The THIRD ARTICLE installments:
1) The Holy Spirit has called me
by the gospel
2) The Holy Spirit enlightens,
sanctifies, and keeps me
3) The Holy Spirit calls the whole
Christian Church on Earth
4) The Holy Spirit daily forgives sins
5) The Holy Spirit gives me eternal life
While we would have continued to steadfastly and stubbornly resist the Lord and His ways, the Spirit has broken down every barrier to allow the blessed gospel to resuscitate our soul. What a blessing to be gathered together with like-minded Christians in church families for the strengthening and encouraging of each other!
But is that the end of the work of the Holy Spirit who sometimes seems to be the “silent partner” of the Holy Trinity?
While it is true that no one can call Jesus ‘Lord’ without the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3), it is also true we could know nothing else about Him without the Spirit’s work as well (Job 32:8). Only the Holy Spirit can reveal the true, intended meaning of Scriptures. Yes, He fans the feeble flames of our faith, but He also enlightens us with the deep meanings of the mysteries of God. Flesh and blood cannot understand these things (1 Corinthians 2:6-16, John 14:26).
THE APOSTLES’ CREED
I believe in God the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven and sitteth on the right hand of God, the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.
(TLH, p. 12)
It is good for us to remember this when witnessing to others. It will not be our persuasiveness or clever arguments that will convince someone of the truths of the Holy Scriptures. Rather let us present the law and gospel appropriately and let the Holy Spirit do the convincing.
Having been enlightened by the Spirit’s guidance and teaching, we realize that He has a special purpose for us. We see that it is His will that we have also been sanctified or ‘set apart’ from the people and things in this world for a holy purpose. This sanctification is a direct result of our justification through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. As we have been declared ‘not guilty’ because the punishment for our sins was laid on Jesus, so now we have been sanctified or ‘set apart’ to live according to His Word and to share it with all whom we meet.
Our sanctified faith-life is very different from our saving faith. Saving faith is a Spirit-generated trust in Jesus Christ as one’s Lord and Savior. Our sanctified faith, on the other hand, is either growing or shrinking as we follow our Lord and His Word (John 14:23). Since every believer will vary from moment to moment in degree of sanctified living, therefore it is good to meet others ‘where they are’ in their faith and then help and encourage them to grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior.
With the Spirit’s help we abstain from the sinful behavior and evils of this world. Our attempts to live according to God’s Word in no way contribute toward our salvation. Rather, the Spirit of God is at work, producing a faith-filled heart that has seen the love of God displayed in His sacrificed Son.
Another holy work of the Holy Spirit is to keep believers in the true faith. As every camper/hunter knows, a fire needs fuel and air in order to burn. So likewise, as we immerse ourselves in the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit breathes on the spark of faith in our hearts, willing it to flame up. When we gather around the Word, participate in Bible study, contemplate our baptism, and share in the Lord’s Supper, we are participating in activities or means that the Holy Spirit uses to increase and strengthen our faith.
It is good for us to remember the will of God. It is His will that we spend eternity with Him in heaven. To this end God hasn’t simply wound us up like a clock-work toy and set us on a path to see if we make it there. Rather the Holy Spirit has enlightened our hearts with the truth and power of God’s Word. He has set us apart from the world by giving us a new heart to follow the Lord.
And He has given us the means of grace in Word and Sacrament by which He continues to work in our hearts the blessings and fruits of the Spirit and trust in our Savior until we reach life everlasting.
THE THIRD ARTICLE
[We print Luther’s Explanation only.]
I believe that I cannot by my own reasoning or effort believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, nor come to Him. But the Holy Spirit has called me by the gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified, and kept me in true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian Church He daily and richly forgives all sins to me and all believers. On the last day He will raise me and all the dead and give to me and all believers
in Christ eternal life.
This is most certainly true.
(Martin Luther’s SMALL CATECHISM,
Sydow edition, 2000)