Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, my family and those whom God loves:
In an earlier post entitled: Evangelism, Witness and Outreach I defined these three words. In this post, I’d like to connect these three words to what I call “God’s preserving cycle of salvation.” I’ve named it that because salvation begins and ends with God and in between God preserves our salvation by continuing to keep us within the ark of the Church or body of Christ. It is here that God feeds us with Word and Sacrament, empowering by His Spirit so that we can then throw the life ring of salvation to those who are perishing. What is fascinating about this life ring is that it too is the Word of God by which the Holy Spirit works in a person’s life to create a faith that clings to the saving work of Christ.
First things first though. All human beings are perishing apart from Christ. It’s like we’re all floundering around in the ocean between North America and Hawaii and no matter how good a swimmer any person might be, no one will make it. Or to use another image, we are all on death row, or perhaps more accurately, we are dead men walking. Our condition apart from Christ is well defined by God’s Word:
† All human beings are sinners (Genesis 3; Romans 3:23) and separated from God (Isaiah 59:2).
† The consequence of sin in our lives is that we are dead (Ephesians 2:1), unable to save ourselves or even participate in our salvation (John 1:13).
† Therefore, we all deserve both temporal and eternal death (Romans 6:23).
The problem or challenge today is that our sinful selves, the world and the devil cover up this reality with all kinds distractions, false hopes and promises. We manage to grab onto debris floating in the ocean, rubbish that will eventually fall out from underneath us. Like an alcoholic hitting the bottom, it’s sometimes not until we go under and are drowning that we can join St. Paul in saying (Romans 7:24): Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? However, so many cannot see a way out and despair quickly follows or a narcissism of eat, drink and be merry takes over. This was not the case for Paul whose next words inject the hope of the Gospel for all (Romans 7:25): Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Despite the pit of hell that our sinful selves, the world and the devil is leading us into, God comes with a Good News “BUT”… God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16)….God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8)…For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8).
To save drowning and helpless sinners God comes to do what we cannot do. God comes in human form (Matthew 1:23), in the person of Jesus Christ, true God, true man, to live the life we could not live, fulfilling the Law for us (Matthew 5:17; Romans 8:3-4); taking upon himself our sin (1 Peter 2:24) and its punishment by suffering and dying on the cross (Matthew 27:45–56; Mark 15:33–41; Luke 23:44–49; John 19:28–30) that we may be forgiven (Ephesians 1:7); and finally, rising from death, overcoming our greatest enemy, that we may have the hope of a bodily resurrection and eternal life (1 Corinthians 15). From beginning to end, salvation is God’s work alone.
This is the Gospel message that came through the incarnation of Jesus Christ, who although he was truly God, became truly man, that all may be reconciled to God through him. After Christ’s ascension (Acts 1:6-11) into heaven God continued to work His salvation to bring people to faith in this Gospel.
Through the proclamation of the Word by apostles, pastors and others and in the waters of baptism, the Holy Spirit called people to repentance and faith, gathering them into the body of Christ, the Church, which like Noah’s ark is the place where God desires to preserve His people through Word and Sacrament. In weekly worship God feeds his people in Word and Sacrament, assuring them of their forgiveness, life and salvation. Through regular teaching grounded in God’s Word, people are equipping to go out into the world to build bridges into the lives of people God loves (John 3:16). The Holy Spirit equips and empowers the body of Christ through Word and Sacrament to bear witness to the saving Gospel that is the power of God for salvation to all who believe (Romans 1:16).
Over and over God works to fish people out of the death infested waters of this world, bringing them to the safety of His Ark, the Church, so that they may be healed, renewed and then sent out with the Gospel to invite others in. It is the Word and the Spirit that calls, gathers, enlightens, sanctifies, preserves and then sends His baptized children out onto the ocean of life to repeat God’s saving action in the life of others who are perishing.
Are you part of God’s preserving cycle of salvation? Are you baptized? Are you in the boat of Christ’s body, the Church? Are you physically part of that boat, a member of a congregation? Are you regular in your worship attendance where Christ comes to feed you in Word and Sacrament? Are you being equipped that you too may be a witness, throwing the life ring of Christ to others who are perishing? Are you part of God’s preserving cycle of salvation?
God sent His Son to save you and now calls you to come and become a fisher of men (Matthew 4:18-22).
Grace be with you,