God is with us in Word and Sacrament

The Feast of the Day of Pentecost

Feast of Pentecost (Confirmation)

John 14:23–31


No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. Flesh and blood do not, cannot, reveal this, but the Father in heaven can, and does. Every time men make confession, proclaim that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, they do so by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, speaking in a tongue alien to fallen flesh, which they did not learn. Thus the Holy Apostles on Pentecost, amidst the blood and fire and vapor of smoke, spoke in tongues that they did not know, with Spirit-given utterance. The vision of tongues of fire upon their heads was not the miracle. But the Spirit at work through His Word, burning in the hearts of men, so that they asked, “What shall we do?” that is the miracle. That is the intervention of the Almighty in the course of human affairs, the setting aside of the laws of nature. For we cannot, by our own reason or strength, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, or come to Him. But God does what man cannot. He converts and gives new birth from above. He changes the hearts of men.

That isn’t some far away, long ago act. But this is who He is and what He does still today. He calls us by the Gospel, enlightens us with His gifts, sanctifies and keeps us in the true faith. All this He does by His Word. Men seek signs and get none but the quiet sign of Jonah, the resurrection of Jesus Christ out of the tomb. If you will not accept His Word and live by faith, then no moving of mountains will change your heart.

The Holy Spirit is not interested in special effects, but in character and plot development. Nor does He seek to draw attention to Himself or to entertain us with sci-fi fantasies and speculation about the future. Instead He ever draws attention to the salvation He has procured for us with the Father by the perfect, atoning Sacrifice of the Son. The Holy Spirit teaches the Doctrine of Justification, that is, that God has reconciled mankind to Himself through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. He does not look upon sinful men with wrath, but forgives them. He does not hold their sins against them. He has satisfied the Law, fulfilled Justice’s stern demands, for them, that He might again love men, free and full, complete and perfect. Death is dead. But this Jesus, whom you crucified, He lives. He is Lord and Christ, the Victor who divides the spoils with His unworthy children by grace. Mankind is exalted for God has become one of us. As a Man, as one of us, He has conquered Satan and Hell and as a Man, as one of us, He has ascended to the right hand of His Father from where He sends His Holy Spirit. He makes us partakers of His Divine nature. That forgiveness and acceptance, that Divine declaration of innocence, that peace, is the “all things” that Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to teach. There is nothing else.

What, then, shall we do? “Repent. And let every one of you be baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call. Everyone who calls upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved.”

This is the God of the Holy Scriptures, the God of Jonah who brought the pagan Ninevites to repentance and faith. He forgives, justifies, renews, restores, encourages, feeds, nurtures, heals, and loves. He does this not in some abstract, philosophical way, but in the real, solid things He has given: in His Word, in the cleansing waters of rebirth infused with His Name, in the Body and Blood of Jesus given and shed for you. All by grace for mercy’s sake, all by the death and resurrection of Jesus, sent by the Father, proclaimed by the Spirit.

There is nothing more comforting in all the world than this. And nothing can be allowed to corrupt or water down this saving message. For there is nothing more expedient, practical, generous, or charitable than to speak what the Spirit has given us to speak. Nor is there anything else that lasts. The fads of religion come and go but the Word of Our Lord shall endure forever. Here is your hope, your present and your future wrapped up into one: the God of all grace and mercy, makes His home with you! You have nothing to fear. There is no one to accuse you. And the Spirit poured out then comes now through His Word to bring to your remembrance all this. Go in peace. Amen.


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