From the Word
44 While Peter was still saying this, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 “Can any one forbid water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.
Acts 10:44–48, RSV
From this we should learn what is the office of the Holy Spirit in the Church, and how or by what means he is received in the heart and works there. It is through preaching Jesus Christ the Lord. The gospel is the message which God would have preached world-wide, declaring to every individual that since no man can be made righteous through the law, but must rather become more unrighteous, God sent his own beloved Son to shed his blood and die for our sins, from which we could not be released by our own effort. It is not enough simply that Christ be preached; the Word must be believed. Therefore, God sends the Holy Spirit to impress the preaching upon the heart, to make it inhere and live therein. Without doubt Christ accomplished all, enabling us to become, through him, lords over all things. But the treasure lies in a heap; it is not everywhere distributed and applied. Before we can enjoy it, the Holy Spirit comes and communicates it to the heart, enabling us to believe and say, “I too am one who shall have the blessing.” Now, with the belief that God has come to our rescue and given us his priceless blessing, inevitably the human heart must be filled with joy and gratitude to God, and exultingly cry: “Dear Father, since it is thy will to manifest inexpressible love and fidelity toward me, I will love thee sincerely, and willingly do what is pleasing to thee.”
But in one sense know that all is not accomplished when the Holy Spirit is received. The possessor of the Spirit is not made entirely perfect and pure in all respects at once. We do not preach the doctrine that the Spirit’s office is one of complete accomplishment, but rather that it is progressive. The Christian must, in some measure, still feel sin in his heart and experience the terrors of death; he is affected by whatever affects other sinners. But he is supported by the Holy Spirit, who consoles and strengthens him till the work is fully accomplished. As long as we live in the flesh, we cannot attain such a degree of perfection as to be wholly free from weakness and faults. The pious Christian is still flesh and blood, but he strives to resist evil lusts and all other sins.
Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 206–07.