In the season of Pentecost we meditate on the giving of the Holy Spirit, that is, the giving of the benefits of the cross of Jesus Christ. Dr. Martin Luther, of blessed and holy memory, asserts the benefit of the Holy Spirit in the definition of the 3rd article of the Creed in the Large Catechism saying, “For neither you nor I could ever know anything of Christ, or believe on Him, and obtain Him for our Lord, unless it were offered to us and granted to our hearts by the Holy Ghost through the preaching of the Gospel. The work is done and accomplished; for Christ has acquired and gained the treasure for us by His suffering, death, resurrection, etc. But if the work remained concealed so that no one knew of it, then it would be in vain and lost. That this treasure, therefore, might not lie buried, but be appropriated and enjoyed, God has caused the Word to go forth and be proclaimed, in which He gives the Holy Ghost to bring this treasure home and appropriate it to us. Therefore sanctifying is nothing else than bringing us to Christ to receive this good, to which we could not attain of ourselves” (Large Catechism III.3 Concordia Triglotta).
The Holy Spirit is given to man through the proclamation of the Gospel and the distribution of the blessed sacraments. The Father works to deliver Jesus Christ to creation through the means of grace because of the depravity of mankind. Man is sinful and therefore will never make the decision for faith. He has no free will to accept, but a bound will, inclined toward evil, from the moment of his conception. As The Holy Spirit inspired St. Paul to say, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1st Cortinthians 2:14). The Father delivers His Son, Jesus Christ, to His creation by means of the Holy Spirit. The vehicle of the Holy Spirit is the means of grace. Man is saved, not by his free-willed decision for Christ, but through the decision Christ made for him at the cross and distributed and continually to distributed to him in the means of grace.
The Holy Spirit is given in order that man may have justifying faith that saves him from sin, death, and the power of the devil. This faith in Christ Jesus alone justifies man. It is not man’s deeds that save him, but faith in Christ Jesus. However, this faith is not abstract. Man does not simply wake up one morning and have faith in Jesus Christ. Christ Jesus sent out His Apostles to do the work of the ministry, the giving of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is given through the proclamation of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the salvation of all mankind. Jesus Christ is the content of justifying faith. The means of grace are the concrete means by which faith is given to sinful man, as asserted in the Augsburg Confession saying, “To obtain such faith God instituted the office of preaching, giving the gospel and the sacraments. Through these, as through means, he gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when he wills, in those who hear the gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (Augsburg Confession V.1-3 Kolb-Wengert).
This preaching office is the predigtamt. It is the preaching office that distributes the means of grace for the salvation of sinful man. This understanding of the Office of the Holy Spirit and the Office of the Holy Ministry determines the way in which a pastor preaches. He preaches, not to encourage weak Christians to live a good life, but to crush the Old Adam in order that the new man may live in faith toward God and love for his neighbor. The pastor preaches to deliver the Holy Spirit in order to ransom sinful man from the bowels of hells and the venomous bite of the wicked serpent of old.
Pastors don’t preach to be liked. Pastors don’t step into the pulpit and wonder if their sermon will be appreciated. Pastors shouldn’t expect people to be happy with them because they preached such a poetic and humorous homily. Let us look to the preachers of old. St. John the Baptist preached repentance and got his head served on a silver platter. Jesus preached forgiveness and was nailed to the cursed tree. St. Paul proclaimed that man is justified by faith in Christ Jesus alone and gave his head as the price in Holy martyrdom. St. Stephen was stoned because of the work the Holy Spirit accomplished through him. This is what it means to preach. It means to deliver the Holy Spirit, to preach the text of Holy Scripture, no matter what the cost.
To preach is to create life where there is only sin and death. To preach is to proclaim the mercy of Jesus Christ that saves. to be a Lutheran preacher is to preach the fullness of the Triune God, both the law and the gospel in order that man may be saved. This is an exhortation to all pastors to boldly proclaim in line with our Lord Christ Jesus and the blessed saints of Old. Just preach the text. Understand that people will like you one day and despise you the next. This is what the word of God does. It offends the flesh. Don’t worry about the reaction, simply put your hand to the plow and don’t look back. Preach as the Holy Spirit give s you utterance. Preach, because it is the means by which the Holy Spirit is given to the sinner in order that faith may live and receive the gifts of Jesus’ death and resurrection for his salvation. Let us preach, do the work of the evangelist, and thus fulfill the ministry of reconciliation.