A quote attributed to the sainted Doctor Ronald Feuerhahn: “People are so concerned about HOW MUCH of the holy Spirit they or others have, they lose sight of the fact that whether it be fist or fingertips, you possess the Holy Spirit and that is all that matters.”
How much of the Spirit do you have?
Saint Peter quoted the Prophet Joel at some length. Most of the quote from Joel does not seem to have much or anything to do with Pentecost. In Peter’s sermon that follows our text, there are two parts of Joel with which he makes a definite connection. It is the first part and the last part: “I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,” and “It shall come to pass that whoever call on the Name of the Lord shall be saved.”
So first of all Peter says that the speaking in tongues on Pentecost was prophesied by Joel. Men and women of the small community of believers were speaking out the wonderful works of God. Everyone could understand them in their own languages.
That seems fairly obvious. But the implications drawn from Joel are huge. God was doing this to show that He was pouring out His Spirit, not just on these few people on Pentecost, but upon all flesh. By this we can draw the meaning that there would no longer be only one or a few prophets to tell the Word of God, but an abundance of preachers of God’s Word. We can draw the meaning that even those who are not ministers of the Gospel will have a fullness of Spirit on them. Not only those who preach, but those who believe the preachers’ Gospel will receive the Spirit.
Obviously, it is not that all flesh has the Spirit in the sense that every single human being now has faith. Nor do sons and daughters all prophesy in the same fashion, since in the New Testament women are still forbidden from the preaching office. Yet women also may faithfully speak the Word outside the office of pastor. They do not have less of the Spirit.
The Spirit given on Pentecost did not come once, never to come again. Where is He? Do we look for signs like tongues of fire or speaking in tongues? Of course, the Spirit might be around but there are no miraculous signs. Yet we know that the preaching of the Word is accompanied by the Spirit, always. The Spirit has bound Himself to the Word, so that where it is taught in its purity, there He is working, to convict, to forgive, to convert, to regenerate, to sustain, to protect.
We should picture, on any day when the Word is preached, that the flame of the Spirit is here. The burning visible sign may be absent, but the Spirit is not. And what is the visible sign compared to the salvation of souls? The Spirit is not so much concerned with making a show as He is about bringing His mercy and grace to mankind.
In Peter’s sermon that follows, He specifically connects Christ to the sign of the Spirit’s coming. He says, “Therefore [Christ] being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He [Christ] poured out this which you now see and hear.” That is, Christ the Lord is ascended and has sent out upon the disciples and upon His whole Church His Holy Spirit.
In Joel, it was God who sends the Spirit. Because Peter draws Joel together with Pentecost, we must conclude that Jesus is God. He is equal to the Father, sitting at His right hand in glory. This Man who is God and the Lord of His Church, has sent the Holy Spirit so that we can be filled with the same Spirit.
Are you filled with the Spirit? Yes, you are.
The last part of the quote from Joel is that “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Now what does this have to do with Pentecost? Well, since the Spirit is sent out, then the Word is being preached in abundance and with power, so that all who believe shall be saved.
But it does not exactly say that. Some may press the words, “call on the name” forcefully, as if a person must make an outward appeal to Christ in order to be saved. But that would leave out infants and the young who cannot outwardly call upon the Name of Christ.
As if to clear up this question, in his sermon Peter mentions the name of Christ just once. It is in the context of both the forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit. He says, “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. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”
We know that where there is the remission of sins, there is also life and salvation. We know that the washing of regeneration and renewal is also a way that the Holy Spirit is poured upon all flesh. We know that these things are also for children. We know that in Baptism the Name of God, including Christ, is put upon each Baptized soul. Or we might say that the Name of Christ is called upon the person.
So to put it all together, to be Baptized is to be saved by calling on the Name of the Lord, by the power of the Spirit.
Do you have the Spirit? Yes, you do.
You can know this. You don’t have to feel it. Feelings may deceive. But Christ has given us signs and places where He pours out His Spirit upon us from above. If we go to those places and receive the gifts through which the Spirit works, then we have the Spirit.
How much of the Spirit we have is not the question. The Spirit is Almighty God, full of mercy for sinners. If you have the tip of His pinkie, if there were such a thing, that would be enough for a thousand salvations.
You have the Spirit.
Now, if you reject the Spirit by rejecting the things He gives, that is a whole other question. If you have heard preaching but then you start pushing away the Word from your life, then you are pushing the Spirit away. If you have been Baptized but you do not care whether you live in repentance or whether you are part of the Church, then you are pushing the Spirit away.
But why would anyone do that? The Lord Jesus, sitting in glory with His Father, has sent down the Holy Ghost to give you all His gifts: eternal life, forgiveness of sins in the Blood of Christ, resurrection from the dead as Christ was raised, hope and joy and faith and perseverance. These are all free gifts that He pours out on you from the benefits of Christ the Son of God. Since He is such a fantastic Giver of gifts, why would we push Him away?
Some do, but let us not be them. Instead, we rejoice in the overwhelming glory of God’s salvation, that He has made us His dwelling place, His Temple in which the Spirit lives. None of this is deserved, so we rejoice that the Lord is so generous with us sinners.
In His Name, the one true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in whom we are Baptized. Amen.
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