Vigil of Pentecost

Tracing the idea of forgiveness by God's grace alone without our merit through the Bible, and a bonus of two quotes from Bernard of Clairvaux! Oh, and a picture.

Acts 2:1-11 (Alternate First Reading)

Chapter 2 in total is cited twice in footnotes in The Small Catechism, The Creed, The Third Artcile: On Being Made Holy (SC 2.3.5, n 55), and The Lord's Prayer, The Second Petition (SC 3.2.6, n.65) both referring to the following woodcut for Pentecost, which these two sections both had as the image for the section. The image below is from the 1550 edition.

Image from  the British Museum   

Image from the British Museum

Psalm 33:12-22

Truly the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love...
-- Psalm 33:18

Verse 18 is quoted in a quote from a sermon from Bernard of Clairvaux in Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 12: Repentance (AP 12.58 octavo, Bernard's Sermon on the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary) to show Bernard connecting contrition and faith through this psalm verse.

Psalm 130 (Alternate Psalm)

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you,
so that you may be revered.
-- Psalm 130:3-4

Verses 3 and 4 are quoted in Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 4: Justification (AP 4.58) giving an example of a psalmist confessing sins without trying to point to any kind of work, worth, or merit on the part of the psalmist and then immediately moving to recognize God's mercy.

O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is great power to redeem.
It is he who will redeem Israel
from all its iniquities.
-- Psalm 130:7-8

Verses 7 and 8 are cited in Smalcald Articles, Part 3, Section 3: Concerning Repentance (SA 3.3.8) to expand our understanding how God works to redeem us--"through the Word, sacraments, and the like" (SA 3.3.8).

Romans 8:14-17, 22-27

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
-- Romans 8:14-17

Verses 14 thru 17 are cited through and editorial insert in Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 11: Election showing that God moves through the Spirit to encourage the elect and bring them into a way of life that reflects God's faith.

Verse 14 is quoted in Formula of Concord, Epitome, Article 7: Holy Supper, Affirmative Thesis 5 (Ep 7.6) to show that good works are done in the Spirit, not under the Law, even though they follow the Law.

Verse 14 is also quoted in Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 2: Free Will (SD 2.63) to make much the same point, that "people do good only to the extent that and as long as they Holy Spirit impels them" (SD 2.63).

Verse 15 is cited in Formula of Concord, Epitome, Article 4: Good Works, Affirmative Thesis 7 (Ep 4.12) to explain the motivation for good works in those who have experienced the gospel, who act "not out of fear of punishment, like a slave, but out of the love of righteousness, as children" (Ep 4.12).

Verse 16 is cited through editorial insert in Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 12: Repentance (AP 12.73) as Melanchthon quotes again from Bernard of Clairvaux (also from Sermon on the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary) to show the Lutheran understanding of forgiveness by God's mercy rather than by our own works.

Verse 16 is also quoted, along with verse 26, in Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 11: Election (SD 11.31) to show both the Spirit proclaiming to the elect and praying for the elect. Verse 25 also comes uphere (SD 11.30) in a string of biblical citations and quotes that describe the elect.


The Holy Spirit plays such an important role in the life of Christians. Opening us to the proclamation of the gospel, calling us to the waters of baptism, encouraging us through God's promise of mercy, keeping us in faith and trusting God.

  • As we remember and wait for the Spirit, how do we reflect on the Commandments in a way that helps us experience the presence of the Spirit?
  • How do we preachers inspire others to good work without making a new law?