Pastor's Corner

May 2021

How Is the Holy Spirit Poured Out upon Us?

This month, we will celebrate Pentecost, when we remember the Holy Spirit being poured out upon the disciples. For several weeks, our Gospel Lessons will be preparing us for Jesus’ visible departure at His Ascension and His subsequent outpouring of the Holy Spirit from heaven. What does it mean, though, for the Holy Spirit to be poured out? Is He still poured out upon the Church today? Has He been poured out upon you?

The Holy Spirit is God Almighty. He is one God with the Father and the Son. As God, He is everywhere present and fills all things. There are, however, different degrees to which He is manifested in different times and places.

The Holy Spirit is and always has been present in the heart of every believer in Christ, both those who once believed in Christ yet to come, and those who now believe in Christ who has come. King David pleads with God, “Take not Thy Holy Spirit from me” (Ps. 51:11). This of course assumes that David, as a believer in the promised Messiah, already had the Holy Spirit. When we believe in Jesus Christ, we receive the Holy Spirit as well. In fact, the only way we even can believe in the first place is for the Holy Spirit to come to us in God’s Word and bring forth faith in our hearts: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel” (Small Catechism, Third Article of the Creed). Since faith believes the promise of God, and God promises us forgiveness of sins and new birth unto life everlasting through Holy Baptism, Baptism is a means through which the Holy Spirit is given to every believer: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Since you are baptized and believe God’s baptismal promise to you, you have the Holy Spirit. St. Paul is speaking about you when he says, “You have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom. 8:15–16).

That does not mean, however, that you have every gift that God could possibly give you through His Spirit. You have the gift of faith and salvation, but you may not have the gift of prophecy or speaking in tongues. You have the gift of forgiveness and life everlasting, but you may have plenty of room to grow in righteousness and in the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22–23). In fact, even your faith itself has room to grow! “Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).

This is why Jesus commands us to keep praying for the gift of the Holy Spirit: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you…. If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:9, 13). Without the Holy Spirit, we cannot ask God for anything. It is therefore those who already have the Spirit who ask for the gift of the Holy Spirit—and in response, God increases the gift of the Holy Spirit within us! “To everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away” (Matt. 25:30). This is also what St. James means when he writes, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts … must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord” (James 1:5–7). We do not doubt when we pray to God for the gift of the Holy Spirit and for His wisdom that comes down from above.

Usually, these increased gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as wisdom and growth in faith, are normal parts of the Christian life: we increase in holiness and righteousness, and we subdue our sinful flesh more and more. This is what we usually call “sanctification.” But there are also extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit reserved for special times and places in salvation history, such as inspiration to write Holy Scripture: “Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Pet. 1:21). “We speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth” (1 Cor. 2:13). There can also be gifts of healing and other miracles, such as speaking in tongues, i.e., real-world foreign languages that we have not learned in the natural manner. (It is worth noting here that the “speaking in tongues” that takes place in some Pentecostal communities, using unknown “languages” understood by no one but special interpreters, is not the same thing as the “speaking in tongues” recorded in Holy Scripture.) Do not be distressed if you have not received extraordinary gifts such as these! Such gifts are helpful for building up the Church when God gives them, but they are not necessary for us for our salvation.

This Pentecost, and through our Christian walk, let’s make it a daily practice to pray to our heavenly Father for the increased gifts of His Holy Spirit. To us who already have the Holy Spirit, even more of the Spirit will be given!

God's Blessings!

Pastor Neuendorf

 

 
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