Monday, December 20, 2021

The work of the Spirit. . .

In my library is an old but worthy short tome with a catchy title.  The Half-Known God.  The author is Lorenz Wunderlich, sometime professor at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, ages ago.  Next to it is one of the volumes produced by a Lutheran advocate of the Charismatic Movement (ages ago) complaining about the silence of words about the Holy Spirit.  They sit together on my shelf, anyway, although the tension has been long throughout Christian history.  What do we know of the Spirit?  What we know of the Spirit is through the work of the Spirit.  

It is by the work of the Spirit that dead hearts are enlivened, the stone cold heart is made warm, and the heart that beats only for death now beats for life.  This is not some isolated work apart from Christ but the work Christ directed and promised when He told His disciples to wait for the Spirit.  It is not some magical work that happens without means but the work of the means -- where the Word is spoken life is born and where the Sacraments are administered there that life is also born, nurtured, and brought to its divinely appointed goal.  It does not happen in an instant but over time and in time -- just as the plan of salvation unfolded over the generations while a world was distracted until it would be revealed for all nations and peoples in Christ.  In fact, it was the Spirit working through those ages to keep the hope alive, to make known in darkest times the light that the darkness cannot overcome, and to maintain the Church once born on the narrow path of life though we seem hell bent upon veering upon the broad boulevard of destruction.

When it comes to us as individuals, it is by the Holy Spirit that our weary hearts so sure that they cannot endure are lifted up and given the power to go on. It is by the Holy Spirit that the weak are held by the hand, in His hand, and made strong in the strength that comes never by the flesh but only by the Spirit.  It is by the Holy Spirit that the bruised and broken are given healing so that they may be sustained through their afflictions and brought through them to the perfect healing that awaits according to the promise of God.  It is by the Holy Spirit that the sinner is sanctified, the unrighteous made holy, and the stained made pure -- it is the power of sanctification that can only come from on high and never be the object of our prideful accomplishment.  It is by the Holy Spirit that we advance, often unknown and unseen to us, but deliberately by God's design to the perfection that is His goal for us -- just as it is the goal of the Spirit to keep us in this hope and promise when we cannot see the ending and the outcome is not in our view.

It is by the Holy Spirit that the things of God are disclosed to those who know nothing of them and the work of God revealed in the surprising places where His Word and promise live.  It is by the Holy Spirit that light is shined upon us, sitting in darkness and death,, and this light not only exposes what we would keep hidden but delivers us from its curse and stain.  It is by the Holy Spirit that those who are not spiritual at all are made to be spiritual, to be of the Spirit and connected to Christ's death that redeems us from sin and His resurrection that bestows upon us the gift of everlasting life.  It is by the Spirit that we who were nobodies and nothings are made the somebodies of God's own children and adopted into that undeserved status of rightful sons and daughters with a name and an inheritance.  It is by the Holy Spirit that we who not only lived in darkness but were dark, now shine as beacons of Christ to those still living in darkness and death.  It is by the Holy Spirit that we are not only given a future that death cannot steal but anticipate and celebrate this future around the Word and Table of the Lord in the Divine Service.  It is by the Holy Spirit that the mysterion are met and believed and trusted -- not as the curious who want to know but as the people who know that the promise is enough to sustain our hope and deliver us to everlasting life.  

It is by the Holy Spirit that our self-centered lives give way to the fresh work of God teaching us to love what He commands and to hate what He forbids and to do the works of Him who has called us from darkness into His light.  It is by the Holy Spirit that good works are born as the fruit of His life in us and as testament of His life to the world.  It is by the Holy Spirit that our feeble minds confess the inestimable mystery of God's oneness and His Triune being, to the glory of this God and for the purpose of making Him known among us and through us to others.  It is by the Holy Spirit that our apprehension and anxiety find their perfect peace that passes understanding and defies circumstance and situation.

We may not speak of the Spirit clearly and as often as we might but it is by the Holy Spirit that we confess Christ and live within the means of grace and are now being brought to everlasting life.  And it is the work of the Spirit to make Christ known -- for this He works and is content.  Perhaps we should learn one more thing from this Spirit -- contentment in Christ.

1 comment:

gamarquart said...

Thank you, Pastor Peters, for a much need posting about the Holy Spirit. Many years ago, Hermann Sasse, describing the deterioration of the belief in the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit in the Lutheran Church (Letters to Lutheran Pastors, No. 51, July/August 1960), wrote, “Where the doctrine of the Person of the Holy Spirit is no longer rightly taught, there also the doctrine of the Person of Christ is no longer rightly understood.”
This was over 80 years ago, and there is no sign that, until your posting, anyone has become concerned about the matter.
I firmly believe that the very Gospel is often misunderstood in the Lutheran Church, because we do not understand the nature and work of the Holy Spirit.
In the same letter, he also wrote, “There is of course talk of the Holy Sprit, but one no longer knows who He is. It seems He can be measured and quantified.”
In addition to everything in your posting, I would like to mention that Scripture clearly teaches the following about the Holy Spirit:
We receive the Holy Spirit in Baptism, together with the forgiveness of sins.
The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is unique to the New Covenant.
The Holy Spirit does not become less or increase in a person.
The Holy Spirit dwells in His children until He delivers them safely into the Kingdom of Heaven, unless they commit the Sin Against the Holy Spirit.
Scripture does not record a single instance of the Holy Spirit leaving a person and then returning.
Peace and Joy for the Christmas Season!
George A. Marquart