CENTRAL THINGS                   

Pneumatology (Pentecost & the Holy Trinity)

Pneumatology(nü mǝ täʹ lǝ jē) - the study of spiritual beings or phenomena;

                                                   (In Christian theology) the study of the Holy Spirit

On May 24th, we will celebrate Pentecost – 50 days after the resurrection, 10 days after Jesus’ ascension back to the Father; in May 31st, we will observe Holy Trinity Sunday, a time to reflect on the Three in One, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Within that study and reflection, we consider how the three function in unison, or as I have mentioned previously, the perichoresis (pe rǝ kǝ rēʹ sis) which describes the Triune’s relationship between each person of the Godhead. Perichoresis is a Greek term used to define the relationship as co-indwelling, co-inhering, and mutual interpenetration. It is sometimes referred to as an “indwelling” and some refer to it as “the dance of the Trinity” as the term literally means “to dance around” each other.

 I speak to this topic because I think too often in Lutheran churches, the Holy Spirit gets a short stick in the area of discussion and understanding. Perhaps it is because it something hard to put our finger on exactly who the Holy Spirit is and what it does. We tend to want to play down the Pentecost connection because of the history and movement of the Pentecostal church. However, the Holy Spirit is a part of the Trinity, one person within the three and not just merely a power or movement of God.

Luther himself treats the person of the Holy Spirit in his Small and Large Catechisms in his explanation of the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed and the reformers dealt with the topic in the Augsburg Confession, in Articles I and V.

However, let us contend with the simple approach as found in the catechisms of the church. First, in the Small Catechism, in the Apostles’ Creed, Third Article explanation we read:

I believethat 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. (Book of Concord, Small Catechism, Apostles’ Creed, The Third Article)


We owe all to the Holy Spirit. See the emboldened words – I believe I cannot…believe. Our being in faith and belief is on account of the Holy Spirit. The work of the Holy Spirit is none other than sanctification, making us holy. Not only does it make us holy but keeps us holy…keeps us in faith. Luther asks the question:

37] But how is such sanctifying done? Answer: Just as the Son obtains dominion, whereby He wins us, through His birth, death, resurrection, etc., so also the Holy [Spirit] effects our sanctification by the following parts, namely, by the communion of saints or the Christian Church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting; that is, He first leads us into His holy congregation, and places us in the bosom of the Church, whereby He preaches to us and brings us to Christ.

38] 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 [Spirit] 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 [Spirit] to bring this treasure home and appropriate it to us. 39] Therefore sanctifying is nothing else than bringing us to Christ to receive this good, to which we could not attain of ourselves. (Book of Concord, Large Catechism, Apostles’ Creed, Article 3, 37-39).

Jesus told his disciple to wait in Jerusalem until the Father sent the Holy Spirit that Jesus had promised (John 14:16-26, 15:26-27, 16:7-13; Acts 1:4-5). So it is this Spirit of Jesus sent from the Father into the world who speaks the truth of the Gospel to us. It is vital to our life of faith as our faith would not be ours if not for the Holy Spirit calling, gathering and enlightening us and keeping us in the one, true faith. It is not by our own reason, it is not by our own strength, it is not even by our own intellect that we believe and gather into the community of faith. It is first and foremost the work of the Holy Spirit who enters into us and does the work of creating and sustaining faith through the use of the Word and Sacrament.

So just as the disciples received the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (Acts 2:4) and preached boldly in the name of the Lord, and as the new Christian community in Jerusalem devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers, and distributed proceedsto all, as any had need (Act 2:42, 45), so that same Spirit lives in and among us today and brings us to faith activated by love which leads us to hope. It is with this Spirit and in this Spirit that we move and have our being. Thanks be to the Father for God’s gift of the Holy Spirit whereby we are brought to faith in Jesus Christ.


Blessed Pentecost Season.

Vicar Kent

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