In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
He leads you into all truth by convicting you of three specific truths: our sin, Christ’s righteousness, and the final judgement. And by convicting us we mean: He rebukes us and the world. Which means He shows us our sin and calls us to repentance from it, calls us to war against it.
And you need to know how Jewish people thought about this. The Old Testament taught them that showing a brother His sin was a high moral virtue. It was the right thing to do because their society was concerned not merely with the freedom of the self as ours is, but with the health of the individual, and the good of the whole society.
Thus, in such a setting it was considered not just good form to rebuke others for their sin, it was in fact, your loving duty to them. And it was not just good form but a great moral virtue or achievement in you to receive such rebukes and to be corrected by them. There was no shame in being rebuked. It meant you were part of the community, part of the family, a sinner like all others in need of guidance from those who care about you. To receive the rebuke is a sign not of weakness but of great moral fortitude.
This was the duty of one brother to another amongst God’s Old Testament people Israel. This was such an ingrained attitude of amongst Jews that it was considered a truly blessed thing to also be rebuked by the Lord. In fact, there are many verses in the Old Testament and the New Testament which say that we must consider suffering in our lives to be the Lord’s loving discipline, His rebuke. For to be rebuked by the Lord is a blessed thing because it means He counts you as His child. He values you enough to not leave you in your sin, error, or deception, harming yourself. He loves you as you are, but He never leaves you as you are. This is what parents who love their children do. They do not neglect and ignore their children, but actively seek to form good character in them and so reward and praise the good they see in them and rebuke and correct the wrong.
But imagine rebuking someone today, be it ever so gently. Not just your own child, whether they still be young, or fully grown. Imagine rebuking a fellow brother in Christ. How will they likely react? How would you react if someone came to you with your fault? Not well. We may even get angry or explode at them. Who are you to tell me what to do? How dare you tell me how to raise my child? Mind your own business, my life is mine to do with as I please, not yours.
We have turned this thing on its head. We consider it virtue to tell someone to butt out of our business and vice to accept a rebuke with graciousness. Repent. For we are a society of people who will not receive correction. Even as the Church this attitude in the world infects us.
Consider the Office of the Keys. The Catechism calls it the Office of the Keys, plural, not singular, emphasizing that there are two keys, two functions. One that opens the gates of heaven by declaring repentant sinners forgiven. But also another function that locks heaven’s gate to you when you are unrepentant, and binds you to your sin. But how often do you hear of a pastor using that second function these days? And when we do, we almost always have some reason to disapprove of their action. According to our society, and thus according to our own attitudes, pastors are not allowed to do this second function of the Office of the Keys. And as a result how many people stay in their sins, never to repent of them, and ultimately deny their faith and go to hell?
We have turned God’s word on its head. We praise vice, calling it virtue. We revile those who do as the Lord says by calling sinners to repent. We praise those who let all things slide calling that a virtue. Repent.
For the Holy Spirit Himself is the one who does this, whether it be through a pastor, a parent, or a fellow believer it is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict and rebuke us of our sin. Why? So that we might receive forgiveness and be saved.
Remember Philippians, chapter 2, that one day “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” All mankind will bow before Our Lord. Better to bow the knee now in repentant faith and receive the grace and mercy and good pleasure of Our Lord here and now than to be forced to bow the knee on the Last Day, never having known Our God’s grace, and facing His righteous judgement.
This is the Holy Spirit’s job to prepare you for that day. To take what is Our Lord’s and give it to you. Convicting you of sin causing you to repent. Giving you His righteousness. Giving you Christ Jesus to cling to in that final judgment. This is the Holy Spirit’s job, to take what is Christ’s and make it yours. Just as He does again and again through the Holy Word, the Holy Supper, and Holy Baptism. What a joy that Jesus has gone to heaven, for now we have His Spirit and He Himself living in our very bodies.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON