May 19, 2019
Today Jesus teaches us about the Holy Spirit, which is appropriate, because today Lina and Jadyn will be confirmed. And in their confirmation vows they will promise, by the grace of God, to continue steadfast in this faith as long as they live. And we know that we cannot come to faith or remain in the true faith without the work of the Holy Spirit, as we learned in our Small Catechism, “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, sanctifies and keeps me in the true faith.” So, when Lina and Jadyn say, “by the grace of God,” in their vows, what they mean is, “by the work of the Holy Spirit.” It is the Holy Spirit, who will accomplish this for them.
So, how does the Holy Spirit work? There are three things Jesus teaches us about the work of the Holy Spirit: 1. The Holy Spirit does not work apart from the work of Christ; 2. The Holy Spirit accomplishes his work through his Word; 3. The Word of the Holy Spirit is true and trustworthy.
The Holy Spirit does not work apart from the work of Christ. Jesus says, “And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” All three convictions carried out by the Holy Spirit are connected to the work of Christ Jesus.
The Holy Spirit convicts the world concerning sin, because they do not believe in Jesus. Now, when we think of sin, we typically don’t think of unbelief. We think of stealing, murdering, fornication, slandering, and so forth. But all sins are rooted in unbelief. Why does the thief steal? Because he doesn’t believe that God will provide for him as he promised. Why does the murderer hate? Because he doesn’t believe that God loves the person he hates, even though God says he does. Why does the fornicator fornicate? Because he doesn’t believe that what God gives in marriage is good and better than his desires. Why does the slanderer slander? Because he doesn’t believe that God will give him a better name without him tearing down the names of others. Yes, all sin is rooted in the heart, which fails to believe in God.
And it’s not just that unbelief is the root of all sin, but unbelief has become the only sin, because Jesus Christ has taken away the sins of the world. All sins were laid on Jesus. And Jesus died for them all. That means that there no longer remains any sin to condemn you, unless you do not believe in Jesus. Jesus teaches us in John chapter 3, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” It is unbelief that remains the damnable sin. Only through unbelief can your sins remain on you. But for all who believe in Christ Jesus, their sins do not remain.
This is not to say that as long as you believe in Jesus, you can go on sinning, because Jesus has died for your sins. No, to continue in sin is to continue in unbelief. When you continue in sin without repenting, you are rejecting Christ’s forgiveness. That is not true faith. So, to have faith in the Son of God, who bears all your sins also involves repenting of your sins often.
The Holy Spirit convicts the world concerning righteousness, because Jesus goes to the Father. Righteousness is the opposite of sin. Righteousness is the forgiveness of sins. The Holy Spirit convicts the world of forgiveness of her sins, because Jesus goes to the Father. Jesus goes to the Father through the cross, where he dies for our sins. The Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin, because of unbelief. The Holy Spirit convicts the world of forgiveness of sins to be received through faith in the Son of God, who died on the cross.
The Holy Spirit convicts the world of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. The ruler of this world is Satan. He is judged, because Jesus knocked his teeth out by dying on the cross for all sins. Satan’s life work is leading people into sin and then accusing those same people of those sins, and Jesus in one fell swoop wipes all that work away. Now we are not judged, Satan is and all those who choose to follow in his lies and unbelief instead of trusting in Christ.
Everything Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit will do in convicting the world is connected to Jesus’ work. The Holy Spirit will not present himself to you without Jesus. He will not work apart from Jesus’ work. Those who seek the Holy Spirit without seeking Christ will never find him. The message the Holy Spirit wants you to believe is that Jesus has accomplished everything for your salvation. It is finished. Jesus has done it. This means that you are not saved by your works. You are saved through faith, when you believe in the work of Jesus done for you. And how does the Holy Spirit create faith in your heart? How does the Holy Spirit transfer Jesus’ work to you, so that you may hold on to it in faith? He does this through his Word. The Holy Spirit accomplishes this work through his Word.
Jesus says, “He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” The Holy Spirit gives you what belongs to Christ: righteousness, the love of the Father, an eternal inheritance. You receive all this through faith. And faith receives words. This is why St. Paul says, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16) and “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” And St. James tells us that the implanted word is able to save our souls.
You receive all the treasures of heaven when you believe that they are yours for Christ’s sake. And you believe that they are yours when you believe the words of Christ, which the Holy Spirit speaks to you. Just pay attention to the word choice our Lord uses: He will take what is mine and declare it to you. Through speaking the Holy Spirit gives you this treasure.
This is why, Lina and Jadyn, you are asked in your confirmation vows, “Do you intend to hear the Word of God and receive the Lord’s Supper faithfully?” and you will answer, “I do, by the grace of God.” The Holy Spirit speaks Christ’s words when the Holy Scriptures are read, taught, and preached. The Sacraments are empowered by the words of Christ, which the Holy Spirit speaks to you. You promise in your confirmation vows to continue to hear God’s word and receive the Sacrament, meaning that you will faithfully go to church, because Jesus tells you that there the Holy Spirit will declare to you the things of Christ, which alone give eternal life.
Now, you’ll notice that it is normally the pastor, who is speaking. But that doesn’t make it any less the Holy Spirit’s words. The Holy Spirit doesn’t speak out of thin air. He uses ministers, sinful men, to speak his word. And he uses ordinary water to baptize, and regular bread and wine to feed us Christ’s true body and blood. These are called the means of grace. The Gospel preached, Baptism, the Absolution, and the Lord’s Supper all have their authority from God. And they are the means by which the Holy Spirit showers us with God’s grace here on earth. This is why you should never despise them, but trust in them as you trust in your Lord, who gave them to you.
The Word the Holy Spirit speaks to you is true and trustworthy. Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the Spirit of truth and he told his apostles that he would guide them in all truth. Jadyn and Lina in their confirmation vows will be asked, “Do you hold the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures to be the inspired Word of God?” and they will answer, “I do.” The prophetic and apostolic Scriptures are the Old and New Testament. The Holy Spirit inspired, that is, he caused the prophets and the apostles to write the Bible. We Lutherans believe that that Bible is the Word of God. The apostle Peter wrote, “no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:20-21) Yes, men, human beings physically wrote the Bible. But the Bible is not their words. It is the Word of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul writes, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16)
This means that you can trust what you have been taught. What you believe about your Savior Jesus is true. You can have confidence in your salvation. In the collect for today (that’s that short prayer that we pray right before the Old Testament lesson) we prayed, “O God, You make the minds of your faithful to be of one will. Grant that we may love what you have commanded and desire what you promise, that among the many changes of this world our hearts may be fixed where true joys are found...”
The world is changing. It’s fickle. And it will try to toss you like a boat on the sea. As you pass through this sinful world, which doesn’t believe in Christ and which will be judged along with the devil, your faith will be tested. You need something sturdy, something sound to make it through. The Word of God is sturdy. The Word of God is sound. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth; he cannot lie. What he tells you of your Savior Jesus is certain.
Everything you know about your Savior Jesus you learned from the Holy Spirit. Everything we learned from the Small Catechism is from the Holy Spirit. The Ten Commandment, the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, Baptism, the Office of the Keys, the Sacrament of the Altar, and the Table of Duties; all these subjects of the Small Catechism are taught by the Holy Spirit in Holy Scripture. And they will continue to be just as applicable to your life as they were when you were taught them in Catechism class. As you continue to read and pray your Catechism, attend church to hear the Word of God and receive the Sacrament of Christ’s body and blood, you continue to be taught by the Holy Spirit. When we say, “Yes, by the grace of God.” we are not just shrugging our shoulders and saying, “who knows whether God will have it so.” No, we know how God’s grace works here on earth. It works through the work of the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit, who loves to talk about Jesus; the Holy Spirit who gives you salvation through his Words; the Holy Spirit, who always tells the truth.
May the Holy Spirit keep each and every one of you in the true faith, that you would know Jesus Christ and his work for you and have confidence that your salvation is true. Amen.