Cantate Sunday Sermon
May 19, 2017
The Spirit of Christ is the Spirit of Truth
"But now I go away to Him who sent Me, and none of you asks Me, 'Where are You going?' But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Comforter will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And 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. I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for 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. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you." St. John 16:5‑15
Our Christian faith is both particular and universal. It is particular. Jesus was born of a particular woman – the Virgin Mary – in a particular place – Bethlehem – at a particular time – 2019 years ago. This particular man is the Lord God in the flesh. Nobody but this particular man can rescue us from sin, make us genuinely righteous before God, and deliver us from judgment. There is only one Lord Jesus.
His disciples loved him. He had been with them for three years. He had taught them God’s word. They knew Jesus was leaving. They didn’t want him to leave. They could see him and touch him and hear his voice. Now he was going away. No wonder they were full of sorrow.
But he had to go away and send the Comforter. He had to go to the cross and die. He had to rise from the dead. He had to ascend into heaven. He had to do these things not for himself, but for the world. The particular Jesus would not be bound to that time and place. He would be the Savior of the world.
For the world to be saved Jesus had to become the Savior. Jesus saves the world by his obedient life, his innocent death, and his resurrection from the dead. This is how the world is saved.
The world is saved but the world is not saved. Christ, the Savior, has rescued all sinners from sin. “It is finished,” he said on the cross. He has achieved for all sinners the righteousness they need to stand before God. He has delivered the world from judgment. He has done all this. But the world remains blind in their sin, ignorant of true righteousness, and under the judgment of God.
This is why Jesus had to leave our sight and send the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Comforter who proceeds from the Father and the Son. The Comforter comforts us by taking what belongs to the Son and giving it to us. What belongs to the Son belongs to the Father. The Son reveals the Father. The Son sends the Spirit. The Spirit glorifies him who sent him. He glorifies Christ.
The Holy Spirit glorifies Christ. He is not the instigator of religious fanaticism. Fanaticism, or enthusiasm as it is called, is to rely on one’s own religious imagination instead of on the clear words of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit doesn’t advertise the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “He will glorify me.” The Holy Spirit takes what is Christ’s and he gives it to us.
Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would guide the apostles into all truth. He did. They wrote that truth down in the New Testament. The Holy Scriptures are the words of the Holy Spirit who reveals Christ to us. As the Holy Spirit reveals Christ to us he also convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment.
The Spirit of Christ is the Spirit of truth. If you want to know the truth about sin, righteousness, and judgment you must listen to the instruction of the Holy Spirit. You must listen to what he says about Christ. Don’t consult the world. The world is wrong about religious matters. It trusts in its own wisdom. Its religion is popular opinion. It is the consensus of religious people who listen to other religious people. The world is wrong. The Holy Spirit shows how the world is wrong about sin, about righteousness and about judgment.
The Holy Spirit shows how the world is wrong about sin. The world has a variety of views of sin, all of them wrong. Some think of sin as a weakness that the proper therapy can help us to overcome. Others think of sin as ignorance that proper teaching can correct People generally think they are able to make up for their own sin and propose a number of ways of doing so. If there are particularly bad sins that call for severe punishment, well, they don’t think they commit such sins.
Sin blinds sinners to its nature and power. It’s not just a weakness. It’s more than a sickness. It is an inner spiritual blindness that keeps the world in darkness. It’s spiritual deadness. Sin makes people incapable of loving God. Indeed, sin is hatred of God.
The Holy Spirit exposes the depth of sin. He shows that hatred is murder, lust is adultery, covetousness is theft, and whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. Nowadays we have hate crimes. Is there another kind? All crimes and all sins come from hate. The whole world is trapped in sin. Only Jesus, who has obeyed, only Jesus, who has suffered; only Jesus, who has fulfilled the law and died for all sinners; only Jesus can take away sin. And he has! Yes, he has!
But the world does not believe in Jesus. The world would rather cover up sin than confess it. Only Jesus takes away sin. Faith is the only way to receive Jesus and the forgiveness of sins. Only a sinner who needs to be forgiven can believe in Jesus. Those who do not believe in Jesus know nothing about sin. They don’t know the most important thing about sin: Jesus has taken it away. In Jesus there is full forgiveness of all our sins.
This is what the Holy Spirit convinces the world of. The world doesn’t know what sin is because the world does not know who Jesus is. The greatest sin is the sin of denying Christ, spurning his grace, and relying on something or someone else for salvation than Jesus.
The Holy Spirit shows how the world is wrong about righteousness. Christ obtained righteousness for the world by going to the Father. His path to the Father was through his perfect obedience to God’s law and his bearing the sin of the world on the cross. His obedience and his suffering achieve what the world claims to have but does not have: righteousness.
The world boasts of its good deeds. She glories in her obedience to her own rules. The true demands of God’s law require love that she does not know or have, but since she is set on justifying herself, she dismisses the requirements of God’s law of love without even knowing she has done so. Look at the Pharisee in the story Jesus told about the Pharisee and the tax collector who went to the temple to pray. He boasted of his superiority over the sinful tax collector, but the tax collector, the sinner who confessed to be the sinner, left the temple justified by God. The Pharisee knew nothing of true righteousness. The righteousness that avails before God; that God accepts as sufficient grounds to declare you righteous; is not what you have done, tried to do, or promised to do. The only righteousness that avails before God is the righteousness of Jesus.
The world is wrong about righteousness. The world wants a visible display of works that impress impressionable people. God is not impressed. The Holy Spirit shows that the world is wrong and that the righteousness of Christ, a righteousness we cannot see and have only through faith in Christ is the only righteousness that can make us righteous in God’s sight.
The Holy Spirit shows how the world is wrong about judgment. Our generation is especially blind on this topic. The world in which we live is under the control of their ruler. His rule is illegitimate – a lie – but they submit with craven obedience. It’s called political correctness. In fact, it’s spiritual slavery.
They are enslaved to the liar and father of lies who is already judged. When Christ bruised his heel on Calvary, bearing in his body the sin of the whole human race, he crushed the head of the accuser of the whole human race. Now that the devil cannot accuse us of real sins because Christ has washed away our sins by his blood, he accuses us of fake sins: sins that are not sins. He, whose lies and false promises have been judged by Christ’s faithfulness, obedience, and innocent suffering, tries to control us with more lies.
He’s judged, but he attacks. He attacks God’s word of law. He attacks God’s word of gospel. He is judged. His attacks are lies. His followers call us haters because we believe and teach the demands of God’s holy law. He twists the truth, claiming that hate is love and love is hate. Fornication and adultery are not love. Sodomy is not love. Homosexual “love” is not love. It’s selfishness on steroids. Legal killing of unborn children is not love. It’s hatred. In our day, the devil’s assault on God the Father is focused especially on how our Father in heaven chooses to bring children into this world and care for them. This is why we hear defenses – even from those claiming to be Christians – of no fault divorce, sex outside of marriage, homosexuality, and legal abortion. These are all assaults against God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth. Nobody every sodomized another out of love. Nobody defiled the marriage bed out of love. Nobody killed an unborn child out of love. The author of such evil assaults against our Father in heaven is the devil himself. He’s been judged, and still has the chutzpah to pretend to speak for God himself!
He is judged, yet he attacks God’s word of gospel. Whenever the preacher preaches about the blood and righteousness of Jesus, the devil is right there whispering in your ear to pay no attention. You’ve heard that before. It doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t really apply to your life. You need something richer, more filling, more spiritually satisfying than the message of Christ’s holy life and sacrificial death.
Oh no, you don’t! There is nothing richer, more spiritually nourishing or satisfying to the soul than the gospel message that God forgives us all our sins freely, by his grace, for Christ’s sake. The ruler of this world, who has no legitimate authority over anybody or anything, hates this gospel. He knows it sets us free. It comforts us in our weaknesses. It takes away our doubts. It raises us up to heaven! The Spirit of truth has guided us, through the word of truth revealed to the apostles, into the truth of the gospel of Christ. Through faith in him we have received forgiveness of all our sin. His righteousness covers us and makes us righteous before God. He has judged the devil, silenced his lies, and delivered us from his power.
The world has its opinions about sin, righteousness, and judgment. The world is wrong. We have the Spirit of truth. He is the Spirit of Christ. Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.
Rolf D. Preus