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A Preview of Things to Come (St. John 16.5-15)

Cantate – Fifth Sunday of Easter

“A Preview of Things to Come”
Rev. Philip G. Meyer, Pastor Emeritus

St. John 16.5-15

02 May 2021



Sometimes lectionaries do strange things. Last Sunday’s Gospel reading actually follows this one and next week the lectionary will pick up where last Sunday’s stopped. This reading lies between the two. Jesus was going away from his disciples for “a little while,” his death and burial, so he gives us “A Preview of Things to Come,” to the time after his Ascension and Pentecost, to things that will last until the end of the age.

Jesus outlines the ongoing work and comfort of God the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit works through means, the Word and Sacraments, and he accomplish this through the Office of the Holy Ministry. Our Lord emphasizes three points.

First, the Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin, that is, he will expose the sin of unbelief. Unbelief is the root sin. From it flow all other sins. When Satan tempted Adam and Eve he asked:

“Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Gen. 3:1).

Adam and Eve were immediately guilty of unbelief. They did not believe what God had said. Following their rebellious act, God confronted and cross-examined them,

“What is this that you have done?” (Ge 3:13).

God knew what they had done; he was looking for a confession. There was finger pointing but no confession of sin. Without knowing that we have sinned we cannot know our need for a Savior. Satan peddled the big lie to Adam and Eve and he has not stopped lying to this world. In fact, every word that Satan speaks is a lie because he has been a liar and murderer from the beginning. [John 8.44]

Lies must be exposed. The truth must be spoken, but mankind does not want the truth spoken. Yet, as Hermann Sasse wrote:

“The lie is the death of man, his temporal and his eternal death. . . History knows of no more unsettling sight than the judgment rendered upon the people of an advanced culture who have rejected the truth and are swallowed up in a sea of lies.” [The Lonely Way. Union and Confession, p. 266].

That pretty much sums up our age, doesn’t it? The language of our age has been hijacked by dishonest intellectuals so that words no longer mean what they used to mean. Words have been redefined to serve partisan purposes. There is no objective Truth, only “your truth” and “my truth,” as though the Truth can be contradicted! The situation has become desperate as Sasse warned, “Where man can no longer bear the truth, he cannot live without the lie.” [Ibid, p. 266]

Our age does not want to hear of sins like fornication, adultery, hatred, murder, slander, envy, covetousness, and others, but most of all it does not want to hear about Sin, the disease far worse than Covid or cancer. This disease is 100% fatal. The unbelieving world is quick to point out the sins of Christians because they think that they can escape the consequences by doing so, yet God’s people do not shy away from the truth about their sin. In Settings One and Two of the Divine Service, the Pastor repeats the words of 1 John 1.8:

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

And the congregation responds with the words which follow:

“But if we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

We stand convicted, confess all our sins, and receive God’s Absolution.

Second, the Holy Spirit will convict the world of righteousness. It is not our righteousness that is meant but Christ’s. No human being is righteous before God, only the God-Man, our Lord Jesus Christ, so it is really Christ himself. This righteousness is the only true righteousness because Christ himself earned it by his innocent life, suffering, and death. God the Holy Spirit transfers his righteousness to all who who are baptized and believe it.

Your righteousness before God doesn’t come from your heart because your heart, just like mine, is completely corrupt. With these words Christ knocks out all the props that support any self-righteousness. This word sorely needs to be heard these days when self-righteousness seems to be found in every virtue signaler, every person or every business which judges another human being as not being as righteous as they when it comes to civil law, race, the environment, and every other politically correct position! The real Pandemic these days is this self-righteous cancel culture, perpetrated by these modern day Pharisees who boast of their super righteousness before others:

God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.’ (Lk 18:11).

Our Lord spoke truth about any person who thinks and acts this way:

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Mt 7:3–5).

Self-righteousness hatred consumes our society and delights to convict others of being politically unrighteous. Yet, these people have no intent to take that speck out of your eye! Have you noticed that even when people are canceled by the culture and repent of their unrighteous words and actions, there is no forgiveness? None are forgiven their social sins but are consigned to eternal damnation in the human courts of history.

While Christ isn’t speaking of outward righteousness which can be seen before others, he is speaking of that which is recognized by the Father. One doesn’t earn it. It is bestowed by grace. The Christian, however, has a righteousness which covers every sin and bestows forgiveness because it is Christ’s perfect righteousness which is bestowed.

Third, the Holy Spirit convicts concerning judgment. This world will not allow this righteousness of Christ to go unchallenged. Luther put it this way: [It’s lengthy quote but well-worth hearing]

Therefore just as the world is reproved for not having and not wanting the righteousness that avails before God, but for espousing different righteousness, that is, its own, so it shall also be reproved for judgment, because it ventures to punish and to condemn in matters beyond its comprehension and outside its right and authority to reprove. . . .For in this area the world claims to be Master Smart Aleck, and Satan thinks he is God Himself. They take it upon themselves to judge between right and wrong, between that which must be reproved and that which must be accepted in divine matters. The world rushes in and condemns to the depths of hell the message of the apostles and the Gospel and all who cling to it. And it does this through the agency of the highest power and regularly appointed legal authority given to it by God for the punishment of evildoers. . . Well, then we have to let the two judgments—that of God and that of the world coupled with that of its prince, the devil—contradict each other and clash. We must be prepared for this and expect it, and for the sake of God and His Word we must suffer their condemnation and persecution, and, if necessary, even execution and murder at their hands in the service of their god. But we have the consolation with which Christ provided and equipped us beforehand—and this we really need if the burden of such judgment and condemnation is not to prove more than we can bear—when He promised not only that “the Holy Spirit will reprove the world of sin and of righteousness and of judgment,” but also that He will preserve His own in the midst of this, that He will execute this office of judgment or reproof, and that in the end what He decides will prevail over their counter-judgment and condemnation. Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 24: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 14-16. (J.J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 24, pp. 350–351). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

The prince of this world stands condemned.

“He’s judged; the deed is done;

One little word can fell him.” [LSB 656.3]

Scholars have speculated what that “one little word” is. I agree with those who conclude that word is “Liar!” Satan, the prince of lies is labeled for what he is, the Liar.

Our comfort comes because this message about sin, righteousness, and judgment continues to be preached from pulpit, altar, and font, week after week, year after year, century after century, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it!

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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