Wednesday, June 3, 2009
The Promised Holy Spirit and His Promised Gifts
The person and work of the Holy Spirit. He indeed is a bearer of gifts. He is the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and Son and who spoke by the prophets. Some Christians are taught to expect the gift of speaking in tongues. Others perhaps expect the gift of being happy most of the time. Still others expect the gift of healing being given curing his or her ills. Most certainly God the Spirit is fully able to do those things and much more spectacular things most of which we cannot hope to imagine. One may at times feel happy. There have been reports of healing taking place which was extraordinary. Unbelievers feel happy at times and have out of the ordinary healings. However, as unbelievers he or she is not the temple of the Holy Spirit. Even though God is to be credited with all healing these events would not be considered gifts of the Spirit. And what if a baptized child of God feels anything but happy? What if the lifelong disciple of Jesus has a long illness that eventually ends that person’s life? Would we then doubt that person’s faith or whether God even loves them? That is the trap into which this thinking can and often does lead. We live in a fallen and dying world in which we have no promise in scripture that believers in Jesus will have it great here. On the contrary Jesus promises us suffering some of which looks like what everyone else is having.
Still others believe teach and confess the Holy Spirit as a holiness trainer. Or I have heard him described as a sort of steroid where with proper exercise one can fully expect to muscle up against sin and beat it every time. They think that because we are the temple of the Holy Spirit we can expect to become more and more holy as time goes on. Certainly as a person matures he or she will recognize the same old temptations approaching. This is because our adversary has no new tricks to pull on us so we can tell the old tricks. However, what if there are sins which we are so easily beset by. Perhaps temper whether displayed or hidden can at a moments notice cause an unrighteous thought or word escape. Does this mean this person is a cast off and God has removed himself from them? An unbeliever with proper motivation can modify behaviour however, this would have nothing to do with fruit of the Sprit and is mortal sin. This is another trap thinking about what God can do rather than doing what is promised.
These are a couple of misunderstandings that happen when a person contemplates what God is capable of doing. As Creator by mere speaking all things into existence would be able to do whatever he desires. However, we have what he has promised to do to count on rather then trying to determine the possibilities. In the above examples we see some possibilities of which God is fully capable which are not promises. Therefore we should consider a promises associated with the person and work of the Holy Spirit.
John 16:12 I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. ESV
Jesus has promised that when the Holy Spirit comes he will declare unto us that which Jesus has for us. This would be the forgiveness of sin. When we have this forgiveness preached into our ears that is the Holy Spirit working through the preacher pointing us to the cross and the promises associated with Jesus death and resurrection. When it is pointed out to us that the forgiveness of sin is also located in the Sacraments of Baptism and of the Lord’s Body and Blood this too is the Spirit’s work in locating that forgiveness where it is promised and delivering it to us. In these ways receiving the Holy Spirit’s promised gifts we are comforted by looking outside ourselves for forgiveness and its assurance instead of inside us or at our works. Neither view will do anything but either terrify the sinner or cause the sinner prideful assurance of a Pharisee. Neither focuses the persons view on Jesus nor brings glory to his name which is one of the purposes of the person and work of the Holy Spirit.
I believe in the Holy Ghost; one holy Christian Church, the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.
What does this mean?
I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith; in which Christian Church He forgives daily and richly all sins to me and all believers, and at the last day will raise up me and all the dead, and will give to me and to all believers in Christ everlasting life. This is most certainly true.*
*The third article of the Apostle’s creed. Martin Luther’s Small Catechism.