Pentecost · John 15:26-27; 16:4-15 · May 31, 2009
By Robert Hoehner
This is Pentecost, a day of celebration; a day to remember and hold fast to our identity as the people of God, and the purpose he intends for our lives in this world, and the new world to come. We are here to give him glory!
Our Gospel Lesson is a Pentecost sermon preached by our Lord on Maundy Thursday evening (Jn 13-17). Here he gives us a wonderful promise: He will send his Holy Spirit —”the Spirit of truth” (Jn 15:26). He also tells us what the Holy Spirit will do upon his arrival. He will completely reverse the result of the trial of the next day. He will convict the world of sin, direct us to the righteousness of Christ, and assure us of Satan’s defeat (Jn 16:8-10). The Holy Spirit will personally confirm the Easter victory won by our Savior on the cross and the open tomb. This promise to the disciples was fulfilled on Pentecost, and it has been fulfilled for us as the Holy Spirit works in our lives through the means of grace.
In his book, Make Disciples, Baptizing, Dr. Robert Kolb reminds us that Baptism played a central role in the life of the early church, and it should play a central role in our ministry today. As we address a culture that has a deep longing to connect with God, a Pentecost sermon—with a focus on God’s grace in Baptism—allows the preacher to address this “longing.”
A focus on Baptism is also important due to the general lack of knowledge and understanding about Baptism. For some people, Baptism is seen as an act of obedience or as a membership rite for new members. For others, Baptism is a way for the congregation to join the new parents in celebrating the birth of a child. Still others view Baptism as a reception of God’s free gift of forgiveness, but fail to realize the impact of Baptism on the person’s life as it relates to family, to the body of Christ, and the mission of Christ.
On Pentecost the Holy Spirit brought about significant change to the lives of the disciples and some 3,000 listeners. Even though we are living in a culture of change, the greatest change that we have experienced was that brought about by the same Holy Spirit at our Baptism. Paraphrasing the words of Hebrews 11:40, God was fulfilling his plan of providing “something better” for his people.
In coming into our lives in Baptism, the Holy Spirit has given witness to the truth of God. Personally, he has taught us that our sins are forgiven in and through Jesus Christ, that we are connected with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as well as the fellowship of believers (we are the family of God!). Having received this witness, we are then empowered to be witnesses to others Qn 15:27). It is the preacher’s task to assure his hearers of these great truths. On what basis can he assure them? The assurance is based on God’s word and promise.
The story of God’s saving activity in the Christian life begins with Baptism. As this story develops, and as the Christian lives out the meaning of Baptism, lives are impacted for eternity.
The Sacrament has a profound impact on the life of the baptized and upon the life of the family. In the liturgy of Baptism, parents and sponsors make a commitment before God to bring the child up in love of the Lord.
The impact goes beyond the family, for in Baptism God is bringing the child into the family of faith—into his church, where together with our fellow Christians we serve our Lord— who gave his all for us. As members of the Lord’s Church we have been sent. We are sent to be witnesses, witnesses to God’s grace and truth in Jesus Christ. We are sent to tell people that in Jesus Christ their sins are forgiven and that he has conquered our enemies of sin, death, and hell. We are the living people of God whom God is sending today (led and empowered by his Spirit) to bear witness to the truth of Jesus Christ as he seeks to save people from hell and send them to heaven.
On Pentecost, we remember who the Holy Spirit is and what he is doing. Remembering our Baptism enables us to know who we are and what we are to be doing.