Send Us Your Spirit, O Lord!
Lord God, our blessed heavenly Father, as we enter into Your presence on this Festival Day of Pentecost, we pray that Your Spirit would descend upon us and move us in joy to worship You in spirit and in truth. Cleanse our hearts of all sin and strengthen us through the preaching of Your Word, so that we might (as the apostles of old) prove to be faithful witnesses of Your saving name. Amen.
Joel prophesies concerning the outpouring of God’s Spirit during New Testament times. Believers would proclaim the wonders of God’s grace in preparation for the great and final judgment of mankind. Those who believe in the name of their Savior God, however, need not fear, for they will be saved!
Luke here records the events of the first Day of Pentecost. As prophesied and promised, the Spirit came and enabled the early Christians to communicate the Gospel to others in their languages, so they could hear of the “wonderful works of God!” Some mocked. All were amazed. Peter explained this extraordinary happening properly as evidence of God’s faithfulness!
Text: Romans 8:23-27
We also who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
In Christ Jesus, Whom we accept as Savior by the Spirit’s prompting, dear fellow redeemed:
Some years ago while I was still teaching at our Immanuel Lutheran College, a former student stopped by to see me. He was a sincere, young man. He attended a Lutheran grade school and then our Immanuel High School in Eau Claire, where I had him in a number of classes. After graduating he attended a public university, where he got involved with drugs and alcohol and, in general, lost his way both spiritually and morally. While living in that state, a group of Pentecostal students invited him to their Bible study group. Having been biblically trained, he knew that his lifestyle was sinful. Not unlike the prodigal son of Jesus’ parable, he wanted to return to God and His Word. He repented of his sins and became close to his new friends. In time he became deeply involved in the Pentecostal faith and claimed to have experienced the gift of the Spirit by speaking in tongues. It was at this point that he came to visit me. He assured me that he appreciated his biblical upbringing as a Lutheran, but he was convinced that while we taught the Bible in its truth and purity, we simply failed to understand this additional Pentecostal teaching of the Holy Spirit. He wanted to address our students on this important topic, so that they too might experience what he was convinced he had experienced.
As I visited with this young man, I reminded him that the Bible does not promise that every believer will be given the ability to speak in tongues. I shared with him evidence from the Bible that suggests that those special gifts of the Spirit were limited to the early years of our New Testament era. I also warned him that such experiences could, in fact, be the result of an evil spirit rather than the Holy Spirit, if such speaking in tongues began to overshadow the redemptive work of Jesus as the basis for the certainty of our salvation. The young man assured me that he placed his faith in Christ, not in his gifts, but he admitted that some members of his new church seemed to emphasize their gifts more than the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. As we parted that evening I offered to meet further with him to discuss the entire issue and encouraged him to continue to study the Scriptures.
The point of this illustration is that there is confusion within external Christendom regarding the role of the Holy Spirit in the Christian’s life. Some, pointing to the miracle of the first Pentecost, claim that the Spirit works directly on the hearts of Christians to perform similar miracles today. The unfortunate result of this teaching is the division of Christians into classes—those who have experienced such gifts and lesser Christians who have not. The Bible, however, frequently tells us that the Holy Spirit has chosen to work in our hearts through the preaching of God’s word and the use of His sacraments. He does not promise to work directly on our hearts and, in particular, He does not work apart from the gospel of Jesus Christ. Therefore, we want to consider today on the basis of our text the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. To that end we offer this simple prayer—SEND US YOUR SPIRIT, O LORD!
Yes, send us Your Spirit, O Lord, as we eagerly await our final redemption! Romans 8 provides the context for the words we consider today. It is a marvelous chapter of Scripture in which Paul reveals the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives as Christians as well as the wonderful results of that work! He begins by pointing out that the Holy Spirit dwells within our hearts as Christians and frees us from sin’s slavery, so that we might walk by faith in the Spirit. He then goes on to point out that the faith the Spirit creates in our hearts makes us God’s children. We can address Him intimately as our “Abba (Daddy), Father” (8:15). Paul then turns to the trials that remain part of the Christian life, describing the Spirit’s role in assisting us in the midst of those trials. He then concludes the chapter recording the triumph we believers do and will experience in Christ Jesus. It is in connection with that section dealing with our trials as Christians, that Paul writes in our text, “We also who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope, for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.”
What is Paul telling us? He says, first of all, that we believers have the “first-fruits of the Spirit.” Another meaning of the word translated here as “first-fruits” is “foretaste.” Paul is saying that when the Spirit of God takes us, who by nature are dead in trespasses and sins, and bestows upon us the gift of spiritual life by faith in Christ Jesus, He is giving us a foretaste of heaven. Paul told the Ephesian Christians that before they came to faith through the working of the Holy Spirit, they had “no hope and (were) without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). My dear friends, the Holy Spirit has led you and me to know and believe in the one, true God—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He has given us an understanding of God’s gracious plan of salvation. He has convicted us of our sins, led us to repentance for our sins, and assured us through the gospel of the forgiveness of your sins. He has, in effect, done what He promised to do through the prophet Ezekiel, who wrote, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes” (36:26-27a). This, my dear friends, is a foretaste—a first-fruit of heaven, for by the work of the Spirit through the gospel in our hearts we become God’s beloved children and heirs of heaven. We need no longer live in fear, but live in “hope” of that which has been promised and will certainly come to be!
It is this promised gift of God for which we “groan within ourselves” as we “eagerly wait(ing) for the adoption, the redemption of our body!” God has promised deliverance from the sinful and sin-filled world. Even the best of times are tainted by the sad effects of sin, which Satan tries to use to drag us down and away from the gracious arms of our Savior. But God has promised that we will see with our own eyes that which He has promised. Job wrote these powerful words, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, Whom I shall see for myself” (Job 19:25-27). Paul assures us in his powerful fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, “Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Regarding our physical bodies, he wrote, “The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body” (Verses 42-44). My dear friends, the Bible tells us, “This is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). That sanctification is worked through the power of the Spirit of God Himself, Who dwells within us and instructs, motivates, and accomplishes His gracious good will through the word! Consequently, we pray SEND US YOUR SPIRIT, O LORD!
Yes, send us your Spirit, O Lord, to help us in the midst of our weaknesses! Paul writes, “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”
My dear friends, we are all very fragile creatures. Even those who claim to be physically powerful and in the prime of life remain but fragile creatures. Consider, if you will, the examples of Adam Petty, the 19 year-old race car driver killed several weeks ago in a car accident, or Eric Turner, the professional football player for the Oakland Raiders who died of cancer. Who would have expected two men in the prime of life to die? The Scriptures remind us that we are similar to fragile “earthen vessels” (2 Corinthians 4:7), that can easily be broken. There are times in our lives when this becomes painfully obvious, when our bodies are afflicted by illness or when we are close to death, but Paul is not just referring to those times. It is both interesting and ironic that when we feel we are in the greatest control, and who doesn’t like to feel in control, we are frequently in the most danger, for Paul writes, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). On the other hand, it is when we understand and feel our weakness and so come to depend upon the strength of our Lord God, that we are in fact the most strong. God informs us through Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
When we are confronted by our weaknesses, we tend to turn to our God in prayer. It is in connection with this that Paul speaks of a little known work of the Spirit in our lives—His prayers on our behalf. It is not uncommon for us to find ourselves at a loss when it comes to our prayers. For what should we ask? After all, in extreme cases of life versus death, it would seem natural to pray for life, yet, as in the case with Paul, we know that it would be “far better” to be with the Lord (Philippians 1:23). In other situations Satan can confuse our lives and our options to the point that we simply don’t know where to turn or how to go. It is at such times, that we can take comfort in the fact that “the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us.” God the Holy Spirit knows us and loves us. He knows our every need and His desire is always for our good. Consequently, we can rest in Him with confidence. While our hearts and minds might be filled with questions and uncertainties, His heart and mind have no questions and no uncertainties. He knows exactly what needs to be done, and we are told He prays for us. But not only does He know exactly what we need, being part of the Holy Trinity, His prayers will always be “according to the will of God!”
I was talking to a member recently who mentioned to me in the course of our conversation an acquaintance who was facing unbelievable difficulties. The man was acquainted to a point with Christianity, but instead of turning to the Bible—listening and applying it in his life, he preferred to attend charismatic, Christian services in which people shouted and danced and rolled on the floor supposedly under the influence of the Spirit. The man wanted to be free of his problems, and his assumption was that religion was to provide a constant spiritual high. My dear friends, that is not reality on this earth. Life, even the life of a Christian man or woman, will be filled with troubles because of and in view of sin and the king of sin, Satan. But there is hope and there is help—the hope is to be found in Jesus and the help is to be found in the Holy Spirit! SEND US YOUR SPIRIT, O LORD! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting