Date: June 13, 1943
Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you; and ye shall be witnesses unto Me. – Acts 1:8
Holy Spirit, Our God and Comforter:
As on the first Pentecost Thou didst descend on Christ’s disciples and by the message of His sin-atoning death and life-giving resurrection didst convert thousands, so, we earnestly beseech Thee, come to us now! Send this message into many souls! Turn multitudes from their sin to the Savior! Spirit of God, we need Thine enlightening, purifying, strengthening love, for without Thee we are helpless. Thou canst put on our lips the very words we should utter and endow us with the courage required for brave testimony to Christ, who at Calvary died for us! Give Thyself mightily to us now! Bless many with the new birth in Jesus! Protect and prosper Thy Church! Send its comforting truth to the ends of the world! Use Christian soldiers in remote lands as witnesses to the saving grace! Defend them against danger, especially the temptations which imperil their soul! O God of power and love, stop this destructive strife now! Turn the nations, especially our own beloved land, to repentance! Thou canst do all things, divine Spirit; therefore by the power shown at the first Pentecost, grant our souls heavenly peace! We ask it humbly but confidently in Jesus’ name. Amen!
WHAT terror of destruction this war has produced! In practically all civilized nations the best brains, the biggest factories, the largest number of men, the heaviest expenditures of money, are centered on one purpose: to manufacture the means for the slaughter of more human beings. The farther the race advances, the bloodier it becomes. Mass murder of civilians by giant bombers may not be the worst we are forced to witness. Last week sinister pictures were published showing the preparation for poison gas, and military experts now declare that by the use of certain chemicals it will be possible within thirty minutes to kill every living being in a city as large as Berlin, London, or New York. Millions choked to horrifying death within a short half hour—what hellish power of destruction!
How we ought to thank God on bended knees, then, that in a world of devastation, as this Sunday reminds us, we can all find a divine, life-giving, life-sustaining power, a heavenly might far greater than all the horsepower and kilowatts which dams and dynamos, turbines and generators, can ever produce. Did you realize when you arose that this day marks one of the most memorable events in history? To many of you it is only another Sunday, the beginning of a new week. Yet, this is Pentecost, the day on which all of you, no matter what your problems, weaknesses, or afflictions may be, regardless of how completely, ungratefully, and repeatedly you have surrendered to sin, are reminded of the divine comfort and strength that can be yours in Christ. It was on the fiftieth day after the first Easter that the disciples of our Lord, filled with the Holy Spirit, began to preach the Gospel with such marked blessing that 3,000 people were turned from their sins to their Savior. On this Pentecost Day, fifty days after the last Easter, may the Holy Spirit similarly bless your lives, lead many from ruin to redemption, make you witnesses to Jesus’ wondrous love! Oh, come to us, then, Spirit of life and truth! Show us
THE POWER OF PENTECOST
promised by God’s Son and the world’s Savior in the record of Acts (chapter one, verse eight), “Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you; and ye shall be witnesses unto Me.”
IT IS THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
When our Lord ascended to His Father, He left His followers no money, earthly honor, military strength; instead, He told them that they would be cursed, persecuted, killed. Despite these hardships He laid on them the duty of spreading the message of His grace to the far ends of the world. How, the disciples must have asked themselves, could they, a small band of uneducated men, overburdened by fears, fulfill that mighty task? If the prophets before them had been stoned to death, if God’s own Son had been crucified, how could they, Galilean fishermen, succeed?
Because they would have been doomed to complete defeat had they relied on themselves, the ascending Christ gave them the hallowed pledge that they would not have to fight their battles alone. He declared, “Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you.” Jesus kept His word. Only ten days after His ascension this promise was mightily fulfilled. The disciples and the believers, only 120 altogether, were assembled early on Pentecost morning, “all with one accord.” No denominational differences split their ranks. They were not divided into Protestant and Catholic, Lutheran and Calvinist, Low Church and High Church groups: all had one and the same faith. O God, we plead, give us more spiritual unity in a day when the churches are thrown into opposing camps, when one group often despises the other with a hatred which insults Christ! Why, we ask, are those who accept Him as their only Savior placed into separate, distinct groups? Does He want it that way? No! Earnestly and repeatedly He pleads for spiritual unity. Is the Kingdom of God aided by such division? No! we repeat when we think of communities that could well be served with one church, supporting two or three competitive congregations. Must such disunity continue? No! we reply for the third time. Complete obedience to every truth of Scripture, unlimited faith in God’s might, reliance on the power of humble, trusting prayer, can work miracles in the twentieth century as well as in the first. The tragedy which divides churches is the indifference to sound doctrine. They refuse to give the Lord’s Word preference over man’s, follow tradition and emotions rather than the Law and the Gospel, and are unwilling to let the Bible be the final authority in Christian faith and life. Though every religious group in the United States may be represented in this audience, the fact that there are 250 different Christian church bodies in our country is a reproach to the Savior. Before His betrayal He pleaded with His Father repeatedly that His disciples might all be one even before the world. Pray earnestly—not that there may be merely an artificial external union which has no genuine regard for God’s Word (such compromise is dishonest and a disgrace to Christ’s name), but—that all who accept Jesus as the sole Source of their salvation may be brought together in true inward unity! O God, give American churches that “one accord” faith of Pentecost!
Not long after the disciples were assembled, suddenly “there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind.” Small flames like fire descended on each of them as a visible sign of the Holy Ghost. In a moment these believers, many of whom had never spoken publicly before, were preaching, using the very words which were put on their lips, proclaiming the Gospel even in foreign languages which they had never previously studied or known. Jesus kept His promise: His followers received the Holy Spirit.
Before we go on, let us ask this plain but all-important question: Who is the Holy Spirit? Some of you who attend Bible-loving churches and can never thank God sufficiently that you have had Christian parents know the answer. I doubt very much, however, whether two of every three Americans in this broad country could say definitely just who the Holy Spirit is. Even in some churches He is neglected and misunderstood. How much room does He find in young people’s societies and ladies’ aids which have social calendars overcrowded with worldliness yet find little time or enthusiasm for Scripture? When did you last hear the Holy Spirit discussed from your pulpit? A few years ago we used to read much about the forgotten man. Somehow he has stepped out of the limelight. Yet we must always hear more of the Holy Spirit who for many is the forgotten God.
Be clear on this: He is your God, the Third Person in the blessed Trinity! Jesus places the Spirit on the same level with Himself and His Father when He commands His disciples to baptize “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.” Saint Paul gives a similar honor when he writes, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all!” Saint Peter identifies the Holy Spirit with God when He asks Ananias, “Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost? . . . Thou hast not lied unto men but unto God.” From the first page of the Bible, where the Spirit constantly hovers over the primal deep, until the last, where He promises, “Let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely!” the Holy Spirit is pictured as God, revered as God, given divine recognition and authority.
At a time when men ought to be close to the Lord, we send this vital message across America: the one God, the true, the only God, is not unknown and unknowable, not a hazy, indefinable Supreme Being. He is not simply the All-wise, All-holy, the All-knowing. He is the Holy Trinity—the Father, the Son, and—on Pentecost we reverently stress—the Holy Spirit.
If, as some of you write me, you are losing your zeal for truth, your desire for holiness, your joy in Christ; if you are surrendering to sin when you ought to stand fast, conforming to the world when you should be transformed; if the fire of faith, the fervor of your prayer, the love for souls is decreasing—you are ignoring the Holy Spirit; you are not fully worshiping the true God, you are depriving yourself of Heaven’s strength and help. When things go wrong in your home, when strife and quarrel disrupt your church, you will find that in most cases you have neglected imploring the Holy Spirit in prayer. For while the Father created and sustains us; while Jesus by His suffering, death, and resurrection, redeemed and restored us, it is God the Holy Spirit who brings us to Christ, gives us the rebirth by which we become new creatures, enlightens our mind, strengthens our reliance, and keeps us in the truth. Therefore let this Pentecost be a blessed day of rededication to the faith of the Bible, the faith of the Apostles’ Creed, the faith of the true Christian Church throughout all ages! May we admit our neglect of the Holy Spirit, our resistance to His grace, our indifference to His warnings, and offer Him a grateful, worthy, reverent place in our hearts and lives!
IT IS THE POWER OF SPIRITUAL STRENGTH AND VICTORY
What is the power of the Holy Spirit, and how is it demonstrated? See what it did to that first Pentecost audience, which until that very morning had rejected the Lord Jesus! Two months before most of them had known that Christ was to be crucified; yet they had refused to speak a word in His behalf. Some of them may well have been among those who screamed, “His blood be on us and on our children!” In his Pentecost sermon Peter, the disciples’ spokesman, refuses to spare their feelings. He does not do what the modern pulpit frequently does—sidestep sin and gloss over iniquity, pat hearers on the back and encourage them to believe that all men are noble creatures. Far from it! With the courage we need in our day he tells them, “‘Ye have taken’ Christ ‘and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.’” He repeats, “Ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” While he thus accuses them of murder and pleads, “Save yourselves!” their consciences are terrified. Fearing divine wrath and the eternal punishment of their souls, they cry out, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
May the same Spirit, who would come to you every time you hear or read God’s Word, today repeat this miracle by converting many of you! In principle, I have no other message than Peter’s. Your sins crucified Christ. You sent the innocent Son of God to Calvary. You, no matter how respectable or virtuous you may seem, helped hammer the nails of death through the Savior’s hands and feet by your sinful thoughts, lustful desires, selfish cravings, unholy words, secret sins. As Peter appealed, “Repent!” so, with a prayer for the same Spirit’s blessing, I ask you: Repent! Confess your sins before your heavenly Father! See how the evils in your life, your mind, your heart, on your lips, are separating you from your God, barring you from heaven, sentencing you to hell. May the Spirit grip you with the grief and the terror of inner agony that make you cry out, “What must I do to be saved?”
Because you can never know what Jesus did for you until you realize what you did against Him, nor understand grace until you feel sin’s force, I plead with you: Repent, you unbelievers, who reject your Redeemer! Repent, you blasphemers, who with profane lips ridicule His holy name! Repent, you, the dishonest, who cheat, lie, steal! Repent, you, the envious and hate-filled, who behold your fellow men with dark, destructive thoughts! Repent, you, the unclean, who break your marriage vows and kill home happiness! Repent, you politicians who betray public trust and clasp hands with the underworld! Repent, you who like to be called ministers or priests of God, but who have denied the atoning Savior! Repent, you young people who under the guise of patriotism reject God’s pointed appeal, “Keep thyself pure!” Repent, you soldiers and sailors who live godless lives! Repent, you defense workers who for the sake of heavy salaries hope that the war will continue long! Repent, you publishers of printed filth, you teachers of atheism, you promoters of public entertainment which is helping to destroy youthful morals! Repent, every one of you whose crimes may not be scarlet and glaring in the eyes of the world, but who still stand condemned before the Lord, who demands, “Ye shall be holy; for I, the Lord, your God, am holy”!
Do not be misled by the pious patter which pictures all men as good! I tell you from God’s Word that by nature all men are bad! Scripture asserts, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Do not be duped by the pernicious promise that all men are going to heaven! I tell you in God’s name that without Christ all men are going to hell. Jesus Himself—and He never makes a mistake—warns, “He that believeth not shall be damned.” Do not imperil your soul by thinking, “I can enjoy life for a while and then repent later”! You may never have another chance to approach the Almighty.
The whole nation needs repentance. Ballroom advertisements flaunt the invitation, “Dance to victory!” Neon tavern signs say, “Drink to victory!” Amusement centers proclaim, “Play for victory!” In a more serious vein dieticians cry out, “Eat for victory!” Bankers ask, “Save for victory!” Has the time not come, especially if we want to triumph in truth and avoid another world war, that the American people should be told, “Repent for real victory”? Here is the Etemal’s promise, “If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
With repentance we must combine true reliance on the Lord Jesus, and it is the Holy Spirit again who creates this trust within us. Pointedly the Bible declares, “No man can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost.” Well does Martin Luther repeat, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel.” The same Spirit who led those 3,000 to the Savior is now calling you. Before this festival day draws to its close, take time, less than two minutes, to read Peter’s Pentecost sermon on that day. It is saturated with Christ. It speaks of Jesus as the Anointed, Jesus as Lord, Jesus as God, Jesus as the Remission of sins. In Him, and only in Him, you have the hope of your salvation, the pledge of pardon for every sin, the complete cancellation of every iniquity, the removal of every transgression. Now, while the Spirit urges you, while He would use these very words to offer you Christ’s glorious grace for life and death, earth and heaven, time and eternity, accept the Son of God as your Savior!
Those Pentecost converts not only repented and believed, they were also baptized, following Peter’s plain direction, “Be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins!” That has always been the order in His kingdom: repentance, faith, and baptism. Besides granting us pardon for all our wrongs, the Savior has also given us the ordinance of Holy Baptism as a visible assurance that our sins have been washed away.
Have you been baptized? What startling importance Jesus Himself attaches to this sacred rite when He declares, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved”! Remember, our Lord Himself was baptized; the Apostles were baptized! The New Testament asserts, “Baptism doth also now save us!” As those three thousand received the washing of regeneration on the first Pentecost, so may the Holy Spirit now give you the courage to write me or to tell a true Christian pastor, “I want to be baptized”! Do not be misled by those who say that Baptism is not important. They contradict Christ. They put their own opinion above Scripture. Take Jesus at His word, and you will find that through Baptism—and I mean, of course, not merely by the performance of the ritual itself, but by your personal faith in Jesus and in His promise—the Holy Ghost unmistakably comes to you.
God the Spirit’s work does not stop when a sinner has been brought to repentance and trust in the Savior. It continues as long as he lives. How wonderful beyond words is His sustaining strength! See what it did to Peter! Two months before He had denied his Lord, cursing himself, because he was afraid of men. Now, after the Holy Spirit takes hold of the timid disciple, fright and terror disappear. Boldly and bravely he tells his hearers, “You killed the Lord Jesus!” If you love the Savior, you, too, born into a new life, can throw off fear and courageously face opposition, affliction, and adversity. The reason many of you lead defeated, nervous, restless, fear-encircled lives is that you resist the Holy Ghost, refuse to hear and heed Holy Writ, by which He comes to you.
See what God the Spirit did to the other eleven disciples. They were plain, simple folk without higher education; but when that new power came upon them, they could preach the Gospel in the languages of at least seventeen different parts of the world. They had no time to prepare their messages nor to study these languages; but the Holy Spirit gave them wisdom from on high. Jesus had promised that “the Holy Ghost shall teach you all things”; and again, “The Holy Ghost shall teach you . . . what ye ought to say.” That assurance, fulfilled on the first Pentecost, holds for you. He can put the right word on your lips at the right time, for the right purpose!
See what God the Spirit did for all those believers in the First Church! After the crucifixion they were frequently sorrowful and downhearted; therefore, the Savior sent them the divine Comforter. How truly He exerted His consoling strength! We read that at Pentecost they were stirred by gladness. A new and marvelous joy came to them! The same happiness in Jesus can be yours. Do not think of Christianity as a dark, morose, crepe-hanging creed, for our faith has joy, bliss, exultation, the real, abundant, satisfying, victorious life! If ever affliction seeks to remove this rejoicing from your soul, remember the Savior’s promise, “I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter”; and here He is, the holy, supporting, strengthening Spirit, who, pointing you to Christ, can make your soul sing through the midnight of grief.
See what God the Spirit did for the Christian Church! Here were 120 followers of Jesus pitted against a cruel, merciless world. Humanly speaking they would soon be crushed; yet you know the record of their triumphs. That small, man-hunted, martyred band of believers helped strengthen the Kingdom of Christ, which has never known defeat. Though heathen emperors with flaming fire and dripping sword sought to destroy it; though decay attacked it from within; though millions of dollars have been spent to discredit its truth; though the influence of university teachers and men of science has systematically sought to undo its work; though atheists have boasted that its influence had been wiped out, the Church lives on victoriously. No matter what the future may bring, even “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” What could be more essential, therefore, than the resolution to extend the Church with a Spirit-filled faith, not by the delusion of grandeur? Recently a $600,000 church in Seattle, planned as a mighty cathedral, was sold to the Government because the members were unable to meet their financial obligations. In many ways we ought to thank God that we have building restrictions during these lush days of easy money. Some churches are so enamored of earthly greatness that they forget the warning and the promise, “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord!”
When Jesus promised the Spirit, He also added these six immortal words, addressed personally to every believer, “Ye shall be witnesses unto Me!” On Pentecost Day and forever after, the followers of Jesus testified to their Savior; and because theirs was to be a worldwide witness, they preached in the chief languages of that day. The Gospel is not to be restricted to a single country, one tongue, one race; it must rather be spread to the very ends of the earth. Here is the Church’s commission, “Preach the Gospel to every creature!”
This broadcast, maintained, by God’s grace, only to witness for Christ, is twentieth-century, miraculous proof of Pentecostal power. For ten years we have been able to grow, in uninterrupted increase, unchecked by those who hate the message of the Savior’s shed blood, unhindered by those who have tried to bar the Gospel from the air. Through divine direction and through the support of your prayers and your gifts this radio mission, which began with only two stations, now broadcasts in three languages, in twenty-four countries. Thank God—and give all honor to Him!—the same Holy Spirit who blessed that first Pentecost appeal for repentance and faith accompanies our words. Listen to this evidence:
From the Dominican Republic: “I write you in Spanish, but by nationality I am Chinese and, of course, born a Buddhist. With all sincerity I want you to know that I have felt a great desire to hear God’s Word since listening to your broadcast. I hope to receive from you the necessary help toward my salvation in Christ.”
From Venezuela: “I do enjoy your teachings, which for almost fifteen years I have not heard. Thank God for this word which has brought me back to the path I once walked, the path of light!”
Puerto Rico: “We thank the Lord for the true messages of redemption broadcast by the Spanish Lutheran Hour. We are all looking forward to the day when you visit Puerto Rico to speak before large audiences from every part of the island.”
British Guiana: “I am not a church member, but I must confess that your broadcast touched every living fiber in my body.”
Cuba: “Through your words one learns to know more of Christ, the Savior.”
Panama: “I am now a regular listener to your program, and I am beginning to agree with your message.”
Mexico: “I and my family of six were brought to Christ by your broadcast. Think what we would have been without the Lutheran Hour!”
New Zealand: “If the people of this so-called Christian country had the opportunity to hear God’s Word preached in all its truth and purity as you broadcast it, this little corner of the world would be a much better place in which to live.”
From the Pacific: “We are five Seabees in Uncle Sam’s Navy, and we know that your broadcasts are doing a wonderful work in bringing others to Christ.”
New York: “Thank God that you preach as you do about sin and the blood of Jesus! It has brought me back to my senses. I am starting to take instructions in the Christian religion.”
Kansas: “Our small town has a pool hall. The owner does not belong to any church nor attend services; but when it is time for your broadcast, all the players must stop and listen quietly to the Lutheran Hour.”
Idaho: “I am an American citizen of Japanese ancestry. We have been evacuated from the vital coastal line. Each Sunday your message has brought me new spiritual inspiration and a deeper reverence for God.”
Missouri: “May I, an Indian chief, beg you never to take your message off the air?”
Pennsylvania: “I am a Negro. In my twenty-six years of life I have endured the hatred and abuse that most of white America feels for its colored citizens. I have observed and read colored newspaper accounts of the incredible viciousness of color prejudice in the South. Through it all I grew to hate white people indiscriminately. I became more and more bitter with each new incident of social, economic, or political injustice. I have stated this in order to give you an idea of how deeply I felt and what a great change your program ‘Bringing Christ to the Nations’ has brought about in me. Today the same conditions exist with regard to the Negro, but I no longer feel bitter about it, because I have learned from your sermon about the love of Christ for everyone, His enemies, unbelievers, as well as those who love Him.”
These and uncounted similar letters, not to mention the multitude of direct conversions—and if you are interested, we will send you, without charge, the story of many brought to Jesus through this broadcast—tell us that the power of Pentecost is still at work. As you look out into a world cursed by sin, with a billion and a half people not even nominally connected with the Savior’s Church, will you not see that our task is only begun? There are more non-Christians on the face of the earth today than on that first Pentecost. By what quicker, less expensive means than by the radio can we reach them? May it be said of our broadcast, supported by your prayers and gifts, that, as on the first Pentecost, “every man heard them speak in his own language”!
When the war is over, we must bring Christ to Europe’s blood-drained, war-sick, impoverished people. Will some of you whom the Lord has blessed financially be willing to take over a station in Central or South America, at $200 or $300 for an entire year? Will others stand by our side and bear the charges of a broadcast in Africa, China, the Dutch East Indies—again for only $200 or $300 a year? Hundreds should answer the God-given opportunity of sponsoring a broadcast in Germany, Czechoslovakia, France, the Scandinavian countries, Australia, and, as we hope and pray, even Russia. Five or six thousand dollars will annually send the message of the Cross to millions in these countries. Our Bringing Christ to the Nations broadcast is committed to use every available station throughout the world for the purpose of showing men that they are sinners and convincing them by the Holy Spirit that they are saved by faith in the cleansing blood, the atoning death, and the life-giving resurrection of Christ. We should expand in the United States with a second broadcast that can reach those who are prevented from hearing our Sunday messages. If the Lord opens the way for us, we should be ready to establish shortwave stations here and in other parts of the world. With all the prudence, courage, and support God gives us, we should restlessly, day and night, strive to fulfill the Pentecost command and be witnesses unto Jesus. Will you help us? In the Savior’s name, I plead with you: Stand by! You have it in your power, under divine blessing, to make this the most far-reaching Gospel-spreading agency history has known.
As we pray God especially to end this bloody war and grant us peace with righteous victory, we dare not be unmindful of the uncertainties that surround us. How necessary, then, that we keep Jesus in our hearts and minds at all times, that daily we learn to cling more closely to our Savior! Strengthened by His Spirit, we will always be prepared, whatever happens, for the joy and the glory of the heavenly homeland. I want to meet every one of you before the Throne. Therefore, my beloved, be strong in Christ! God be with you until we meet again, in Jesus’ name! Amen!
Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.