Pentecost 2018 (Confirmation)
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.
The Church has continued to preach that same Gospel through the intervening ages and countless souls have been added to that number. The Holy Spirit has continued to call by the Gospel, enlighten with His gifts, and sanctify and keep in the one true faith. He uses congregations like Epiphany to preach the Gospel. He uses preachers to tell the truth, persuade, explain. But He hasn’t limited the task of confessing the faith only to the ministers of His Church. The Holy Spirit gives everyone with faith the ability to confess Jesus Christ as Lord and gives us all the task of explaining our faith and the hope that we have. He has given you responsibilities in the home, in the Church, and in the world, and in each of those spheres you are given opportunity to confess your faith, in gentleness and respect, to those whom you encounter. This is part of what our Confirmands will promise to do in just a few minutes when they say that, by God’s grace, they intend to live according to the Word of God. They may be young, but as St. Paul wrote to St. Timothy, “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12).
This task has been given to each of us. But we know that it’s not easy to do. It’s not easy to confess the faith when someone in your family tells you they don’t care what you believe and wish you would just keep it to yourself. It’s not easy to confess the faith when you’re confessing the Scriptural truth in a group that says truth is subjective, something each person determines for themselves. It’s not easy to confess the faith when we question it ourselves, maybe at the deathbed or in the face of immense struggles in life. We may not face this in America yet, but it’s not easy to confess the faith when your life is on the line. In all of these circumstances and countless more when we are called to give a confession of the faith, the Holy Spirit is the confessing Spirit. Jesus has promised you: “Do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say” (Lk. 12:11-12). The Holy Spirit enlightens you with His gifts. He teaches you all things and brings to your remembrance all Jesus has said and done. You don’t have to rest on your own gifts or abilities, your own words, your own knowledge. The Holy Spirit is with you. That is the gift of Pentecost, of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit given to you at your Baptism.
As much as the Holy Spirit is the confessing Spirit, He is also the comforting Spirit. The greatest comfort the Holy Spirit has to give is that nothing is up to you! Just like it’s not up to you to have the words to speak in a time when you must make a confession, it’s not up to you to acquire faith or sustain it. The Holy Spirit does all of that, as a pure gift! And because you have faith, you have salvation, just as Scripture has promised: “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the Law” (Rom. 3:28). Confirmands—that promise that the Holy Spirit keeps you in the faith is for you, too! In just a few minutes I will ask you the same question that has been asked of every other person who has been Confirmed: “Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?” The answer is not, “I do.” The answer is not “I’ll work on it.” The answer is “I do, by the grace of God.” Keeping you in the faith is the Holy Spirit’s chief concern. This is our comfort today and always. The greatest gift you have—your faith—is not something you have anything to do with. The one thing that assures you entrance into heaven—faith that receives Christ’s death and resurrection and His forgiveness as a pure gift—is not something you have to earn. The Holy Spirit gave you this gift at your Baptism and He renews this gift every day. He renews it by the gifts given here—the Word of God read and preached, the Body and Blood of Christ, given and shed for you, eaten and drunk at this Altar.
The Holy Spirit also gives comfort in times of trial by giving you Jesus’ peace, which is not a worldly peace. Jesus’ peace comes from the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. This gift is one that cannot be taken from you. When sin and anguish threaten to gain the upper hand, the Holy Spirit comes to you with those words of Jesus: “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. … In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Because of Jesus, the sad divisions, the anguish, the hurt that are a hallmark of earthly life will be done away with. This blessed future is already yours, and one day you will know it fully and perfectly, because “On the Last Day [the Holy Spirit] will raise [you] and all the dead, and give eternal life to…all believers in Christ.”
Take heart, dear Christians, especially you, confirmands. Because of the Holy Spirit you have peace which cannot be taken from you. He is the confessing Spirit, pointing you to Christ and giving you every word to say. He is the comforting Spirit, reminding you of the blessed eternity that awaits because of the death and resurrection of Jesus. The Holy Spirit is with you always to strengthen your faith, to cause you to grow in grace, to give you patience in suffering, and to give you joy and peace in the blessed hope of everlasting life.
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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.