+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.
Text: John 16:15
Theme: Distributing the Inheritance
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
God speaks. He is a God who communicates. He communicates through word and deed, with clarity and with power. The writer of Hebrews begins his letter saying, “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, who He appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the universe.”1 Today, on Pentecost, the truth of God’s communication to us also takes centre stage. Pentecost is one of the high festivals of the church year. On this day the church celebrates the promise of the Son to send the Spirit from the Father.
The end goal of the Holy Spirit is always the same. The Holy Spirit always seeks to lead the unbeliever to Christ. And the Holy Spirit always seeks to lead the believer back to Christ again, and again for forgiveness and sanctification. Jesus gives us some insight to the Holy Spirit’s work in today’s gospel. He uses the law like a surgical tool. “He will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in Me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see Me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the price of this world now stands condemned.”2
Christ says the Holy Spirit will convict the word in regard to sin, because of their unbelief. Repentance and conversion are miracles of the Holy Spirit. Every degree of unrepentance is always a manifestation of unbelief, a rejection of the grace of God, a repudiation of Jesus’ work. The Holy Spirit offers no comfort for those who are content in their sinning or defiant in their unrighteousness. Such persons despise the forgiveness offered by Christ and shun His sacrificial work on the cross. When hardened in a state of unbelief, a human being is powerless to trust in Christ. For this reason, we declare with Luther, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.”3
This is a remarkable statement because it confesses our complete ineptitude in spiritual things. It casts us wholly on the mercy of Christ; it makes us completely vulnerable to His promise. And that’s exactly where we need to be, because what feels risky to us (complete reliance on God) is actually the safest situation we can be in. The disciples were told to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came. Not until they were empowered by Him could they begin their witness to the world. Not surprisingly, that witness began with the miraculous ability to communicate the gospel in many languages.
Through human agency, Christ leavens the fallen world with His great reversal and restoration. The Biblical history of redemption is replete with facets of this reversal. The living Christ is the reversal of the Old Adam of death. Christ’s reign of righteousness is a reversal of Satan’s reign of evil, as He says, “The prince of this world now stands condemned.”4 The fallen era of the old covenant finds reversal in the new covenant marked by the Spirit. The pillar of the gospel’s singular confession dwarfs the Tower of Babel’s streams of confusion. Pentecost is a reversal of Babel. God gathers in forgiveness, what, in judgment, He was forced to scatter. From the plain of Shinar, an idolatrous humanity was scattered over the face of the earth. From the city of Jerusalem, a new community was gathered from an idolatrous world. At Babel, one language was divided into many tongues to confuse the message among many people and separate them. On Pentecost, the one message was spoken in many tongues to unite and gather many people. All Christians are agents of this reversal.
Our agency and our witnessing is not a matter of orchestrating something inconsistent with our baptismal life, but living faithfully in the promise of forgiveness. The Scripture says, “The fruit of Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”5 To keep in step with the Spirit means to live by the realities of the cross. The Holy Spirit will not lead us through the struggles of life by taking us through detours or enticing us to find strength or rest or answers from man-made sources; the Holy Spirit always takes us straight to the cross. He reminds us of the Saviour who died there for our sins and gives us strength and life and salvation.
The Holy Spirit distributes the blessings of the Father and the inheritance of the Son. Jesus says, “He will bring glory to me by taking from what is Mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is Mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.”5 Think how great the endowment is that you have from God! Your dark, dirty, stained, and corrupted soul is cleansed, covered, renewed, and restored. You are clothed with a baptismal robe. You are fed with sacred food. You are tenderly embraced in divine love. You are protected with such spiritual armor that Satan cannot penetrate it. On the surface of it your life may appear pretty mundane, but you are in many respects an undercover agent bearing witness to the truths of the Spirit and the grace of the Son in both the small gestures of kindness and large sacrifices of time and resource you make.
God speaks. But His words are never idle or impotent. His words are life. The same Spirit who participated in the original creation will facilitate the new and final one. We’ll let Ezekiel have the final say, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put My Spirit in you and you will live.”7Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +
The Day of Pentecost
24 May, 2015
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
1 Hebrews 1:1-2
2 John 16:8-11
3 Explanation to the Third Article
4 John 16:11
5 Galatians 5:22-25
6 John 16:14-16
7 Ezekiel 37:12-14