Learn, then, to understand this article most clearly. You may be asked, “What do you mean by the words I believe in the Holy Spirit?”
You can then answer, “I believe that the Holy Spirit makes me holy, as His name implies.”
“But how does He accomplish this, or what are His method and means to this end?”
Answer, “By the Christian Church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. For in the first place, the Spirit has His own congregation in the world, which is the mother that conceives and bears every Christian through God’s Word [Galatians 4:26]. Through the Word He reveals and preaches, He illumines and enkindles hearts, so that they understand, accept, cling to, and persevere in the Word [1 Corinthians 2:12].
“Where the Spirit does not cause the Word to be preached and roused in the heart so that it is understood, it is lost [Matthew 13:19]. This was the case under the papacy, where faith was entirely put under the bench. No one recognized Christ as his Lord or the Holy Spirit as his Sanctifier. That is, no one believed that Christ is our Lord in the sense that He has gained this treasure for us, without our works and merit [Romans 4:6], and made us acceptable to the Father. What, then, was lacking? This: the Holy Spirit was not there to reveal it and cause it to be preached. But men and evil spirits were there. They taught us to obtain grace and be saved by our works. There is no Christian Church in that. For where Christ is not preached, there is no Holy Spirit who creates, calls, and gathers the Christian Church, without which no one can come to Christ the Lord.
Everything, therefore, in the Christian Church is ordered toward this goal: we shall daily receive in the Church nothing but the forgiveness of sin through the Word and signs, to comfort and encourage our consciences as long as we live here. So even though we have sins, the ‹grace of the› Holy Spirit does not allow them to harm us. For we are in the Christian Church, where there is nothing but ‹continuous, uninterrupted› forgiveness of sin. This is because God forgives us and because we forgive, bear with, and help one another [Galatians 6:1–2].
But outside of this Christian Church, where the Gospel is not found, there is no forgiveness, as also there can be no holiness. Therefore, all who seek and wish to earn holiness not through the Gospel and forgiveness of sin, but by their works, have expelled and severed themselves ‹from this Church› [Galatians 5:4].”
So then. The simple answer is “no.” But the reason for this is that you need to hear that this Gospel is “for you.” You need to hear that your sins are forgiven. You need the body and blood of Christ. And furthermore, in Baptism you have been made a member of the Body of Christ. “The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you”” (1 Corinthians 12:21, ESV). So as a member of the Body of Christ, listen to His Word. Hear it, especially as it admonishes you to come together with the rest of the body of Christ (Hebrews 10:25).
Matthew Lorfeld, Pastor
Messiah Lutheran Church
La Crescent, MN