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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
The Small Catechism – part 138

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From the Word: But when the Comforter arrives, whom I will send to you from the Father—even the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father—he will testify about me. (John 15:26)

From the Confessions: The Small Catechism

The Third Article

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church,* the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen

What does this mean?

I believe that 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 through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in the true faith. In the same way, he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and preserves it in unity with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church, he daily forgives abundantly all my sins and the sins of all believers; and at the last day, he will raise me and all the dead and will grant everlasting life to me and to all who believe in Christ. This is most certainly true!

*or “holy Christian Church” (“catholic” here refers to the fellowship of all believing Christians)

Pulling It Together: Jesus did not leave his disciples alone when he ascended. Nor are we alone today; he has given us the same Spirit, his own Spirit, “the Spirit of Christ” (Rom 8:9). Therefore, we confess in the Nicene Creed that the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit is not born or begotten, but is the eternal God proceeding from God the Father and God the Son. This One God in Christ gives believers himself—his Spirit—as a helper (John 14:16–17). He lives within Christians in order to guide them in the truth, and keep them in the faith, by reminding them of all that Jesus taught (John 14:26). He means to drive home to us one central theme: Christ.

Christ Jesus has ascended but he is still with us, living within us through his Spirit. So, when in the living of this messy, sinful life, where we try to be good Christians and do good things, but so often fail, we hear the Spirit of Christ speaking over our fear and guilt. What does he say? Christ. The Spirit ever moves us to faith, keeping us in the faith by testifying to Christ who forgives these sins, and more than that: improves our own spirits. In forgiving us, he relieves us of guilt, and restores the hope of resurrection to eternal life. This is why the early English translations call the Holy Spirit the “Comforter” (John 15:26 KJV; John 15:26 ASV), instead of “Helper” (John 15:26 NASB; John 15:26 ESV) or “Advocate” (John 15:26 NIV) or “Counselor (John 15:26 RSV).”

Prayer: Thank you, Jesus, for not leaving me alone. Amen.

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The Life of Martin Luther is written in honor of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. This nine-session adult study takes participants through the circumstances and events of the life of Martin Luther as it reflects on the biblical themes underlying the Lutheran Reformation.

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