The Holy Spirit’s role in human life is to cause us to do good works. Whether that good work is confessing Jesus Christ as the Son of the living God or serving our neighbor, none of it happens apart from His intervention in our lives. Apart from Him, we are hopeless and dead. Consider how Dr. Luther taught it in his Small Catechism but put everything in the negative. Without the Holy Spirit we do not have the Gospel, we sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, we have no good gifts, and we have no right belief in Jesus Christ who has won our salvation. Without the Holy Spirit, life is lacking all those things that make it good. Without the Holy Spirit, everything is hopeless. But because we have the Holy Spirit, we are able to rejoice, to have hope in the midst of this world’s sadness, and have comfort in what lies ahead, all because the Holy Spirit gives us Jesus.
The holy spirit is the Spirit of confession. As Christ Our Lord said, the Holy Spirit “will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” He confesses Christ to us, and by the faith He creates in us, we are able to confess Christ to others. That’s the whole point of this Feast of Pentecost. At Christ’s Ascension He gave His Church the solemn task of making disciples, that is, Baptizing and teaching, administering the Lord’s Supper, and forgiving the sins of all who repent. So just ten days after Jesus ascended into heaven, He poured out the Holy Spirit on His chosen disciples. And the Holy Spirit caused the apostles to confess in amazing ways. At St. Luke recorded in Acts, the apostles preached in languages which they had not learned. They preached that Jesus Christ died to take away the sin of the world. They preached that He rose victorious from the grave, the Father accepting His atoning sacrifice. They preached that Christ was giving His forgiveness and eternal life through Baptism, the washing of rebirth. And because of their Holy Spirit-given confession of the faith about 3,000 people were saved that day.
What does god reveal to us in the account of the Tower of Babel? He reveals to us that one common sin infects us all, the sin of pride. We think we know better than God, that we can outsmart Him and that we don’t really need Him at all. Look at the people at Babel. They are already the descendants of Ham, who sinned against his father, Noah, by showing off Noah’s nakedness to Shem and Japheth. So now, relatives of a cursed family seek to avoid any further curses from God. The history of the Flood is still common knowledge. They know that it came about because of God’s righteous wrath over the great sin of the people. So instead of intending to amend their ways, the people in Babel come up with a way to avoid any future punishments of God—or so they think. They abuse technology for their own sinful gain by making bricks by a new method and build a tower that reaches to the heavens. That way, should God change His mind and send another earth-covering flood, they can climb the tower and be safe, not in God’s divinely-inspired ark, but by the work of their hands. God sees this rebellion, knows that their future wickedness will know no bounds if left unchecked, and so He limits their collaborative potential by confusing their languages.
Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.