THE LIFE SAVER
I suspect everyone reading this article is familiar with a LIFE SAVER – the famous little hard candies. Regardless of your opinion on that candy, you have to hand it to Clarence Crane, the original creator. A candy in the shape of a flotation device used to save the life of one drowning—the name together with the shape of the candy just etches itself in the mind. Whether we like the candy or not, we remember it.
Life Saver. That term, in a manner of speaking, properly applies to the second person of the Triune God as well. The Son of God came as Savior—the Saver of your life and mine. The familiar words of John 3:16-17 give us Jesus as our Life Saver:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.
MAKER, SAVER, GIVER…
God the Father GAVE God the Son to SAVE. That duo makes up two-thirds of the Trinity. What about God the Spirit, then? Is the Spirit’s person and role nebulous enough that we can think and speak of “The Spirit of God” in whatever ways best suit our preferences?
As audacious and as unbiblical as that sounds—us picking the Holy Spirit’s role—that is the way it so easily and so often goes in popular Christian thought.
An atheist has no qualms with denying the existence of any sort of divine being. We expect as much from someone who professes to be a-theist (anti-god). A non-Christian (a Muslim, a Mormon, a Jew, etc.), while acknowledging God’s existence in general, will take issue with this person called Jesus also being God, equal with the Father in deity.
But where Christianity so often gets fragmented is in confessing the person and work of God the Spirit. Or, perhaps more to the point, the fragmenting comes in the Christians not confessing and believing what God’s Word says about the Spirit’s work.
Pentecost is a marked occasion for the Christian Church to celebrate the Grace and Compassion of God in the work of the Spirit—The Life GIVER.
“I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and GIVER OF LIFE…” This beautiful confession is from the earliest centuries of the Christian Church—The Nicene Creed. It teaches us in simple speech of God the Spirit at work. And this work is Pentecost at its essence—the Spirit giving Life won for us by Christ.
THE GIVER AS PREFERRED
We like “GIVERS”. What our flesh especially likes, however, is to decide what is given to us. We’re sort of like children at the dinner table: We like that we have a mother and father who supply the meal. But what we prefer best of all is telling them what that meal ought to be, how or when it ought to be served.
It’s good to have God the Spirit as Giver, we concede. Best though, reasons our proud flesh, if the Spirit be: the giver of success/prosperity; the giver of credit; the giver of life advice; the giver of ‘inspirational experiences’—the kind that make great stories for Christian bestsellers.
THE GIVER AS GRACIOUSLY GIVEN
When we celebrate Pentecost, we celebrate yet another occasion for which we can thank God that His gifts DON’T conform to our desires or our designs. At Pentecost, we celebrate God the Spirit as GIVER… Our LIFE GIVER.
“Life Giver?” we say. Jesus announces to His church that the coming Spirit is going to “teach us” and cause us to “remember things”. If that’s true, then the LIFE that this promised Spirit gives will be nothing more than words!
…And then we have it! The account of Pentecost is remarkable: visible fire over heads, speaking in languages unlearned, 3,000 converts in a single day. But what’s truly marvelous is tidied up in this short expression from the assembly that day:
“We hear them speaking in our own tongues THE WONDERFUL WORKS OF GOD.”
Proclaiming (with words) the wonderful works done by God: THIS is Pentecost. THIS is celebrating the Holy Spirit and His Work. Jesus says of God the Spirit: He will teach you all things—bring to your remembrance the things I spoke about among you. In this same context, Jesus simply says of the Spirit and His Work: “He will take of what is Mine and declare it (words) to you.” THIS is Pentecost—the giving of Jesus IN DECLARED WORDS.
Tongues of fire were visible. Men spoke in languages they’d never formally learned. Thousands were brought to faith. All these things were real instances of that first Pentecost Sunday. The Works of God in the person of His Son, Jesus declared in words for the people’s hearing… This is the ESSENCE of Pentecost. This is the Spirit Giving Life.
In this way, we aren’t merely remembering a historical event. We are noting Pentecost’s gracious activity still going on today! We are still gathered weekly by God the Spirit, who placed His name upon us with water and words. With Spirit-given words, God keeps us His own children. The Spirit Gives Life!
We come back Sunday after Sunday burdened with a week’s worth of sin and a conscience sullied by guilt. We confess to God and with others sinners this sin: lust and anger, impatient outbursts and harbored grudges, the forfeiture opportunities to pray to God or encourage a neighbor. We even acknowledge the death that is deserved because of this sin and guilt. And at this occasion, too, God the Spirit GIVES LIFE. The Spirit gives the Wonderful Works of God. LIFE is given to those who are dead to sin and dying according to the body. Jesus’ death and resurrection are applied with words. We call this word “absolution.” This is how Jesus taught the Church would be: The Salvation He procured in His living and dying and rising, spoken (spirit-ed, if you will) upon His people through servants called to do just that.
Finally, Jesus taught His Church to eat the Supper he gave according to the words with which He gave it. With words he declared that this Supper is in fact His body, His blood: the Forgiveness of sins! So when you, His Church, eat this Supper, the profit of Pentecost is still paying forward. The Spirit GIVES LIFE
God the Father gave His Son into Human flesh. We celebrate this “giving” under the title of Christmas. God the Son gave His Life to make full payment for the sins of the world and then rose powerful over death. We celebrate this “giving” with Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
And now, God the Spirit GIVES what God the Father and God the Son GAVE. God the Spirit is THE LIFE GIVER. The Spirit gives Jesus to His Church with nothing more than words. These words about Jesus are written record and they are proclaimed for you and me. This is the Spirit at work and His work is Life-Giving.
Pastor Kyle Madson