Pentecost May 30, 2004
2 Corinthians 1:18-24
231, 236, 229, 54
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
As God is faithful, our word to you was not Yes and No. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me, Silvanus, and Timothy—was not Yes and No, but in Him was Yes. For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. Moreover I call God as witness against my soul, that to spare you I came no more to Corinth. Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand.
Dear Friends in Christ Jesus, who dwells in us through the Spirit:
Maybe at some time in your youth you’ve had an experience something like this:
You run into a friend who asks, “What’re you doing tonight?”
“Me either. Wanna go to a show? Tell you what, I have some stuff to do right now, but meet me at Walgreens about 6:30.”
You faithfully arrive at Walgreens at 6:29. No friend. You wait a half hour and then another half hour. Finally, you go home frustrated and angry at being stood up.
The next day, you meet your friend on the street. “Hey! Where were you last night? I waited an hour for you.”
“Last night? Oh, yeah. I ran into Cathy. Hadn’t seen her in a while, and we decided to go bowling.”
A ‘friend’ like that doesn’t stay a friend for very long, does he?
Maybe it’s teen-age experiences, maybe it’s insurance companies refusing to pay a claim, maybe it’s employers promising a job, a raise, or a promotion—there are many examples to illustrate that life in this world is often darkened by broken promises or unfulfilled obligations.
But the Lord God keeps all of His promises and fulfills His word. Some people have trouble accepting this as a fact because God hasn’t done things in the way they desire or expect, but that doesn’t make His ways any less true. As Paul says, all of God’s promises are “yes” in Christ. However, this “Yes” only becomes evident among people in whom the Holy Spirit is working. Today, we’ll consider the unwavering “Yes!” of our Lord. We’ll see what the Holy Spirit has to do with bringing that “Yes!” home to you:
I. He speaks His “yes” through Spirit-filled preaching. II.We realize His “yes” through Spirit-worked faith. III. We live in His “yes” through Spirit-worked confidence
First of all, God proclaims His “Yes” to a fallen-world through Spirit-filled preaching. In this second letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul is interested in defending his ministry before this group of Christians. This defense was needed because the congregation was confused and manipulated by other teachers who had broken down the unity of the congregation, disturbed many souls with errors and legalism, and assailed Paul’s place as their spiritual shepherd.
So, as Paul begins this very personal and warm letter to the congregation (which had already begun to make some corrections in their spiritual life), he points out that his ministry has not been about changes, broken promises, and uncertain relationships. Paul’s chief concern wasn’t whether the Corinthians had a good impression of him or not. All that mattered to Paul was that he be faithful in his ministry to them. He wanted them to realize that he and his associates had never come talking out of both sides of their mouths by saying “yes” one minute and changing it to “no” the next.
Rather, Paul’s message to the Corinthians had always been “Yes” in Christ. Yes, Jesus is foolishness to the Greeks and an offense to the Jews, but to those who are called, He is the power of God and the wisdom of God (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:23ff).
All that God has done through Jesus has been His great “Yes” to the world: Yes, “this is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased—Hear Him!” (Matthew 17:5). Yes, His resurrection is proof to the world that His work is done. Jesus, my Son, has borne my wrath for all your sins; and through His work I, the Creator, am now reconciled to this world (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:18ff). Yes! He that believes in Jesus as his or her savior from sin will be saved (cf. Mark 16:16).
But how God brings this resounding message home to people in this world—people caught in the guilt of sin or lost in the darkness of idolatry—is the story of Pentecost and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. When that little congregation of believers heard the sound of a rushing mighty wind and saw what looked like tongues of fire on their heads, it became clear that yet another promise of God was being fulfilled. God was faithful and the promise that Jesus would pour out the Holy Spirit of God upon His Church was fulfilled.
But what would that Spirit do? He would put fire and life into their testimony that Jesus was the Lord. It would be by His power that the apostle began telling the world about the wonderful works of God. It was under the guidance of the Spirit that Peter and John and the others boldly proclaimed a living Christ to the Jerusalem that did her best to destroy Him. It was by the counsel of the Holy Spirit that this little group of Jewish believers began to reach out to the world, starting with the Samaritans and Roman centurions and pagans in Asia Minor. It is the Spirit of God that keeps the Church of Jesus Christ restless and unsatisfied until the Gospel of Jesus has been preached in every spot on the globe and its blessed tones have reached ears in every language.
It is the Holy Spirit who has led holy men to write down the Scriptures that are so precious and powerful to us, for we know that in them and only in them, do we find God’s words.
The unwavering “Yes” of God to a lost world is proclaimed through the Spirit-filled preaching of the Church.
Paul says in our text that “by faith you stand.” [v.24] God’s "Yes" applies to each of us through faith.
Jesus often told people who came to Him, “your faith has saved you.” He was pointing to their trust in Him and His power to help. But each time He said that, He was also preaching a sermon that we can take to heart. When we hear this message of the Gospel—that Jesus Christ died to save sinners—the Spirit is working to make us believe that for ourselves. When Jesus said “Son, be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven you” (Matthew 9:2), He was sharing the very thing that could give cheer to the man—the peace of knowing that no matter how guilty, or helpless, or spiritually weak a person may be, he is still accepted by God for Jesus’ sake.
Paul vigorously articulated the truth that a sinner is saved by faith apart from works. But what faith is this? Just a vague trust that a vague God will work things out in a vaguely positive way? No, he proclaims that “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Paul also impressed on the Corinthians that this kind of faith—what we call saving faith—is worked only by the Holy Spirit: “No one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus be cursed,’ and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3).
It is the Holy Spirit who works through the Gospel in the Word of God and also in the Sacraments, which are visible signs joined to that Word. The Spirit does this work to bring us to repentance over our sins and to lead us to see Jesus with our hearts as our God and Savior. He has no more important and central work than to turn our hearts toward the cross of Jesus’ suffering, to the victory of His empty grave, and to make us to know that we are the objects of this Savior’s love, mercy, and saving power.
The faith-creating presence of the Holy Spirit is a treasure to us. We live in God’s “Yes” through Spirit-worked confidence.
Paul says that God “Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” [vv.21-22]
Because we live in such a fickle and changing world that is full of broken promises, it is a special joy to know that we have the Holy Spirit in our hearts. He, who created our faith, also builds up our confidence and courage in the power of God and His promises.
Think how the Holy Spirit, filling the hearts of the disciples with joy over the Gospel, changed their lives. They lived by faith, no longer by sight. Jesus said He would come again—they had their bags packed, ready to go. Jesus said they would be His witnesses to the ends of the earth—when opportunities came up to go and to speak they were willing and ready. When they came up against adversaries and false teachers, they stood firm in the truth and defended the church against errors inroads. They remained confident in Christ. He became their sole treasure and power.
Such confidence grows when you are sure of God’s promises. Paul tells us that the Spirit is a “deposit” or down payment. He guarantees that what the Lord has begun, He will finish. God has worked faith in our hearts, converting us from death to life, from sin to righteousness. The Spirit who did that converting is the promise that God will sustain our faith through every issue of life.
If God’s warnings against sin cause us to grieve our own errors and hunger for a word of forgiveness, the Spirit assures us that the peace we find in Word and Sacrament are as real as if Jesus Himself were here saying “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more” (John 8:11).
If the Spirit leads us to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, that joy is the down payment of the joy we will have in the day of our own resurrection. If we hear the words “I will come again and receive you to Myself” (John 14:3) and find ourselves looking heavenward, searching for the bright rays of that glorious second coming, then we have in that Spirit-worked faith the guarantee that the day of Jesus’ return will surely come.
God has proclaimed His “Yes, I receive you for Jesus’ sake” to the world through a Spirit-filled Church. He has drawn us into that Church through Spirit-worked faith. May He now give us a Spirit-filled confidence that clings to every word of God as a personal promise, to be fulfilled eternally. Amen
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.