Saturday, May 5, 2012

Cantate - The Fourth Sunday after Easter.
John 16:5-15

Cantate, The Fourth Sunday after Easter, 2012

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time

The Hymn # 199     Jesus Christ is Risen Today            1:83
The Confession of Sins
The Absolution
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual       
The Gospel              
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn # 262            A Mighty Fortress                      1:86

The Holy Spirit Convicts Us of Unbelief

The Communion Hymn #308            Invited Lord                1:63
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn #46     On What Has Now Been Sown  1:62               

Fourth Sunday After Easter

Lord God, heavenly Father, who didst through Thy Son promise us Thy Holy Spirit, that He should convince the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment: We beseech Thee, enlighten our hearts, that we may confess our sins, through faith in Christ obtain everlasting righteousness, and in all our trials and temptations retain this consolation, that Christ is Lord over the devil and death, and all things, and that He will graciously deliver us out of all our afflictions, and make us forever partakers of eternal salvation, through the same, Thy Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

KJV James 1:16 Do not err, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. 18 Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. 19 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: 20 For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. 21 Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.

KJV John 16:5 But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? 6 But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart. 7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. 8 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 Of sin, because they believe not on me; 10 Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; 11 Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. 12 I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. 13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. 14 He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. 15 All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.

The Holy Spirit Convicts Us of Unbelief

John 16:5 But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou?

If anyone grieves over having a lack of insight about the Christian faith, here we have an excellent example of the disciples believing and yet having a weak and distorted view of Jesus’ will and work.

We can imagine their misunderstanding. They lived in Roman occupied territory and their religion had a rich history going back to great kings, the Exodus, and Creation. Their hope, given the times, would have been in freedom from the Romans. Messiah meant anointed king, so they expected a religious and military ruler. After a long period of teaching, where they experienced the joy of being with Jesus, seeing His miracles, hearing Him and explain His teaching, He was going away.

John 16:6 But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart.

Sorrow rather than faith has filled their hearts. We know how grim news can cancel out every other thought. It is more obvious when we see that in someone else. Fear and dread force out faith, and faith cancels fear. The Holy Spirit brought this to remembrance in the writing of John’s Gospel. He taught people from memory for a time, then committed his Gospel to writing. Because of his closeness to Jesus, as the disciple Jesus loved, his portrait is especially clear and compelling.

John was the only disciple to witness the crucifixion. He was one of the first at the tomb.

God allows us times of sorrow and waiting, anxiety and fear, so we can look back and see that He was at work all that time.  God draws us along slowly and gives us what we need at the moment. One harsh experience is training for the next one, which is a bigger challenge. After certain experiences, the wrath and vengeance of unbelievers is no longer so threatening, but it takes great contrasts to see how true this is. Perspective changes with faith and experience.

When someone said how plain and ordinary his church building was, I said, “Try having nothing. Then it looks pretty spiffy.” Everything we have in America is fantastic compared to other countries, even Canada. But we take for granted what we have.

That includes people. We take individuals for granted because they are always there. Only in retrospect do we see how valuable they were to us, what blessings they were.

Here the disciples were thinking, fearing, grieving about losing Jesus, and not really sure what that meant. This is where their joy turned to sorrow, just like the first-time mother rejoicing over the baby growing inside her. Then in labor, the joy turns to sorrow for a moment. And joy returns when the baby is born.

John 16:7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.

Jesus’s words are aimed at strengthening the disciples. Their ministry had been a local, walking work of evangelism. Commentators often remark about the influence of Jesus even though He worked for a few years in a minor part of the Roman Empire, traveling a relatively short distance.

What happened next was the growth of the Christian Church through the work of the Holy Spirit through the Word. Jesus traveled through Word and Sacrament throughout the Roman Empire, the rapid growth spurred by persecution, enhanced by the Roman road system of 55,000 paved roads. (An accident of history? I think not.) One group of 12 became 500 at the resurrection and grew from there.

The culture of the Roman Empire changed from thoroughly pagan to partially Christian. By 313 AD the Emperor Constantine issued an Edict of Toleration and stopped the persecutions. He moved his capital to Constantinople (then called Byzantium, now called Istanbul). He made the Eastern Roman Empire Christian and that survived until 1453 AD. That is Luther’s point – there was nothing compared to the power and majesty of the Roman Empire, but the Word knocked it into an ash-heap.

In today’s world, it is expedient to trust in the Word, because the Holy Spirit will take it places that the organizations of man cannot approach. A minister may want to stay in one place, remodel his office, and build up a retirement. His wife may enjoy her friends and her part-time job. But God can tear them away from that, which causes sorrow, and create a new situation filled with spiritual joy rather than material security.

The disciples’ clinging to their present happiness should remind us of ourselves. The Old Adam wants the material realm that can never last rather than the spiritual that will last. When this happens repeatedly, the Old Adam is beaten down and the New Man flourishes. One of our great hymn writers lost everything, time after time, from invasion, caused by Roman Catholic-Lutheran warfare. He was quite sick with infections beside. Gerhardt was a prime example of loss and misfortune, because he did not compromise with falsehood.

We would shake the disciples’ shoulders and say, “Don’t you see? Jesus will conquer death, rise again, and make you founders of the Christian Church? The Holy Spirit will make the Gospel international instead of local.”

And the disciples would say, “And you know better, but you fret about buildings – we had none. You want to balance the budget – we had nothing. You talk about us – but you listen to accountants and life-coaches. You have the same Holy Spirit in the Word, but you trust in demographics and mission vision statements. We were fallible but you are blinded and do not even know it.”

The next part is so important that it formed the basis for all of Luther’s preaching. Many clergy today do not grasp it and even teach against it. Getting this wrong means getting the Gospel wrong.

Sidebar – this passage is another example of God’s Word giving us hundreds of examples of the same teaching, but told in various ways, all in harmony with one another. If someone thinks that one passage can be pixilated (exaggerated and taught piece-meal, apart from the canon of the Scriptures, contradicting other parts) he is a fool, liar, and wolf. Starting from this following passage, anyone can follow justification by faith, from the First Gospel of Genesis 3:15 to the end of time in the climax of Revelation. What we have in this One True Religion is justification by faith in teaching, preaching, and the Sacraments.

God condescends to us in teaching in such plain words and simple examples that we can grasp with child-like faith. But there are also passages that need to be understood with perfect clarity. They are difficult because they war against our nature. They can be understood if we study other passages with them. But they make us stop and wonder when we see how special they are. This is one of them.

8) The work of the Paraclete will be twofold. He will direct his activity toward the world (v. 8–11), and toward the disciples (v. 12–15). Yet he will do this work as the Paraclete sent to the disciples by Jesus. He abides permanently in them; and this means that he works through them upon the world, that they are his instruments. Jesus does not say this in so many words, it is understood. The best commentary on the work of the Paraclete with the world is Peter’s sermon on Pentecost. The Paraclete worked through Peter, won 3,000 through his preaching, and convicted the scoffers of their folly. The same working appears in connection with the trials of the apostles before the Sanhedrin. None were brought to faith, but the conviction of all by the Spirit, speaking through the apostles, is evident, Acts 4:8, etc.; 5:29, etc. All this shows that the Spirit will be a true Paraclete for the disciples, one who will aid the disciples mightily in the work Jesus had assigned to them in the world.
Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. John's Gospel. Minneapolis, MN : Augsburg Publishing House, 1961, S. 1080.

John 16:8 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 Of sin, because they believe not on me; 10 Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; 11 Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.

This is truly important, because all the work of the Christian Church is summed up in a few verses. The Holy Spirit works through the Word and Sacraments and never apart from the Word and Sacraments.

One ministry of the Word is condemnation, the preaching of the Law. That is described as one thing only – The Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin, “because they do not believe on Me.”

The Ten Commandments as Law are overwhelmed by the importance of one thing alone – not trusting completely in Christ.

This is where so many fallacies arise and the Law Salesmen go to town. All the Church Growthers, Emergent Churches (bar, theater, wrinkled jeans) and Left-wing mainline churches belong to the Guild of Law-Salesmen. They are full of condemnation by the Law (their law), which can only be absolved by obeying their law. Thus their law diagnoses the problem and supplies the medicine. It is like an x-ray showing a broken bone and the x-ray machine healing the bone (which was tried long ago) – the result is painful if not fatal.

The apostles preached the true Law to the crowds in Jerusalem, giving them another chance for salvation.

KJV Acts 3:14 But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; 15 And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses.

The solution is not more Law (because they repented of their unbelief) but Gospel:

KJV Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other Name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

The foundational sin is unbelief, but some think the foundational sin is questioning the synod or pastor (both used to excommunicate members or pastors, even congregations).

The Spirit is not to repeat the work of Moses in preaching the law. The conviction in regard to sin lies in one direction: “inasmuch as they do not believe in me.” Yet note that this is the capital sin. For to believe in Jesus is to be saved from sin, to have sin forgiven; and thus not to believe in Jesus is to remain in sin, to perish forever in sin. The Spirit’s work in regard to sin is to confront the world with the terrible fact of its unbelief in Jesus, which means, with the fact that this unbelief leaves it in its damnable sin, doomed and damned forever, in other words, that only he who believes escapes from his sin. This conviction in regard to sin naturally operates in two ways. It will crush some hearts so that they will be frightened at their unbelief and cry out like the 3,000 at Pentecost, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Acts 2:37, and thus be led to repent and to believe. Or it will further harden those who resist this conviction; they will go on, convicted though they are, more obdurate than before, fighting against this conviction until they perish. In this the Spirit will do exactly what Jesus did in 7:33, etc., and again in 8:22–24: “I said, therefore, unto you that ye shall die in your sins; for except ye believe that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.”
                Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. John's Gospel. Minneapolis, MN : Augsburg Publishing House, 1961, S. 1082.

This also means that believing in Christ is forgiveness. There is no forgiveness, no salvation, outside of faith in Christ.
For this to be the Gospel there can be no Law requirements. It is not faith plus works or faith plus some outward signs of adherence and obedience (such as joining a cell group, speaking in tongues, or picketing the local bank). Faith receives the blessings, the promises of the Gospel.

This happens each and every day for the believer, so the strongest medicine against sin and temptation is realizing this daily forgiveness through faith in the Gospel. That is part of the Small Catechism but often forgotten or overlooked.

I think it is overlooked because Pietism (our national religion) never really forgives. Pietism always blends works with the Gospel and makes people feel guilty about not doing enough. The Pietistic Lutheran synods flog this guilt repeatedly instead of motivating with the Gospel. (See my Peter Pan graphic.)

Here is the Small Catechism on the work of the Holy Spirit in the Gospel:

The Holy Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith; in which Christian Church He forgives daily and richly all sins to me and all believers, and at the last day will raise up me and all the dead, and will give to me and to all believers in Christ everlasting life. This is most certainly true.

This is consistent with all of Luther’s teaching and harmonizes with the Scriptures. Lutherans once taught this unanimously (Concordia) but now they teach against it with through their dogma of forgiveness without faith. Now I see “Lutherans” raving that the Reformer himself taught forgiveness without faith. I am sure you remember that from confirmation – “Martin Luther began the Reformation by teaching that everyone is declared forgiven without faith.” I missed that too, and I was confirmed as an adult.

Believing in Christ brings the fruit of the Spirit because that Gospel energy must necessarily produce God-pleasing results in us through abiding in the True Vine (John 15:1-10), the Word and Sacraments.

Of righteousness, because I go to my Father

As Luther said, going to the Father is righteousness because all Christians follow the path of Christ. Going means dying. Christ was going to die for the sins of the world, so His righteousness would be distributed (Luther, Book of Concord) by the Holy Spirit in the Means of Grace. Ultimately, all believers go to the Father, following the path set by Jesus. We follow “in His steps.”

Following Christ means bearing the cross, because unbelievers hate the Word of Faith. God’s Word is a rod that shatters entire empires, but unbelievers are not content with a spiritual rod. They use real weapons. Nothing is too low or base for them.

But this is the righteousness of faith, trusting that whatever comes is from sharing the cross of Christ and benefiting from it.

This passage also condemns the world’s concept of righteousness, which may mean being vegetarian, never wearing fur, joining a cell group, or some other law demand mixed in with the faith. That is why the world responds to faith with such mockery, because there must always be a gulf between God’s righteousness (the righteousness of faith) and the world’s righteousness (of works).

Good works in the Christian will necessarily come from faith. If all the fruits of the Spirit are lacking, someone should wonder if repentance is also lacking.

and ye see me no more
Although the disciples would no longer see Christ, He would be with them in the Word and Sacraments.

11 Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.

The last phrase reveals especially that all three can be seen in a negative or positive light, depending on whether one is believer or not. Perhaps the best word is “convince” rather than convict.

When everyone is convinced that unbelief in Christ is the foundational sin, then believers rejoice in justification by faith while unbelievers respond with wrath and blindness.

When everyone is convinced of righteousness, the unbelievers reject that righteousness and substitute their own, while believers understand completely that righteousness is the path of Christ, following the way of the cross.

When everyone is convinced that Satan is judged, believers no longer fear demonic power and unbelievers cast their lot (quite deliberately) with their Father Below.

Trinitarian Passage

This Gospel lesson ends with a clear, beautiful Trinitarian passage, naming Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. 14 He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. 15 All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
The Holy Spirit does not call attention to Himself, but bears witness to the Father and Son. The Father and the Son bear the same witness, and the Holy Spirit teaches that truth.


This lesson is also important in combating Enthusiasm in the Church, the notion that the Holy Spirit operates apart from the Word and Sacraments (Calvin, Zwingli, the pope, and all pagan religions). Just as unbelief is the foundational sin, divorcing the Holy Spirit from the Word is foundational for all false doctrine.

The pope and the professors cannot simply announce doctrine. A convention cannot vote on doctrine. That would be amusing if it were not completely obnoxious. Everything taught in the Name of Christ must come from the Holy Spirit’s teaching in the Word.

Pagan religions are simply invented by man, so there is no Word and no Spirit.


[Some people think righteous means doing good works and reconciling God] "But now comes the Holy Spirit and says: No so. You err and are mistaken. Your judgment is wrong. Therefore there must be another judgment. You should judge thus: Everything your reason concludes is erroneous and false, and you are a fool and a simpleton."
            Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., III, p. 119. John 16:5-15.

"But now, since the prince of this world and the Holy Spirit, the kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of the devil, are directly opposed to one another, and the Holy Spirit is not willing that anyone should parade his own deeds and praise himself on account of them, the holy cross must soon follow. The world will not consent to be reprimanded for its blindness. Therefore one must willingly submit and suffer persecution. If we have the right kind of faith in our hearts, we must also open our mouths and confess righteousness and make known sin. Likewise we must condemn and punish the doings of this world and make it known that everything it undertakes, is damned."
            Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., III, p. 120. John 16:5-15.

"However, here the Lord speaks quite differently, and says: 'The Holy Spirit will convict the world in respect of sin, because they believe not on me.' Unbelief only is mentioned here as sin, and faith is praised as suppressing and extinguishing the other sins, even the sins in the saints. Faith is so strong and overpowering that no sin dare put it under any obligation. Although sins are present in pious and believing persons, they are not imputed to them, nor shall their sins condemn them."
            Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., III, p. 127. John 16:5-15.

"Godly and believing persons know their sins; they bear all their punishment patiently, and are resigned to God's judgment without the least murmur; therefore, they are punished only bodily, and here in time, and their pain and suffering have an end. Unbelievers, however, since they are not conscious of their sins and transgressions, cannot bear God's punishment patiently, but they resent it and wish their life and works to go unpunished, yea, uncensured. Hence, their punishment and suffering are in body and soul, here in time, and last forever beyond this life."
            Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., III, p. 131. John 16:5-15.

 "This is the province of the work, which the Holy Spirit is to begin in the kingdom of Christ. It is the teaching office of the apostles, which is to be of such a character that it must convict the world, as it finds it outside of Christ, and nobody is to be excepted, great, small, learned, wise, holy, of high or low condition, etc. This means in short, to bear the world's anger and to begin strife, and to be struck in the mouth for it. For the world, which rules on earth, will not and cannot endure its course to be disapproved; therefore persecution must arise, and one party must yield to the other, the weakest to the stronger. But, as the office of the apostles is to be only a teaching office, it cannot use world power and the world retains its external kingdom and power against the apostles. But, on the other hand, the apostles' office of conviction of the world shall likewise not be suppressed, because it is the office and work of the Holy Spirit, but shall overcome all and triumph; as Christ promised to them: 'I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to withstand.' Luke 21:15"
            Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., III, p. 136. John 16:5-15.

"It breaks in not piecemeal on certain works and actions, but reduces to nothing and condemns everything that reason and worldly wisdom propose. In short, He convicts and censures them in and for the very things they do not wish to be convicted in, but rather praised and lauded, as teaching and doing well and right."
            Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., III, p. 138. John 16:5-15.

 "For the heart is ever hostile to the law and resists it with inward disobedience."
            Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., III, p. 140. John 16:5-15.

 "Therefore the Holy Spirit rightly and justly convicts, as sinful and condemned, all who have not faith in Christ. For where this is wanting, other sins in abundance must follow: God is despised and hated, and the entire first table is treated with disobedience."
            Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., III, p. 141. John 16:5-15.

 "Lo, how the dragon's-tail of the devil and all hell must follow unbelief! The reason is, that he who does not believe in Christ, has already turned away from God and quite separated himself from Him."
            Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., III, p. 142. John 16:5-15.

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