Pentecost Sermon| Rev. Rolf Preus| May 31, 2009| John 14, 25-27
These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. 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.
He is called the Comforter. He is our Advocate. He is our Counselor. He is the third person of the Holy Trinity. He is the Lord and giver of life. He comes into our lives and lives within us. He is the Holy Spirit.
In John 14, 25 Jesus says of the Holy Spirit: “whom the Father will send in My name.” In John 15, 26 Jesus says, “whom I shall send to you from the Father.” Jesus says that the Father will send the Spirit in Jesus’ name. Jesus also says that he will send the Spirit from the Father. There is no contradiction here. Both the Father and the Son send the Spirit. That’s because the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.
Sending the Holy Spirit to us is what the Father and the Son do in time. We experience it. But the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son is from eternity to eternity. It describes the relationship between the persons of the Holy Trinity. This is a wonderful mystery that we cannot fully understand, but we can set forth what the Holy Scriptures say about it.
The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit proceeds from or comes from the Father and the Son. It is clear that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. Jesus said so directly. In John 15, 26 he calls the Holy Spirit, “the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father.” When the Nicene Creed was adopted by the Church the original creed confessed: “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified.” It did not confess that the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father and the Son. It confessed that the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father.
But it did not deny that the Holy Spirit proceeded or came from the Son, either. As a matter of fact, the plain biblical teaching is that the Holy Spirit does proceed from the Father and the Son. The Church in the West added the words “and the Son” a few hundred years after the Nicene Creed was adopted by the Church. The Church in the East objected to the change in the Creed. This issue was so fiercely fought that it led to a schism between East and West that has not yet been healed. The pope at Rome and the patriarch of Constantinople broke fellowship with each other over this controversy.
While it may have been presumptuous of Rome to add the words “and the Son” to a Creed whose wording had already been established for hundreds of years, the addition did not go against the Scriptures. In Galatians 4, 6 we read:
And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!”
The Holy Sprit is the Spirit of God the Son. The Holy Spirit does not proceed from the Father only. He proceeds from the Father and the Son. We confess rightly when we confess in the Nicene Creed that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. Whether or not and under what circumstances a creed may be changed is open to debate. What is perfectly true for us Christians is that it is the Bible, not the Creed, which determines the truth that we confess. We do not confess the creeds because they are old and belong to a venerable tradition. We confess the creeds because they are drawn from and agree with the Holy Scriptures. The fact that the creeds are old and agree with ancient tradition means that God has graciously preserved in his Church the truth concerning himself. Thank God for that! But the Bible and the Bible alone is the authority behind the creeds. Not tradition, not history, not the church but the Bible alone.
Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the Comforter. How does he comfort us? He teaches us. Jesus says, “The Comforter . . . will teach you all things.” We are comforted by what is taught to us. It is divine instruction in the truth that brings us comfort and peace. He will teach you “all things” Jesus says. What are these “all things”? Does he teach us about sports and politics? About science and the arts? Does he teach us how to make money? What are the “all things” to which Jesus refers?
He explains. He says, the Holy Spirit “will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” What Jesus said is what the Holy Spirit teaches. Jesus and the Holy Spirit go together. You cannot separate them.
In the Acts of the Apostles St. Luke recounts for us the wonderful events of that first Pentecost when Jesus poured out his Spirit upon the infant Church. The apostles spoke in tongues. There were visions, dreams, and spectacular miracles. It was a wonderful thing to witness.
St. Luke recorded for us the events of that first Christian Pentecost. He wrote under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. His words are God’s words. We know therefore that what he recorded actually happened. Pentecost is history.
Those historical events happened for a reason. God confirmed the teaching of the apostles with wonderful signs. Just as Jesus cannot be separated from the Holy Spirit, neither Jesus nor the Holy Spirit can be separated from the apostolic words. The apostles were not just talking. Their preaching was from God. The truth to which they bore witness was confirmed by the Spirit of truth who validated their message by many signs and wonders performed at the hands of the apostles.
And they preached about Jesus. They preached the preaching about Jesus and they preached the preaching that came from Jesus. When considering whether any teaching is sound Christian teaching we must ask a simple question: What does it have to do with Jesus?
The modern Pentecostal movement (sometimes called the Charismatic movement) lays great stress on possessing the same gifts that God showered upon his Church on Pentecost. Was this to be repeated throughout the history of the Church? Did God promise to give these gifts until the end of the age?
We find no such promise in the New Testament. But we do find the teaching that the Holy Spirit taught to the apostles as he reminded them of what Jesus had said to them. And in that teaching we find peace.
The preoccupation with gifts that display our spiritual prowess is damaging to faith. Faith doesn’t focus in on itself. It looks to Christ and to Christ’s words. Faith doesn’t trust in something within us. It always trusts in what God says. The focus of faith is always Christ.
We experience the Holy Spirit. He fills us with love. He changes the way we feel and think and behave. He sanctifies us. But what he does within us in this life is never complete. As long as we remain living in these bodies we remain sinners with sinful desires. We cannot afford to base our faith on what lies within us. Our love is incomplete. God’s love for us is perfect. As St. John puts it: “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 1 John 4, 10
We do not find strength for Christian living by looking at our love for God. We must remain focused on the cross. There is his love for us.
This is a great danger of the Charismatic Movement. Folks are taught that there are two kinds of Christians: carnal Christians and spiritual Christians. The spiritual Christians are the ones who have allegedly been baptized in the Holy Ghost and have spoken in tongues as proof of that baptism. In the process, the true baptism that the Bible calls the washing of water by the word is set aside as of little benefit. Christians are led to believe that if they don’t have another baptism beyond what is disparagingly called “water baptism” they cannot live a victorious Christian life.
But if we want the Spirit’s power we must know where to look for it. It is not in some ecstatic experience that God has not promised. It is in the words of Christ. Those words bestow the peace that 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.”
This peace is so much more than a feeling of spiritual euphoria that is here today and gone tomorrow. This is a peace that stands firm and cannot be shaken. Jesus calls it “My peace.” He won it. He earned it. He suffered to obtain it.
Consider all of the conflict between individuals and nations. Think of all the wars waged. Consider the antipathy harbored in bitter hearts for years, generations, and centuries. Look at all of it in its sordid ugliness: wrangling, arguing, lying, fighting, and killing. This is not an occasional outbreak. This is a constant feature of life in this fallen world. And yes, this comes into our lives and we welcome it in to our shame and our deep regret.
This is the sin that Jesus bore. This is the sin for which he died. This is the sin whose penalty he suffered. This is the sin that he washed away by his innocent suffering and death. And with the removal of this bitterness and hatred and war comes that peace that the world cannot give. It belongs to Jesus. He alone can give it.
This peace comes from Christ’s obedience. It does not come from our obedience. Our obedience is never sufficient. Christ’s is fully sufficient. When we rely on our obedience we rely on lies that break apart under examination. This is the false peace of the world and all worldly religions.
But the peace of which Jesus speaks is permanent. That’s because it depends on God, not us. Faith and self-reliance are opposites. When we rely on ourselves we end up depending on the source of our troubles, anxiety, pain, and fear.
The peace that Jesus promises is peace with God. He is not angry with us. He does not accuse us. He does not threaten us. Jesus removed God’s anger against us by suffering and dying for us.
“Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” We have the peace of sin forgiven. Who can rob us of it? The Holy Spirit is almighty God. He speaks with the full authority of God. And he brings us the peace Jesus promises. Jesus tells us not to be troubled or afraid. This is not a command. It is an invitation and a promise. The Holy Spirit comforts us with it today and throughout our lives until we depart this world in peace according to God’s word. Amen