The Gifts of the Holy Spirit

As we look forward to the Feast of Pentecost Day this coming Sunday – the great Fiftieth Day of Easter – we remember and give thanks for the Lord’s generous outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon His Church. So do we also pray that Christ Jesus would continue to do as He has promised in sending the Spirit from His Father to testify of Him and bestow His righteousness upon us.

The special work of the Holy Spirit, as Luther explains in the Large Catechism, is to make the Church holy in Christ Jesus – and likewise to make us holy within the fellowship of His Church. This the Spirit does and accomplishes by the means of grace and the Ministry of the Gospel, the Word and work of Christ Jesus, whereby “He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth” through the free and full forgiveness of sins. He lays Christ upon our hearts through the Gospel, and He lays us upon Christ through faith in the Gospel, that we should live and abide in Him, both body and soul, unto the Resurrection and the Life everlasting.

This is the holiness to which we are called and for which we are sanctified by the Holy Spirit: Not some “goody-two-shoes” sanctimoniousness, but the Atonement of the Cross, the Peace of reconciliation with God, the righteousness of our Lord’s own Resurrection from the dead, true and living faith in His great Salvation, and blessed fellowship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These are the gifts of the Spirit which the ministers of Christ are privileged to bestow upon the people of God, in accordance with their office and station.

My dear brother pastors, take it to heart that these same gifts of the Spirit are bestowed upon you, as well – through the same means of grace and by the Ministry of the same Gospel. These are the gifts that sanctify and sustain you in the faith and thereby enable you, in turn, to serve and care for the people of God in Christ Jesus. Hence the importance of a father confessor to serve and care for you with the Word of Christ. The fellowship of brothers in Christ and in the Holy Office is likewise important, for the sake of the mutual conversation and consolation of the Word.

The Office of the Keys and its connection to the Holy Spirit came to mind recently, in light of the Old Testament Reading in the Treasury of Daily Prayer, in which the seventy elders were given a portion of Moses’ spirit. As in St. John 20, when Christ Jesus bestows the Spirit upon His Apostles for the binding and loosing of sins, the gift of the Spirit in these circumstances is that of the Office to which the men in each case are being “called and ordained.” They’re not being “converted” and coming to faith for the first time, but being anointed and given authority for the particular work to which they are called and appointed by the Lord.

Similarly, the “holiness” contested in Korah’s rebellion (featured in this week’s daily readings) is not the holiness that belongs to every believer through faith in Christ and forgiveness of sins, but the “holiness” of one’s particular calling and station in life. It is indeed true that all God’s people are holy, but to each one is given his or her own place and purpose in this body and life on earth, and so too within the fellowship of the Body and Bride of Christ Jesus. Accordingly, we should take heed and not covet the Office and Vocation that God has given to others, as did Korah and his crew. By the same token, though, we should be comforted, confident, and courageous in the “holiness” of our own proper Offices and Vocations, knowing that the Holy Spirit accompanies and supports our labors in the Lord. That is how and why it is that we, as “earthen vessels,” are able to carry and convey the divine gifts of the Spirit to our neighbors. And in turn, the blessed fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – are brought forth and manifested in the body and life of each and every Christian.