Going Deeper 5-30-19

Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21    "See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone's work.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end."  Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates...  "It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star."  The Spirit and the bride say, "Come."  And let everyone who hears say, "Come."  And let everyone who is thirsty come.  Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift...   The one who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming soon."  Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus!  The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.

This collection of verses seems to begin with what appears to be salvation by works-- "I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone's work."  But then it ends with a reference to the "grace of the Lord Jesus."  This is rather confusing.  Confusion about salvation by works or by grace has been around for a long, long time, and will seemingly continue to the very end.  This is why we must return to this topic over and over and over again.

It is vital to understand what is meant by "work."  In John 6:29 we hear these words of Jesus: "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent."  The Gospel of Jesus makes it clear that we are not saved by our good works, and St. Paul picks up that truth throughout his letters, defending it against attempts to elevate the importance of our good works in order to be saved.  Good works are what we seek to do because we have been saved by grace.

In his letter to the Ephesians Paul puts things in order (and we do well to pay attention to the prepositions):  For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.  We are not saved by good works, but we are saved for good works.  To reverse this is a dangerous heresy!

Grace is received through faith.  This is where it might get a bit more confusing.  Is faith itself a gift, or is it something we do?  Or is it both?  I believe this is another paradox of sorts.  Our will is involved as we receive grace through belief.  But giving credit where credit is always due, we emphasize that coming to believe is empowered by the Holy Spirit, and so it is also a gift.

Confusing?  Yes!  But just because we cannot completely wrap our minds around something does not mean it isn't true.  There is always mystery involved.  We do well to focus on our great need for the amazing gift of God's grace, and then to respond by seeking to be transformed into living a life that reflects our Savior, living a life that reflects how we were created to live, living a life that is eternal.

With You in His Grace,
Mark Gabbert, Pastor
Zion Lutheran Church
Wellington, Colorado

"No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care."