140608 Acts 2:1-21

Last Updated on Monday, 09 June 2014 Written by Pastor Pagels

Text: Acts 2:1-21
Theme: We Believe In The Holy Spirit

Have you ever swallowed a pill and wondered ten minutes later if you had already taken your medication? Have you ever daydreamed as you drove along a country road and had to ask yourself if you sailed through the stop sign barely visible in the rearview mirror? Have you ever wanted to ask someone a question and later were not sure if you ever verbalized the thoughts in your head?

Sometimes our bodies work amazingly well on auto-pilot. Sometimes our minds are so conditioned that we are able to perform certain tasks without thinking. But this is not necessarily a good thing. Unasked questions can lead to miscommunication. Ignored stop signs can lead to tragic accidents.

This is also a real danger when it comes to worship. There are some parts of a service that change little from Sunday to Sunday. The songs may be different, but we still sing hymns. The wording may change, but we still confess our sins.

On Communion Sundays (like today) we confess our faith using the words of the Nicene Creed. Depending on your age, depending on your background, you may have recited these words hundreds of times. Because the Creed is a fixture in the liturgy, because it is such a regular part of our worship, is it possible that your thoughts sometimes wander? Is it perhaps possible that you did not give the Nicene Creed your full attention this morning?

The purpose of this introduction is not just to scold you if you weren't paying attention (although we all need this admonition/encouragement). I want you to make the creeds your own, to cherish the Bible truths we confess in them, to appreciate these ancient truths that define the true Christian faith. This will happen when we draw deeply and often from the well of God's inspired Word.

On this Pentecost Sunday, it is fitting to focus our thoughts on the third article of the Nicene Creed. In fact, the opening words of this article will serve us well as the theme for today's sermon. And as we ponder the amazing events that took place in Jerusalem fifty days after Jesus rose from the dead, we confess with Christians around the world...

WE BELIEVE IN THE HOLY SPIRIT

I. He is the Lord
II. He is the Giver of Life

We call him the Sanctifier, the Counselor, the Spirit that goes out from the Father. But Lord? Outside of the Nicene Creed, do we ever refer to the Holy Spirit as the Lord? God the Father? Yes. He is the Creator, "the Lord of heaven and earth" (Acts 17:24). God the Son? Yes. At the beginning of this sermon, I said: "Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." In the Nicene Creed we confess: "We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ..."

Just because we don't apply the term to the third person of the Trinity very often, that doesn't mean it isn't true. Even if it sounds somewhat strange to our ears, the Holy Spirit is the Lord. We believe this because the Spirit himself reveals it to us in his Word.

The Bible clearly describes the Holy Spirit as a personal being. "The Spirit of God was hovering over the waters" at creation (Genesis 1:2). The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in the form of a dove at his baptism (Matthew 3:16). In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul warns those Christians not to "grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption" (4:30).

These references make it clear that the Holy Spirit is not just an aura or an emanation of God. The Spirit is nothing like the lightning bolts that the Greek god Zeus shoots from his fingertips to vent his anger. The Holy Spirit is a real, living, personal being, distinct from the Father and the Son. But he is even more than that. We call him "Lord" because he is true God.

In Acts 5, Ananias and Sapphira sold a piece of property and brought some of the money to the apostles. There was nothing wrong with that...except they were trying to lead others to believe that they had given the entire amount.

It was Peter who confronted them with their deception. Listen carefully to the way he describes their sin. "How is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?...You have not lied to men but to God" (Acts 5:3,4). Ananias and Sapphira lied to the Holy Spirit. Ananias and Sapphira lied to God. The Holy Spirit is God.

As true God, the Holy Spirit possesses divine attributes. He is omniscient. He knows all. He is omnipresent. He sees all. And one of the attributes God the Holy Sprit put on display for everyone to see on the day of Pentecost was his divine power.

Ten long days had passed since Jesus had gone up to heaven. The disciples were waiting in Jerusalem just as Jesus told them before he ascended. They were waiting for the gift that Jesus had promised them. And on the first day of the week some unbelievable things began to happen.

The sound of a violent rushing wind came down from heaven and filled the house where they were sitting, but what they were hearing was not the only miracle. Tongues of fire separated and came to rest on each of the disciples' heads, but what they were seeing was not the only display of the Spirit's power.

The great commotion drew a crowd, and the people who came together witnessed the most amazing miracle of all. The Holy Spirit gave the apostles, men with little or no formal education, the ability to communicate with people from all over the world. The Holy Spirit enabled them to declare the wonders of God with these people in their native tongues.

World missionaries will tell you that one of the greatest challenges of world mission work is language. In some fields it can take years to master a foreign language and more years to translate the Bible into the language of the people. But on the day of Pentecost, the disciples made use of a God-given shortcut. They were able to communicate God's Word immediately, directly and clearly with thousands of people. And who was responsible for this miraculous blessing? The Holy Spirit.

In the Nicene Creed we confess who the Holy Spirit is. He is the Lord. In unity with the
Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified. But Pentecost was not just a stage for the Holy Spirit to flex his divine muscles. In the Nicene Creed we also confess what the Holy Spirit does. He is the giver of life.

The work of the Holy Spirit is commonly known as sanctification. He is the one who "makes us holy." This isn't a bad description, but perhaps the Nicene Creed gives us a better one. It is derived from the words of Jesus, who said: "The Spirit gives life" (John 6:63). And in many different ways, the Holy Spirit acts as our Life-giver.

The Holy Spirit gives physical life. God said: "Let us make man in our image" (Genesis 1:26) at creation, and then he formed Adam. Psalm 104 declares: "When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth" (30).

Life on this earth is a precious gift, but it doesn't last forever. God may allow us our seventy or eighty years if we have the strength, but death is a fact of life. There is no limit for our Life-giver, however, because Holy Spirit gives us another kind of life, a life that will never end.

Jesus said: "This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent" (John 17:3). Jesus said that "whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). Our salvation depends completely on the suffering and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

But our Savior would mean absolutely nothing to us without our Life-giver. "No one can say, 'Jesus is Lord,' except by the Holy Spirit" (I Corinthians 12:3). No one can believe in Jesus unless the Spirit creates faith in their hearts to believe. The Holy Spirit quickens (makes alive) dead hearts through the Word and sacraments. And both were present on the Day of Pentecost.

Without any preparation, without any notes, filled with the Spirit, Peter preached a powerful sermon. He wanted the people to understand that what they were witnessing was not just a miracle. It was a fulfillment of God's master plan.

What Jesus had promised the disciples just before he ascended the prophet Joel had predicted some nine hundred years earlier. How was that possible? How could Joel see so far into the future? He wrote by inspiration. He was led by the Spirit. Echoing the prophetic words of Joel, Peter proclaimed: Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (2:21). And in a single day, the Holy Spirit breathed spiritual life into about three thousand people.

Pentecost made a huge impact on the early Christian church, but that was a couple thousand years ago. That's ancient history. What does Pentecost mean for disciples of Jesus today? Why is it so important for us to remember this day? Celebrating Pentecost helps us remember the many blessings that are ours because of the Spirit's work, but it also forces us to remember some of those forgotten sins hidden way back in the darkest corners of our hearts.

We confess that the Holy Spirit is the Lord, but we don't always give him the honor he deserves. We say we believe that the Holy Spirit is powerful, but then we doubt that his Word is really able to change stubborn sinful hearts. We confess that the Spirit gives life, but then we neglect the very means he gives us to keep our faith alive and well. When we sin, we grieve the Spirit of God. Our sins pain God, but that pain is nothing compared to the eternal punishment we deserve.

At the same time Pentecost is the Holy Spirit's way of reminding hopeless sinners that we still have hope. Even though human beings naturally resist him, even though the disciples didn't deserve him, the Holy Spirit came anyway. He strengthened them. He empowered them. And he worked through their witness to reach others.

But it wasn't just that small group of disciples who received the Holy Spirit. He didn't just do his work that day in Jerusalem and then leave. The same Spirit is with us, and he works through the same means to produce the same miracles. Maybe not in such great numbers. Maybe not accompanied by such powerful signs. But we have God's promise that where God's Word is, God's Spirit will be also.

In baptism he washes away sin and works faith in tiny sinful hearts through water and the Word. Through the same Word he causes faith to sprout and grow in believers who will then confess their faith in Jesus as their Savior. Through these channels of blessing the Holy Spirit creates spiritual life and gives us the hope of eternal life.

They say that "confession is good for the soul." This is true for the sinner who is weighed down by guilt, but these words can also be applied to forgiven sinners, to the person whose heart is pure and whose conscience is clear. Redeemed children of God want to confess what we believe. And having just reviewed and relived the amazing events of Pentecost, we cannot help but confess: "We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life." Amen.

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Compelled by the love of Christ, St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School seek to reach out to our families, community and world, using Law and Gospel to make disciples, growing and nurturing them in their Christian faith and life.

 

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