A HYMN OF GLORY LET US SING
“The King of kings, and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen.”
1 Timothy 6:15-16
Because God dwells in inapproachable light, the only source of man’s genuine knowledge of God—including even what we refer to as the “natural knowledge of God”—is God’s self-revelation. However, the “natural knowledge of God”—that which is derived from observation of nature (Romans 1:20) and from God’s Law written our hearts (Romans 2:14-15)—cannot lead man to salvation. Salvation comes only through faith in Christ, and that saving faith requires the action of the Holy Spirit working through the Means of Grace, the inspired Word of God.
Our present season of the church year, Pentecost, is a time in which we especially direct our devotional consideration to the person and work of the Holy Spirit, Who creates and sustains saving faith. At the first Pentecost festival after the ascension of Christ into heaven, it was the Holy Spirit Who—by moving the apostles to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and by miraculously enabling them to do so in the native languages of all who heard—was responsible for the creation of saving faith in the hearts of approximately three thousand Jews dwelling in Jerusalem. We regard that event as the birth of the Christian Church. However, creating and sustaining saving faith is not the only work of the Holy Spirit which Scripture reveals, and during the season of Pentecost we contemplate the Holy Spirit and all His works.
The medieval hymn Veni, Creator Spiritus, “Come, Holy Ghost, Creator Blest,” is a prayer of praise and petition to the Holy Spirit for His manifold blessings. Among those blessings is the comfort He gives us in times of difficulty—for the Holy Ghost is the Comforter promised by Jesus before His ascension into heaven (John 14:26, John 15:26, John 16.7). So we sing in Verse 2 of this hymn, “To Thee, the Comforter, we cry,/ To Thee, the Gift of God Most High,/ The Fount of life, the Fire of love,/ The soul’s Anointing from above.”
The next verse speaks of “The sevenfold gifts” of the Spirit: “The sev’n-fold gifts of grace are Thine,/ O Finger of the Hand Divine;/ True Promise of the Father Thou,/ Who dost the tongue with speech endow.” These seven “gifts of the spirit” are not specifically listed as such in any one place in the Bible, but there most certainly is biblical justification for referring to them in this way—especially since it is the Holy Spirit Who mediates all spiritual gifts to us, and the number seven, in biblical numerology, is considered a symbol of perfection or completeness. The biblical validation for referring to these sevenfold gifts can be found in Isaiah 11:2-3 (wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, fear of the Lord, and delight) as well as in Revelation 5:6, “And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.” We praise the Holy Spirit for bestowing these gifts upon the Church.
Apart from the enlightening work of the Holy Spirit through the Word, man cannot understand spiritual truth (1 Corinthians 2:14). So we sing in Verse 4, “Thy light to every thought impart/ And shed Thy love in every heart;/ The weakness of our mortal state/ With deathless might invigorate.” Indeed, the “natural knowledge of God” cannot inform us even of such fundamental divine truth as the Triune nature of God, but in this hymn we pray, “Make Thou to us the Father known,/ Teach us the eternal Son to own/ And Thee, whose name we ever bless,/ Of both the Spirit, to confess. Praise we the Father and the Son/ And Holy Spirit, with them One;/ And may the Son on us bestow/ The gifts that from the Spirit flow!” (Verses 6 & 7)
May this be our Pentecost prayer.
Craig Owings is a retired teacher and serves as assistant editor of the Lutheran Spokesman. He lives in Cape Coral, Florida.