|Pentecost Sermon| Rolf D. Preus| June 4, 2017| St. John 14:26-27|
But the Comforter, 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. Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:26-27
Have you noticed that when you give gifts to little children, they often show more interest in the wrapping paper than they do in the gifts? My son Paul came up with a great idea for a birthday present. When his son Anders turned one, he gave him a box of tissue paper as a gift. Anders loved it! He took out one piece of tissue after another, thoroughly enjoying himself, unwrapping a nonexistent present!
Anders’ fascination with outward wrappings illustrates how many Christians deal with Pentecost. They ignore the true gift of this day, distracted by the outward trappings of that first Christian Pentecost.
They were impressive! Tongues of fire descending on the heads of the apostles, signifying that they were speaking words provided by the Holy Spirit himself. The apostles received the ability from God to speak in languages from all over the Roman Empire, languages they had never learned. This was the wrapping paper, so to speak, of the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit and he kept his promise. He told his disciples not to leave Jerusalem until they had received the gift of the Holy Spirit. When the Father, in Jesus’ name, poured out the Holy Spirit upon the infant church, the apostles were empowered to teach the gospel to the world.
Many Christians are like the little child who cares more about the wrapping paper than the present inside. They claim that they, too, can speak in tongues. They, too, receive special revelations from God. They, too, can do the miracles that Jesus and his apostles did two thousand years ago. They are determined to reproduce today the same sorts of special signs that God provided in the early church.
God provided those signs to confirm the truth of the apostolic teaching. He never promised that they would continue throughout the history of the church. And they didn’t. The signs faded away as the apostles left the scene. But the apostolic teaching remained. Long after the gift of tongues had ceased – as St. Paul said they would in 1 Corinthians 13:8, where he said, “Tongues shall cease” – the Holy Spirit continued to teach the church and by teaching them bringing to them the peace that comes from Jesus.
Churches that call themselves Pentecostal and claim to receive the same supernatural gifts that God showered upon the infant church are like the little children who are distracted from the real gift by the outward wrappings. The same churches that claim that God gives us today the gift of speaking in tongues deny that God gives us the Holy Spirit through the washing of Holy Baptism. They claim to be Pentecostal, but they teach contrary to the teaching that the Spirit of Pentecost teaches. If you want to find the Holy Spirit, don’t look for outward signs that have long ago passed away. If you want to find the Holy Spirit and the comfort and truth he provides, look to the pure teaching of the gospel and the right administration of the sacraments.
Pure doctrine provides pure peace. Jesus said,
But the Comforter, 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.
Did you notice the word “teach”? The Comforter will teach you. That’s what Jesus said. The Father will send him in Jesus’ name. To do what? To impress you with all sorts of special signs so that you can celebrate your ability to speak in tongues, receive revelations, see visions, heal the sick, and do other magnificent works? No, but to teach you. To teach you everything Jesus taught you. The work of the Holy Spirit is teaching. The gift he gives is the pure doctrine.
Oh, how despised is this gift! When you have a loving, sensitive, devout, and faithful spouse – that is great gift! When you have a close, trustworthy, loyal family – that is a great gift! When your body works the way it is supposed to and you can hear distinctly, see clearly, eat, drink, and enjoy life with reasonably good health – that’s a gift. To live in a country that enjoys ordered liberty, where your earthly possessions are safe and you can walk the streets without having to look over your shoulder – that’s a gift. But a faithful and loving spouse and family, good health, civil liberty, and other gifts for which we thank God are not as precious as the gift we receive from the Holy Spirit as he teaches us the pure and wholesome doctrine.
Human doctrines are forgettable. Divine doctrine is eternal. God’s teaching is not like the teachings of men. Politicians declare their doctrines with great solemnity. Remember the Monroe Doctrine from your history classes? No? Well, that’s just as well because Fidel Castro pretty much rendered it a dead letter. And scientific doctrine! When I was in school, the world was two billion years old. Now it’s more than four billion years old! How old does that make me? Self-important, cock-sure, arrogant, and self-assured, the intelligentsia tells us what it’s all about and we learn how wrong they habitually are.
But not God! His doctrine doesn’t change. And it doesn’t pertain to matters of no consequence. The Comforter, the Holy Spirit, teaches us about Jesus. He shows us our sins, not to frighten us or destroy us, but to prepare us to be taught the truth about Jesus. For his sake our sins are forgiven, we are delivered from slavery to sin and the fear the death, we are enlightened with the wisdom that comes from God, our bodies and souls are saved from hell, and we are headed to the glories of eternal bliss in heaven. This is doctrine, teaching. It is from the Holy Spirit. Every spiritual gift that God gives, he gives us by teaching us.
The pure doctrine is denigrated by know-it-alls who claim that we cannot know what the pure doctrine is, that it is sinful pride to think that you know it, that we can live without it, and that to express concern about pure Christian doctrine is like quibbling about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. But those who despise the pure doctrine, either by denying that one can know it, or by dismissing its importance, are not just ignorant of the truth. They are blind. They are fools. They don’t know and they don’t know that they don’t know.
We can remain ignorant of the ever-changing teaching of men and get by in life. But to live without the teaching of the Holy Spirit is to live a life without God. That is a meaningless life. So much teaching that is taught is useless. The teaching of the Comforter is essential. Listen once more to what Jesus promises:
Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
The peace of the world and the peace that Jesus gives are entirely different things. It is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, the Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son, the Spirit that the Father sends in the Son’s name, that teaches us the pure and saving doctrine by which Christ’s peace becomes ours.
The world’s peace is based on material abundance. If you don’t have it, you are anxious, afraid, and worried about your future. The world’s peace is yours as you get more of what the world treasures, whether it is money, position, honor, power, or various fleeting pleasures. When you have these things you have peace. When these things are gone you suffer anxiety, want, and fear.
The peace that Jesus gives is based on spiritual abundance. Whether you experience wealth or poverty, high position or low, honor or disgrace, power or weakness, good health or bad, have no bearing on it. The peace that Jesus gives is grounded in him, his obedience, his suffering, his resurrection from the dead, and his session at the right hand of the Father where he intercedes for us.
The peace of the world is fleeting. It is here today and gone tomorrow. You lose your job, your health declines, a loved one dies, and you lose your peace. Jesus says, “Not as the world gives do I give to you.” St. Paul writes:
For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. (Colossians 1:19-20)
The peace Jesus established on the cross is the peace that Jesus gives us today. The Holy Spirit teaches us as Jesus feeds us with his body and blood. He teaches us that we could never make satisfaction for our own sins. If we could, why would Jesus give up his own body for us on the cross? Why would he shed his blood to take our sins away? The Holy Spirit teaches us that the peace Jesus promised us is ours. Jesus would not give us to eat his body and to drink his blood if he had not offered that holy body up to God for us, if he had not shed that blood for us. And the Holy Spirit teaches us that if Jesus gave up his body for us and shed his blood for us and gives us to eat and to drink this body and blood, this means that our sins are removed from us as far as the east is from the west.
Listen, Christian! This is not true because your heart tells you it is! Your heart is a liar. He’ll believe anything that makes him feel good. This doctrine is true because the Holy Spirit teaches it in the Bible. That’s the way it is with all divine doctrine. Do not listen to those who sneer at the pure divine doctrine and claim it is merely the opinions of men. God’s word is true and clear. God had it written down because he wants to teach you. The teaching he wants to teach you is centered in Christ. The peace he gives you is your birthright as a Christian.
Of the twelve original apostles who represented Christ and Christ’s church on that first Pentecost, only one died a natural death. The others were killed for their testimony. The blood of the martyrs confirmed the teaching of the Holy Spirit about the blood of Jesus, their Savior and ours. Pentecost is Jesus giving his Holy Spirit to his holy church. The early Christian martyrs died before compromising the pure teaching of the Holy Spirit. They understood the treasure God had given them. We belong to their company. We have the same Spirit, the same teaching, the same Christ, the same Father, the same baptism, the same Supper, and the same salvation.