of truth” is to identify the Paraclete as more than a true—i.e., truthful—Spirit. As the Spirit of truth, the Paraclete shares in the work of Jesus, because Jesus is the truth (14:6). The work of the Paraclete is thus to keep the truth of Jesus present to the world after Jesus’ departure (cf. 16:7-11). As with the unity of the Father and Jesus in their work, the relationship between Jesus and the Paraclete is also defined by the unity of their work.
The response of the world to the Paraclete’s presence echoes the response of the world to Jesus, a division between those who receive and those who do not (cf. 1:10-13). Yet the focus of vv. 16-17 is not ultimately on this division, but on the assurance that the presence of the Paraclete gives to Jesus’ “own.” Knowledge of the Paraclete is defined as the Paraclete’s abiding with the believing community (v. 17b). The Paraclete is repeatedly described in ways that emphasize its presence in and relationship with the faith community: “will be with you forever”; “abides with you”; and “will be in you.” The Paraclete ensures that the revelation of God in the incarnation does not end with Jesus’ death and return to God.
John 14:16 another Advocate: Jesus is the first advocate (paraclete); see 1 John 2:1, where Jesus is an advocate in the sense of intercessor in heaven. The Greek term derives from legal terminology for an advocate or defense attorney, and can mean spokesman, mediator, intercessor, comforter, consoler, although no one of these terms encompasses the meaning in John. The Paraclete in John is a teacher, a witness to Jesus, and a prosecutor of the world, who represents the continued presence on earth of the Jesus who has returned to the Father. another: There are two Greek words meaning “another”, allos and heteros. It is sometimes argued that the first means another of a similar kind, the second another of a different kind, and because allos is used in v.16 the other Advocate is of the same kind as Jesus himself. However, the way allos and heteros are used in the Fourth Gospel and the NT as a whole does not support this distinction.
John 14:17 the Spirit of truth: The Advocate is described as “the Spirit of truth” here and in two other places in this Gospel (15:26; 16:13). In this respect, the Advocate is like Jesus, who revealed the truth (8:31–36, 40, 45–46; 16:7; 18:37) and embodied the truth of God (1:14, 17; 14:6). This expression was also used at Qumran community (Jewish), where it is a moral force put into a person by God, as opposed to the spirit of perversity. The Spirit of truth is more personal in John; it will teach the realities of the new order (14:26), and testify to the truth (14:6). While it has been customary to use masculine personal pronouns in English for the Advocate, the Greek word for “spirit” is neuter, and the Greek text and manuscript variants fluctuate between masculine and neuter pronouns. it remains with you, and will be in you: the manuscripts are not consistent on the tenses of the two verbs in this verse, while remains is always present tense, is/will be varies from present to future tense (differing only by an accent mark) in otherwise consistent manuscripts. Without repeating the myriad of explanations, perhaps it is no more complicated that the “former” Paraclete (Jesus) is now with them while “another Advocate” (v.16) will be in them – always realizing that “another Advocate” takes place after and because of the departure of Jesus. In you: The expression en hymin is also validly translated as “among you” and is perhaps indicated given that “you” is plural. But it should also be noted that the promise will become individualized in vv.21-23.
- Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel According to John, vol. 29b in The Anchor Bible, eds. William Albright and David Freeman (New York, NY: Doubleday, 1966) 637-48
- Gail R. O’Day, John in the New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 9, ed. Leander E. Keck (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1996) 745-50
- Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich and Geoffrey William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1995)
- Horst Robert Balz and Gerhard Schneider, Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1990)
- Scripture quotes from New American Bible by Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. © 1991, 1986, 1970