The Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel…Sermon on Luther’s Small Catechism, 3rd Article of the Apostles’ Creed
January 30, 2013
St. Peter Lutheran School Matins
St. Matthew 3:13-17
Hymn: 693 “O Holy Spirit, Grant us Grace” (Ringwaldt)
What is the 3rd Article of the Creed? I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen. What does this mean? I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to Him, but the Holy Spirit has called me by the gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian Church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the last day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true.
Dear Christians of St. Peter School:
Last time I was here we did the First Article of the Apostles’ Creed.
The next article of the creed is the 2nd, which is about “Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord.” But pretty soon it will be Lent, and during Lent we read the story of Jesus’ suffering to take away our sins. So since we’re going to hear about the 2nd article of the creed all through Lent, today we’re going to talk about the 3rd article of the Creed and the third person of the Holy Trinity. What is His name?
What does the Holy Spirit do?
God the Father is “the maker” or Creator; God the Son is the Redeemer; and God the Holy Spirit is the “sanctifier.” What does “sanctify” mean?
Maybe an easier way to remember it is like this: what kind of Spirit is He?
Right. He is the Holy Spirit. He makes us holy. That’s what sanctification is—to be made holy.
What does “holy” mean?
Yes, holy definitely means that you don’t have any sin. But it’s more than that. “Holy” means “set apart.” God is Holy. He is good and righteous and He is clean and pure and things that are not that way cannot come near Him or they will be destroyed or die.
God is holy and set apart, and if you are going to come near Him you also have to be holy and set apart or you will die.
Notice what it says on the green fabric on the altar? What?
We will sing those same words later. Those are the words that people who saw a vision of God in the Bible heard the angels sing as they flew around Him. “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God of Sabaoth.”
Why does it say that on the altar?
From the altar we receive Holy Communion. We receive holy things. What are they?
If we are sinners, how can we come up here and receive such holy things if sinners die when they come into the presence of God?
Yes, Jesus’ body and blood were given to take away our sins, so they make us holy. But the people are already holy before they come up to the altar. How are they holy even though they are still sinners?
The Holy Spirit makes us holy. He comes to us and makes us believe that Jesus’ body and blood were given for us. The person who believes this is clean and holy through Jesus’ death for their sins. That’s all it takes. It seems kind of easy, doesn’t it?
But the truth is that it’s not easy. First it’s only easy because Jesus stood in our place. He became a man and took the punishment for our sins. What should we get from God because of our sins?
How did Jesus make it so that we don’t get that?
Right—He traded places with us. So it’s easy because He did it, not us. But if He hadn’t done it, what then?
Here’s the other thing. It seems easy to you to believe that Jesus died for your sins because you are still children—even the oldest ones (but just barely). And Jesus says that the kingdom of heaven belongs to little children.
But it really is impossible for us to believe that Jesus took away our sins. We are so sinful and far from God by nature that we don’t even have the ability to believe that Jesus paid for all of our sins. We are naturally God’s enemies and don’t want to become His friends. So the Holy Spirit has to turn us and give us faith in Jesus so that we receive the forgiveness of sins and the holiness that He died to give to us.
Then He has to work in our hearts so that they become better and start to want to do what God’s commandments say, like pray and trust God and listen to parents and teachers and love other people instead of calling them names, making fun of them, and breaking their stuff.
How does the Holy Spirit work in us to believe that Jesus’ suffering and death has made us holy?
The Holy Spirit “called me by the Gospel.” The Holy Spirit causes us to believe in Jesus through God’s Word. Through the Bible, and people teaching the Bible, and preaching that comes from the Bible. When your teacher says “Jesus died for your sins and you are going to heaven” that is not just the teacher talking but who?
The Holy Spirit comes through the Word and gives us faith. That can be through a sermon or reading the Bible, but also in Baptism. What is combined with the water in Baptism? [What is Baptism? Baptism is not just plain water, but it is the water included in God’s command and combined with God’s Word. Where is this written? Christ our Lord says in the last chapter of Matthew: ‘Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.]
When Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit descended on Him. He already had the Holy Spirit before, but this was so that everyone would see that the Holy Spirit comes to us through Jesus.
But then Jesus ascended into heaven. What did He tell his disciples would happen to them?
Yes, they would have the same thing happen to them as Jesus. They would be baptized in the Holy Spirit.
Then they went and preached Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection. And they baptized the people who believed the Gospel. Then they received the Holy Spirit too.
The Holy Spirit comes from Jesus to us, and He takes everything that Jesus did and offers it to us through His Word. Then at the same time He works in us so that we believe that Jesus death really means that God has taken away our sins. That makes us holy.
We are able to come into this place and receive holy body and blood of Jesus, and we don’t die even though we still have a sinful nature. Why? Because the Holy Spirit promises that our sins are forgiven through Jesus death. He promises us that when He baptizes us in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is saying, “You are holy, your sins are washed away, and it is just the same as when Jesus was baptized—the Holy Spirit descends on You and the Father calls you His well-beloved Son.”
And He promises it every time we hear the Bible or a sermon that is preached correctly. He tells us “the forgiveness of sins is yours. Your sins are taken away through Jesus’ death on the cross.” He presses this good news into our hearts so that it becomes ours.
So, do you believe your sins are completely taken away by Jesus’ death on the cross?
Well, that means that the Holy Spirit has given you eternal life and made you holy. He has made you a holy child of the Father. Because we would never believe that on our own. But now the Holy Spirit has made you holy and snatched you away from Satan to live in God’s house forever.
For that we have to go into His house with the holiness of Jesus that has been given to us to wear and thank and praise Him with the angels, archangels, apostles, martyrs, prophets and the whole company of heaven. Let’s go do that right now. We sing the Te Deum Laudamus.
The peace of God, which passes understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Soli Deo Gloria
- Crawl to the Cross. Septuagesima Sermon (Matt. 20:1-16), Jan. 27, 2013 (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)