Monday, June 28, 2010

Univeral Salvation by Grace Through Faith? Yes!

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people.
Titus 2:11

This passage speaks of the teaching of Universal Grace or Universal Salvation or Universal Atonement. It is not the only place that this teaching or doctrine is clearly taught in the Bible, see 2 Cor. 5:15,19; 1 Tim. 1:1q5; 1 John 2:2 and 2 Peter 2:1. God's plan of salvation clearly appeared in Jesus Christ and His holy life, death and resurrection for the atonement, the acceptable payment, for all sins. And this as Titus declares was by Grace!

However, this does not lead to the unbiblical teaching of Universalism, that in the end all will be saved. For while Universal Grace is taught by the Bible, so is Individual Salvation by Grace Alone. This is especially taught in Ephesians 2:8-9 "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast."

Many reject one of these biblical teachings, i.e. Universal Grace or Grace Alone because they do not make sense in a human logical system. On the one hand, followers of John Calvin believe that God saves the elect, the predestined by grace alone, but do not accept Universal Grace because of the unbiblical teaching of Double Predestination. On the other hand, believers in the Free Will of humans deny Grace Alone for salvation but uphold Universal Grace.

Both teachings, Universal Grace and Grace, must be believed and maintained, not because they are not logical. They must be believed and maintained because Scripture teaches them. The righteous live by faith in God's Word, even if it seems to cause logical problems. God's ways and thoughts do not match up with human ideas, systems and thoughts, as Isaiah 55:6-11 proclaims.
"The word of God will stand forever." (Isaiah 40:8b)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Choose A Christian Wife or Husband!

A woman with strong character is a crown to her husband,
but a shameful woman is like rot in his bones.
Proverbs 12:4

Dr. Andrew Steinmann in his excellent new Commentary on Proverbs remarks on this passage: "In the context here it is probably intended more as advice to a young man in choosing a wife than as advice to women as to which course to choose in life. (A shameful woman probably would not worry about the effect of her actions on her husband, so this proverb would not be meaningful to her.) However, it can instruct both the Christian man who is looking for a wife and a Christian woman who desires to enter into a successful marriage."

So what does it mean, this woman of "strong character?" From the other two places it is used in the Old Testament (Ruth 3:11; Proverbs 31:10) we can say that it refers to this woman having faith in the triune God and His salvation in Christ Jesus crucified for her sins.

Thus, the young man here in Proverbs 12 is wise to look for a woman with a strong Christian faith as he has, and likewise this would apply to the woman's search for a Christian man. But is this high on the list of young people today of things they desire in a spouse? It should be at the top, for everything else pales in comparison!

The apostle admonishes them to "not be unequally yoked" (2 Corinthians 6:14), i.e. not to be married to someone who doesn't share the same faith and worldview as they do when entering into marriage. This certainly supports what this proverb is proclaiming, that those wishing to enter into God pleasing marriage have this oneness in Christian faith high on list, if not at the very top. For when they do, they know that God will truly bless this marriage to their mutual joy and to His glory!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Lie of "Much Less Than" & "Much Greater Than"

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Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven--for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little. And he said to her, "Your sins are forgiven."
Luke 7:47-48

Recognize these mathematical signs? They represent "much less than" and "much greater than." Do they apply to human sinners? Can any human say that they sin "much less than" another human sinner naturally? Can they say that they keep the law of God "much greater than" other human sinners naturally?

This is the point of the story here in Luke 7. Jesus is exposing the lie of this Pharisee and all others who would apply this "degree of sin" analysis to himself in comparison with other humans. He does not see himself on the same sin condemnation as this woman of the street who obviously is "much greater" a sinner than he, and "much less" a doer of good than he. Jesus condemns such a "self-righteous" attitude which is a lie. The Bible teaches that rather than a "less than" or "greater than" comparison between humans sin record, it should rather be an "equals" sign. Paul clearly teaches this quoting from the Old Testament in Romans 3:10-12 "as it is written: None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one."

So Jesus contrasts these two types of responders to His Law and Gospel by the love that they have for Him in mercifully forgiving their sins. "Her sins are many, have been forgiven, because she loved much. And the one to whom little is forgiven loves little." Those who believe they have any spiritual good apart from Jesus' forgiveness will love Him little, while those who recognize and confess their sins are many and great love Jesus much because He forgives all their sins through His holy, innocent, bitter, suffering and death for them upon the cross.

Why love Jesus much? Because He first loved us much and died for our sins that they might be forgiven! (1 John 4:19) Allowing His Word of Law to condemn us as the sinners we are through and through on our own and then to allow His Gospel to forgive each and every one of them for Christ's sake permits us as this woman through faith to depart in peace, knowing we are saved.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Yoked to Jesus We Have Blessed Rest

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Matthew 11:28-29

Yokes such as the one pictured linked two animals for the task ahead. Jesus' usage of it here in Matthew 11 is in reference to the demands of the Law of God, the Ten Commandments. To be under the demands of God's Law for sinful humans from conception is a heavy burden, an impossible burden for us to accomplish. When we labor under its unending demands of holiness it gives us no rest for our conscience, our soul.

But yoked to Jesus, He carries not only the heavy load of fulfilling the Law's demands perfectly for us, He in fact suffered the punishment for our not keeping the Law. This is what the Bible calls the Gospel. This yoke then removes the Law as the central place in our souls and lives and places it, yokes it, to Jesus and His Gospel, where it is truly easy and light and restful.

As Martin Luther wrote about this: "The yoke that Christ lays upon us is sweet, and His burden is light. When sin has been forgiven and the conscience has been liberated from the burden and the sting of sin, then a Christian can bear everything easily. Because everything within is sweet and pleasant, he willingly does and suffers everything." Luther's Works, American Edition 26:133.

Oh, how blessed to be yoked to Jesus and His Gospel, for then and only then do we have rest for our burdened souls. Free and yoked to Jesus to serve in His vineyard, the Holy Christian Church.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

People Lack Basic Knowledge that Ox Have?

The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master's crib, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand. Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, children who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged.
Isaiah 1:3-4

Animals, for example ox, are intelligent to recognize that their owner cares and provides for them. However, God's people lacked this basic knowledge. And not just here in the case of the people who Isaiah prophesied to, but even in Jesus' time as John's Gospel proclaims: "He (Jesus, the Word) came to his own, and his own people did not receive him." (John 1:11)

Could it be the main problem in 2010, that people do not recognize that the true God, the God of Bible cares for them and provides for them? Certainly, as the description Isaiah spoke of in 1:4 still applies to all human sinners by nature from conception: "they have forsaken the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged." We think we have so much knowledge and technology that believing in a God who loves us and sent His Son Jesus to die for our sin is nonsense. But is it? Does it not all start with recognizing that we are the wonderful creations of the Creator God? That we are totally dependent upon Him, who controls the heavens and the earth and everything on them? That He has our best interest at heart? That He longs to save each of us through believing in the Good News of Jesus, the Holy One of Israel, who suffered a poor, bitter death on the cross so that we may have eternal life in heaven? (Isaiah 53)

Just a few verses on into Isaiah chapter one, the prophet invites: "Come now, let us reason together, say the LORD; though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool." This magnificent reversal is only through hearing God's Word that we by nature do lack the basic knowledge that we do not and cannot keep God's Law, but that Jesus kept it for us (Galatians 4:4-5), and the Gospel proclamation that believing in Jesus' sacrifice for our sins, we are heirs of heaven and eternal life. (Galatians 4:6-9)

God gives us the knowledge necessary to know His love, care and forgiveness of all our sins in Jesus Christ, the Holy One of Israel, through His Word and Holy Sacraments. He takes our worthless, unknowing hearts and lives, and makes them His precious vessels to be His own dear children, forever!