Sermon • Submitted • Presented • 10:54
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During the seven weeks of Easter, our focus on the completed work of Christ and His Resurrection gives way to a focus on the Holy Spirit and His ongoing work in the Church. Of course we can’t completely isolate the things that God does to one Person of the Trinity only, yet it is proper to ascribe the work of creation to God the Father. We confess this in the Creed: “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.” This work of creation is done. God the Father began his work on a Sunday and finished everything in six days, resting on the seventh.
Then we can speak of the work of God the Son. He too finished everything on the sixth day, on Good Friday, saying from His cross, “It is finished.” God the Father created perfect man on the sixth day. God the Son redeemed fallen man on the sixth day. Then Jesus, who only does what His Father does, also rested on the seventh day.
Finally, there is the work of God the Holy Spirit. He too began his work on a Sunday, on the day of Pentecost. But although Creation is finished, and Redemption is finished, the work of the third Person of the Holy Trinity continues today. This is why Jesus said, “It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you” (Jn 16:7). Jesus’ work on earth was done, but the work of the Holy Spirit was about to begin. So Jesus prepared his disciples for His departure. “Now I am going to Him who sent Me… but when the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth” (Jn 16:5a, 13a).
These things happened exactly as Jesus said. He ascended to His Father, and ten days later the Holy Spirit descended upon the Church. The work of Creation is done, Redemption is done, but the work of Sanctification that began on the day of Pentecost will continue until our Lord’s return. Even though the Holy Spirit is chiefly the one at work among the church today, He has sometimes been called “the forgotten Person of the Trinity.” Why’s that? Well, perhaps because it is hard to picture Him and His work. We know what Jesus looks like—a man—and we can easily think of Him doing His work on the cross. But what does the Holy Spirit look like? And how to we picture what he does?
Jesus says, “The Holy Spirit will guide you into all truth.” This is incredibly important work. Remember, the devil messed everything up with lies. Only the truth can deliver us, but it’s hard to show that happening on the cover of the bulletin or on a coloring page for Sunday school. People might think that the Holy Spirit has been forgotten, not because He’s unimportant, but because we simply have trouble picture who He is and what He does. Many people wear a crucifix around their neck, but I’ve never seen a Holy Spirit necklace, have you?
There’s a second reason that we sometimes have trouble thinking of the Holy Spirit and His work. Jesus says, “When the Holy Spirit comes, He will convict the world concerning sin” (Jn 16:8). The first thing the Holy Spirit does when He comes is show us our sin. Perhaps you can understand why we’re not super excited about this. Nobody, least of all the sinful nature, wants to have his sins pointed out. Being convicted is never enjoyable. Being pricked by your conscience is never fun. It hurts. It makes us squirm. And yet it is necessary for salvation. When the Holy Spirit is at work within our hearts, leading us into all truth, beginning with the truth that we are desperate sinners who need Jesus, this message doesn’t make us want to dance for joy. The Holy Spirit’s work is a bit like that of a doctor. First he must tell you that you have cancer. Then he must get his scalpel and cut the cancer out. Nobody enjoys that while it’s happening, but we know that it’s necessary. Without the doctor’s care, we will die. And without the work of the Holy Spirit, our faith will shrivel and die, and we will be consumed from the inside by the cancer of sin.
There is a third and final reason that the Holy Spirit doesn’t seem to get a lot of press, so to speak, within the church. He doesn’t want our attention. Jesus says, “When the Holy Spirit comes, He will not speak of Himself… but He will glorify me” (Jn 16:14a). The Holy Spirit is not here to get us to look to Him. His work on earth is to direct our eyes to Jesus, and his finished work on the cross. The Holy Spirit doesn’t speak about Himself. He speaks about Jesus. He takes the words of Jesus and teaches them to the Church. There are many churches that love to speak on and on about the Holy Spirit. Ironically, they often say, “We don’t need words from a book. We’re not bound to the Bible. We are led by the Holy Spirit! He is showing us new things, new teachings, new words!” They may indeed be following a spirit, but it is not the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit does exactly the opposite of that. He does not speak new words. He doesn’t speak his own words. He takes what belongs to Jesus—the truth of Jesus, the words of Jesus—and He declares these things to you. He does not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears from Jesus He speaks to the Church (Jn 17:13).
How do you know that a church has the Holy Spirit? Is it because they are always talking and singing about Him? No, that’s not the evidence of the Holy Spirit. Remember in the biblical languages that the words “spirit” “wind” and “breath” are all the same. You can’t see a spirit any more than you can see wind. But Jesus said that even though you can’t see the wind blowing, you can hear its sound. So, what does the Holy Spirit sound like? How can you tell when He is at work? Wherever the words of Jesus are being taught, there is the evidence of the Holy Spirit at work within the hearts of believers. It might be hard to draw a picture of it. It may not seem very exciting, in fact, it might actually feel really boring. The Holy Spirit doesn’t work in a flashy way. But his work is essential for our salvation. Truly it is to our advantage that Jesus departed and sent the Holy Spirit. Unless He teaches us the true words of Jesus, we will remain lost in error. Unless He convicts us of sin, we will never know our desperate need for a Savior. Unless he kindles and sustains saving faith in our hearts, we will be eternally lost.
But we are not lost. Jesus did not abandon us. Instead, he sent us the Paraclete, the Comforter, the Helper, the Great Advocate. Here in the Christian Church, the Holy Spirit keeps us with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. Where the Holy Spirit is at work, that is, where the words of Jesus at taught, there we will also find the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. May He continue this good and gracious work until the Day of our Lord’s return. Amen.