Opening Prayer: O Christ our God, give us Your wisdom and Your Spirit that we might know you and follow and believe in You. Amen.
This is the Second Sunday after Christmas, and so we continue to meditate on what Christmas means. Last week, Pastor Leithart preached on God’s long standing promise to Abraham that all the nations of the earth would be blessed in his seed. That seed is Christ, but that seed is to be understood corporately, as all those in Christ. Our lessons point to something similar this week, only this time, they emphasize particularly the work of the Spirit in accomplishing this task.
Isaiah describes God’s promise to send His Elect One who will be anointed with God’s Spirit (42:1). He will bring justice to the gentiles (42:2-4). The same God who fashioned the worlds will call His Elect One in righteousness (42:5); He will be a covenant to the people and a light to the gentiles (42:6). This light and covenant for the gentiles will be for their deliverance (42:7); this deliverance is the justice that God promised. He will do this for His own glory (42:8). Just as God’s Spirit led Israel out of bondage in the Exodus, so too the same Spirit-Light will come for the whole world, and remake it (42:9), and the whole earth will rejoice (42:10-12). Yahweh will be like a Samson, a warrior filled with the Spirit going to battle for His people (42:13)
We looked at Luke’s parallel passage a couple of weeks ago and noted all the Exodus themes. This time, note particularly the promise of the Holy Spirit (3:11). While there is some sense in which the Spirit is the mode of baptism, following the parallel with water, we shouldn’t miss the fact that the Spirit is also the means of baptism. The One who is coming after John will judge with justice and burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire precisely because He has the Spirit (3:12). John hesitates to baptize Jesus, but Isaiah has foretold that God will anoint His Elect One with His Spirit in order to bring justice to the gentiles. This seems to be what Jesus is referring to when He says that it is fitting for John to baptize Him to “fulfill all righteousness” (Mt. 3:15). John’s baptism of Jesus is how God is planning to anoint Him with the Spirit to bring His righteousness to the gentiles (3:16). And this anointing is the occasion for God’s declaration that this is His beloved Son in whom He is well pleased (3:17). We know that Jesus is now driven by the Spirit, because immediately after this, He is driven into the wilderness by the Spirit for battle with the devil (4:1).
Acts 10: 22-48
The main character of Acts is the Holy Spirit. When Jesus leaves the disciples, He promises the Spirit, and it is the Spirit and His messengers that drive the plot of Acts filling and driving His people (2:4, 4:8, 31, 8:29). The conflict is between those who receive the Spirit-fire (the wheat) (2:38, 9:31) and those who reject Him (the chaff) (5:3, 32, 7:51). In our text, Peter receives word from messengers that Cornelius would like to hear Peter speak to him (10:22-23). The Spirit has instructed Peter to go with them (10:19). Cornelius is a God-fearer, but Peter has been prepared before hand to speak with an “unclean” man (10:24-29), and Cornelius explains how an angel appeared to him instructing him to call for Peter (10:30-33). Peter’s sermon explains that he now understands that God shows no partiality (10:34), but every nationality that “works justice is accepted by Him.” Peter’s sermon might be troubling to good Reformed types. It sure sounds like God is responding to Cornelius’s good works (10:4, 10:31). If Paul were a good Reformed preacher, he’d make sure that point got cleared up rather than seeming to agree with him (10:35)! But the fact that Cornelius has heard all about the gospel of Jesus (10:37) means that Cornelius is already a disciple of Jesus in some sense. Peter says that Jesus Christ was God’s word of peace to the nations (10:36), and that as a result of his death and resurrection (10:37-41), Jesus has been appointed “judge of the living and the dead” (10:42). This means that whoever believes in Jesus will receive remission of sins (10:43). Proof of their forgiveness is that the Spirit is poured out on them (10:44-48).
Applications & Conclusions
The gospels present the coming of Jesus and His ministry as entirely empowered and driven by the Holy Spirit, and this same Spirit drives and fills His people.
Christmas is as much about the coming of the Spirit as it is about the coming of Christ. The Spirit overshadows Mary, fills Elizabeth and Zacharias and Simeon. The Spirit came upon Jesus in His baptism and then drove Him into the wilderness. The same Spirit led Jesus through Galilee bringing justice to God’s people, proclaiming the year of release, setting captives free, and forgiving sins. The same Spirit raised Jesus from the dead, and ushered Him up to the throne of God. And then the Spirit came rushing down on the disciples who were praying in the upper room.
In one sense, we might say that the Spirit is the forgiveness of sins; the Spirit is our proof, our seal, our evidence of forgiveness from God. The Spirit is our comforter, our guarantee that God is well pleased with us.
The justice of God is His forgiveness, His deliverance from sin and darkness and death. The justice that is for the gentiles and the ends of the earth is the declaration that Jesus is the Judge. Like Samson, He has come filled with the Spirit to fight our enemies and deliver us from sin and death.
Our mission is to walk in the Spirit and to flee everything that grieves Him (Eph. 4:30-32): all bitterness, wrath, anger, and evil speaking, and putting on kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness because God has forgiven us in Christ. Forgiveness is the justice of God in Christ.
“Merry Christmas” means that the Spirit has come and overshadowed this world. The Spirit has led the Son to become our salvation, and now whoever believes in His name receives remission of sins.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Closing Prayer: Gracious Father we thank you for sending Your Spirit here to overshadow Mary that she might bear our Lord Jesus Christ. And we thank you, O Holy Spirit, for filling the Lord Jesus and leading Him to bring forgiveness and justice to the world through His life, death, and resurrection. O, Lord Jesus, we give you thanks for pouring out Your Spirit on your Church that we might know forgiveness and extend that justice the ends of the earth. And we pray these things filled with the same Spirit calling to you, O Father, as your Son taught us to pray, singing…