Cantate (4th Sunday after Easter) + St. John 16:5-15 + April 24, 2016
Order of Holy Communion - Pg. 15Hymn #231 We Now Implore God the Holy Ghost
Collect for Cantate, the 4th Sunday after Easter
O God, Who makest the minds of the faithful to be of one will, grant unto Thy people that they may love what Thou commandest and desire what Thou dost promise, that among the manifold changes of this world our hearts may there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.
Sermon on the Holy Gospel
Grace and Peace be unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
1) Jesus says that when the Holy Ghost comes, “He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged” (John 16:8-11). When Christ says that the Holy Ghost will convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment, this implies that the world knows nothing when it comes to sin, righteousness, and true judgment. And we see this is most certainly the case. The world thinks it knows what sin is, if it thinks sin exists at all anymore. The world assumes that sin consists of those things which we do with our hands only, that sin is circumscribed to the outward act, so that people are able to excuse themselves by saying, “I haven’t committed adultery! I haven’t murdered anyone? I haven’t slandered anyone publically. I have not stolen or defrauded anyone!” The world only knows of actual sins, sins of thought, word, and deed, but even that distinction is become more fluid in our day. The world doesn’t think lustful thoughts are really all the sinful, especially since no one sees them. The world imagines that if one holds their tongue and doesn’t lash out at someone then that is a great and pious act. Never mind that the thought and the desire had preceded the nearly-spoken hateful word. The world thinks of sin as only that which we do, and even then it is only sin if one gets caught. The world thinks it understands sin but it cannot, since man’s nature is tainted by sin and his spiritual sight is glazed over with glaucoma.
2) The Holy Ghost, when He comes, will convict the world of sin, that is, He will show the world its sin for what it truly is. Jesus says, “of sin, because they do not believe in Me.” Jesus casts the greatest sin not as an outward act of violence or a word spoken in rage. Jesus casts the greatest sin, the cause of ALL sins, as a violation of the First Commandment. Jesus casts the greatest sin as being unbelieve in Him. Every actual sin we do, every sin of thought, word, and action, grows from the soil of unbelief in God’s Word. When we sin we do so because we either do not belie that what we’re doing is a sin, or because we do not believe God punishes sin. Unbelief is the soil from which the plants of actual sins grow. The world cannot understand this because the world is steeped in unbelief. The world does not believe that Christ is the Only-Begotten Son of God who is come into the world to redeem mankind from sin. From this unbelief comes all sorts of evil and wickedness. The world believes it can free itself from sin, that there is no need for a savior from sin, and that its own works and merits can make up for its sins. The world imagines its own righteousness avails before men and God because it does not understand that it is sin to reject faith in Christ, the only means by which sinners are made righteous.
3) God the Holy Ghost then convicts the world of righteousness, “because I go to My Father and you see Me no more.” As we just said, the world imagines its own outward good works and civil righteousness avail before God. That’s all human reason can muster. The philosopher Aristotle sums up the height of human wisdom when he says that if men want to be righteous they must act righteously. But this still does not plumb the depths of the human heart. You know full well that people can “do the right thing” and yet not be motivated by love for God or neighbor. The human heart, being deceitful above all things, often does the right thing for the wrong reasons. The human heart is moved to behave righteously by fear of punishment, fear of what others think. Every one of us, without the aid of God the Holy Ghost, can only do outward acts of righteousness. This is why the Holy Ghost must convict the world of righteousness. He must preach to the world that its own righteousness is a fraud, a fake, a façade, so that we learn not to put any trust in our own goodness, our own worthiness, or anything that we do but instead to look to the righteous that He reveals to us.
4) The righteousness that the Holy Ghost preaches to the world is that of Christ’s righteousness. Christ describes His righteousness in these words, “because I go to My Father and you see Me no more.” Christ’s “going to the Father” is His passion and death, for that is the “little while” that He was gone of which we spoke last Sunday. Instead of trusting in our righteousness and our own works, the Holy Ghost offers us Christ’s perfect righteousness. He presents it to all who hear the Gospel preached, that Christ has died to atone for the sins of the whole world, so that all who believe in Him and are baptized by Him have the forgiveness of sins and everlasting life. His death atoned for all sins, so that one believes the gospel his sins are forgiven and he simultaneously receives Christ’s merits and righteousness as His own. All of this is given in the promise of the Gospel and received by faith alone. The righteousness of faith is the righteousness that avails before God. This faith, which is counted as righteousness by God, then changes our hearts. Whereas before we could only do good works outwardly, and those by the coercion of the law and by fear of punishment, the Christian, being righteous by faith and not their works, is moved to do truly good works. The Holy Ghost creates new hearts in us, hearts that truly love God above all things and trust Him for every good thing. He creates new hearts in all who believe the gospel and these new hearts truly love our neighbor and seek their welfare. Possessing Christ’s righteousness moves the Christian to look for ways of serving their neighbor since his heart has been made new by faith. This is why the Holy Ghost my convict the world of true righteousness, which is not a righteousness of our works but of faith in Christ.
5) Possessing Christ’s righteousness by faith, the Holy Ghost then convicts the world concerning judgment, “because the ruler of this world is judged,” says our Lord. The Christian, no longer relying upon their own works and worthiness but placing their confidence solely in Christ for all things, will then be able to truly judge the world for what it is. The Christian sees that all the world calls “good” the Lord calls “evil.” The Christian can judge what is happening in different parts of North American culture as evil, even though the world calls it “freedom of expression,” “Multiculturalism,” or “freedom of speech.” That which the world treasures is truly diseased. Everything the world exalts is actually debased in God’s sight. St. Paul says in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” So the Christian is not to think as the world thinks, according to what the world’s wisdom, but is to be transformed by the renewing of their mind, which the Holy Ghost does by working through Word and Sacraments. The Christian, having the Holy Ghost and faith in Christ, with a new heart motivated by love toward God and neighbor, is able to “prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God, and see the world for what it is. St. Peter writes in 1 Peter 2:11, “I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.” For these fleshly desires of all kinds are aligned with the ways of the world, which has been judged already by Christ and is being judged daily by the Christian through the Word.
6) The world will not care for such judgment by Christ or His Christians through the Word. Christ casts out the ruler of this world by His death and resurrection. By atoning for the sins of the world, Christ defangs the devils so that He can no longer accuse the conscience whose faith rests upon Christ’s merits and not their own. By rising to life again after three days, Christ has dethroned death so that all who believe in Christ have no reason to fear death or their sin. Satan is judged. The deed is done. Though he fight and kick and claw at Christians, all who remain steadfast in the faith and remain close the means of grace, the Word of God and the Sacraments, are beyond his reach, though he will do his best to afflict them. This also means that this judgment of the world will lead to what Luther so often called “holy cross.” By the “holy cross” he means that the world will do its best to persecute and afflict the church and Christ’s Christians because they see the world for what it is, and pass correct judgments upon the world’s sinfulness and deceit. But again, the new heart which the Holy Ghost gives by faith in Christ willingly and patiently bears the “holy cross” because our Lord promised us last week that it will last but “a little while” (John 16:16).
7) So Christ tells us that these are the chief works of God the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is doing these works not only when He is given not only at Pentecost, fifty days after His resurrection, but whenever He is given through the Word of God, for the Holy Ghost only and always works through the Word of God. This three-fold task of convicting the world happens whenever the Gospel is preached, taught, and explained in its purity and truth. So this three-fold conviction is something that happens among us often, daily even, as we drink deeply from the pure fountain of Israel and ingest the Scriptures with our eyes and ears as daily food from heaven. For in all these things the Holy Ghost is glorifying Christ’s righteousness and faith, for it is the Holy Ghost’s office to “take of Mine and declare it to you,” Jesus says. So the Holy Ghost will daily convict you of sin, which is unbelief, and righteousness, which is faith, and judgment of the world, which is the holy cross. Thanks be to God for this work of His, that He does not leave us in the unbelieving world, but grants us repentance unto faith.
May the peace of God which passes all human understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.