The Work of the Holy Spirit

Sermon for the Day of Pentecost based on Jn. 15:26-27, 16:4b-15 (Ezek. 37:1-14, Act. 2:1-21)

Dear vessels into whom the Holy Spirit has been poured: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Today is an important church festival celebrating the sending of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. Jesus ascended to heaven and sent the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, as He promised on the fiftieth day after His resurrection from the dead. And the Holy Spirit continues to do today what He has done since Pentecost – He convicts and He bears witness about Jesus.

The Holy Spirit has promised to work through the Word and Sacraments. We have no promise that He will work in any other way. We have no promise that He will work through miraculous signs although He has worked in this way. We have no promise that the Holy Spirit will work through dreams although He has also worked this way. We also have no promise that He will work in any way other than through the Word and Sacraments – whether through feelings, nature, unexplainable events, or strange coincidences. He has only promised to work through the Word of God and the Sacraments which are the visible Word.

And what is it that the Holy Spirit does? First, the Holy Spirit convicts. Our text says that He convicts the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment. The Holy Spirit convicts the impenitent sinner concerning his sins because he doesn’t believe in Jesus (v. 9). The Holy Spirit finds the impenitent, those who will not turn away from their sins, to be guilty because they are unbelievers. The Holy Spirit declares the impenitent to be guilty of sin, thus convicting them.

The Holy Spirit also convicts the world concerning righteousness. He convicts unbelievers concerning their own righteousness. Those who do not believe in Jesus believe that they can by their own reason or strength save themselves. They imagine that they can do good that pleases God. They imagine that although they are a skeleton in a valley of dry bones, they can raise themselves up and live. The Holy Spirit convicts them concerning righteousness because they have rejected the righteousness of Christ. They reject the Righteous One, so they are found guilty of unrighteousness. They are thus convicted concerning righteousness.

Finally, the unbeliever is convicted concerning judgment. The unbeliever is convicted concerning judgment because the ruler of the world is judged. Everything that the unbeliever holds dear and treasures and idolizes has been condemned along with the ruler of the world. Satan has been defeated and judged. Those who do not believe in Jesus have Satan as their master, and thus they are judged along with him. Thus, unbelievers are convicted concerning judgment.

The Holy Spirit convicts the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment, thus He convicts not only unbelievers, but He convicts believers concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment also. For believers, however, this is an entirely different matter.

First, the sinful nature of the believer is also convicted of sin. The Holy Spirit convicts the believer that he has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The Holy Spirit convicts the believer that he has sinned in thought, word, and deed. The Holy Spirit, through the Word, convicts believers that because of their sins, they deserve eternal punishment in hell along with the devil.

But a believer is not found guilty. A believer is convicted concerning righteousness because the righteousness of Christ covers all of his sin. Christ went to the Father, but He went to the Father by way of the cross. He fulfilled the Law of God for us who are unable to fulfil it, and He died on the cross, taking the punishment of our sins. He thus fulfilled all righteousness on our behalf and sent the Holy Spirit to convict us that our own righteousness is as filthy rags. But He also convicts us that the righteousness of Christ is given to us without merit or worthiness in us. He convicts us that although we were skeletons in a valley of dry bones, He has breathed life into us, making us alive in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

A believer, finally, is also convicted by the Holy Spirit concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. The evil one, the accuser who seeks to stand before the throne of God and accuse us day and night of the sins we are guilty of having committed has himself been judged. Satan has been cast out of heaven and has been judged. Even more, Jesus took our place in judgment. Guilty of nothing, Jesus stood in our place and was judged for our sins. He was judged for every sin of thought, word, and deed that we are guilty of committing. Jesus took the punishment of all of our sins so that we can walk away scot-free. It is the Holy Spirit who convicts us of this through Word and Sacrament, because the Holy Spirit bears witness about Jesus.

God the Holy Spirit still does what He has done since He was sent by God the Father and God the Son. He convicts the world concerning, sin, righteousness, and judgment, and He bears witness about Jesus.

On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit bore witness about Jesus through the preaching of the Word. The Holy Spirit was poured out on the apostles as they bore witness about Jesus. Through that preached Word, the Holy Spirit was also poured out on those who heard the Word, and three thousand came to faith and were baptized that day – three thousand souls from every nation under heaven. All those people of different languages heard the Gospel being preached in their own language! The Holy Spirit wants the Gospel understood, and to be heard by people everywhere, and He still continues this work today. That’s why we support the work of the Gospel here among us and through missionaries around the world. The Holy Spirit is still working through the Word to bring people of every language to saving faith.

Notice that the apostles were not babbling nonsense. The Holy Spirit did not make the apostles speak in tongues that nobody could understand, nor did He make them babble incomprehensibly. The Holy Spirit did not cause uncontrollable fits and convulsions, laughing or fainting, or cause the apostles to act drunk. It was the mockers who said they were drunk! So do not be fooled. The Holy Spirit who worked through the preached Word on Pentecost to bear witness about Jesus is the same Holy Spirit who works through the preached Word today to bear witness about Jesus.

People today who are engaged in babbling nonsense and fainting and fits and convulsions thus have nothing to do with the work of the Holy Spirit. God is not a God of confusion, but of peace (I Cor. 14:33). The Holy Spirit bears witness about Jesus. Babbling fainters bear witness about themselves. Convulsing gibberish-gushers bear witness about themselves. They draw attention only to their own foolishness. Whatever spirit is at work there, it is not the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit bears witness about Jesus. The Holy Spirit causes the Gospel to be understood, not become garbled and lost in circus acts.

It is the Gospel that saves. The Good News of Jesus’ death on our behalf which was preached on Pentecost is the same Good News preached in the Gospel today. We have no promise of miracles or signs or speaking in tongues. Peter indicated that the prophecy from Joel concerning prophecy, visions, and dreams was fulfilled on Pentecost (Act. 2:16). And First Corinthians says that tongues will cease (I Cor. 13:8). And Jesus says, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks a sign” (Matt. 16:4).

We fall into the same garbled circus trap if we seek signs outside of God’s Word. We are not to seek signs in dreams, feelings, nature, unexplainable events, or strange coincidences. The Holy Spirit has promised to work through the Word and Sacraments. We have no promise that He will work in any other way. The Sacraments are the only visible signs through which the Holy Spirit has promised to work. Scripture has promised that as water is poured over an infant’s head, the Holy Spirit is poured out in a washing of regeneration and renewal (Titus 3:5). Scripture has promised that as we eat the very body and blood of Jesus in the fellowship of this altar we receive the forgiveness of sins (Mt. 26:28). Seek no other sign. The Holy Spirit works through the means He has promised. He still convicts the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment, and He still bears witness about Jesus.

The Holy Spirit bears witness about Jesus so that you will believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name (Jn. 20:31). The Holy Spirit bears witness about Jesus through the Gospel which tells you all of your sins are forgiven because of Jesus’ death on the cross for you. The Holy Spirit bears witness about Jesus through the Sacraments which give you the forgiveness of sins there promised. This is the work the Holy Spirit did on Pentecost and continues to do today – He convicts and He bears witness about Jesus. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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