Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sixth Sunday of Easter

1 Tim. 2:1-6 (ESV)
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, [2] for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. [3] This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, [4] who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. [5] For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, [6] who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.
“This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior who desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. “ This is one of those passages that keep us Lutheran. It is an article of faith for us, that God desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of truth. We believe that faith is the work and power of God that brings us to salvation. We do not like others think this is our work, something we do. It is the work of the Holy Spirit, who works through his means of grace, his own mysterious ways coming to us through spoken word, water, bread and wine. Constantly coming and returning, strengthening and shaping, molding and working to make us ever more conform to the image of him who created us, even making us vessels of his grace to others, even as our sanctification is complete in Baptism, The Holy Spirit never quits working on us through these means as long as we are alive and partaking of them. And our reaction? Prayer for others, that they would know God’s Grace even as we know his grace, the knowledge of truth.
But if it is the work of the Holy Spirit, then why are not all saved, why do not all come to faith? that is the question Lutheran’s are hounded by from both sides of the protestant world, Arminians and Calvinists. The Calvinists, want us to believe God does not desire all people to be saved, but elected a few to salvation before he even created the world, and the rest to damnation. The Arminians seek to answer it by making salvation their own work, making salvation dependent on a superficial concept of faith that is their work as manifested in their repentance. And so they tend to deny the grace of God to others who they think cannot possibly believe, or of whom they don’t believe they have anything yet to repent of. So that salvation and damnation both are the fault of the person.
Lutheran’s won’t. We don’t try to answer the mysteries, we let them stand. We address them, but we do not make salvation dependent on man, and we do not make damnation the will of God. He desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of truth. Why some and not others, we ultimately leave to be answered in heaven, when we may be able to understand better they ways and mysteries of God. For now, we go to God in prayer, knowing that it is his desire, his clear word of promise, that he desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of truth, all men.
Yes we co to God in prayer armed with that truth. Prayer, folks, armed with the sure word of God is a powerful thing. We cannot go wrong praying for that which God desires, the salvation of people. Prayer is much more powerful than we often give credit. So often I get people, normally wives it seems, wondering what to do about their unbelieving spouses. So often they fret and worry. My answer is always the same, pray for them and take care of yourself and the faith God has given you. It doesn’t seem like much. I think they would often like to see me come by and wrestle them into the faith or something. It doesn’t work like that. Often that is more harmful than good. So is nagging, and hysterical fits. So pray for them, and take care of yourself and the faith God gave you. These two go hand in hand, like prayer and God’s word. You can’t save others if you yourself are not safe. So take care of your own faith. It is a gift given to you, but that doesn’t mean that now that we have it there is nothing left for us to do with it. God has given us the means by which that faith grows and strengthens, his word and his sacraments. Mainly the Divine service of Sunday Morning, where God comes to us thorough his word, and with his body and blood, where he there feeds our faith with the forgiveness of sins, this can continue at home with diligent devotion to his word. Constant study. The stronger you are in the faith, the more apt that faith is to rub off on others. But then prayer. God wants all to be saved and come to the knowledge of truth. This is why he asks us to pray for all people, kings, queens, all in authority, and who ever we can think of.
Oh, it isn’t like a magic bullet or anything. But it is powerful. I have watched more people in my life come to faith when I have prayed for them, then when I haven’t. Just saying. Pray for them. It is amazing what simple prayer can do even for a husband. It can do a lot more than harping on them can. Same for a wife. It’s better for your relationship too, trust me. Taking time out of your day and praying for your spouse, does a lot more to strengthen your relationship than arguing does. Try it some time. It works for family, friends and neighbors too. Amazing how often God opens the door for conversation and the sharing of Gospel for those you pray for. Because God desires that all people be saved and come to the knowledge of truth.
All people, not just some, but all people. He wants all of us to be saved. I keep hearing how impossible it is. I never believe it. I’ll give it perhaps improbable, but never impossible. And I never let it rob my dream, because I know it is God’s dream too, God’s desire also, that all people be saved and come to the knowledge of truth. I dream of a day when all mormons abandon their folly, and come to believe in Jesus Christ our God and savior who is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. And it isn’t like it hasn’t happened before. It has. Men like St. Ambrose and Gregory of Nazianzus armed with nothing but the word of God, converted whole regions of dominated by the Arian faith that is the faith of Mormon’s today. It can happen again, because with God all things are possible, and he desires that all people be saved and come to the knowledge of truth. The knowledge that he is our mediator, the one mediatior between God and man, the man Jesus Christ. Yes, the man who also is our God and savior, the one who died on the cross to forgive our sins. Yours and mine, even our lack of faithfulness, that our faith would be strengthened in him.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep you hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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