“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. This is the Spirit of truth.” John 14:16-17
A synonym is a word having the same, or nearly the same meaning, and the Oxford Dictionary gives these words as synonyms of the word “advocate:” champion, upholder, supporter, backer, promoter, proponent, exponent, protector, patron. When we think about the Holy Spirit, when we think about the advocate that Jesus sends to us, we can think about these words.
A champion was someone who went to represent others. If we think of soccer or rugby, we think of the Champions League or the Champions Cup, teams who represent the countries from which they have come. In the First Book of Samuel Chapter 17, we read the story of David and Goliath, in Verse 4 it says, “And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span”. The people of Israel are terrified, but young David, the shepherd boy is prepared to go out as their champion, to fight on their behalf.
Do we think of the Holy Spirit as our champion? Do we think of the Spirit as the one who represents us? Imagine how much more confident we would be if we believed in our hearts that God was our champion. Who is there who could defeat God? Who is there who could stand against God? God is going to send us the Spirit as our Advocate, God is going to send the Spirit as our champion.
Advocate can mean “champion,” it can also mean, “upholder, supporter or backer.” If we follow sports, we are familiar with the idea of supporters, the people who fill the stadiums and cheer on their teams; perhaps we are also familiar with the idea of backers, those who put large amounts of their own money towards the success of a team. There are upholders, supporters and backers in Scripture. When we read the story of Jesus, we read of Jesus resisting the temptations in the wilderness and feeling tired and exhausted, then the upholders and supporters appear. Saint Matthew Chapter 4 Verse 11 says, “Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.” The angels are Jesus’ supporters at the beginning of his ministry, and they are his supporters at the end of his ministry. When he is in the Garden of Gethsemane and has to face the awful things that lie ahead, Saint Luke Chapter 23 Verse 43 tells us, “Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength.”
Jesus is telling us that the Holy Spirit will be our upholder, supporter and backer. What should that mean for us? If the Holy Spirit is there to give us strength, shouldn’t we be confident in every situation? If the Holy Spirit is our supporter, shouldn’t feel like we have a whole stadium filled with people cheering us on? If the Holy Spirit is our backer, shouldn’t we feel that we have every single thing we need in order to succeed for God?
Advocate can also mean “promoter, proponent, exponent.” When we think about someone as a promoter, we think of someone organising a big public event, a concert or a sporting fixture. The Holy Spirit acts as a promoter, proponent and exponent on the day of Pentecost. In the Acts of the Apostles Chapter 2 Verse 4, we read,”All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.” The Holy Spirit gives them the strength and opportunities to do God’s work, so we read in Acts Chapter 4 Verse 31, “When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.”
When we think of the Holy Spirit, do we ever think of the Spirit as a promoter, as someone who creates opportunities for us, as someone who equips us with what we need to do God’s work? Do we see the Holy Spirit as someone who is there speaking on our behalf?
Advocate can mean “protector” or “patron.” It is good to have someone who looks out for us, someone who keeps us from harm; there might be a friend or a family member to whom we look for protection, to whom we look when we are feeling weak or vulnerable. The Bible is full of moments when God is the protector and patron of his people. In the book of the prophet Nahum Chapter 1 Verse 7, we read, “The Lord is good, a stronghold on a day of trouble; he protects those who take refuge in him.” In Saint John Chapter 17 Verse 11, Jesus prays that God will protect his disciples, ” Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me.”
Do we think of the Holy Spirit as our protector and patron? Do we think of God as someone who watches over us in each moment of our lives? In those moments when we are afraid or anxious, do we know that God’s protection is over us?
“I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. This is the Spirit of truth” This is someone who for us is, champion, upholder, supporter, backer, promoter, proponent, exponent, protector and patron.