“Into All Truth”
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Have you ever noticed how we have specialists for everything? You don’t just go to a “lawyer,” you go to a tax lawyer, or a family court lawyer, or a civil litigation attorney, or, unfortunately, a divorce lawyer. You don’t just go to a “doctor,” you go to a pediatrician, or a podiatrist; a heart doctor, a lung doctor, a cancer doctor. And while it may be annoying to have to see eight doctors before they can tell you what’s wrong, it may be necessary. There is so much information and so much new technology that it would be impossible for a single person to know it all. So we have specialists. But sometimes we bring that into the Church. We say, I don’t need to have all that legal knowledge; leave it to the lawyers. Or, I don’t need to have all that medical knowledge; leave it to the doctors. I don’t need to have all that theological knowledge; leave it to the pastors. But there are no specialists in the Church. There is no special area of theology meant only for pastors. Otherwise, there’s no reason for me to be here. You could get the basics and stay with what you learned in Sunday School,be here with the theology that’s just for lay people and I could take my special pastor theology and go into a monk’s cell somewhere! How many Christians say—maybe you’ve said it—“I’m no theologian.” But theology is simply “talk about God,” so if you’ve ever said anything about God, or asked a question about God, or come to a conclusion about God, then you’re a theologian. Of course, just as there are good lawyers and bad lawyers, good doctors and bad doctors, there are also good theologians and bad theologians. But if you are a baptized child of God, then you’re a theologian, whether you want to be or not.
Sometimes, as a reason—or an excuse—not to go deeper into the faith that has been handed down to us, we say things like, Well, I’m content to have a childlike faith. I don’t need to know more, Jesus said so. I know all I need to know to be saved. But this is not “everything I need to know I learned in Sunday School.” Where does Jesus say you can stop learning and growing when you’re “saved?” As if you could learn the alphabet and that’s it. I know the ABCs; why are you trying to teach me to spell and read and write? That’s for teachers and authors. I know the ABCs and that’s enough. Search the Scriptures. You will not, in fact, find any place where Jesus—or anyone else—says to have “a childlike faith.” He does say “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (Luke 18:17), but how does a child receive things? Helplessly. They cannot earn it, or get it, or do it for themselves. And that is how we receive the Kingdom of God: helplessly, like little children, because we cannot earn it or get it or do it for ourselves. It has to be given freely, and it is, for Christ’s sake. If that’s what we mean by “childlike faith,” it’s true. But sometimes I think we confuse “childlike faith” with “childish faith.” And that sort of faith is sin against the God who made our minds and gave us our reason and all our senses. Paul says, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways” (1 Corinthians 13:11, ESV). The writer of the letter to the Hebrews says, “Therefore, leaving the beginning word of Christ, let us move on to full maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and faith toward God, instructions on baptisms, laying on of hands, of the resurrection of the dead and the eternal judgment” (Hebrews 6:1-2). Now that doesn’t mean we leave behind the beginning word of Christ. It doesn’t mean we leave behind the foundation. Paul says, “no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:10). And you never leave Jesus behind, unless you want your house to fall. We grow into maturity. We build on the foundation. Paul says that everything that happens in the Body of Christ is meant “for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine…” (Ephesians 4:12b-14b).
So we hear in our Gospel reading that Jesus does not say that “when the Spirit of truth comes, He will lead you into just enough truth so that you can learn Christianese and feel comfortable in the church.” In Matthew 28, Jesus does not say, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, by baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to keep just enough of what I’ve commanded you so that they can get their souls into heaven.” No, He says that the Spirit of Truth will lead you into all truth. Teach them to keep, observe, hold onto, everything I commanded you. And see, I am with you all the days until the completion of the age. But why is the Holy Spirit leading us into all truth? Why does He continue to call us by the Gospel, enlighten us with His gifts, sanctify and keep us in the true Church? It is so that “among all the changes of this world, our hearts may be fixed where true joys are found” (Collect for Easter 5). In an earthquake, it is the things that are fixed that remain standing. In a tornado, it is the things that are fixed that remain where they were. Where is that, “where true joys are found”?
Well, the apostles found it. Our Gospel reading is from John 16, on that Thursday night before Jesus was crucified. He said, “A little while and you will not see Me, and again a little while and you will see Me. You will grieve and lament but the world will rejoice. But your sorrow will be turned to joy, like a woman giving birth. After all the suffering and pain, the only thing that matters is the joy of the child being born. You have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:20-22). Just like the Good Shepherd says of His sheep: No one will snatch them out of My hand. And so it was, they did not see Him for three days, as He endured death and hell for them and for us, as He descended into hell to proclaim His victory, and then, after a little while, on the third day, He rose again and saw them in that fearful, locked room. He gave them His peace, and showed them His hands and side. And then they rejoiced, because they saw and believed that it was the Lord, crucified and resurrected. And no one could take that joy from them, because Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to lead them into all the truth, in order to fix their hearts where true joys are found.
The Holy Spirit led them further up and further in, deeper and deeper into who Jesus is and what He is doing. The Holy Spirit doesn’t bring some new revelation, especially not one that contradicts the Scriptures. He brings, Jesus says, “to your remembrance everything I said to you.” It’s all about Jesus. The entire Gospel of John, indeed, all the Scriptures are written so that “you may know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and, believing, have life in His Name” (John 21:20). He said, the Spirit “will glorify Me because He will take what is Mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is Mine” (John 16:14). What is the Father’s is the Son’s and what is the Son’s is the Holy Spirit’s, and that is what the Spirit declares. He is giving you what belongs to God Himself, more and more. And the Spirit is doing that in order to fix your hearts where true joys are found, because God is making all things new. New hearts, new minds, new bodies, new creation. This is why we are here this morning: the Spirit is continuing His work of bringing the blessings of the Triune God to you. I said that there are no specialists in the Church, but there is one: the Spirit. And it is His special work to bring you and me into all the truth about Jesus. He does that work in various ways: as He gives the Holy Absolution and the Holy Supper, forgiving your sins, making all things new; He gives us the Scriptures for us to study together and individually, so that our hearts may be fixed where true joys are found: in Jesus Christ, crucified and resurrected, until the day when we see the fullness of that truth: all things made new. “Make [us] to know your ways, O [Yahweh]; teach [us] your paths. Lead [us] in your truth and teach [us], for you are the God of [our] salvation; for you [we] wait all the day long” (Psalm 25:4-5).
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
— Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 5/1/10