Christ was risen! He is risen indeed!
The next feasts on the church calendar are the Ascension and Pentecost. In our text for today, the Lord prepares his disciples for his ascension and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on the church.
In John 15:26-27 Jesus had spoken of the Holy Spirit who would come and bear witness to Christ. Then in John 16:1-4 he tells the disciples why he has spoken of the Spirit, to prepare them for the coming tribulations.
Our text for today speaks of the Holy Spirit as a person of the Holy Trinity and the threefold work of him that continues to this day. In verses 5-7, Jesus emphasizes the fact that He must go to the Father who sent Him through His suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension. This news saddened the disciples. But, He says, unless He goes away, the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, will not come. The Spirit cannot and will not bear witness to Jesus' great redemption until he has completed it. Pentecost must be preceded by Calvary and the empty tomb.
The phrase, “going to the Father” is a summary of all the work of Christ, because He goes to the Father through his suffering, death and ascension. The raising of Jesus on the cross was proof to the world that Jesus was a guilty criminal. But when the world lifted Jesus up on the cross, the Father lifted him up to heaven as the demonstration of Jesus' innocence and the world's guilt. The resurrection and ascension is proof that the Father has put his stamp of approval on the teaching and works of Jesus.
In John 16:15, Jesus says "All that belongs to the Father is mine." Christ makes himself equal to the Father in all aspects and attributes to himself the majesty, the power and the strength that cannot be given to any creature, neither to a human being nor to an angel. These words, 'take mine', can have no other meaning than that the same Holy Spirit is also true God, without any distinction except that he has his essence both from the Father and from Christ.
The first part of the Holy Spirit's work is to reveal man's sin and call him to repentance. The greatest sin is refusing to believe in Jesus. All have sinned. But not everyone has believed in Jesus and what He did for humanity. Where the sin of unbelief prevails there is no hope. Where there is repentance from that sin there is nothing but hope.
Now, the Holy Spirit convicts the world of his sin by the preaching of the church. The preaching of the Word of God is not only the proclamation of the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ, but also the moral law in such a way that human beings will come to the knowledge of their sin.
The second part of the work of the Holy Spirit is to convince the world that their supposed righteousness is insufficient to achieve their justification. Most human beings believe that justice is a virtue by which we make ourselves acceptable to God. So, for the world, justice consists in doing works that earn us the necessary merit to be accepted in the kingdom of God. However, by the help of the Holy Spirit we understand that we are justified not by our own works, but by faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ in our place for our sins.
The Formula of Concord, Strong Statement, Article V, says that the Spirit convicts both believers and unbelievers of sin. Article VI also speaks of the rebuke that the Holy Spirit must administer to Christians as long as they still have flesh. Christians very often do not trust their Savior as they should. But the Holy Spirit, through the Gospel, comforts us with the righteousness of Christ. In Adam all men sinned and died. In Christ all men attained the righteousness of God by faith. If original sin is universal, how much more so is the universal righteousness of God in Christ!
For this reason, we speak of this work of the Holy Spirit as sanctification, which is nothing more than leading the believer to the Lord Christ, in order to receive such goods that we could not achieve by ourselves, as Martin Luther says in the Larger Catechism .
Third, verse 11, the Holy Spirit convinces us that the ruler of this world has been judged, defeated, and conquered. The greatest judgment of all is the defeat of Satan. Genesis 3:15 was truly fulfilled in Christ Jesus. In his death, resurrection and ascension, the prince of this world lost his power as accuser of the human series. Furthermore, as the Spirit carries out his work of convincing the world of sin and the righteousness of Jesus Christ through the church, so does the judgment of the devil and those who do not repent.
Therefore, in verses 12-15, Jesus promises that the Spirit will guide the church into all truth. Jesus says three times that the Holy Spirit will announce only the things of Christ, not his. The Holy Spirit does not speak for himself, apart from what Jesus tells him. Pentecostals act as if the Holy Spirit unilaterally gave them a special message completely apart from Christ. They quote 1 Corinthians 12. But even there, in verses 4-6, Paul speaks of the Spirit, the Lord, and God. The Spirit never works apart from the truth that Jesus gives him. And He always operates through the written Word and the sacraments. The Scriptures are never addressed only to a select group of religious enthusiasts and there is no revelation from the Holy Spirit that does not agree with the standard works of Scripture.
The Holy Spirit is not a "fortune teller." The Holy Spirit will not come to reveal new doctrines to us, such as the date of the end of the world. It predicts enough about the fierce struggle between the kingdom of Satan and the Kingdom of God in the New Testament for the believer to be warned and comforted in the midst of his great sorrows. That promise to lead the church into all truth was fulfilled in the preaching of the Apostles and the writing of the New Testament. Also, the three great creeds, Apostolic, Nicene and Athanasian, are products of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit cleansed the church of his false teachings in the 16th century Reformation.
So, we confess in the third article of the Apostles' Creed that we believe in the Holy Spirit, a holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Furthermore, the Shorter Catechism explains, “I believe that not by my own reason, nor by my own strength am I able to believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or to come to him; but the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, has enlightened me with his gifts and has sanctified and preserved me in the true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies all Christendom on earth . ” May the peace that surpasses all understanding be with each of you. Amen.
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