Free for Our Neighbor and the World

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

God didn’t call us because of who we are. God called us. God didn’t choose us because of who we are. God chose us. We aren’t righteousness, sanctified, redeemed, because of who we were, but that is now who we are, because of Him. We are in Christ Jesus. He is our wisdom from God. He is our boasting. He is the basis of our election. We are called through His death and resurrection to new life, the foolish to shame the wise, the weak to shame the strong.

There is freedom in this. There is peace. There is certainty and hope. We didn’t make it so. We don’t keep it so. We aren’t ours to mess up. We are His and He is ours. Our righteousness came from outside of us. We are declared righteous. Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us. We are sanctified—set aside as His holy vessels, His instruments for the good of our neighbor and the world. We are redeemed, bought back, set free. We are no longer slaves to sin. We are slaves to righteousness, which is true freedom.

It’s easy to forget this. Some preaches have been known to say, “You’ve accepted Jesus as your Savior, but now you need to accept Him as your Lord.” What do they mean? They mean that Jesus saved you, but now you better keep the scales balanced, the ledger clean, stuff like that. To hell with that, though, because that is where it leads. Our justification (righteousness), our sanctification, our redemption is Christ from first to last, from faith to faith, and that faith is God’s gift. To hell with that, then, because it misses the whole point, because such “You’ve accepted Jesus as Savior but not as Lord” logic is at odds with the gospel and the way God works. We didn’t accept anything in the first place. We received it. And we keep receiving. We have a passive piety. We are recipients of God’s grace. We live by God’s grace. We will close our eyes in that grace and enter into heaven by that grace. And that will be to the great shame of the wise, the strong, those religious with the religion of the flesh, with a piety of the scales or the ledger.

This is important to remember, because this freedom, this certainty and hope and peace, is what actually makes us useful to our neighbor. Freed from a quest to earn salvation, we are liberated to live our salvation out, and we will never run out of it. Freed from using our neighbor for our sanctification, sanctified in Christ, we are able to serve our neighbor for our neighbor’s benefit and not our own. Freed from our natural proclivity to turn gift to idol, we are unshackled to use God’s gifts for noble purposes—creative, caring, thankful enjoyment and employment for others and for the sake of beauty, praise, and edification.

God didn’t call us because of who we are, but He has most certainly called us. Our Baptism and His absolution makes this plain. God didn’t choose us because of who we are, but He has chosen us. The preaching of the gospel makes this election sure. We aren’t righteous, sanctified, redeemed because of who we were when God found us, but we are now who He has created us to be in His Son, Jesus Christ, our righteousness, sanctification, and Redeemer. It seems backwards to the world and often even to us, but it is so, written on paper, put into our ears, poured onto our foreheads, placed into our mouths with bread and wine. Live in that freedom. Be free: free for your neighbor, free for the world, free for God in Christ. Live in that peace, that certainty, that hope, the confidence of faith, and don’t be ashamed, even if it is to the shame of those who think you should be.

Wade Johnston

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