Pentecost john 14_7-18 Show me.
For many people, perhaps even for you, the bible is like looking at a personalized number plate; you read the numbers and letters, but are left to work out what they really mean. Like the HRT4GD plates on the car, where we have to unravel the letters to reveal ‘HaRT 4or GoD’, we read each book of the bible, each letter, gospel, each psalm and prophet and try to reveal its true meaning for today. The message and purpose of the bible seems to be up for grabs. Like the kids on the bus, is it true that all our different opinions are just as valid as anyone else’s? Perhaps the bible’s message is depended upon our situation in life and therefore doesn’t have one central message, but rather a thread of relevant points to suit our felt needs.
The way the bible s quoted to validate so many different causes, it certainly appears that way; its message is about rights, our rights, women’s rights, gay rights, human rights, for the rights of the unborn, for the rights of children, or for the elderly. Others say it’s a message about morals and how to live the Christian life. Its message dictates the role of women in society, men in the church, how children should look and act, how we are to love, to discipline, to guide even to the point of what we should wear. Then others understand it to be a book of revolution; the world is evil and we must ‘win the world for Christ’. We need Christian laws and leaders for our land to run the country with biblical principles, like Israel. We need to use only Christian plumbers, electrician, lawyers and doctors so the jobs done better.
With all these voices, claiming to have the right answer to the bible, we get so confused…what is the bible’s message, will someone tell me!
There was a similar confusion over Jesus. Though John the Baptist called out “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”, giving a definite answer, there was still great confusion over who Jesus was and what his message meant, particularly when it came to his interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. Some, like the Pharisees heard him and took him as a threat to the Jewish faith and the laws of Moses. Others, like the Romans, feared he was preparing an uprising against them. Even the disciples struggled with his message. John records Phillip questioning Jesus “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time?”
We are certainly not the first to try and speculate or hold differing opinions and ideas about the central message of the bible. Right from Jesus day until now, many falsely claim to hold the truth to the bible. Jesus warned that this would be the case saying in Matthew 24 “At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect– if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time.” So, ahead of time he also promised to send the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth teach us the truth about the bible’s message.
Today we celebrate the birthday of the church, Pentecost; the coming of the promised Holy Spirit 50 days after Jesus’ resurrection. So it should be no surprise to us then, that we should pay special attention to the Holy Spirit’s message spoke that day. Peter speaks publically for the first time about Jesus and explains the message of the scriptures. The Holy Spirit came with signs and wonders, with flames and with the disciples speaking in many languages, and prophesying, but that was not the central message from the Spirit; not the truth.
Though many today believe speaking in tongues and having power to prophesy is what makes a Christian. Perhaps you have heard, like I have, people tell you they know, by direct knowledge from the Spirit, who and who hasn’t got the spirit, what your role in the church will be and what future is install for our church. Somehow God has singled out them alone to tell the truth. Others demand only some have the Spirit, those who speak in tongues or perform some miracle or possess some power from on high.
Yet, is this the truth of the Holy Spirit? Is it true only some have a word of knowledge, only some of us have the Spirit to interpret scripture? Does this mean the rest of us then, remain confused and unable to understand the bible? No, in the confusion that followed the coming of the Holy Spirit, when many we perplex and asked “what does this mean”, and others thought that the disciples were drunk, Peter, filled with the Spirit, speaks clearly and he speaks to everyone, in their own language. The Holy Spirit has something to say to all people, and by his power, the disciples speak in tongues, to announce that his message is the truth about God and it was for everyone to hear, know, receive and believe.
There was no confusing word or special directive for a selected few to understand and pass on. The Holy Spirit did not prompt Peter to speak about human works or the gifts of the Spirit or any other human endeavor, even those given by the Spirit. Peter, filled with the Spirit announces the truth and thus the true message of the scriptures; “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” The coming of the Holy Spirit is to show everyone the way to Jesus; to show everyone now has the knowledge of Christ and him crucified, as St Paul would say. The Spirit’s truth is that the bible points us to Christ alone as Luther would say and explained in his Small Catechism:
‘I believe in the Holy Spirit; one holy Christian Church, the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins;
the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.
What does this mean?—Answer.
I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him;
but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in
the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth,
and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith; in which Christian Church He forgives daily and
richly all sins to me and all believers, and at the last day will raise up me and all the dead, and will give
to me and to all believers in Christ everlasting life. This is most certainly true.
The truth about the bible and its central message is to make known that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Peter continues to expand this in his speech. I encourage you today, you and your children, to go home and read aloud Peter’s speech, and to know that through this gospel message, the promised Holy Spirit will enlighten your heart and give you faith to believe that there is no confusion, that in Christ alone “there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” Amen