Obedience is the way of Faith

Now that my good friend and brother, Jim Wagner, is back in the States, I must begin again to write; hopefully he will begin again to read.

“You are saved by grace through faith, and that not of yourselves lest any man should boast.” (Eph. 2:8) These words of the apostle Paul to the Christians in Ephesus are foundational to the Christian Church. They unequivocally and undeniably proclaim justification by grace alone through faith alone. You are not saved – rescued from sin, death, and the power of the devil – by anything you do, but by the pure, unmerited mercy of God who chose you in Christ Jesus before the foundations of the world were laid.

Neither the grace of God nor our faith in Christ is earned or wrought of us in any way. We didn’t choose to believe in Jesus any more than we chose for God to send His Son to save us from our sins and the power of death. God elected us in Christ. That’s good news! That’s gospel!

But the devil comes to kill our faith, steal our hope, and destroy our assurance. So the ancient serpentine foe hisses his objection: “But how do you know God elected you? You still sin. You still lust. You still gossip and defame your neighbor. Sometimes you even enjoy your pet sins. Not only that, but you have a hard life. You can’t pay your bills. You can’t keep a job. Your children have left you. Your parents disowned you. You suffer disease, accidents, and misfortune. Is this what an elect child of the Almighty should look like?”

And the devil’s right; if salvation depended upon you. But it doesn’t. It depends upon God’s mercy (Ro. 9:16). How do you know God elected you? Because you are baptized into the name of Jesus; because the good news of the kingdom is preached to you; because you participate in Christ (1 Cor. 10:16) and eagerly await His return. God is not waiting for you to clean up your act before He blesses you with His gift of mercy and faith, He is pouring His gift on you even while yet you are weak and undeserving. That’s what makes it mercy!

And as for a difficult life of unpaid bills, doctor visits, misfortune and grief, these are evidences that you need a Savior, not evidences that you are not saved. These are reminders – even as Jesus’ own hunger reminded Him – that you do not live by bread alone, but by the word that proceeds from the mouth of God, which is mercy. Life is hard and often unfortunate. But just as bullets whizzing by a soldier’s head are not evidence that the battle is lost but that he is at war, so these trials and tribulations are not evidence that you are lost, but that you are at war.

Stand firm, St. Paul writes to the churches in Thessalonica, and hold to the traditions that you were taught by the apostles. These traditions are the apostolic injunctions to pray, fast, sing hymns and psalms and spiritual songs, participate in the altar of the Lord, and otherwise attach yourself to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. We do not do these thing in order to receive God’s mercy in Christ, but because we have received God’s mercy in Christ.

We are Christians; disciples of Jesus of Nazareth who overcame the tempter by His obedience to the Father. Having been washed, sanctified by Christ Jesus, we too are counted as obedient. Let us not disappoint.


One Response

  1. Yes, I am back.
    And yes, I am reading!
    Good post.
    I couldn’t have said it better myself. Well, maybe . . . .

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