Pentecost A

Happy birthday, Church! But you might have to take a moment and think about why. 

If you're looking for the Vigil of Pentecost, that's an invariable set of texts. Click here for that post.

Acts 2:1-21

Chapter 2 in total is cited twice in footnotes in The Small Catechism, The Creed, The Third Article: 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. Check out the Vigil of Pentecost link above for a picture of that woodcut.

1 Corinthians 12:3b-13

Verse 3 is cited in Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 2: Free Will (SD 2.26) as a reminder that it is the Spirit, and only the Spirit, who gives the saving faith that opens us up to hear the gospel being proclaimed.

Verse 4 and verses 8-10 are cited in a footnote in Smalcald Articles, Part 2, Third Article (SA 2.4.9) in an argument against having one human claiming divine right as the head of the Church. Luther, ranting against the Pope, notes that asking Christians to submit to the authority of one person will itself cause schisms because in the history of the church it has. Instead, it is better, as it was in the early church, that Christ alone should be the head of the Church. The bishops in their office and with their various spiritual gifts work to guide the church as a group.

John 20:19-23

Verses 21-23 are quoted in The Augsburg Confession, Article 28: Concerning the Power of Bishops/Concerning the Church's Power (AC 28.6) to clarify the teaching of the reformers about what the "power" is--namely "to preach the gospel, to forgive or retain sin, and to administer and distribute the sacraments" (AC 28.5).

Verse 21 is quoted twice in Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope (Tr 9, 31) to make two different points. The first citation is to show that Jesus did not create a hierarchy among the apostles, so the office of Pope does not have any ordained primacy. The second citation, with several other scriptural references, makes the argument that those who hold positions of authority in the church do not have God's authorization to civil authority and enforcement.

Verse 23 comes up in a smattering of places. First in a footnote in Smalcald Articles, Part 3, Article 7 (SA 3.7.1, n. 140) showing that Jesus gave the church authority to bind and loose sins. This verse is quoted in Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope (Tr 23) to show that Jesus gave all the apostles authority to bind and loose sins. Finally, this verse is cited in a footnote in Small Catechism, Baptism, Short Order of Confession (SC Baptism.29, n. 95) as a scriptural citation for the command of Jesus by which forgiveness is pronounced.

John 7:37-39

Verse 39 is cited through editorial insert in a quote from Luther's Treatise on the Last Words of David which is being quoted in Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 8: Person of Christ (SD 8.85) to show that the human Jesus, according to Luther's thought, is glorified "from that moment when the deity and humanity were united in one person." So the approximate age of Jesus of Nazareth can be calculated, once you decide the right approximate month and day, and then pick which version of the calendar you want to use, and correct for the probable errors in that calendar. (Good luck with that.) But Jesus Christ is glorified for all eternity because God the Son is eternal.


So few of these citations have anything to do with the Holy Spirit, we could be tempted into thinking that the Spirit doesn't matter. Except that 1 Corinthians 12:3 citation, which reminds us of the central role of the Spirit, especially for a way of understanding Christianity that has as one of its central ideas "faith alone." Remember the functions of the Spirit as spelled out in the Small Catechism. The Spirit calls the church from the world, gathers the Church together for worship and service, enlightens the Church with the Gospel, makes the Church holy, and keeps the Church in the faith of Jesus. The Spirit is the reason there is Church, so all the ecclesiastical arguments are seeking how the Spirit is working in the Church.

  • How do we point to the work of the Spirit, even when it doesn't seem miraculous?
  • How do we challenge the American idea of "my" faith?