What image or meaning does the word helper bring to mind? For myself, I used to think of this a nice but slightly weak word. I might apply it to someone who gives assistance or aid to the person who really has the initiative or does the primary job. In the printing business, the pressman has the knowledge and responsibility for running the press, while the helper does the simple, manual labor in the background. Sometimes, we might even refer to a little child tagging along with a parent as a “helper” even though he isn’t actually helping with the job at hand. But is this what the word really means?
As used in the Bible, the word “helper” does not signify merely a subservient assistant. In the New Testament, the Greek word synergos appears 13 times and is translated a variety of different ways in the King James Version, often with words that convey not only helping but connection, such as “fellowworker” and “companion in labor”. It is applied of the apostles and disciples to each other, and of the Christian toward God.
In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word ʿēzer also signifies one who not only renders aid, but who provides something vitally necessary. It is used over a dozen times to describe God Himself in relation to His people. William Mounce rightly noted, “With so many references to God as our helper, it is obvious that an ʿēzer is in no way inferior to the one who receives help.” This illuminates the well-known reference to Eve as Adam’s helper in Genesis 2:18.
Since the “helper” is such a vital and honorable position, it is surely a great privilege indeed for the follower of Christ to be called a helper of another believer, or of God Himself. Both the Old and New Testaments use the word in both of these applications. Our new article from Harold S. Martin entitled “Aquila and Priscilla: Helpers in Christ” presents a character sketch of two people who were exemplary helpers to the Apostle Paul. Let us all consider how we can be helpers to God and the church — and keep our eyes fixed on the One who is truly and eternally our Helper.