The Solemenity of Pentecost
Beloved. Today we celebrate one of the great festivals of the Church: Pentecost. On this day the Holy Spirit came visibly on the disciples, powerfully equipped them in preaching and on this day 3000 people were brought into the holy Christian Church. Pentecost is seen as the birthday of the NT Church. And from this time on, the Church has gone out to bring Jesus, His saving word, His gifts into all the world. This day of Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples in such a mighty fashion, is something Jesus promised them on Maundy Thursday evening—that night in which Jesus was betrayed and arrested. That’s when Jesus spoke the words of our text: I have told you these things while staying with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I told you. As long as Jesus was with them, the Holy Spirit couldn’t come. As long as Jesus was with the disciples, the work for the salvation of the world was still unfinished. When Jesus finished His work for the salvation of the world and rose from the dead and as the God-man ascended into heaven, He would send the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit would come in a powerful and mighty way bringing the fruits and blessings of Jesus’ completed work for the salvation of the world. So today, with Pentecost, we see that at Jesus’ request and by virtue of His sacrifice, the Holy Spirit has come. And here, too, we see the beautiful working and harmony of the Holy Trinity: the Holy Spirit is sent by the Father at the Son’s, Jesus’, request.
There is a beautiful imagery with Pentecost. Pentecost means 50. It is the 50th day from the Passover and in OT times was a harvest festival in which the first fruits of the harvest were brought to the Lord. On this day of the first Christian Pentecost, the first fruits in the harvest of souls of the Christian Church are brought to the Lord with these 3000 whom the Holy Spirit brought to faith that day. They were the first in the long line of people the Holy Spirit would bring into the Church—and that great number of people includes you and me. So as we hear about the first 3000 people brought into the NT Church, those in whom the Holy Spirit created faith in Jesus, we are reminded of His work down through the ages of gathering all different sorts of people from all over the world into the Church and giving them every heavenly and spiritual blessing in Jesus.
So what is our Pentecost festival? It is the festival that commemorates God’s coming as a guest into our hearts. The thing is, when the Holy Spirit brings us to faith, He doesn’t just, if you will, tap us with a fairy wand and flutter away to someone else. No! Instead, what does Jesus say in our text? If anyone loves me, he will hold on to my word. What is that love of God and the holding on to His word? That’s faith—faith the Holy Spirit worked in us. And what do we see? My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. We, dear Christian, are the dwelling of the Holy Spirit, of the holy Triune God! That means that when the Holy Spirit comes to us and creates in us the gift of faith, He dwells within us—that’s why and how we can believe; we love the Lord and hold on to His word and the Father and Son, together, with the Holy Spirit dwell with each Christian. Each Christian, then, has God as a guest in the heart; each Christian is the temple of God. We are temples of God, dear Christian, because the Holy Spirit builds us; He sanctifies us; He preserves us.
If anyone loves me, he will hold on to my word. This is how the Holy Spirit builds us into temples of God. It’s not as if somehow we are better or more worthy than others He figures He can do something with us. The simple fact is, that we are all unworthy to be temples of God. It’s not as if the Holy Spirit has to do a little remodel, updating or renovation on us to make us temples of God. It’s not even as if we have to be gutted. Instead, to be made temples of God, the Holy Spirit must start with us from scratch. That’s what He does when He works on us through the Word and Baptism. Through the Word of Holy Baptism, as we will hear in next Sunday’s Gospel, the Holy Spirit gives us a completely new birth, a birth from above, a heavenly birth. Or like we hear in the verses after today’s Epistle: through the Word—by the preaching of God’s holy law the people were brought to a knowledge and recognition of their sin: now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”. By the recognition of our sin and that by our sin we earn and deserve nothing but God’s wrath and damnation, the Holy Spirit begins His work of making us His temples. But His work is not yet done! The recognition of our sin and our damnable condition is the Holy Spirit’s preparatory work, preparing the site for the building of the temple. Then the Holy Spirit comes in the word of the Gospel and brings us Jesus and His saving work, His forgiveness; and by this creates faith in Him and His saving work. When the crowd asked [Ac 2.37,38] Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”, St. Peter answered: Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. This baptism and faith—this is the Holy Spirit building the temple. When the Holy Spirit creates faith—be it in the waters of Holy Baptism or in the word—we love the Lord, His word, His work for us and our hearts full of love for the Lord and faith in Him become fit dwellings for Him. Through this Spirit worked faith we become the temples of God. If anyone loves me, he will hold on to my word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
Even after we are brought to faith and are already temples of God, the Holy Spirit is at work maintaining and expanding that temple. He does that through the word as we daily examine heart and life to recognize our sins and sorrow over them; He again comes in the word of the Gospel of grace and mercy assuring us and giving us the forgiveness of sin.
Just think of how glorious these words are: If anyone loves me, he will hold on to my word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. How wonderful, gracious and comforting these words are to us! God is not too grand, fussy, shy or proud to come and dwell in our hearts. Yes, we are sinners—great, terrible sinners—but the Holy Spirit has built us into a temple of God. Just think of it for a moment and let that thought sink in: The Holy Triune God Himself dwells in the Christian. We are truly the temple of God! St. Paul also testifies [2 Co 6.16; 1 Co 6.19]: For you are the temple of the living God; and do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you? Just think if we fully realized this and let it affect our thoughts, words and actions toward our fellow Christians! The Holy Triune God is in me and in my fellow Christian. How we would love and honor each other, recognizing and seeing the other as the temple of the Holy Triune God! How this would be seen especially in the Christian congregation! The Holy Triune God has come to me personally and to all my fellow Christians in the word and sacrament. What an amazing and humbling thought!
When the Holy Triune God comes to us so that we are now His temple, He comes as a generous guest. He comes to us with all His graces and blessings. He comes to us with the forgiveness of sin and eternal life. He comes with His comfort, holy protection and presence. The Lord is with us; He is in us; we are His temple—what need we fear? It is absolutely vital that we remember this because it is true even though we don’t feel it; it is true even though we feel nothing but our sin and weakness. That each of us, dear Christian, is the temple of the Holy Triune God does not depend on our feelings about the matter; it doesn’t depend on whether we have a certain level of “holiness”. No! It depends on the work of the Holy Spirit working faith in us. And that we are the temple of God does not even depend on whether our faith is at a certain “level”. Faith is faith--be it a weak faith or a strong faith. And that faith holds to and trusts in our Lord, His word and work. If anyone loves me, he will hold on to my word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Are you a Christian—even weak and struggling in faith? Then you are the temple of God. He is in you with all His gifts and graces.
And with the holy Triune God in us, how He will adorn us with the good works of faith and with virtue. If He is truly in us, how can He not leave His mark? Where He is, He will bless, teach and lead us inwardly. Yes, because we are still flesh and blood, we will sin and grievously at times, but remember who is in you—the holy God Himself—and rely on Him in every time of temptation and trial; listen to His leading and prompting. St. John [1 Jn 4.4] tells us: He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. Let us take great comfort in the midst of great spiritual struggle and turmoil: we have the Holy Spirit in us, in fact the holy Triune God, will He leave us and abandon us here in the midst of trial? Hardly! In fact because of His making us His temple, dwelling in us, by the Holy Spirit, St. Paul tells us, you were sealed for the day of redemption.
Not only does the Holy Spirit make us and sanctify us as a temple of God, but He also preserves us as the temple of God. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I told you. Here we see that most vital work of the Holy Spirit—it is in connection with the Word. He was with the disciples in a most wonderful way. He would teach [them] all things and remind [them] of everything [Jesus] told [them]. This is the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture. All that the apostles wrote and taught was by the Holy Spirit’s work. He caused them to remember not only exactly what Jesus said and did but what it meant. So now, by this Holy Spirit inspired word of the holy apostles, Jesus is carrying out His teaching office here today among us. The disciples then and we today are bound to teach only the word and teaching of Jesus. But it is precisely this teaching—be it the holy Law of God or the sweet comforting Gospel—through which the Holy Spirit is working to bring people to faith, to build them to be temples of God in which He dwells. Through this word the Holy Spirit continues to set us apart and preserve us as these temples of God in which He dwells. Let us, then, continually be in the word of God: here Sunday mornings hearing that word—also seeing it in the Bread and Wine and receiving it in our mouths, here in Bible study, in faithful devotional books at home. As we are faithfully in the word, the Holy Spirit will also in a different way with us teach you all things and remind you of everything I told you. At the right time He will give us the word to speak to others; He will give us that comfort we need for ourselves; He will lead us deeper into the faith and strengthen us in it helping us to “connect the dots.” The Holy Spirit keeps and preserves us as the temple of God as He gives us the peace of Jesus: Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, and do not let it be afraid. Jesus brought about that perfect peace, a peace which reconciled us sinners to the holy God. By constantly holding it before us in word and sacrament, by giving us that peace, by reminding us of it at the right time, by having us/ the Church proclaim it to the world, the Holy Spirit is still today at work building, sanctifying and preserving people/ hearts to be the temple of God. His Pentecost work goes on! Praise Him! INJ Amen