Trivia question. What was Paul’s purpose for his second missionary journey?
And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are"....Paul chose Silas and departed, being committed by the brethren to the grace of the Lord. And he was traveling through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.[i]
The term, visit, refers to seeking out for the purpose of helping. The term, strengthen, refers to providing support with a view to building someone up in the faith. Both are encapsulated in the term paraklete.
Paraklete, is a transliteration of the term, parakletos, from koine Greek and translated comforter in the King James Bible.[ii] Given that it is found to only refer to the coming Holy Spirit and then only by Jesus as He comforts His disciples regarding His imminent departure, one might conclude there is only one paraklete.
In its first occurrence, Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as another. At this point, the theologian stops to point out that the “another” is Jesus, Himself. This is confirmed by John in his first epistle when he refers to Jesus as an advocate (Gk, paraklatos.)[iii]
According to dictionary.com, the term, paraklete, comes to us from Medieval Latin.[iv] From the use of the term, paraklete, in Christian church history, one would think it was coined by Jesus and limited to the Upper Room Discourse. However, this is not the case. John’s use is consistent with the classical meaning of the term which predates Jesus at least three-hundred and fifty years by individuals such as Demosthenes, the great Athenian orator, who used it to refer to an advocate in the legal sense.
God calls all of us in His family to be parakletes. Not in the legal sense, although this might be true for someone who has this gift and opportunity. Instead, I want to focus on the root meaning of the term, parakaleo.
It simply means to come alongside someone to assist them in their need. It is variously translated, comfort, beseech, pray, exhort, intreat, console, encourage. Two verses in particular refer to every believer:
Therefore encourage one another, and build up one another, just as you also are doing.[v]
But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today,"[vi]
There are many ways to do this today. Individuals are struggling in different ways. There are fears of the corona virus, shut-ins, isolation, loss of employment, financial crisis, family conflicts, fear of what will happen in the future, being cut off from the church physically.
Sometimes all that is needed is a simple phone call, text message, email. Maybe your church or small group can hold a food shower for a needy family. Maybe start a prayer chain. Shop for someone who cannot risk going to the store themselves. Take someone to the doctor.
We cannot stop living. We must not stop caring. We are all called to be parakletes.
[i] Acts 15:36, 40-41.
[ii] Jn 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7.
[iii] 1 Jn 2:1.
[v] 1 Thess 5:11.
[vi] Heb 3:13.