Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || VIDEO
INI + AMEN.
In Galatians Paul says, “Did you receive the Spirit from works of the Law or from hearing with faith? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now completed by the flesh?”
Paul asks these questions because that’s what the Galatians were trying to do. They were trying to help God out. God had done His part, the Spirit had, but now they needed to finish up. Their works played a part in their salvation, in their having and keeping the Holy Spirit.
Paul says that this sort of thinking is foolish. It’s foolish because it’s worldly thinking. You’ve gotta add your part. It’s foolish because it’s not God’s way of doing things.
Paul isn’t just describing the Galatians and their desire to bring their works before God. Paul’s description is accurate for you and me, too. We also try to import our works before God. But it’s not just you and me. You see, Paul could’ve also written his words to the people who were building the Tower of Babel.
((3. Mankind is always in the tower-building business.))
What things were like at Babel and what things were like in Galatia are exactly the same as they are now now for us. People who lived at Babel and in Galatia and today are the same. Mankind is always in the tower-building business, that is, building, working our way back to God.
That’s what the people were after in Babel. “Come, let us build a city and a tower with its top in heaven, and let us make a name for ourselves, or else we’ll be scattered over the face of all the earth.” They were trying to work their way to heaven, literally build it. They wanted to make their own way, to do things their way, make their name great. They wanted everyone to gather around their greatness.
What the LORD gives for free, we try to pay for. What the LORD doesn’t give, we take. That was the Garden. Adam and Eve took what wasn’t given to them, and they were thrown out of the Garden. God promised a Savior from sin, death, and the power of the devil. The LORD gifting His own way back into paradise, a free salvation way, but a tower, to sinful mankind, is much better. But what we try to use to get back to God, He tears down. He scatters. He mixes up.
Now, while there are many languages, there’s still one same message. It’s spread throughout the world. It’s in the heart of mankind. It’s the message of works. Sure there’s confusion about it. There’s different works that get you in, and those works change from time to time. But whether it’s a tower, or Baal, or Buddha, or Allah, or just being a nice person, it’s all just human towers trying to get back to God.
We’re not immune. We do the same thing because we’re human. We say, “It’s so dumb for them to try to build a tower to heaven.” But it’s the same thing to measure your works against your sins. Besides, it’s not like any of us would ever use our experiences or emotions or preparations or knowledge to get access to our heavenly Father or Jesus or His Gifts, would we?
Whether the works matter at the beginning, middle, or end of salvation or your Christian life, we’re just like Babel, just like Galatia.
((2. Jesus is in the cross-ascending business.))
The LORD does things different. The LORD doesn’t do human works when it comes to salvation. Salvation is a free gift, and the delivery of that salvation is also a free gift. The LORD breaks down any human work that tries to earn Paradise.
We may be in the tower-building business, but to save us from our towers, the Lord Jesus was in the cross-ascending business. The LORD does His cross. “So that the world knows that I love the Father and do just as the Father commanded Me, rise, let’s go from here.” Then they’re off to Gethsemane, the LORD to Calvary. The LORD doesn’t come down from heaven to scatter mankind in judgment. The LORD Jesus “came down from heaven” “for us and our salvation.” He does the saving. He dies. He rises.
There’s peace in His cross. There’s no peace in our towers, our works, our experiences, our preparations. Have you done enough? Believed enough? Prepared enough? Never, ever. But the LORD Jesus has done more than enough in your place. His blood covers all your sins. His sinless life is counted as your sinless life. The merit of the death of the Son of God outweighs all human works, before someone believes and after someone believes. That includes you, too.
Jesus’ cross is true peace, even in the midst of a Pandemic. Christ has died and is risen. No need to worry about God scattering us. He’s already made you His own in Holy Baptism, where you were united to the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. Nothing can undo the Lord’s promises and salvation.
((1. The Spirit is in the Jesus-delivering business.))
The Holy Spirit makes this all yours. The Spirit undoes Babel. That’s what Pentecost is all about. The Lord’s judgment at Calvary is final. “It is finished,” Jesus said. At Babel, mankind was scattered all over with all sorts of different languages. But at Pentecost the Apostles were “filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance,” and through their preaching ”men from every nation under heaven” are gathered around the cross of Christ.
It’s not that all different languages stop, but there’s a new message in town. It’s the Gospel: “the mighty works of God.” That He did for you. This message is for all people, all nations. Jesus has died and risen for all. All nations are to be baptized into His death and resurrection. They are to hear the forgiveness of their sins in Jesus. They are to receive His body and blood. These are all the things that the Spirit works in the rest of Acts 2. The Spirit does this because the Spirit is in the Jesus-delivering business.
“The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” He delivers Jesus and His Word, the preaching of the Gospel. The preaching of the Gospel, the delivering of the Gospel in the Sacraments, is always Spirit-filled. That’s the joy of Pentecost! No confusion there. All one message, one salvation, all won by Jesus and delivered by the Holy Spirit. And so we hear at the end of Pentecost:
Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” … So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the communion that breaks the bread and the prayers.
Jesus wins free salvation. The Spirit delivers that free salvation through Jesus’ Word and Gifts, His Sacraments. There’s no towers, no works, no preparations, no emotions, no knowledge, no experience needed. That’s the Babel way. It’s the way of our flesh. But it’s not the Lord’s way. His Way is the dying-for-you way. His is the rising-for-you Way. His is the baptizing-you, forgiving-you, preaching-to-you, giving-you-His-body-and-blood way. That’s Pentecost. That’s the Spirit’s way. He delivers Jesus and His salvation.
“After beginning with the Spirit, are you now completed by the flesh?” No. Not in your flesh or its works. But in Christ’s flesh and His Works: “It is finished.” “Take eat; My body given for you.”
INI + AMEN.