Easter 5—Cantate 2023 (Jn 16, 5–15; James 1, 16–21)

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“The Spirit of Truth will guide you into all Truth.”

᛭ INI ᛭

Alleluia! Jesus Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Today’s all about the Spirit’s work when it comes to Truth and Righteousness. He convicts the world concerning righteousness, but guides believers into all Truth. The Spirit’s work has everything to do with Jesus’ resurrection (also His Ascension) and what those events mean for the world and also what they mean for you. Today, as we’re moving toward the end of the Easter Seasons, we’re making our turn toward Pentecost, and so we consider the Righteousness the Spirit convicts concerning and the Truth He leads into.

We’ve got a problem with truth, though. Well, maybe not us personally—or maybe you! It’s certainly the problem of our times. It’s impossible to agree on what’s true anymore. Can you even find out what’s true? There’s no longer objective truth. There’s personal truth—your truth, my truth. There’s scientific truth. There’s biological truth, which isn’t too popular anymore. There’s the truth of the establishment, the truth of the minority, the truth of the fringe and conspiracy theorist. Truth claims abound! Pilate’s words to Jesus ring home today, “What is truth?” (Jn 19)

This isn’t how the Truth works in the Bible. The Truth, as far as the Bible goes, isn’t a collection of ideas that are true. Knowing the Truth isn’t knowing these sorts of things. Truth isn’t even the laws or rules that govern the universe, if you want to talk in such abstracted terms. The Truth isn’t necessarily measurable or testable. You can’t run experiments to observe the Trueg. Truth in the Bible, and especially in the Gospel of John, isn’t something you attain to. It’s not like there’s God off in heaven, who created truth or truths, and then there’s you and me on earth who have to learn and know them. No, Truth is a Person. The Truth is Jesus!

“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” (Jn 14) He is Truth itself, and Jesus is the Truth to which the Holy Spirit leads you. He brings you to Jesus, leads you to Jesus, drags you to Jesus. He “calls,” He “enlightens,” He “sanctifies” you in the Truth, in Jesus! This isn’t to say there aren’t truths that you can know and observe in the universe. They’re good as far as it goes. It’s just that God isn’t concerned about those things in the Bible, because they aren’t Jesus, and to know them won’t “set you free,” (Jn 8) as Jesus says. Only He is the Truth that “really sets you free” from your sins, from your death, and from hell forever. And it’s the Spirit’s job to bring you to Jesus, the Truth, so that you would be saved.

How the Spirit does that is another matter, and, before we get to that, I don’t want to forget to bring up righteousness. That is 

The other topic we have to take up today besides Truth is Righteousness. Jesus talks about righteousness today in John: “He will convict the world concerning Righteousness.” His stepbrother James also says, “The wrath of man does not produce the Righteousness of God.” Now, we have the same problem with Righteousness that we do with Truth. We treat Righteousness like a goal or measure or destination, but in reality true Righteousness is none of those things. The truth about true Righteousness is just like the truth about Truth.


For humans righteousness is a goal or measure. It’s something we attain to, something we gain or earn, something we strive for. In fact, as rebellious sinful creatures, that’s the only game we know. That’s every single day of your life. It’s every area of your life! Work, home, farm, family, friends, politics, and even our hobbies! He’s an example. What’s righteousness at work? A job well done, a boss and coworkers that also work well and you actually like. A price for what you need to buy that’s less than the true fair price for what you must sell.

We treat righteousness as the collection of right behavior. And just like truth, there’s all sorts of different standards. Your righteousness. My righteousness. And when people don’t meet our standards of righteousness, then there’s anger and wrath, assuming the worst about their words or actions, and finally resentment toward that person. We assume people are just like us. We assume their motivations are the same as our motivations, thinking that they act a certain way because that’s how we act. Rather than actually finding out, we condemn them. We aren’t “quick to listen” to them, we aren’t “slow to anger.” We are slow to forgive, slow to mercy, slow to kindness.

Christ’s empty tomb ends that game. His empty ends it because Jesus ends the righteousness game! Jesus ends it because righteousness isn’t a grade or goal or standard. He’s Righteousness! He’s your Righteousness! So it was prophesied by Jeremiah: “In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which He will be called: The LORD our Righteousness.” (Jer 23:6) On this Paul says, Christ “became Righteousness from God for us.” (1 Cor 1) This happened at His cross and His empty tomb! For “Christ was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” (Rom 4)

Sin and unrighteousness was condemned in the flesh of Christ, “in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us.” (Rom 8:3)

This doesn’t mean our doing of it, because we “do not have a righteousness of [our] own that comes from the Law, but [one] that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” (Phil 3) “The record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands [was canceled]. [God] set this aside, nailing it to the cross.” (Col 2:14) The whole law is completed and fulfilled in Jesus. “For our sake [God] made [His Son] to be sin who knew no sin, so that we would become the righteousness of God in [Jesus],” His Son. (2 Cor 5:21)

If we believed all that we’d apply God’s standard to people instead of our own. That surely means condemnation for all, even you! But God’s standard is finally forgiveness in Christ Jesus alone. We should seek to bring all people into Christ’s forgiveness by faith, but we should certainly treat our fellow Christians this way, no longer judging by our righteousness but accounting them not righteous but righteousness itself for Christ’s sake alone, and that means treating them the way they really are! Redeemed, forgiven. Because righteousness isn’t the sum total of what you’ve done.


Outside of Christ is the righteousness that comes from works. (Many Christians wrongly live this way toward the people in their lives.) But good luck with that! On the Last Day, “There is nothing hidden that will not be made known.” (Mt 10:26) For “No creature is hidden from [Christ’s] sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (Heb 4:13) On that day, outside of Christ, you will be judged according to the standards which we cannot meet. Our own fake human righteousness which doesn’t meet God’s standard let alone our own. For “with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Mt 7)


This is why the Spirit convicts the world and all those who don’t believe in Jesus concerning righteousness, because Christ has gone to the Father. Since Righteousness, since Christ, isn’t present in the world it is then unrighteous and unrighteousness.

Apart from Christ and the Spirit that would be you, But, by faith in Jesus, baptized into Him, united with Him through His body and blood, there is Righteousness—you “are Righteousness of God in Him!” In Christ is Righteousness because He Himself is your Righteousness. And so Christ “goes to the Father,” through cross and empty tomb, and that means the sins of the world are paid for (even yours and your fellow Christians’), and so there is justification, an innocent verdict, and that payment for sins, that innocent verdict before God is yours by faith in Jesus.

Receiving Jesus, as well as His forgiveness, you get righteousness: from His Baptism, His Word, His Sermons, His Absolution, and His Supper. TRUE RIGHTEOUSNESS ISN’T A GOAL BUT A PERSON—JESUS! You pass it on to others in speaking forgiveness not anger, but Righteousness, Jesus, is yours not by doing this but by faith in Him, “that you may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that by any means possible [you] may attain to the resurrection of the dead” (Phil 3) and the life everlasting with Jesus your true Righteousness.

Alleluia! Jesus Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

᛭ INI ᛭

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