The Holy Spirit, the Teacher

The Day of Pentecost

May 20, 2018

John 14:23–31

Imagine you’re on the construction site. The builder has giant plans for the building you’re working on. It will be the latest in architectural technology. You and all the workers are working hard. Problems always come up, but suddenly the instructions you give to your fellow worker are as gibberish to him. When another worker comes to give you an update you hear his words but he is speaking a different language. The impossible has happened and no one on the site can now understand each other. The proposed building is now left aside to become a ruin.

Now imagine you are with your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ in a room much like we are in now. Suddenly a violent, loud sound like rushing wind comes forth and fills the entire place. The apostles suddenly have tongues as of fire over their heads and they are speaking in languages they have never learned. People from all over the world who are in Jerusalem for the festival of Pentecost hear the Word of God proclaimed in their own languages. The impossible has happened again and a new building is raised up by God. But it is no building such as you and I are in but the holy Christian and apostolic Church. 

Who is the worker of these miracles, of these things that are impossible according to the physics of this world we live in? It is the Paraclete. Jesus says in the Gospel reading that God the Father will send Him. The Paraclete is the Helper, the one sent from God to bring to His holy Christian Church the help needed now that Jesus has ascended into heaven. 

He is, Jesus says, the Holy Spirit. We know the Holy Spirit as the third Person of the Trinity. God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The third Person of the Trinity is the Holy Spirit. He is the Spirit. There is only one. There are many spirits and demons. There is one Holy Spirit. Just as the Scriptures teach that there is one Father and one Lord Jesus, so the Scriptures teach there is one Holy Spirit. Any spirit, any voice, any inner prompting of the heart that does not center in the revealing of God as the Triune God is not the Holy Spirit.

In the Holy Spirit’s name, we see that He is theHoly Spirit and we see that He is holy. The Holy Spirit is pure, without any defect, without sin. The Holy Spirit is apart from the fallenness and sinfulness of this existence. There is nothing evil or impure that comes from the Holy Spirit, He is holy. All He does is in the purity and perfection of His divine nature along with the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit is completely reliable because He is fully God.

And in His name we see also that He is the Spirit. This is the tricky part for us. Father, we have an image of as God. Jesus, the Son, we have a handle on. But what does Jesus mean when He calls the third Person of the Trinity the Holy Spirit?In First John we are taught that God is spirit. He is not a created being, He is not a physical being. He is a spiritual being. The Holy Spirit in particular is the Person of the Triune God who gives life to human beings. When Adam was formed of the dust of the ground God breathed into His nostrils the breath of life. The Holy Spirit is not a ghost. The Holy Spirit is God and the one who gives life to our human nature.

Jesus says that He is sent. This is startling to think about. The Holy Spirit is God, divine, equal with the Father and the Son in His divinity. In case we’re uncertain about this, we expressly confess in the Nicene Creed that we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life. There is no degree to which the Holy Spirit is less God than the Father and the Son. He is fully God. And yet He is sent. He does not act on His own but rather at the will of the Father. Jesus says that the Father will send Him. The Holy Spirit delights in being sent by the Father, just as the Son delighted in being sent by the Father. So the gift of God the Father is the gift of God Himself, in the person of Jesus Christ and in the person of the Holy Spirit. God the Father loves His whole creation. In this way He loves His fallen people, He sent His Son. In this way He continues to love them, He sends His Holy Sprit. 

Jesus says that the Father will send Him “in My name.” Thus, the Holy Spirit, who is fully God, not only is sent, He is sent in the name of Jesus. The Holy Spirit does a lot but He does it in accordance with the will of the Father and in the name of the Son. His work in the Holy Christian Church is in perfect unity with Christ Himself. Jesus was sent by the Father and the Holy Spirit does nothing that is not for the purpose of bringing the salvation of Christ to His people. Anything that is against salvation in Christ alone is not of the Holy Spirit but an evil spirit. Jesus came to bring about salvation and the Holy Spirit comes to bring that salvation to us. 

Jesus says to His apostles that the Holy Spirit will teach them all things. Put yourself in their shoes. They were going along in life when Jesus called them to be apostles. He taught them. They had a lot of questions. They didn’t understand a lot of what He taught them. They believed in Him but didn’t fully trust in Him because their expectation of Him as Lord and Savior was not that of one who would suffer and die on a cross and then rise from His grave three days later. So they needed a lot help. Especially now that Jesus was preparing them for when He would leave. Which would be soon when He went to His death and then to heaven in His ascension.

So He would give them the Holy Spirit who would teach them. They wouldn’t be expected to preach and teach their own ideas. They would be called to make known what the Holy Spirit would teach them. Jesus says it this way, “He will bring to your remembrance all the things I spoke to you.”

So here’s a question for you. Wouldn’t you love to know what all those things were? Wouldn’t you love to have been able to be in the position of the apostles, being taught directly by the Holy Spirit, Him bringing to your remembrance all the things your Lord Jesus had taught you? This was a blessing given to no other people in history. Only the apostles were taught directly by the Lord and called directly by Him to establish the holy Christian Church, which is what we see in our second reading today in Acts 2. 

But this is why Jesus did it that way. With the apostles alone establishing the Church the Church was ensured to be founded on Christ and His word alone. It was only what Jesus taught them and the Holy Spirit brought to their remembrance that made up the establishing of the Christian Church. On Pentecost Day Peter proclaimed those very words. As you go along in Acts you see him and the other apostles doing the very same thing.

As you go through the rest of the New Testament you see in the letters the apostles wrote to Christians that these letters contain the very thing Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would teach His apostles and bring to their remembrance all the things Jesus had spoken to them. It’s true that you did not receive the direct teaching of Christ as they did or the direct teaching of the Holy Spirit as they did. But you receive the very same teaching, the very same words, because the Holy Spirit has inspired the apostles to write them down, which is what has been handed down to us in the New Testament.

You don’t need to wonder if there’s anything you’re missing. You don’t need to wish that you had been there. You don’t need to look for anything new. Everything your Heavenly Father wants you to know and that you need to know has been given to you in His Son and by His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Teacher of the Church. He is sent by the Father in the name of the Son. He teaches you all things you need for salvation in the pages of Holy Scripture. He brings to your remembrance all that Jesus has spoken in His ministry in those same pages of Holy Scripture. 

The Holy Spirit does nothing new, does nothing different, does nothing apart from exactly what Jesus says He does here in our Gospel reading. He brings Christ to you, forgiving your sin in the Word of Christ that is connected with the water you were Baptized with. He strengthens your faith by the Word of Christ that is in and with the bread and wine of the Sacrament of the Altar along with the very body and blood of Jesus Himself in and with that bread and wine. The Holy Spirit is the one who brings about the impossible but in very simple ways. Through simple preaching, through simple water, through simple bread and wine. The Holy Sprit, is your Teacher, bringing you nothing but Christ Himself, in whom you have everything. Amen.