Download or listen to Advent Midweek III, “We All Believe in One True God, pt. 3” (The Creeds)
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“We all confess the Holy Ghost, Who, in highest heaven dwelling with God the Father and the Son, comforts us beyond all telling; Who the Church, His own creation, keeps in unity of spirit. Here forgiveness and salvation daily come through Jesus’ merit. All flesh shall rise, and we shall be in bliss with God eternally” (LSB 954:3).
Talk about a string of unconnected theological words. I used to think that the Third Article of the Creed was just thrown together, made up of all of the leftover pieces of Christian doctrine that didn’t fit in the first two Articles, a sort of theological platypus. The first two Articles contain mostly actions; the things that the Father and the Son do. The Third Article seems more like things; nouns, rather than verbs. The Church, the Communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection, and the life everlasting. Not only that, but Luther’s explanation of the Third Article doesn’t start with the Holy Spirit, but with Jesus—or, rather, with my inability to believe in Jesus: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him.” But that’s the point: it doesn’t come naturally to us to believe all that “for you” stuff. You don’t have to hide it; you don’t have to put up any sort of front or facade. No matter what your prideful flesh tells you, you simply cannot conjure up enough faith to believe what the flesh thinks is impossible. All that my reason and my strength say is that none of this is believable; it doesn’t match my experience; I cannot believe this; I cannot keep believing this. It’s all a foolish waste of time; all of this stuff that goes by the name of Christianity is too far removed from my every-day life. It’s the stuff you do on Sunday, if you have time; what does it have to do with the rest of the week?
And if it is the stuff you do on Sunday, it probably doesn’t have anything to do with the stuff you do the rest of the week. But notice there is nothing in the explanation of this Article about what you do. It’s all about the Holy Spirit’s work, and all of those things we thought were nouns, and unconnected theological words, end up being the places and things where and by which the Holy Spirit does His work. This holy Christian Church is not where people come to do stuff for God, but anywhere the Holy Spirit does His work of bringing Jesus to sinners. He calls us to Jesus with Jesus’ own words; He gathers people who, if they had their own way, would always run in the opposite direction; He brings the Light of the world to those lost in the darkness of their own minds and hearts and lives; He does what His name says: makes holy people out of unholy ones. He keeps you in this true Faith; He sustains your faith in Christ. Your reason, your strength, your emotion, your worship—none of that can do what only the Holy Spirit can do. In Christ’s Word, and sharing in Christ’s death and resurrection, and Christ’s Body and Blood—only where these things are present has the Holy Spirit promised to do what only He can do: make a true Church of people called out from under the reign of the devil and into the reign of Christ; a holy people sharing in holy things. In this holy Church—made up of all the people whom the Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies—in this Church, He daily and richly—more than you will ever need—forgives your sins and the sins of all believers in Christ. And He will not fail to do it all the way until Jesus is revealed to our physical eyes, and He raises up all the dead on the last day of this old and tired earth. He will raise the bodies of all people on that day, and He will give eternal life to you and me and all believers in Christ. This is eternal life: to know in body and soul the only true God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth; and to know Jesus Christ, whom He sent into our flesh to be crucified and resurrected in order to buy us back and be our Lord (John 17:3); all by the power and work of the Holy Spirit. This is most certainly true. It is true now, until the day He finally answers the prayer of His Advent Church: “Come, Lord Jesus,” and it will be true into eternity.
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, 12/13/12