There are varieties of gifts, yet the same [Holy] Spirit.
There are varieties of service, and the same Lord [Jesus].
There are varieties of works, yet the same God [and Father of all] who works all things in all. (1 Cor 12:4–6; [Eph 4:6])
᛭ INI ᛭
John tells us “God is Love.” “God is love” in Himself. The Father loves His Son, and the Son loves His Father—eternally so! Eternal Father. Eternal Son. And the eternal unity of Their love is the Holy Spirit. One God, three Persons, and the three Persons are eternally and forever bound together in their acts of love toward each other—Father begetting, Son begotten, Holy Spirit proceeding.
That’s how the Triune God is in Himself. The so-called “immanent Trinity.” His internal works. But “God is love” not only in Himself. But “God is love” toward us. The so-called “economic Trinity.” His external works—how the Triune God deals with us, how He gives to us, how He, to echo Jesus’ Word, “visits” us.
He comes with blessings, pours out gifts, speaks promises, gives good things. Or to summarize: He “visits” with His benefits. This “visitation” expresses His love toward His creation, toward mankind, toward you, and so our readings today—all three of them!—point us to this truth:
THE TRIUNE GOD VISITS YOU WITH HIS BENEFITS.
What benefits? Well, for the sake of teaching we divide these benefits among the three Persons of the Trinity, even though all three Persons are involved in each of them. “The external works of the Trinity are undivided,” as the ancient saying goes. The benefits that the Triune God visits you with are summarized in the three Articles of the Creed: Creation, Redemption, and Sanctification.
((I. The Father visits with the benefits of Creation.))
First, creation. “There are varieties of works, yet the same God [and Father of all] who works all things in all.” The Father visits with the benefits of Creation. That’s our Old Testament reading. The Israelites were selfish and made the benefits of creation their false god. They cherished the gift more than the Giver of the gift. That’s why they perpetuated injustice, defrauded the window and the orphan, shed innocent blood, or even had money changers—thieves!—in the temple.
They paid lip service, but their hearts and behavior were far from the LORD. (Mk 7:6; Is 29:13) “They went after other gods to their own evil.” Not just Baal, Asherah, Molech, or whatever other religions people come up with. No, their stuff, too. Hoarding it for themselves was more important than using it for the sake of others, which is the real reason the Father gives you anything.
We’re just like them. Follow the money. And if ever anyone says, “That’s not true about me. I’m not like them.” Well, the LORD says to you, like He said to Israel, “Truly I Myself, behold, I have seen it.” (You can’t hide anything from the LORD.)
((II. The Son visits with the benefits of Redemption.))
And so the Father sends His Son, and the Son is sent by His Father. He comes willingly. He comes to save us from our false gods. He comes to pay the true sacrifice.
The Son uses the gifts of creation to accomplish our salvation. We are created beings, and so the Son “became man,” because, as Hebrews says, “it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” (Heb 2:16–17)
He is merciful and faithful, making propitiation, atonement, “not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” (Heb 9:12) His blood, His death are “the things that make for peace.” He redeems us, buys us back from our false gods, “with His holy precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.”
Jesus’ death alone, Jesus’ blood alone—God’s death and blood alone—“make for peace.” If the Lord calls out His children for the false god “mammon,” running for your checkbook to give a bigger offering won’t save you. Our good works can’t make up for where we’ve messed up and trusted other things to save us. Only Jesus saves us. He alone visits us with the benefits of Redemption.
There are varieties of service, and the same Lord [Jesus]. “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Mt 20:28) His offering, not yours. That’s true peace. A peace the Jews rejected. “No stone on another.” For it really is Jesus alone, not our action before, during, or after redemption, “for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for nothing.” (Gal 2:21)
((III. The Spirit visits with the benefits of Sanctification.))
First Creation, then Redemption, and after Redemption comes Sanctification. But Sanctification, true Sanctification, is not the left hand taking away what the right hand has given. Sanctification does not set aside Redemption. Sanctification is the work of the Spirit. “There are varieties of gifts, yet the same [Holy] Spirit.” The Spirit visits with the benefits of Sanctification.
The Spirit is the one who sanctifies you. His gift for you. It’s why He’s called the “Holy” Spirit. He alone makes holy. He sanctifies us with the Redemption Jesus won for us. How does the Spirit do that? “He calls by the Gospel [and] enlightens with His Gifts.”
It’s through the preaching of the Gospel and not through the preaching of the Law only that the Spirit sanctifies and keeps us in the true faith.” It’s through Baptism, Absolution, and the Supper of Jesus’ body and blood, and not through our own good works, that the Spirit “sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.”
But the Spirit has more “visitation” in store for you. He sanctifies you to be a benefit to others. You are a “temple of the Holy Spirit,” made so in Baptism, and so you are also instrument, chosen instrument, of the Spirit. “The one and the same Spirit works all things, giving to each person as He chooses.”
What sorts of things? 1 Corinthians 12! “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” Now, Paul describes that “manifestation of the Spirit” in some pretty lofty ways, and in some ways that were for the apostolic era alone, but let’s hear Peter’s way of saying it: “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
In a congregation like ours, sometimes that’s not flashy—it’s forgiving each other, worshiping together, maybe even volunteering to serve. Maybe even being a voting member.
“God is love.” Not just in Himself, but in how the Triune God relates toward His creation, toward mankind, toward you.
THE TRIUNE GOD VISITS YOU WITH HIS BENEFITS.
The Father visits you with the benefits of Creation, not only giving you your daily bread, but giving you what you have so that you would “have something to share with anyone in need.” (Eph 4:28)
The Son visits you with the benefits of Redemption. “Holy, precious blood.” “Innocent suffering and death.” “Raised for our justification.” (Rom 4)
The Spirit visits you with the benefits of Sanctification. He makes you holy. Holy with Jesus’ Redemption. In the Gospel. In Baptism. In Absolution. In the Supper of Jesus’ body and blood. Having made you holy, you’re His temple, His instrument, to love and serve those around you. Not just in your daily lives, but this congregation, too.
For the sake of teaching we break up God’s benefits into Creation, Redemption, and Sanctification, but taken altogether, and put simply: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, THE TRIUNE GOD, VISITS YOU WITH HIS BENEFITS.