Although you are a creature of God, which is to say that you exist and have life by His Word and Spirit, you could not receive or know the Holy Spirit in your sinful unbelief — nor would you even have realized there is such a Person of God as the Holy Spirit — because you cannot see Him or perceive Him with your mortal flesh, nor could you discern His presence or find Him for yourself.
And without the Holy Spirit, you could not love; nor would you be capable of knowing love or even what love is. For without the Holy Spirit you do not know the Lord your God, who is Love, neither the Father nor His Son, who live and abide in Love in the communion of the Holy Spirit.
Whatever you may have called “love,” whatever your feelings and emotions might have told you, even the ecstasy, rapture, and bliss of romance, without the Holy Spirit it was not and could not be the Love of God for which you have been created. Apart from the Spirit of the Father and the Son, what the world and your flesh call “love” is rather selfishness and lust, which does no good and does not give or sacrifice, but which consumes and destroys both you and your neighbor.
But the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has known you and loved you in His Son, and He has poured out His Spirit generously upon you in Christ by the cleansing waters of Holy Baptism.
He has given you a new heart, and a new and right spirit within you, so that you begin to live and to love as you are loved by Him. He has removed your heart of stone with its idolatry and greed, and He has given you a heart of flesh and blood like that of the incarnate God, Christ Jesus.
You abide in Him, that is, in the Lord Jesus, in His Body of flesh and blood; and He abides in you — in your body and your soul — with the Spirit of His Father. He comes to you, and He reveals and gives Himself to you, because He loves you with the steadfast loving-kindness of the Lord.
You love both God and your neighbor, because this one Lord Jesus Christ, who is both God and your Neighbor, has first loved you; and because He continues to love you and serve you forever.
This same Jesus, who was crucified for your sins, who has risen from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the Father, who lives and reigns eternally, He has not orphaned you. He has not left you alone to make it on your own. He is with you in the Ministry of His Gospel, by which He has also given you another Helper, that is, the Spirit of Truth who proceeds from the Father in His Son.
Whatever those twelve men of Ephesus had heard and received in the name of “John’s baptism,” it was lacking and misguided. It is certainly not the Baptism of St. John the son of Zacharias. For St. John the Forerunner preached and practiced a Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, by which Christ Jesus Himself was baptized into His death, and entered upon His Passion, and received the Holy Spirit and the blessing of His Father.
To be baptized in the Name of this Lord Jesus, therefore, is to be anointed with His Spirit and adopted as a beloved and well-pleasing child of His Father. For you are not baptized in the name of John, nor of Paul, nor of Cephas, nor of Apollos, but in the Holy Name of the one true God, the Holy Trinity. And all that belongs to the Son has thus been given to you and become yours in Him.
You are not an orphan. You are God’s own child.
Neither are you widowed, divorced, or single, regardless of your station in life and your present circumstances; because the One who has given Himself for you, who has cleansed and sanctified you by the washing of the water with His Word and Spirit, He is your heavenly Bridegroom, your true and faithful Husband, who shall never leave you nor forsake you.
It is by His holy and perfect Love for you that you receive love and know love, and that you receive and know the Holy Spirit.
His hands are laid upon you, and His Spirit comes upon you, by the hands of His Apostles, His sent ones, His ministers of the Gospel. Through their works of love in His Name, He stretches forth His mighty arm and reaches out His hand, not to hurt you, not to abuse you or molest you, but to help you and to heal you, to absolve you of all your sins, to cleanse you of all your guilt and shame and sorrow, and to feed you in body and soul with peace and joy and grace and every blessing.
This is how God’s Kingdom comes to you, even here and now, as surely as it did by the preaching of Christ and His Apostles from Jerusalem throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, to Ephesus, Rome, and the ends of the earth.
By this preaching of the Gospel, by this Ministry of the Word of Christ, by the waters of Holy Baptism, by Holy Absolution in His Name, and by His Body given, His Blood poured out for you, His Father in heaven gives to you His Holy Spirit here within His Church on earth; so that, by His grace, you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, you love and trust in Him, and you do keep His commandments: You love as He loves you.
For the Spirit of God is with you by and with the Gospel, and this Gospel is the Truth. It is the Truth that God the Father loves you, that He forgives you for Jesus’ sake, and that He gives you Life in Himself by His Son. By this Truth of the Gospel, the Holy Spirit lays Christ upon your heart to defend and protect you, to strengthen and sustain you. The Spirit loves you with the Love of God in Christ, and by the forgiveness of your sins He obtains the faith and love of Christ in you.
Beloved of the Lord, the Holy Spirit is with you, He lives and abides in you, not in some vague, abstract, or generic way, but in all the particulars of your own body and life and place in the world. He is with you and in you in all of your callings and duties and relationships; in both your joys and your sorrows; in hardship and prosperity; in sickness and in health; in death as in life, unto the Resurrection and the Life everlasting that are yours, now and forever, in the Body of Christ Jesus.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.