Feast of Pentecost + John 14:23-31 + May 15, 2016
Order of Holy Communion - Pg. 15Hymn #235 O Holy Spirit, Enter In
Collect for the Festival of Pentecost
O God, Who taught the hearts of Thy faithful people by sending to them the light of Thy Holy Spirit, bring us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things and evermore to rejoice in His holy comfort; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who with Thee and the Holy Ghost liveth and reigneth, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
Sermon on the Holy Gospel
Grace and peace are yours from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
1) The Feast of Pentecost commemorates the day when the Holy Ghost was poured out upon the twelve disciples. There was the sound of the rushing wind. There was the sight of tongues of fire lit above the apostle’s heads. “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4). The Gospel was preached boldly and in great power so that a great number of the hearers that day repented of their sin, believed the gospel, and received baptism for the remission of their sins. In this the Holy Ghost was active and efficacious, causing men to sorrow over their sin and believe the promise of the gospel. The same Holy Ghost which was poured out on the apostles, which worked in such miraculous tongues of fire and tongues of language, worked repentance and faith in the hearts of these men. In fact, that is the greater miracle, that sinners were convicted of their sins and believed that those sins were forgiven by the very same Jesus whom they had crucified. Faith is the foremost and most wonderful work of the Holy Ghost, because without His aid, sinful man cannot, and will not, hearken unto God’s law or His gospel. The Holy Ghost enkindles faith in the hearts of men when they hear that in Christ Jesus they have a God who is reconciled to them. The Holy Ghost, through the preaching of the apostles, bishops, and pastors throughout the ages, continues to work this greatest miracle all: faith in the hearts of men. This faith justifies before God. This faith brings peace of conscience because it believes that all its sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake. This faith rejoices because it believes that God is a merciful Father, in whom there is now no wrath or condemnation toward the one who believes. This joy, this peace, this fearlessness before God is solely the working of God the Holy Ghost.
2) This faith also teaches the heart to truly love Christ as the same Lord who has earned so many great gifts for it. 1 John 4:19 says that, “We love Him because He first loved us.” God the Father shows this great love of His in that “He that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). God the Father shows us the great love He has for sinners by justifying the ungodly when they believe the promise of the gospel. God shows His great love in providing everything necessary for our salvation, including the faith to believe the promise of the gospel, for St. Paul teaches of faith that “it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). The Holy Ghost works this faith through the preaching of the Word, for “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). So God graciously gives us His Word. He graciously calls and sends preachers of the gospel so that this Word may sound forth. He knows that the sinful flesh still clings to us in this life, so He gives us the Holy Ghost to not only create faith in us through the Word, but also to preserve faith in us. This he does through Christ’s Word and the sacraments of baptism and communion. He gives us these so that by staying close them, by using them often in faith, the Holy Ghost may work in us to suppress the Old Adam with its desires and increase the new man of faith within our hearts. So we see that everything necessary for salvation, and for the preservation of our salvation, God gives to us freely and without any merit or worthiness on our own part. When we see what Christ does for, what He suffers for us, and what He gives to us, we begin to truly love Christ with a holy affection.
3) What does this love of Christ, implanted by the Holy Ghost, look like? In the first verse of the gospel lesson appointed for this Feast, Jesus says, “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.” The one who loves Christ will loves His Words. This means that we will love Christ’s teachings, His parables, and His gospel. We love Christ’s Word because the Word is how we know Christ and because the Word is instrument the Holy Ghost uses to create and sustain faith in our hearts. We can’t know Christ apart from the Word because Christ no longer walks the earth. We can’t go and meet Him in Galilee. But we do hear Him speak in the Scriptures. We hear His very words in The Word. So the Christian, the one who loves Christ, will love Christ’s Word in Holy Scripture. And not just the red letters, the actual words of Jesus, but all the Word, because it is all about Christ. Jesus says in John 5:39 that “these are they which testify of Me.” Before His ascension, Jesus taught the apostles the gospel “beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27). Since all the Scripture is about Christ and what He does for sinners, those who believe Christ and love Christ will love the Word of God and live not by bread alone, “but by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God” (Deut 8:3).
4) We also love Christ’s Word because that is the Holy Ghost’s instrument for creating and sustaining faith in Christ. Not only does all our knowledge of Christ and His promises come from the Word, but the Word is what God uses to give us faith, just as the preaching of the gospel on Pentecost converted a great number. In Isaiah 55 God promises that His Word “shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). God promises that the Holy Ghost will accompany His Word when it is preached without human corruption. We use the Sacraments in the same faith, that the Holy Ghost promises to work through the Word given in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. There are some that teach that the Holy Ghost does not always work through the word, but that it’s a hit or miss venture, sometimes He will work through the word, other times He won’t. Others teach that we should look for the Holy Ghost in our ever-fluctuating feelings, or that we should identify Him as a still small voice in our heads that is generally just our common sense. The one who truly loves Christ through faith treasures the word, guards it, and keeps it close because it is Christ’s Word and because the Holy Ghost has promised always to work through it.
5) What does the Holy Ghost teach us through the Word? He is always teaching us Christ. On this Feast of Pentecost Jesus teaches us the sum of the Holy Ghost’s work through the Word. He says in John 14:26, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” When Jesus says, “he will teach you all things,” this does not mean that the Holy Spirit will teach the apostles new things. Rome reads this passage as their justification for inventing new ceremonies and even new articles of the faith. Whenever the papacy speaks something contrary to the Scripture or taught a practice based on the righteousness of the law rather than the righteousness of faith, they would simply say, “Jesus said the Holy Ghost would teach us all things. This is new thing the Holy Ghost has taught.” But this pure and undiluted enthusiasm, by which the opinion of man is called the Word of God. In this, Rome uses these words of Jesus as a pretext for inventing new words from Jesus that detract from the gospel and the righteousness of faith. That Jesus doesn’t mean this is clear from the second part of His sentence, that the Holy Ghost will “bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” The Holy Ghost’s office, His duty, His job, is simply to call to your remembrance the Word of Jesus in the Scriptures and in the gospel. He does this by daily imprinting Christ’s Word on your heart and in your mind through your daily study of the Word. Through that daily discipline of reading the Scripture, the Holy Ghost puts the Word into your heart so that He may later call it to your mind.
6) In calling to our remembrance the words and promises of Jesus, the Holy Ghost is doing exactly what He did fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection. He is using the Word of Jesus, the word of the gospel, to create and sustain faith in our hearts. This faith justifies us before God the Father. This faith emboldens the heart so that we pray confidently to God as a child asks his dear father. As St. Paul writes, since we have been justified by faith “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). This is the peace which Jesus speaks of when He says, “My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give t you. Let know your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” This work of the Holy Ghost in our hearts, through the Word of Jesus, gives us peace of conscience, so that we trust our sins are forgiven by a gracious God who is reconciled to us in Christ. This peace causes our hearts to rest because we know that God is for us and not against us, that God is our gracious Father, and that the God who gave His Son for us will by no means cast us off in every trial, affliction and time of need. This is “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7), which guards our hearts from unbelief and protects us from despair, and keeps us steadfast in our confidence in all the promises of Jesus.
7) This is the faith which vivified the men at Pentecost, who were cut to the heart by the law. This is the faith which enlivened the hearts of those who repented of their sins. This is the faith which the Holy Spirit has given you, and even now, through Jesus Word, is strengthening your faith unto life everlasting. Amen.
May the peace of God, which passes all human understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.