Christ saves. Christ justifies. And yet He does so through faith. Faith, however, is not our work, but His gift. Faith is the beggar’s hand that receives unearned merits, divine charity. Faith is not our decision. We do not become children of God by human will, as we are reminded in John 1. Faith is the product of God’s decision, His election, His choice. We are the beneficiaries. And this faith is not restricted by race, gender, age, or anything else. Jew and Gentile (all non-Jews) alike have been saved by grace through faith in Christ, and thus been sons of Abraham and sons of God. What a wonder! What a reason to support the ministry of the Word here among us as well as throughout the world through missions!
Where does faith come from? Paul told us a few weeks ago in God’s service in Romans 10. Faith comes through a preacher, through hearing. God has promised to create and sustain faith through Word and Sacrament and in no other way. Could He create faith in another way? Sure, He is God, but He has not promised to do so, and He has not commanded us to expect Him to do so. He has instead commanded us to hear the Word, to be baptized, to eat and drink His Body and Blood in the Sacrament, and, in turn, to take His Word and Sacraments to others through the church’s ministry, as a congregation and as a broader fellowship of believers, in our case, as a synod.
Abraham had some grand moments of faith, didn’t he? How was that possible? Was he really good at believing? What would that even mean? Faith is not a talent like dunking a basketball or getting good grades. It was possible because God had supplied him such faith for such a moment, just as He will supply you through His appointed Means. Whenever Abraham forgot that and relied upon his own thinking or choosing, what happened? He pretended his wife was his sister to protect himself in a foreign land, placing her in grave danger, he had a child with his wife’s maidservant, and so on and so forth, all to help God’s promise and Word along. Nothing good, in short. God’s promise and Word do not need our help. God’s promise and Word work our faith. We do not pull up our bootstraps and believe. No, we abandon ourselves at His feet, pierced for our transgressions.
You are sons and daughters of Abraham. You are sons of God, all of you, man and woman, heirs to the eternal Promised Land. And you are such, not because you had the right DNA or because you were more amenable to the message, but entirely because God has freely chosen to make you such and to keep you in the faith He gifted you at no cost and to receive Christ and His merits, all for Christ’s sake. And the faith He has granted you He will preserve in the very same way He originally gave to you, through the Means of Grace. Return to your Baptism again and again through confession and absolution. Gladly hear and learn the Word. Receive Christ’s Body and Blood for your forgiveness and for strength on your pilgrimage to heaven. God will be there, because He has promised to be there. That is beyond a doubt. That is worthy of faith, unlike us. Believe it, then, and make it known to your family and all those with whom you have the opportunity to discuss the grace of our God and His benevolent presence in Word and Sacrament, whether Jew or Gentile, man, woman, or child, friend or foe.
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