Pentecost/Confirmation| Rev. Rolf D. Preus| May 15, 2005
“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
This morning I will ask the confirmands if they believe that the teaching of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, drawn from the Bible, as they have learned to know it from Luther’s Small Catechism is the true and correct one. They will say yes. I will also ask them if they intend to continue steadfast in this confession and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it. They will say, “I do so intend with the help of God.” These young people will not be confessing merely a generic one size fits all brand of Christianity as their faith. They will be confessing specifically that what they have memorized from Luther’s Small Catechism is the teaching of Christ that the Holy Spirit taught to the apostles and that the apostles wrote down in the New Testament. The teaching of the Catechism is the teaching of Christ and His Church.
Our church does not claim to have its own unique doctrine. We claim to have the same teaching that our Lord Jesus entrusted once and for all to the apostles. If it weren’t Christ’s teaching it would be wrong for the pastor to ask the confirmands to pledge themselves to it and be willing to die before giving it up. These young people will not be promising their devotion to a sectarian creed, but to the truth by which Christ has set them free from their sins and has granted them eternal life. The Comforter is the Holy Spirit. He is the Spirit of truth. He comforts us by means of teaching us the truth. He teaches us the teaching of Christ, who is the way, and the truth, and the life.
Doctrine is usually thought of as something constructed by men. We learn in school about various social and political doctrines. Remember the Monroe Doctrine? You don’t? Don’t worry. It’s doesn’t matter. It’s not that important. Human doctrine never is. It’s interesting, but you can live without it.
But God’s doctrine is different. God doesn’t teach us things just to satisfy our curiosity. In fact, many things about which people are naturally curious are never even addressed in God’s word. The teaching that comes from God is always centered in Jesus Christ. The Father sends the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ name. The Holy Spirit comes talking about Jesus. If it’s not Jesus that the spirit is talking about he’s not the Holy Spirit. There are plenty of false spirits out there and they don’t teach Jesus’ doctrine but their own. The Comforter, the Holy Spirit, reminds the apostles of what Jesus taught them.
Jesus’ words recorded in our text were first addressed to the eleven apostles. Jesus promised them that the Holy Spirit would teach them all things. Jesus keeps His promises. The Holy Spirit taught the apostles all the things that Jesus wanted taught. The Holy Spirit reminded them of everything Jesus had taught them. They wrote it down. We have that teaching of Christ in the Holy Scriptures. This is why we treasure the Bible so much.
If you want to know about Jesus read the Bible. If you read the Bible, expect to learn about Jesus. If you read the Bible and don’t learn about Jesus you are reading with blinders on. Only a sinner who knows his need for a Savior can understand the Bible because the Bible was written to lead us to Jesus our Savior. And if you want to find Jesus but neglect, refuse, or deny the teaching of the Bible you won’t find the real Jesus. You will find a fake Jesus. The true Jesus is the biblical Jesus. The reason God caused the Bible to be written was so that we would know Jesus by knowing His teaching. All false teaching has two features. First, it disagrees with the Bible. Second, it leads us away from Jesus. Jesus and the Bible go together.
Jesus and the Holy Spirit go together. When Jesus received His human nature from His mother, Mary, He was conceived by the Holy Spirit. When Jesus was baptized, the Father spoke from heaven and the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus like a dove. Just before Jesus ascended into heaven, He promised to send the Holy Spirit. On Pentecost, Jesus fulfilled the promise. The Holy Spirit filled the apostles and gave them the ability to preach God’s word in languages they had never learned.
Pentecost means fifty days. It was an Old Testament festival that commemorated the giving of the law on Mt. Sinai fifty days after the original Passover. In the New Testament Pentecost commemorates the outpouring of the Holy Spirit fifty days after Jesus rose from the dead. The Passover was fulfilled in Christ’s crucifixion because Jesus is the Passover Lamb who has taken away our sin. The Exodus that freed Israel from slavery in Egypt was fulfilled in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead because His resurrection sets us free from the bondage of our sins. The Law of Moses has been fulfilled in Christ.
The law that promises us grace and every blessing if we obey it also threatens to punish all who transgress it. That threat brings no peace. It exposes every sin we think, say, and do. The law accuses us, tries us, and condemns us. In Deuteronomy chapter 27 Moses listed sin after sin that called God’s curse on those who committed it and after every curse the people were commanded to say, “Amen!” The law doesn’t judge us unfairly, the way we judge one another. It is perfectly fair, just, and right when it condemns us all as sinners. And all we can do is to say “Amen,” because we know the law judges correctly. Do you think God is wrong to forbid hatred, lust, envy, greed, and every other kind of evil desire? Is God wrong when He requires us to conform our lives to the Ten Commandments? What is wrong with the Ten Commandments? There’s nothing wrong with God’s law. There’s something wrong with us.
This is why every effort to find peace with God by obeying His law will fail. It makes sense to believe that we will find true peace with God by doing those things that God wants us to do. It is reasonable to assume that genuine spiritual peace will come to us only after we have done what makes for peace. It is reasonable to believe that the way to peace with God is paved with our sincere efforts to do our part in bringing that peace about. But what is reasonable is wrong. We cannot make peace with God by anything we do. We need the peace that Jesus gives. When the Holy Spirit teaches us the teaching of Jesus He brings us the peace of Jesus. This is a peace that we cannot know by our own reason or strength. It comes only by the Holy Spirit.
As you know, Jesus was promised in the Old Testament. Abraham called Jesus “Shiloh”, the man of peace. Isaiah called Jesus the Prince of Peace. After promising the apostles that the Holy Spirit would teach them everything, Jesus said, “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 this world is established by imposing the law. The law keeps an outward peace by making potential lawbreakers afraid to break the law. The law doesn’t make bad people into good people. It only keeps bad people in line. The peace that Jesus brings does make bad people into good people. It doesn’t depend on the power of force. It depends on the power of Jesus’ holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death. There is where Jesus made peace between sinners and the holy God. Jesus did more than promise a peaceful feeling for those who receive His teaching. Shortly after giving this promise to the disciples He went to the cross where He offered up to God His spotless obedience, His moral purity, His pure love, and His holy suffering. This was our offering to God because Jesus offered Himself as our representative. By that precious exchange, where Jesus gave up His life for us all, He turned away God’s anger from us and established permanent peace between God and us.
This is the peace that the Holy Spirit gives to us and confirms in our hearts. This is the peace that passes all understanding. It is the peace of sin forgiven and of knowing that God regards you as fully righteous and innocent because He has reckoned to you the righteousness of Jesus Christ. You know this and you believe this because the Holy Spirit has taught you this. He has established in your heart true faith.
Outward peace is a gift of God. We should thank God for the privilege of living in a free country where we can enjoy the peace established by law and custom. But to have a conscience set at peace is far greater. We can endure war, want, and violence of every description and still be at peace with God. This is what Jesus gives us by the teaching of the Holy Spirit. “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” Jesus has taken away all reason to be afraid of anything at all. If your Father in heaven is at peace with you then you have everlasting peace because God is both willing and able to keep you in the true faith you confess this morning.
The Apostle Peter concluded his sermon on the first Christian Pentecost by saying, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:36) The people who heard his sermon were cut to the heart and asked Peter and the other apostles, “Men and brothers, what shall we do?” Peter answered by saying, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)
You have been baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. You have received the gift of the Holy Spirit. He has taught you the teaching of Christ that brings you peace. Today you are promising that you will, by God’s grace, keep confessing the truth the Holy Spirit has taught you. It is more precious than anything else in your life. Money, popularity, physical strength, talent, and whatever other earthly blessings you value can and will be lost. But in your baptism God gave you forgiveness of sins, He delivered you from death and the devil, and He gave you eternal salvation. God’s not fickle. He doesn’t change His mind. He won’t back away from the promises He gave you in your baptism because when He makes a promise He stays with it. I can’t convince you of this, but the Holy Spirit can and He will and this is why you will always need to be taught by the Holy Spirit. His teaching defies the wisdom of this world and keeps you in the truth faith. It comforts you in every sorrow. It fills your life with peace. It confirms you in the grace of your baptism for the rest of your life and leads you to heaven on the day you die. It is the one thing in life you need, so be stubborn about receiving it. Christ Himself promises you the crown of life. So hold on to His words that you have learned and hold on for life.