Reading Ramblings – August 14, 2016

Reading Ramblings

Date: Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost ~ August 14, 2016

Texts: Numbers 11:16-17, 26,29; Psalm 143; Romans 8:1-17; John 16:7-15

Context: ** We continue alternate text selections for the remainder of the liturgical year in order to preach through Luther’s Small Catechism **

The final article of the Apostle’s Creed deals with the Holy Spirit and the ramifications of the previous two articles of the Creed. God the Father who has sent God the Son into creation to suffer and die and rise again has specific repercussions. A group of people is created, united not only as creatures of God the Father, but by their receiving of the atoning death of God the Son when presented with the Gospel by God the Holy Spirit. This one, true, universal Church enjoys a mystical fellowship that transcends both time and space, creating one true communion of the saints in Christ past, present, and future, marked by the forgiveness of sins granted to them through faith in the Son of God’s atoning death. Like their savior, this communion of saints looks forward to a bodily resurrection without future death.

Numbers 11:16-17, 26-29 – The Holy Spirit resides with the people of God after Pentecost in a way He did not before. God the Holy Spirit was granted only to specific individuals of God’s people, granting them wisdom and authority. Moses understands that the blessing of God the Holy Spirit is just that – a blessing that ought to be enjoyed by all of God’s people, rather than something to be hoarded and kept to himself. Moses’ wish is fulfilled on Pentecost (Acts 2) when the Holy Spirit is poured out on the disciples, and continues to be poured out throughout the Book of Acts on those who receive the Gospel message. Christians do not profess faith in an abstract God, but rather in the historical Son of God in time and space, as well as the Holy Spirit of God which dwells within them, interceding on their behalf (Romans 8:26). God is not merely for us in Christ, He is with us in the Holy Spirit.

Psalm 143 – Once again the speaker is in a distressful condition. He is oppressed by an enemy who has nearly overwhelmed him (vs.3-4). Yet the speaker cries out to God (v.1), after first pleading for mercy rather than judgment (v.2) based on the goodness of God in the past (v.5-6) and the expectation that God is with him still and can be his source of strength and victory. Verses 7-10 attest that the Lord is the only hope for the speaker, and that the speaker seeks to delight in his God. He contrasts the weakness of his own spirit (v.4) with the strength and goodness of the Lord’s Spirit (v.10). What his own spirit can not accomplish, the Spirit of God can. The psalm ends with a final plea for assistance. The purpose for which God should do this is God’s own glory, a demonstration of his righteousness made evident in his rescue of his oppressed follower. This is the proper work of God, to save those who place their faith and trust in them, and to silence and destroy the power of those arrayed against his faithful, ultimately Satan, sin, and death.

Romans 8:1-17 – As followers of Christ we are to live lives according to the Spirit of God. We live our lives not in fear of the Law, because the power of the Law to condemn us has been removed by the sacrifice of the Son of God (vs.1-3), and we are now free to follow the Spirit of God within us (v.4b).

What does this mean? We are no longer obsessed with ourselves and our selfish wants and desires (v.5a) but rather on what pleases God (v.5b). Those outside of faith can only move towards death in their selfish sinfulness, but despite the fact that we remain sinful, those who have faith in Christ are now destined for a much different fate. Those who reject the good news of Jesus Christ remain hostile and rebellious against God, and therefore nothing that they do – not even things that the world considers good – hold any value with God (vs.7-8). Their destiny is death. But for the faithful in Christ, life awaits them, even though they die (vs.9-11). Because of this we have an obligation to live consistent with our future glory. It would not make sense to continue to live like those destined to death – rather we are to live as those who have received and will receive life (vs.12-13).

Some might consider this to simply be another form of slavery, no better than the slavery to sin we have been saved from through Jesus. But it is very different. It is a slavery that ennobles us to call to God as our Father, rather than a harsh or distant master. It is a slavery that actually is completed not when we die but rather when we fully enter into our identity as the children of God, rather than slaves. It is God’s intention to give his children all things, not simply the wages due to a slave or servant. All of this is possible only by the presence of the Holy Spirit within us, leading us to confess our faith in the Incarnate Son of God on our behalf.

John 16:7-15 – As Jesus prepares to part from his disciples after the Last Supper, He continues to try and bring them comfort, to prepare them for what the next few hours and days will bring. His disciples will be prone to think that Jesus’ departure – initially through death but eventually through ascension – is a bad thing but it’s actually a good thing, for once the Son of God departs physically, the Holy Spirit of God can come, and He will continue the work of God on a broader scale. The Holy Spirit will convict the world concerning sin and the Son of God by spreading the Good News of the Son of God’s resurrection, the vindication over death and Satan and sin by which you and I are given hope.

As with the Son of God, the Holy Spirit of God does not act in isolation, but in fellowship and obedience with God the Father. There is always a perfect unity of purpose and action within the members of the Trinity. In doing so, the Holy Spirit will bring glory to God the Son, who in turn gives glory to God the Father, so that in all things God in all three persons is to be worshiped and praised. It is the Holy Spirit that guides and continues to guide the people of God into truth.

Initially, we would say that Jesus’ words here point to the Holy Spirit’s work in sending the disciples out to spread the Gospel, and in the accumulation of the writings known now as the New Testament. The Holy Spirit continues to provide direction and discernment regarding the Word of God. This does not ensure perfect unanimity in every aspect of doctrine and practice, but ensures that the faithful of God remain on the narrow road towards glory, emphasizing not their own goodness or actions, but the goodness and work of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The work of the three persons of God encompasses all of creation history from beginning to rebirth. There is no part of our lives in which we are out of the power and presence of God the Father as creator and sustainer, God the Son as redeemer, and God the Holy Spirit as sanctifier. The three persons of the Trinity work together towards our eternal salvation, which will in turn prove the goodness of God, his righteousness and perfection. We are not the main characters of the plan of salvation, but we are encompassed within that plan. Our salvation is not itself the main purpose of the plan of salvation, but rather will provide the basis for the continued, eternal worship of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

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