Acts 2:1-21; John 14:23-31
Pastor James Preus
Trinity Lutheran church
June 5, 2022
What was the greatest miracle the Holy Spirit did on Pentecost? There were many. On Pentecost the Holy Spirit rushed upon the disciples and caused divided tongues of fire to rest on each of the heads in whom the Holy Spirit dwelt. They spoke languages they had never learned. St. Peter, quoting the Prophet Joel, lists the mighty works the Holy Spirit accomplished on that day: young men see visions, old men dream dreams, men and women prophesy. And of course, the Holy Spirit continued to work with them. The apostles cured the sick and healed the crippled. They were bitten by venomous snakes and drank poison and were not harmed. They even raised the dead! So, which of these marvelous works that Holy Spirit began to accomplish on that Pentecost is the greatest miracle that the Holy Spirit performed? The fire, the speaking in tongues, the prophecies, the healings?
Verse 41 of Acts 2 gives us the answer: “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” And the Holy Spirit didn’t stop that day. He continued his work. This chapter closes, “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (vs. 47) The greatest miracle the Holy Spirit did on Pentecost was to save souls from everlasting perdition and grant them eternal life. And this is a miracle, which the Holy Spirit continues to accomplish in our midst today!
This salvation of souls is the greatest miracle for two reasons. First, it is the most difficult miracle to accomplish. Second, it is the most wonderful, long lasting, and desirable gift to receive. The salvation of souls is the most difficult miracle to accomplish. Speaking in tongues is remarkable. But what is so remarkable about it is not the ability to speak in other languages, but rather that they spoke in languages they had never learned. But there are millions and millions of people who can speak multiple languages fluently. It just takes time and effort. The miraculous healings are certainly difficult. However, God has provided other means through medicine and other treatments to bring sick people to good health, to heal the crippled, even the blind and deaf can have their sight and hearing restored in some cases with today’s modern medicine.
Yet, to be saved is impossible. To be saved, you must have faith in Christ. And that is not something that you can do on your own. Scripture tells us that no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3). St. Paul tells us that all of mankind is by nature dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-3) and that the natural person cannot understand the things of the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:14) and that those set on the flesh, that is those who think according to their sinful flesh, cannot please God (Romans 8:8) This is why Jesus says that no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born again of water and the Spirit (John 3:3-6), and that no one can come to him unless the Father draws him (John 6:44).
It is far more possible to heal diseases, make a paralyzed man walk, cause the blind to see and the deaf to hear, to speak in other tongues, yes, even to raise the dead, than to save a person. It is impossible to turn an unbeliever into a believer, to turn a sinner into a righteous person. It is impossible. Only God can do it, because he can do the impossible. The Holy Spirit is God. His greatest work is to cause unbelievers to be believers. His greatest work is to save souls.
To save souls is the greatest miracle the Holy Spirit does because it is the most wonderful work he does. To give sight to the blind is pretty good. I certainly don’t want to be blind. Oh, how I’d love to speak many languages fluently. That would be great. To take pain away, heal the sick, even raise the dead? Marvelous! But what happened to all those blind, deaf, crippled, and dead people, whom Jesus and his Apostles healed and raised? They eventually died! They’re not here today to tell us about it. But what happened to all those souls the Holy Spirit saved? They are in paradise! They are awaiting the glorious resurrection of dead, when all who have died in Christ will rise first to imperishable life! They hunger no more, neither thirst anymore. The sun does not strike them, nor any scorching heat. They are shepherded by Christ Jesus and God has wiped away every tear from their eyes. (Revelation 7:16-17) And that is what we can expect, who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Prophet Joel declared, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Yet, no one can call upon the name of the Lord unless the Holy Spirit grants him faith. Well, how does the Holy Spirit grant saving faith? St. Paul answers this question in Romans chapter 10. He writes, “For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news!’ But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?’ So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
The Holy Spirit works through the Word of Christ, that is, through the Gospel. The crowds marveled that these Galileans spoke in each of their native tongues “the mighty works of God.” They heard what God had done for them through Jesus Christ; how God sent his Son to be the descendent of David, so that he might fulfill the Law in our place and suffer and die for our sins. They proved from Scripture that the prophets spoke of Christ, who died for all sins, yet, who rose from the dead, not seeing corruption. Their preaching brought many who were hostile to Christ to repentance, so that they were cut to the heart and cried, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter answered, “Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” And many were baptized, repented of their sins and confessed Christ Jesus as Savior, and were saved.
There is no other way for the Holy Spirit to come to you than through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the Comforter, who teaches. He teaches and comforts by relaying Christ’s promises to you. During Jesus’ last night with his disciples before he was crucified, he told them that the Holy Spirit would bring to their remembrance all that he had said to them. This is how we know that what we read in Holy Scripture are the very words of Jesus. The Holy Spirit carried the Apostles, just as he carried the Prophets, to write down the very word of God (2 Peter 1:21). This is why St. Paul says that the household of God, which is the Holy Christian Church, is built on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Christ Jesus being the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:19-20). The Holy Spirit builds up the Church of Christ by the preaching of the Gospel, which must always be grounded in Holy Scripture. Through this preaching, we confront our sins, doubts, and unbelief regularly. And through this preaching, the Holy Spirit accomplishes a work more miraculous than the feeding of the five thousand, speaking in tongues, or even raising the dead. Through this preaching, the Holy Spirit grants us saving faith in Christ Jesus our Lord. This is why St. Paul instructs Pastor Timothy, “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (1 Timothy 4:16)
This is why we Christians continue to learn God’s Word. Why we should not only go to church every Sunday, but attend Bible class, read the Bible daily, and ask questions. Learning what Holy Scripture has to say about the Holy Trinity, Jesus’ divine and human natures, the sacraments, sin, righteousness, heaven, hell, forgiveness, and redemption is not only very fascinating, but it is how the Holy Spirit saves us, by bringing us to trust in Christ Jesus for salvation.
Jesus said in our Gospel lesson for this Sunday, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23) You can only love Jesus if you have faith in him. And you can only have faith in him, if you hear his word. And if you have faith in Jesus, then you will love him. You cannot love Jesus without having faith in him and you cannot have faith in him without loving him. And none of this is possible without the Holy Spirit working through Jesus’ word. Jesus says that if you love him, you will keep his word. The word Jesus uses for keep means to guard, to pay attention to, to watch over. We keep Jesus’ word out of love for him, because it is our greatest treasure. Jesus’ word is how we know who Jesus is and that we have him as our Savior. Jesus Word is how we have access to the Holy Spirit and are confident that he joins us to Jesus. Without Jesus’ Word, we are in doubt. Our sins trouble us. Our mind wanders. We believe lies. We doubt God’s promises. We grow distant from God and cold toward one another. And eventually, our faith dies. So, Jesus says to those who love him, “If you love me, you will keep my word.” That is, you won’t stop listening to it or learning it, but you will strive ever more to grow closer to Christ.
Many seek the gifts of the Holy Spirit today, hoping for the gift to speak in tongues or to prophesy, or to heal diseases. However, St. Paul has told us that these gifts will pass away (1 Corinthians 13:8). But even if they did continue today, they would be but secondary gifts to the gift of salvation the Holy Spirit still grants us today through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What is speaking in tongues compared to eternal salvation? What could a new prophesy do for you? What good would a cure for cancer do if the Holy Spirit did not save your eternal soul by granting you faith in the blood of Jesus Christ? This Pentecost, we celebrate the greatest miracle the Holy Spirit has worked on earth. And we rejoice that he continues to work this miracle in his Church on earth today. The Holy Spirit saves sinners by granting them faith in Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
Let us pray:
Shine in our hearts, O Spirit, precious light;
Teach us Jesus Christ to know aright
That we may abide in the Lord who bought us,
Till to our true home He has brought us.
Lord, have mercy! Amen.