Sunday, May 31, 2020

The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit

The Day of Pentecost 

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams” (Acts 2:14-17).

Pentecost is the day that Christians celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles in Jerusalem, manifested by the descent of tongues of fire from heaven, and the speaking of the Apostles in the many languages of the peoples assembled there. By this event, and Peter’s subsequent preaching, we are taught how to understand God’s word. Pentecost also reveals to us the nature and work of God, the Holy Spirit. Most importantly, however, Pentecost shows that God’s saving grace is not confined to one ethnic group of people, but that the Gospel of Christ crucified as the sacrifice for sin and risen from the dead for man’s redemption belongs to the whole world. Moreover, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is something that continues to happen from that day to this, and until Our Lord Jesus returns to judge the living and the dead, through His word preached, and given through water, bread and wine.

First, the opening of Peter’s Pentecost sermon teaches us how to read the Bible. Peter connects the Old Testament scriptures, specifically the words of the prophet Joel that he quotes, to the events unfolding around them. Peter then goes on to use the power and authority given him by the Holy Spirit by preaching to the people repentance and forgiveness of sins in the crucified and risen Jesus. The New Testament is basically a commentary on, or more precisely, an exposition of the Old Testament. When we read the Bible, or listen to preaching, we are to recognize that the Old Testament always points to Christ and is to be explained in the light of the New Testament, and not the other way around.[1]

Consequently, the New Testament scriptures expose in greater detail what the Old Testament scriptures reveal about the divine nature and work of God, and His Holy Spirit, by the events of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the triune, or “three-person” God, and not just an impersonal force, power, or energy. Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit has His own work, that of convicting the world of sin, and leading the disciples into all truth;[2] He tells us that the Spirit proceeds from both Him and God the Father; Also, as recorded by Luke in the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit is called God, and speaks to and directs the Apostles Himself.[3] The Holy Spirit operates in perfect harmony with God the Father, and God the Son, to work the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation in man through the word of God. An inanimate object, or an impersonal being, cannot speak and do things as Jesus tells us the Holy Spirit speaks and does; The outpouring of the Spirit on the Apostles at Pentecost, and their preaching to the people shows us that the Holy Spirit is God, and demonstrates His unity with the other divine members of the God-head.

Finally, this outpouring of the divine Holy Spirit is not confined to just the Apostles at Pentecost, but it is continual. The supernatural speaking in tongues by the Apostles is the sign that accompanies the power they received by the Holy Spirit, not the main gift, and not something Christians should expect will always accompany the Spirit’s working. The purpose of this miracle was to show that foreigners, i.e. non-Jews, could hear God’s word, and the Holy Spirit could use that word as His tool to create faith in them.[4] The coming of the Spirit is not a one-time occurrence but something that happens continually when God’s word is preached and His Sacraments, namely Holy Baptism, through which God gives the gift of the Holy Spirit,[5] as Peter preaches, are properly administered. The miracle of Pentecost shows all people that God does not want anyone to perish, but instead wants everyone to come to repentance.[6]

Pentecost is not just some crazy miracle story invented to spice up the narrative of Christianity, or to give legitimacy to the Apostles by endowing them with supernatural tongue-speaking powers. Even though videos of people rolling around on the floor “in the spirit” babbling nonsensical gibberish may provide endless entertainment for viewers of YouTube, Pentecost is about something far more important than the miracle of speaking in tongues God performed that day. The events of Pentecost give us an important instruction as to how we must understand God’s word. It shows us the nature and work of the Holy Spirit. Most of all, Pentecost show us that God’s forgiveness and eternal life in Jesus, won by his atoning sacrifice on the cross, is for all people, and is given as a gift by the working of the Holy Spirit. ###

[1] John 5:39
[2] John 16:7-11
[3] Acts 5:1-4; 13:1-3;
[4] Romans 10:17; 1 Corinthians 2:14; 6:11; 12:3;
[5] Acts 2:38-29
[6] 2 Peter 3:9

Monday, May 11, 2020

Human Judgment

Christ the Pantocrator

Monday after Cantate

“You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one” (John 8:15).

To judge according to the flesh is to judge according to the mere appearance of a thing, or to make a decision about a thing based on human reasoning. Speaking to the Jews in this passage, Jesus uses the term “flesh” as He does in Chapter six when He says, “the flesh (that is, the human nature) profits nothing.[1]” This is in contrast to how He uses the same word earlier in chapter six during the Bread of Life discourse to describe His own flesh as real food.[2] This is the way Paul uses the term “the flesh” in his writings. Paul writes in Romans, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells;[3]” And, to the Galatians, “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.[4]” The term “flesh”, as Jesus uses it here refers to the sinful human nature, which lusts against the Spirit, which two are contrary to one another.[5] This is the standard by which the Jews are judging Jesus. They do not accept the works He does, like healing the sick, restoring sight to the blind, and raising the dead. They claim that Jesus is doing these miracles by the power of the devil, that He is transgressing the Law of Moses when He heals on the Sabbath, or that He blasphemes when He says that holy Scripture is about Him, He is the only way to the Father, and calls Himself God.

But in the same sentence Jesus says something we might find odd. He says that He judges no one. If Jesus had said that, rather than judging according to the flesh, He judged according to the Spirit, this would be more logical. But Jesus does not say that. He says, “I judge no one.” How can this be true, especially when we Christians confess that He will come again in glory to judge both the living and the dead?[6] It is God’s word that judges. Jesus alludes to this type of judgment when He tells them, “It is also written in your law that the testimony of two men is true. I am One who bears witness of myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me.[7]” They should believe what Jesus teaches because in accordance with God’s word, Jesus has two who “bear witness” on His behalf: Himself, and God the Father. God’s word is what judges those who refuse to believe Jesus. Jesus will later tell His disciples, “If anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. He who rejects Me, and does not receive my words, has that which judges him – the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.[8]” Christ offered life to His hearers, but their rejection would condemn them (The Lutheran Study Bible 2009, p. 1807).

Jesus says that He is the light of the world, but the Jews are blind to this light because they are judging Jesus, not by God’s Word as they believe in their legalism, but rather according to the flesh. This is not a problem that is unique to them. We people today are just as prone to reject Jesus as our ancient counterparts because of our sinful human nature, and chalk it up to being clever, sophisticated, and modern. But, we have the same sinful flesh to contend with as they, and therefore the same inclination toward sin and away from God. It is true of us as well: in us, that is, in our flesh, there is nothing good. Almost 100 years ago, a man named Pieper wrote about “modern theology”:

The moderns have nothing to offer but human doctrine. Refusing to accept Scripture as the Word of God, they have found it theologically unreliable and have substituted for it as the source of doctrine the human heart, the theological Ego…They are virtually demanding that theology be removed from the realm of divine truth into the sphere of subjective human opinion…we shall have to insist that what the Church needs is God’s theology and that the theology, the doctrine drawn by the theologian from Scripture…is divine doctrine (Christian Dogmatics 1957, p.53).

God’s word is true; it means what it says, and it does what it says. And it says that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, and that He rose again on the third day.[9] It says that Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.[10] It says that He was the one promised, even going all the way back to the Garden, to come and set the captives free, destroying sin, death, and the devil.[11] It says that when we eat His body and drink His blood as he tells us to, we have the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.[12] It says that when we are baptized into Christ, we put on Christ,[13] our sins are washed away,[14] and we are saved all through the resurrection of Christ;[15] that baptism connects us to His death, and consequently to His resurrection, so it belongs to us.[16] So repent and believe the Gospel. Let’s not judge Jesus according to the flesh, and end up being judged ourselves by His word. Let’s not be too modern to receive the forgiveness of sins and inherit eternal life on the Last Day, for on that Day, all who are in their graves will hear His voice and come out, some to everlasting life, and some to everlasting condemnation.[17]

Works Cited

Concordia Publishing House. 2009. The Lutheran Study Bible. Edited by Edward A Engelbrecht, Paul E Deterding, Roland Cap Ehlke, Jerald C Joersz, Mark W Love, Steven P Mueller, Scott R Murray, et al. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.
Pieper, Francis. 1957. Christian Dogmatics. Edited by Walter W. F. Albrecht. Vol. 1. 4 vols. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.

[1] John 6:63
[2] John 6:55
[3] Romans 7:18
[4] Galatians 5:24
[5] Galatians 5:17
[6] John 5:28-30
[7] John 8:17-18
[8] John 12:47-48
[9] 1 Corinthians 15
[10] 1 John 2:2
[11] Luke 4:16-22
[12] Matthew 26:28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-29
[13] Galatians 3:27
[14] Acts 22:16
[15] 1 Peter 3:18-22
[16] Romans 6:3-11
[17] John 5:29

Monday, May 4, 2020

Many Disciples Turn Away

Monday after Jubilate

“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63).

Sacramentarians[1] have the same problem here that the disciples who left Jesus had: Jesus’ teaching that His flesh is food indeed, and His blood is drink indeed is for them a hard saying and they cannot understand it. Some teachers of that sect try to use the words of this verse to spiritualize and symbolize all that Jesus had previously said about Him being the Bread of Life come down from heaven, and whoever eats His flesh and drinks His blood has eternal life. The following quotation, taken from, is typical of the Sacramantarian teaching on this passage:

The idea of His flesh being the bread of life was meant to extend the analogy of bread, in order to include His upcoming sacrificial death on the cross. Here, Jesus makes a direct statement that His prior words were not meant to be taken literally. In other words, Christ is not actually saying that people need to consume His material flesh or drink His liquid blood. Rather, the point Jesus is making is spiritual…faith in Christ is not the same as intellectual knowledge. Saving faith means receiving Christ in the deepest parts of ourselves.[2]

Faith is indeed different from intellectual knowledge. It is the gift of God;[3] it is the substance, the foundation, of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.[4] Why, then, do we treat it as intellectual knowledge by rationalizing Jesus’ words, and changing their context? Jesus is not speaking in figuratively in the Bread of Life passage. In fact, when John is writing something figurative or symbolic he, like the other New Testament authors, makes it clear in the text. Jesus often teaches in parables, which are figures of speech. When He does so, it is obvious; He says things like, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it?” Or, “A certain man had a fig tree…” And the Gospel writers clearly indicate that Jesus is speaking figuratively by writing something like, “He spoke this parable to them, saying…” When Jesus cleanses the temple and the Pharisees demand a sign from Him to show the authority by which He did what He did, Jesus answers, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” They misunderstand, and think Jesus is talking about the actual building, but John makes sure it is clear to the reader, “But He was speaking of the temple of His body. Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.”[5] It was symbolic language, a figure of speech. There are no such indications in the Bread of Life passage that Jesus is using the eating and drinking of His flesh and blood figuratively.

On the contrary, Jesus gets more and more specific and clear as He teaches precisely what it means that He is the Bread of Life. He uses the Greek word for true, living flesh, [6] and the blood that goes through that flesh,[7] when He teaches. His reference to the Holy Spirit being life in verse 63 hardly negates as figurative His statement, “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in Me and I in him.”

Jesus’ words here mean precisely what they say. It is the Spirit who gives life: It is the Holy Sprit who creates life and faith in men, turning their hearts of stone into hearts of flesh, as we know, through the word. And it should be no surprise that Jesus delivers the word of His promises to us by different means. There are many examples of Him using something intermediate as an instrument to deliver His faith-creating word. He attaches His words to water in Holy Baptism where He promises to give us a new birth, save us from sin, death, and the devil, clothe us with His righteousness, and connect us to Him, His death, and His resurrection. He attaches His words to mud made out of spit to restore sight to a man born blind.[8] He attaches His words, through the prophet Elisha, to the waters of the Jordan river to heal Naaman’s leprosy.[9] Even the preacher preaching the word, and the book containing the scriptures itself, are means – instruments for delivering His word. If we say that Jesus does not use means to deliver His word to men to create faith in them, we must say that He creates faith directly in a man’s heart without means. This is directly contradicted by scripture, for we know that faith comes by hearing and hearing through the word of Christ.[10]

The flesh profits nothing: Jesus did not say His flesh profits nothing, but rather the flesh profits nothing. His use of the word flesh recorded in verse 63 is different from His use of it earlier. Here Jesus uses it as Paul does when the apostle writes about the sinful human nature, when he writes, for example, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells.”[11] Jesus is here talking about man’s sinful human nature. He is literally saying that the flesh profits nothing; the sinful flesh which lusts for bread rather than the things of God cannot help in spiritual matters.[12] But Jesus, the word made flesh, can and does. The words of promise that He delivers to us, through the waters of our baptism, through the word preached to us by faithful pastors, through the word read in our Bibles and meditated upon, and through the word combined with bread and wine by which Jesus gives us His real body and blood to eat and drink, bring to us also the Holy Spirit, who creates faith and gives eternal life.

It is the word that makes the sacrament of the altar, i.e. the Lord’s Supper, and sets it apart.[13] Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you. This do in remembrance of me.” In the same way also He took the cup after supper, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them saying, “Drink of it all of you; this is My blood of the new testament, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”[14] It is about this that Jesus was teaching in John chapter six. And in this sacrament He gives us his real body and blood.

If a hundred thousand devils, together with all fanatics, should rush forward, crying “How can bread and wine be Christ’s body and blood?” and such, I know that all spirits and scholars together are not as wise as is the Divine Majesty in His little finger. Now here stands Christ’s Word, “Take, eat; this is My body…Drink of it, all of you; this is My blood of the new testament,” and so on. Here we stop to watch those who will call themselves His masters and make the matter different from what He has spoken. It is true, indeed, that if you take away the Word or regard the Sacrament without the words, you have nothing but mere bread and wine. But if the words remain with them, as they shall and must, then, by virtue of the words, it is truly Christ’s body and blood. What Christ’s lips say and speak, so it is. He can never lie or deceive.[15]


Baumler, Gary P. John. Saint Louis: Concordia Pub. House, 2005.

Engelbrecht, Edward. The Lutheran Study Bible: English Standard Version. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2016.

“Haima Meaning in Bible - New Testament Greek Lexicon - King James Version.” Bible Study Tools. Accessed May 4, 2020.

Lutheran Worship. St. Louis: Concordia Pub. House, 1982.

McCain, Paul Timothy., W. H. T. Dau, and F. Bente. Concordia: the Lutheran Confessions: a Readers Edition of the Book of Concord. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Pub. House, 2009.

“Sarx Meaning in Bible - New Testament Greek Lexicon - New American Standard.” Bible Study Tools. Accessed May 4, 2020.

Websters Collegiate Dictionary. Third Edition of the Merriam Series. The Largest Abridgment of Websters New International Dictionary of the English Language. 1700 Illustrations. Springfield: Published by G. and C. Merriam Co., 1919.

“What Does John 6:63 Mean?” Accessed May 4, 2020.

[1] Sacramentarian: One who holds the sacraments to be simply symbols; a name given to Zwinglians and Calvinists. Websters Collegiate Dictionary. Third Edition of the Merriam Series. The Largest Abridgment of Websters New International Dictionary of the English Language. 1700 Illustrations (Springfield: Published by G. and C. Merriam Co., 1919))  
[2] “What Does John 6:63 Mean?,”, accessed May 4, 2020,
[3] Ephesians 2:8
[4] Hebrews 11:1
[5] John 2:13-22
[6] Sarx: 1. Flesh (the soft substance of the living body, which covers the bones and is permeated with blood) of both man and beasts; 2. the body; 3. a living creature (because possessed of a body of flesh) whether man or beast; 4. the flesh, denotes mere human nature, the earthly nature of man apart from divine influence, and therefore prone to sin and opposed to God. “Sarx Meaning in Bible - New Testament Greek Lexicon - New American Standard,” Bible Study Tools, accessed May 4, 2020,
[7] Haima: 1. Blood (of man or animals; refers to the seat of life; of those things that resemble blood, grape juice); 2. blood shed, to be shed by violence, slay, murder. “Haima Meaning in Bible - New Testament Greek Lexicon - King James Version,” Bible Study Tools, accessed May 4, 2020,
[8] John 9:6-7
[9] 2 Kings 5:9-10
[10] Romans 10:17
[11] Romans 7:18
[12] Edward Engelbrecht, The Lutheran Study Bible: English Standard Version (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2016))
[13] LC V, 10
[14] Lutheran Worship (St. Louis: Concordia Pub. House, 1982)): The Words of Institution.
[15] LC V, 12-14