Cantate, the 4th Sunday after Easter + John 16:5-15 + May 14, 2017

Hymn # 195 Christ Jesus Lay in Death's Strong Bands

OH, SING || to the Lord a new | song! | - *
            For he has done mar- | ve- | lous | things;
The Lord has made known His sal- | va- | tion; *
            His righteousness He has revealed in the sight of | the | na- | tions. (Psalm 98:1a, 2)
His right hand and His holy | arm | - *
            Have gained Him the | vic- | to- | ry.
He has remembered His | mer- | cy *
            And His faithfulness to the house of | Is- | ra- | el.
All the ends of the | earth | - *
            Have seen the salvation | of | our | God.
Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the | earth; | - *
            Break forth in song, rejoice, and | sing | prais- | es. (Psalm 98:1b, 3–4)
Oh, sing to the Lord a new | song! | - *
            For he has done mar- | ve- | lous | things;
The Lord has made known His sal- | va- | tion; *
            His righteousness He has revealed in the sight of | the | na- | tions. (Psalm 98:1a, 2)

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. Amen.

St. John 16:5-15 


Grace and Peace be unto you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

1)         Today we hear some of Jesus’ most abused words. He says, “When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth.” These words lurk behind pronouncements of the Papacy about Mary, their seven sacraments, and ceremonies about meats and holy days. The Papacy is built upon the idea that the Holy Spirit gradually, throughout the centuries, reveals more and more teaching. After all, Jesus says to His disciples, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” But the abuse doesn’t stop there, nor is it unique to Rome. The same idea is at work in much of popular Protestantism, but whereas in Rome is takes on an institutional flavor, in Protestantism the belief is that the Holy Spirit will guide the individual into all truth directly, without any sort of means or mediation. So many expect the Lord to speak directly to them in their hearts or their heads, telling them what they are to believe or do. This is part of the reason why hardly anyone knows their Bibles anymore. They don’t need to know the words of Scripture because they believe God speaks directly to them. Functionally, the Bible is only there to teach them how to listen for God’s voice in the heart and how to feel the connection with the divine. While we’re at it we should throw Mohammedenism into the bunch as well, for as a religion it seeks to be led into all truth apart from the written Word of God, replacing God’s Word with the word of Mohammed, for which he claimed direct revelation, in a manner really no different than the way most Christians think they hear the voice of the Spirit in their hearts.

2)         Is this what Jesus had in mind when He said the Spirit “will guide you into all truth?” Was Christ simply opening the floodgates so that the Spirit could drench everyone, revealing different truths to different people at different times of history, or even different truths from day to day? For God to contradict Himself would mean that He’s no longer God. St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:33 that “God is not the author of confusion but of peace.” The Spirit must be tethered to something. That is what Jesus says next. “He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.” The Holy Spirit is tethered to Jesus. The Spirit doesn’t speak on His own authority. Nor does He speak His own thing. His things are the things of Jesus. And the things of Jesus are those of the Father, just as Christ says, “All things that the Father has are Mine.” Jesus says in John 6:38, “I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” Just as Christ does the will of the Father, so the Spirit speaks the words of Jesus. “Whatever He hears He will speak. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.” The Holy Spirit’s job is to speak to us about Jesus, to tell us the things that belong to Christ, so that we might know and believe Christ for our salvation. When someone hears a voice in their head or heart, if it’s not speaking the words of Jesus them, then it’s not the Holy Spirit, for the Spirit “will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.

3)         Just as the Spirit is tethered to Jesus so that He only speaks the things of Jesus, so also the Spirit is tethered to the written Word as well. After all, He’s the author of Scripture. St. Peter tells us that “no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21). Because the Holy Spirit inspired the Scriptures to be written by the prophets and apostles, it is truth because He is “the Spirit of Truth.” In John 17:17 Jesus prays to the Father, “Sanctify them by your truth. Your word is truth.” The Spirit of Truth inspires the word of truth which testifies of Christ Jesus, who says, “I am the truth” (John 14:6). The Holy Spirit no longer speaks directly to people as He did when He inspired the Apostles to write or as when He guided the Apostles in the book of Acts. To do so would be to undermine His work through the written Word of God. There is no need to seek divine knowledge outside the Scriptures, for the Spirit has said they are sufficient for us. St. John wrote at the end of his Gospel that “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31). St. Peter tells us that God “given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises” (2 Peter 1:3-4). The Spirt works through the Word of God alone and there He testifies of Jesus so that we might know Him all the better and have our God-given faith in Him strengthened.

4)         What does the Spirit reveal to us in the Scriptures? What does He do? Precisely what Jesus said He would do. Jesus says, “When He has come, 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.” Through the written Word of God and through the preached Word, which is based solely upon the written Word, the Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment.  “Of sin,” He says, “because they do not believe in me.” So the Holy Spirit convicts those who hear God’s law of their sin. The Law of God shows us God’s holy standard for us. The Law demands perfect, unwavering faith and trust in God at all times and in all afflictions. The Law demands not only good works to benefit our neighbor and chastity toward ourselves, but it demands that all works be done from a free and joyful heart. The Spirit shows us the depth of our sin through the Law, for we do not fear, love, and trust in God above all things. We do not love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves. We can’t do either because unbelief clings to us, for unbelief is the root of every sin. When we sin we are telling God that we don’t believe He will punish sin, or that we don’t believe His standard is an appropriate one for us. The Holy Spirit uses the Law to convict the world of sin so that we may see how truly depraved we are in God’s sight.

5)         The Holy Spirit, when He works through the Word of God, then convicts us of righteousness. Not our own righteousness and goodness, for the Law shows us that we have none! St. Paul says that “the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe” (Galatians 3:22). This the righteousness of faith, the righteousness that is credited to sinners when they repent of their sins and believe the Gospel that in Chris they have a God who is merciful and even reconciled to them. Just as Abraham was declared righteous on account of His faith, so the prophet Habakkuk says, “the righteous shall live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4). This is the righteousness of which the Holy Spirit convicts sinners who have been convicted of their sin and unrighteousness. He reveals to them, through the promises of God in Holy Scripture, that their sins are freely forgiven for the sake of Christ’s merits, that is, His righteous life along with His innocent, bitter sufferings and death for our sakes. This righteousness that Christ earns He gives to all who believe the Gospel, so that like our father, Abraham, we believe God and it is credited to us as righteousness, so that we are declared to be righteous with Christ’s righteousness, we are clothed with Christ’s spotless garments. By faith our sins are forgiven and they are no more.

6)         Because your sins are removed by faith in Christ’s atoning death, the Holy Spirit then convicts you of judgment. Not your judgment on the last day, for the Spirit inspires St. Paul to write, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). It’s not your judgement of which the Holy Spirit testifies to you. It is the judgment of your adversary and accuser, the devil. Jesus says the Spirit will convict the world “of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” Although our sins are forgiven, our adversary the devil still prowls around as a roaring lion. He roars against us, accusing us of our many sins and what we justly deserve on account of our many sins. But the Holy Spirit testifies to us, through the pages of Scripture, that “He’s judged, the deed is done, one little word can fell him.” If our adversary and accuser stands judged, there can be no condemnation against those who are in Christ Jesus by faith, those who trust His promise to be merciful to forgive their sins for His own sakes. Your adversary the devil can roar all he wants to. God’s not listening because you are righteous by faith in Christ. Satan can accuse you in your conscience all he wants. Faith only hears the absolving word of Jesus given through His written and preached Word. If your adversary is judgement and stands condemned, then you are free from your sins and their condemnation.

7)         This is the work of the Holy Spirit. He convicts you of your sins so that you do not remain in them and die in them, but that you repent of them. He then convicts you of the righteousness of Christ Jesus, a perfect righteousness that is yours by faith in Christ’s atoning death. He then convicts you of the judgement of your greatest enemy, so that your faith is fortified against all the devil’s temptations to sin and against all His attacks upon your conscience. The Holy Spirit’s job is to point you to the things of Jesus because the things of Jesus are all you need. You don’t need a guiding voice in your heart. You don’t need newer cooler things to believe. You need Christ crucified and risen for your salvation not just one day, but every day. Amen.

May the peace of God which passes all human understanding guard your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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