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15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16 knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. 17 But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. 19 For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain. Galatians 2:15-21

The question addressed by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the churches in Galatia is this: Are we saved by God’s grace alone and through faith alone in Christ Jesus and His atoning sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world, or is salvation obtained by our obedience to the law and especially to the worship laws of the Old Testament which include circumcision, observing the Sabbath and feast days, as well as abstaining from certain foods?

In the days of Martin Luther, the question was similar: Are we saved by God’s grace alone and through faith alone in Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world, or is salvation obtained by our obedience to the teaching and ordinances of the Roman Church and its hierarchy, including outwardly keeping the Ten Commandments, doing assigned penance, purchasing indulgences, observance of church feasts and festivals, abstaining from certain foods, living a celibate life, revering the church-recognized saints, etc.?

And today, the question remains before us: Are we saved by God’s grace alone and through faith alone in Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world, or is salvation obtained by our outward keeping of the Ten Commandments, obedience to the teachings and ordinances of various churches and church bodies and their hierarchies, including the observance of church festivals and customs, abstaining from certain foods and drinks, etc.?

How does the Apostle Paul answer that question for the churches in Galatia (in modern-day Turkey)? What does he say in His letter to the Galatians? Though he had traveled through Galatia preaching salvation through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ and His cross for the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting, some had come from Judea saying that faith in Christ wasn’t enough. To be a Christian also required being circumcised and keeping the commandments and ordinances given to the children of Israel by Moses, they said.

Paul’s answer (given in connection with his rebuke of the Apostle Peter)? “We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified” (Gal. 2:15-16; cf. Rom. 3:9-26).

Of course, the same was true in Luther’s day. Neither Luther, nor priest, nor monk, nor nun, nor parishioner could be righteous before God by obedience to God’s law or to the teachings of the Roman Church. All had come short and all stood condemned by God’s law (cf. Rom. 3:23), and following the teachings of the Roman Church could not remedy their condemnation!

And God’s law still condemns us today, for none of us has kept it perfectly, from the heart, as God requires! We are all guilty before God and deserving of the eternal torments of hell.

How then can we sinners be saved? It is, as Paul writes: “By faith in Jesus Christ.”

Jesus kept all of God’s commandments for us, perfectly and without sin in thoughts, desires, words and deeds. He was “in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). He “committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth” (1 Pet. 2:22). And God “laid on Him the iniquity of us all” and punished Him in our stead that we might look to Him in faith and receive God’s pardon and forgiveness (Isa. 53:6).

Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:14-15: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

And, it is as St. Paul wrote to the Romans in Romans 3:28: “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.”

But if we who have faith in Christ then add requirements and conditions to the Gospel, saying that it is also necessary for salvation that we keep certain commandments, observe certain church rites or traditions, worship in a certain form or manner, or (as taught the Judaizers who troubled the Galatians) be circumcised and keep the worship laws of the Old Testament, do our failures make Christ a servant of sin?

St. Paul wrote in Galatians 2:17-19: “But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not! For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God.”

Since we have rejected the erring belief that we can be justified by our own works because of our sins and failings, do we then go back and rebuild the error we destroyed and now seek to be justified by faith plus works? Certainly not, for the law condemns us and we died to the law when we trusted in Christ.

Paul clearly points out that we have been condemned by God’s law and we, when we were joined to Christ in our baptisms, were joined to Him in His death and His resurrection (cf. Col. 2:11ff.; Gal. 3:26ff.). Christ suffered the law’s just condemnation of our sins for us when He died on the cross and, being joined to Christ through faith, His death was our death and we have died to the law that we might be alive in Christ and live to God. And the life we now live as believers is the risen Christ living in us, moving and empowering us to love God and gladly and willingly obey His commandments.

St. Paul writes in verse 20: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

So, dare we add any requirements or conditions to faith in Christ for our salvation? Do we add other things we must do to be saved – whether that be obedience to the Ten Commandments or the observance of certain church rites and customs? St. Paul’s answer: “I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain” (v. 21). And later in his epistle, Paul warned the Galatians (5:4): “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.”

And so we see that trying to add any of our sin-tainted works to the Gospel overthrows the Gospel. As soon as we add works of the law to the Gospel as necessary for our salvation, we are no longer under grace but under the law, and the law condemns us because we fail to keep it as God requires – perfectly in our thoughts, desires, words, and deeds.

St. Paul wrote to the Galatians (3:10-14): “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.’ But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for ‘the just shall live by faith.’ Yet the law is not of faith, but ‘the man who does them shall live by them.’ Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”

And so, I ask you, do you want to be forgiven and just and righteous in God’s eyes and inherit everlasting life? Don’t trust in your obedience to the Ten Commandments, your church membership, your religious life! Don’t even add your works to the perfect works of Christ! If you do, you have come short! You stand condemned because of your failure to keep God’s law perfectly, as He requires!

Trust in Christ alone! He fulfilled all the righteous demands of the law in your stead! And, He suffered your just punishment, and the punishment for the sins of the world, when He was condemned and forsaken of God and died on the cross for our sins! Cf. Matt. 27:46). Through faith alone in Christ’s holy life and His innocent sufferings and death to atone for our sins you are forgiven, just and righteous in God’s eyes and you have the promise of eternal life in His kingdom!

Again, St. Paul wrote to the Colossians in Colossians 1:19-23: “For it pleased the Father that in Him [Jesus Christ] all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight – if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.”

God grant to you such faith in His Son! Amen.

[Scripture is taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

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“But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” Romans 3:21-26 (Read v. 19-28)

“Keeping the Reformation in Context” sounds like one of those sermon titles someone in a liberal church might write – offering up some new meaning to the Lutheran Reformation that has nothing to do with the truth. But this title has to do, instead, with keeping to the truth brought to light and proclaimed through the Lutheran Reformation and not altering it or changing its meaning. It has to do with taking nothing out of the context of God’s Word but letting Scripture interpret Scripture so that we rightly understand and truly believe the truth revealed to us in God’s Word, the Bible – the same truth proclaimed by Dr. Martin Luther and the Reformers.

The Lutheran Reformation brought emphasis to Scripture alone as the source and judge of all Christian Doctrine (not churches or men); salvation by God’s grace (God’s unmerited favor) alone for the sake of Jesus Christ’s holy life and innocent sufferings and death in the stead of all mankind; and being forgiven, justified and counted righteous by God through faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice upon the cross.

Therefore, it is fitting that we look at the Scriptures behind the chief article of the Christian Faith, justification by faith alone and through grace alone in Christ Jesus, and learn the true Reformation doctrine revealed within the text and context of Scripture.

I say this because there are still many within the outward pale of Christendom today who so emphasize human works and human cooperation with the Holy Spirit that they overthrow the Bible’s doctrine of justification by faith alone in Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice. And there are those within the pale of the church today who so emphasize the benefits of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus that they would remove faith from the equation, teaching that God has already freely justified all people – even those who are clearly unbelievers and condemned to hell – apart from faith in Jesus Christ. Today, we look at God’s Word and keep the Reformation in the context of that Word rather than going beyond the truth revealed by God in the Scriptures.

The opening verses of today’s text – especially v. 9ff. which contain quotes from the Old Testament – make clear that “by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (v. 20). We do not and cannot measure up to the demands of God’s perfect law and are far from righteous and acceptable in God’s sight based on our works. As the Bible says, even our best works are “like filthy rags” in His eyes (Isa. 64:6). Indeed, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (v. 23).

How can we sinners be righteous before God? That too is answered in today’s text: “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe” (v. 21).

Notice that this righteousness of God apart from our keeping of the law is “through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe.” This also defines the all in verse 23ff.: “For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

While these verses of the Bible (especially verses 23-24) are often used as proof that God has justified all (including unbelievers), they clearly teach that God justifies sinners who place their faith in Christ Jesus and the redemption He accomplished for all when He shed His blood upon the cross for the sins of the world. God is “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” Believers are “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus … through faith.” The righteousness of God is “through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe.” Cf. Rom. 1:16-17; 4:1ff.; 5:1-2; 2 Cor. 5:18-21; Col. 1:19-23; Psalm 32:1-6; John 3:14ff.; 8:24.

So how are we justified and counted righteous in God’s eyes? Is it by works? No, for our works don’t measure up no matter how hard we try! Is it by God declaring all sinners justified and forgiven apart from faith? No, for the Bible simply doesn’t teach that anywhere and those who seek to defend this error take parts of passages out of their context in an attempt to prove it. Is it by God’s grace alone for Christ’s sake and through God-wrought faith alone in Jesus Christ? Most certainly! As the Scriptures say: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).

Grant that we hear Your Word, O Christ, and acknowledge our unworthiness and sin and trust, not in our works, but in You alone, Lord Jesus, for pardon, forgiveness, and life everlasting. Amen.

[Scripture is taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

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“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:25-34

It is easy for us to be overly concerned about earthly things such as what we will eat and what we will wear. Even in our affluent society, where the thought of going without food or clothing is far from our minds, we still devote a great deal of time and energy to gathering and keeping an ample store of food, clothing, and other things we deem necessary for our life and enjoyment.

Jesus tells us not to be filled with worry and concern over such things as having enough food to eat or enough clothing to wear. Using the examples of the birds whom God feeds even though they do not plant, reap or garner their food, and of the lilies of the field which are clothed in fairer dress than Solomon in all his glory though they quickly whither and are used as fuel for the fire, Jesus illustrates that God our Maker can and will care for our daily needs; for, indeed, we are of more value than the grass of the field or the birds of the air.

And what good will it do us to worry? We cannot, by worrying, add to our stature or to the length of our lives!

Rather than being filled with worry and concern over our earthly wants and needs, Jesus would have us devote ourselves first and foremost to seeking God’s kingdom and His righteousness. Jesus says: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Our first concern ought to be seeking a place in God’s eternal kingdom and to be righteous in His eyes through faith in the Son, Jesus Christ!

As sinful human beings, we focus our attention on having the things we need and desire in this life instead of seeking after our greatest need, to have God’s forgiveness for all our sins for the sake of Jesus’ sufferings and death on the cross in our stead. We seek to cover our bodies and make them appealing to others instead of having God cover the guilt and shame of our sins with the perfect righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ. We seek to store up the goods of this world so that we will never be in need, and we neglect to nourish our souls with God’s life-giving Word that we might be preserved in the faith unto life everlasting.

Jesus tells us to focus on what is really important first – to follow after Him that we might have a place in His kingdom and be clothed in His righteousness. And He adds the promise that our heavenly Father will supply all our earthly needs as well.

And so, Jesus tells us, don’t be worried and overly concerned for tomorrow – each day has enough trouble of its own. Rather, follow Messiah Jesus that He might wash away your sins in His own blood, clothe you with His perfect righteousness and give you a place in His eternal kingdom!

Dear Father in heaven, forgive me for worrying about the needs of this life and neglecting my greatest need, forgiveness and life in Your only-begotten Son. Grant me a place in Your eternal kingdom and clothe me in Jesus’ righteousness. And, dear Lord, give me faith to seek after You first and to trust You to care for all my daily needs. I ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

[Scripture is taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

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Though Halloween is often associated with knocks on the door and children’s voices saying “trick or treat,” there was one Halloween knock on the door which was heard around the world.

It happened a long time ago — 504 years ago, to be exact — on Oct. 31, 1517. Halloween was then called All Hallows Eve, the evening leading into All Saints Day. The knock on the door wasn’t just on any door but on the church door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, located in Saxony (part of modern-day Germany). And the knocking wasn’t to get someone to answer the door. It was the knocking of a German monk and university professor named Martin Luther as he nailed his 95 Theses (or statements) to the church door in hope that his discussion points could be studied and debated and some abuses corrected.

Luther’s 95 Theses were directed against false teachings and erring practices in the Roman Church of Luther’s day — chief of those being the selling of indulgences, which were church-sanctioned papers offering, for a price, the forgiveness of sins and freeing souls from purgatory (a place, according to the Church of Rome, where the dead went to suffer and pay off earthly punishments for their sins if they hadn’t done enough good works or lived a holy enough life). A man named Johann Tetzel was selling indulgences in Saxony and Wittenberg and, through their sale, raising money for the Roman Church.

Luther learned from the Bible that everyone was a sinner and that forgiveness of sins cannot be earned by good works or be bought and sold. Forgiveness is God’s free gift to sinful mankind for the sake of the sinless life and innocent sufferings and death of God’s own dear Son, Jesus Christ. Forgiveness of sins is received when people who are troubled over their own sinfulness look in faith to Jesus and His cross for God’s pardon and forgiveness and for life everlasting.

Luther pointed out that Christians should listen to the Bible, which is God’s Word, rather than to popes and church leaders. He said people should place their faith and hope in Christ Jesus and His innocent sufferings, death and resurrection rather than in human works and church-sanctioned indulgences. He hoped his theses or statements could be debated and discussed and the errors in church doctrine could be corrected.

But, as I said, his knocking was heard around the world. His 95 Theses, meant for discussion and debate in Wittenberg, were copied, printed, and circulated.

What’s so important about this? It led to the restored teaching of God’s pure Word and forever changed the world!

The world was a very different place in Luther’s time. The nations of Europe were a part of the Holy Roman Empire — kind of a revitalization of the ancient Roman Empire which had fallen — and the Roman Catholic Church and the Roman pontiffs or popes had authority over the emperor and his empire. Thus, people within the empire — except for the Jews — were required to be a part of the Roman Church. If anyone did not accept the teachings of the Roman Church, he could be declared a heretic and burned at the stake — and many Christians were put to death for teaching what the Bible says and believing that the way to be saved was through faith alone in Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice upon the cross.

Though it may be hard for us to understand, common people in Luther’s day were not even allowed to have Bibles or read them. The Bible was on a list of prohibited books and the Roman Church said common people should not read the Bible because they would misunderstand it. Instead, they were taught to just accept the teachings and practices of the Roman Church established by its popes and councils.

Luther first began reading the Bible when he was a student. He didn’t at that time own a Bible, but he discovered a Latin Bible chained to a table in the library. A few years later in his life, so that people could read and study God’s Word, Luther translated the entire Bible from Greek and Hebrew into the common language of the people of his land.

Because of his writings proclaiming that Scripture alone is to be the source and judge of all Christian teaching, that salvation is by God’s grace alone for the sake of Jesus Christ and His innocent sufferings and death on the cross for the sins of the world, and that salvation is received by faith alone in Christ Jesus, Luther was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church, declared a heretic and subject to be killed on sight. But God protected and preserved both Luther and his Scriptural doctrine.

Luther’s knocking on the door was significant in the early 1500s and remains significant to each of us today, whether we realize it or not. His 95 Theses marked the beginning of the Lutheran Reformation (and also that of the Protestant churches under Huldrych Zwingli and John Calvin). It is because of what God accomplished through Luther’s knocking, that you and I have the freedom today to read and study our Bibles and place our faith and confidence in Jesus Christ and His all-atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world.

His knocking on the door marked the beginning of a distinction between the roles of church and state. The church, using the Word of God, is to proclaim Christ Jesus and salvation through faith in Him. The state, using the power of the sword, is to punish evildoers and preserve civil righteousness and peace in this world. Churches, when operating within their proper sphere, no longer use the power of the sword to force upon people religious beliefs and practices. States or civil governments, when operating within their proper sphere, no longer tell churches what they may or may not teach or how they must carry out their mission and work in this world.

While many may be ignorant of it, Luther’s Biblical doctrine of the two kingdoms in which Christians live while in this world — citizens of a nation and subject to its laws by naturalization or birth, and citizens of God’s heavenly kingdom and subject to the Word of God by a rebirth of water and Spirit — played a role in our own founding fathers’ Constitutional guarantee of freedom from government encroachment upon the practice of our faith (First Amendment in the Bill of Rights).

Thus, Christians can be thankful for Luther’s knocking on the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church in 1517 because of the restoration of true Biblical doctrine and the freedom to believe and practice the Bible’s teaching; and even those who would accept none of Luther’s doctrine can be thankful for Luther’s knocking, for without it they might be coerced to practice what they do not believe.

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46 So Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum. 47 When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and implored Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. 48 Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.” 49 The nobleman said to Him, “Sir, come down before my child dies!” 50 Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your son lives.” So the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way. 51 And as he was now going down, his servants met him and told him, saying, “Your son lives!” 52 Then he inquired of them the hour when he got better. And they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” 53 So the father knew that it was at the same hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son lives.” And he himself believed, and his whole household. 54 This again is the second sign Jesus did when He had come out of Judea into Galilee. John 4:46-54

The Scriptures tell us that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). What does this mean? It means standing under and taking hold of the things promised to us in God’s Word even though we can’t see them with the eyes of our flesh. It means seeing with the eyes of faith what we cannot see with the eyes of our bodies. And, indeed, we as Christians live and “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7; cf. Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:16-17; Rom. 8:24-25).

God promises to all of us who trust in Christ and His atoning sacrifice on the cross His pardon and forgiveness for all our sins. Can you see this forgiveness? Do the heavens open, and does God’s voice sound audibly from heaven saying, “I forgive you all your sins”? No, we have only the word of the Gospel in our Bibles and preached by God’s ministers telling us it is so.

When we are sick and facing our mortality, do we see Jesus on His throne of glory and God’s angels descending from heaven to carry us home? No, we have only God’s promise that His angels will carry our souls into the bosom of Abraham because Jesus died for our sins and rose again (cf. Luke 16:22; 2 Cor. 5:1-8; Phil. 1:21-23).

Many, of course, do not believe this and, because they can’t see it with their eyes or understand it with their minds, they do not believe. Because they cannot see Jesus Himself announce to them that their sins are forgiven, they do not believe it when the Gospel is preached or Christ’s ministers absolve them. Because they do not see Jesus and His angels when they are on their deathbeds, they die in unbelief and despair.

But Jesus would have us trust Him and His Word and live our lives with faith in His promises.

Consider the nobleman who came to Jesus. While Jesus was in Cana, this nobleman from Capernaum came to Jesus because his son was deathly ill. He asked Jesus to come down to Capernaum (down in the Jordan valley along the Sea of Galilee) and heal his son.

But what does Jesus say? “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.” The nobleman had heard of Jesus and was, perhaps, ready to believe Jesus could help in this hour of desperate need – if Jesus came down to Capernaum and to his house. But did Jesus, the eternal Son of God who created all things by His almighty word need to go and be visibly present in this man’s home? Jesus desired that this man have faith in His words even if he could not yet see their fulfillment with his eyes. Jesus told him, “Go your way; your son lives.”

A remarkable thing happened. This man who had begged Jesus to come down before his son died now believed and returned to his house. Jesus’ words not only expressed a truth; they had power – the power to create faith in this nobleman’s heart. And he believed and walked by faith all the way down to Capernaum (about 25 miles), where his eyes saw the truthfulness of what he had believed. As a result, both he and his household came to believe and trust in Jesus as the Son of God and their Savior!

Though the world views Jesus as a great teacher and religious prophet, the Word of God tells us Jesus is none other than God Himself in human flesh, come into this world to redeem us from sin and eternal death. The world views Jesus’ crucifixion as a horrible death and perhaps a great injustice; the Word of God tells us that He died as a perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world — in John the Baptist’s words, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Though the world views Jesus’ resurrection as a questionable miracle; the Word of God tells us that Jesus’ resurrection on the third day is proof that His payment on the cross was sufficient payment for the sins of all mankind (Rom. 4:23-25). Though the world would tell us we need to live a godly life to please God and merit His mercy and forgiveness, the Word of God tells us that Christ Jesus lived a perfect and godly life in our stead and made full atonement for all our sins that we might be forgiven by God and counted righteous and holy in His sight through faith alone in Christ and His cross (Rom. 3:21-28).

Can you see it? Does Jesus prove it before our eyes with modern-day signs and wonders? No, He tells us it is so in His Word. And that Word has power. St. Paul writes in Romans 1:16-17: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’” In Romans 10:17, the Bible says, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

Thus, how do you know your sins are really forgiven when your minister announces God’s grace and mercy to you in Jesus Christ and, in the stead and by the command of Christ, absolves you of all your sins for Jesus’ sake? It is by faith in Jesus’ words and faith created by Jesus’ words (cf. John 20:21-23; Luke 24:46-47; 1 John 1:7 – 2:2).

When you are sick and face the reality that your body will one day die, how do you know that to die is gain and it is far better to be with the Lord? It is because Jesus tells us so in His Word. Cf. John 14:1ff; 11:25-26; 1 Thess. 4:13ff.; Phil. 1:21-23; Job 19:25-27. And His Word is powerful and creates and preserves faith in our hearts to live our lives and face our deaths in the sure hope of forgiveness and eternal life.

How do we know that in our baptisms, we are joined to Christ in His death and resurrection and all our sins are washed away? It is through the Word of God, connected with the water, that we are assured these things are so (cf. Acts 2:38-39; 22:16; Tit. 3:3-7; Eph. 5:26; Col. 2:9-15).

As we partake of the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper, how do we know that Christ gives us “in, with and under” the bread and wine His body and blood which were given and shed on the cross for the sins of the world that we might also receive and be assured of forgiveness for all our sins and God’s gift of eternal life? Again, it is His Word that accomplishes what He says and gives to us the blessings He won for us upon the cross (1 Cor. 11:23ff.; Matt. 26:26-28).

As we live our lives in this world, Jesus would have us walk by faith and not by sight. He would have us take Him at His Word and not have to see signs and wonders before we will believe.

And, like the nobleman, when we get home, we will see with our eyes that His Word is true. When we are received into the glories of our eternal home through faith alone in the merits of Christ, we will see that indeed Christ did atone for all our sins, that God accepted His atonement as His resurrection proves, that when we have God-wrought faith in Christ all our sins are pardoned and forgiven and that, through faith in Christ, the eternal joys of heaven are indeed ours!

O God, graciously grant that we walk by faith in Your Word and not by sight, for only through faith in Christ will our eyes ever come to see the blessings which are offered and given to us in Him! Amen.

[Scripture is taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

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