The Spirit’s Work
In the name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit.
St. John 16:14 – [Jesus, speaking of the Holy Spirit, says] “He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is mine and declare it to you.”
Dear fellow redeemed in Christ our Lord… Are you “Spirit-led?” Are you “Spirit-filled?” Can you “feel the Spirit?” Have you been “baptized with the Holy Spirit?” The Holy Spirit is a big deal. Flip through the TV channels and you’ll see all kinds of Holy Spirit stuff supposedly going on. But these words and phrases are often as misunderstood as the Holy Spirit Himself.
If you listen carefully to the Gospel readings in these Sundays of the Easter Season, you will hear our Lord Jesus speaking Words that will straighten us out when it comes to the Holy Spirit. Jesus says this about the Holy Spirit: “For He will not speak from Himself, but whatsoever He hears He will speak.” Therefore, Jesus teaches us exactly this: that the Holy Spirit is doing His job not when we hear about Him, but when we hear Christ preached and have the forgiveness of sins delivered.
The Holy Spirit is not something that flies around doing whiz-bang tricks or making people have “holy laughter,” or shake and fall on the ground after being whapped in the head, or bark like dogs. All these ridiculous things have been attributed to the Holy Spirit for many years. The Holy Spirit does one thing and one thing only, and He does it well: He directs us to Christ by the preaching of the Word; and through that Word and the Sacraments of the church the Holy Spirit delivers Christ’s forgiveness to us.
The Spirit’s work is simply this: to point us to Christ and to deliver Jesus to us. Therefore, the more you hear of Christ crucified and risen and delivered in the means of grace, the more you can be certain that the Holy Spirit is at work. On the other hand, the more you hear about the Spirit the more you can be sure that it is not the Holy Spirit who is preaching.
We learn this from Jesus’ own words, which the Holy Spirit has written down through the pen of the Evangelist St. John: “When that one comes, the Spirit of truth, He will lead you into all truth.” With these words Jesus teaches us that the Spirit is of the Truth and leads us into all Truth….begging the question, What is the Truth? The Truth, dear friends, is Jesus who Himself is the Way, the Truth and the Life. The Truth is that God does not count our sins against us, but counts instead for us the righteousness of His Son Jesus Christ. And He does this through the Word and in the Water and at the Supper.
Speaking through the apostles and prophets who wrote the Bible, the Spirit speaks and testifies of the truth, which is this: that “in Christ, God is reconciling the world to Himself.” (2 Cor. 5:19)
Now you need to beware! Many people say that no one church has ALL of the truth. Every denomination, even every religion has a bit of the truth, many say. “We’re all on the same path to God,” some say. Others say, “As long as we all believe in Jesus, other things like the Sacraments and doctrine don’t matter.” These are phrases that preachers like to throw around; sadly, these types of statements also come from those within the Lutheran confession of the faith. Away with such thinking! The Spirit has been sent by Jesus to lead us into ALL truth. Not some of the truth or a bit of it. ALL of it.
We must never allow ourselves to be duped into thinking that the Word of God is not sufficient, or that there must be something more. We have too many preachers and “church leaders” saying things like, “Well, we know what the Scriptures say, but we need to say and do something else.” Away with THAT thinking too!
What does Jesus say? To be sure, He doesn’t say that any one church body will lead us into all truth. He says the Spirit will lead us into ALL truth. You have the Holy Scriptures, brothers and sisters, and they are not hard to read. The words of Jesus are not hidden.
And He says this: “The Spirit will glorify Me because He will take of what is Mine and announce it to you.” Here Jesus’ words teach us that the Spirit’s job is to glorify Jesus by delivering what is Christ’s to us. Jesus is not glorified if the Spirit preaches about the Spirit. If the purpose of the Spirit is just to promote Himself, then He has not carried out His work.
How is Jesus glorified? He is glorified when what is His is given to you. Jesus, the Son of God has come in the flesh to carry the sins of the world upon Himself and to die for those sins. The Son took on human flesh, became man and was born of the Virgin so that He might place Himself under the Law and be condemned for your sins, thus releasing you from the curse of the Law. By taking your place, Christ has conquered your sins and He has conquered your death. By suffering and dying on the cross, Jesus declares that your salvation is finished. By rising from the dead, your Lord confirms that your sins have been paid for and your salvation is won.
It is Christ who owns the victory over sin and death. It is the Spirit who teaches us this through the testimony of the apostles who wrote down what they saw and heard. Any preaching that doesn’t preach THIS Christ – the Christ who is true God and true man, the Christ who suffered and died for our sins and rose again from the dead – any preaching that doesn’t announce THIS Jesus is not the preaching of the Holy Spirit. For the Spirit directs us and points us and brings us to THIS Jesus alone.
In v. 15 of our text, Jesus says, “All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.” With these words Jesus teaches us that we have no access to the Father apart from Himself, but that it is the Spirit who enlightens us and awakens us to faith in Christ. The Spirit does this through the means of Grace: Baptism, Absolution, Gospel and Supper. And the Spirit brings us to faith and keeps us in the faith ONLY by these means.
Whatever is done or believed apart from Baptism, Absolution, the preaching of the Gospel and the Supper of Jesus is NOT from the Holy Spirit. We rightly reject any and all talk of Christ and the Spirit that is not anchored in your Baptism, grounded in the preaching of the Gospel, connected to the spoken forgiveness of sins in Holy Absolution, or fortified with the body and blood of Jesus in the Sacrament of the Altar. This is for your comfort and it is for your confidence.
You don’t have to go looking into your heart. You don’t have to examine how things are going in your life or try to evaluate whether you’re changing for the better or improving in your conduct to know whether you have God’s favor. You have His favor in Christ. All that the Father has is Christ’s, and all that is Christ’s is given to you by the Holy Spirit in the means of grace, the gifts of the church. Where Baptism is preached, Absolution is administered, Christ crucified is preached and the Supper of our Lord’s body and blood are given, THERE you may be sure that the Spirit of Truth has led you into all Truth by delivering to you all that belongs to Christ.
The Holy Spirit does not glorify Himself but glorifies Christ. Because the Spirit does not glorify Himself, you need not glorify yourself. You can be all done with trying to look good to God and make yourself look holy to your neighbor. Rather, never mind YOU, but give all glory to Christ. Take what is His and deliver it to your neighbor.
Very often you will see the Holy Spirit used as kind of a “trump card” to justify someone’s actions. I can say and do almost whatever I want, and then say, “The Spirit led me to do it.” Such a faith and such a spirit are of that selfish religion which believes that my salvation is only for my sake and has nothing to do with my neighbor.
But the True Holy Spirit, the one who delivers Christ to us in the Word and binds Himself and us to the Holy Scriptures and Christ, this Holy Spirit teaches us to live not for our own sake but the sake of the people in our lives who need us. Therefore, brothers and sisters, don’t live the way that says, “I do what I want and I can just tell people the Spirit has led me to it.” Rather, learn from the Word of God what the Spirit is teaching you: and that is to repent of your sins, to turn away from yourself, and to rest in Christ and the certainty of His forgiveness while being busy and active to be a blessing in the life of the people around you.
Dear friends in Christ, there is a religion which has some spirit that tries to get you all hyped up and “on fire.” That spirit is all about speaking in tongues and falling on the floor and saying that whatever you think or do is OK because the Spirit led you to it. That religion is not the religion of the Holy Spirit but the Evil Spirit. The Holy Spirit whom Christ promises to send, He sends, not for His own sake, but for yours, that you might receive from Him all the gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation that Christ won for you.
That true Holy Spirit points you to Christ. That true Holy Spirit teaches you to live in your baptism, to confess your sins and to eat and drink the flesh and blood of Jesus. That true Holy Spirit teaches you not to glorify yourselves but humbly to serve your neighbor. And it is that same Spirit who waits until that Last Day to give you that one last gift of Christ you don’t yet have: the resurrection of your flesh from the dead.
From birth to death to rising again, it is the Spirit of Truth who leads you into all Truth by bringing you to Christ and keeping you in Christ until you are ushered into the life of the world to come.
In the name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit.