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Romans

4:13-25

 

It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless, because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.

 

Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring-- not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. As it is written: "I have made you a father of many nations." He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed-- the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.

 

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be." Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead-- since he was about a hundred years old-- and that Sarah's womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why "it was credited to him as righteousness." The words "it was credited to him" were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness-- for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (ESV)  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Faith In Christ

Tuesday of Pentecost 18

24 September 2013

Faith is impossible. Theologians used to babble on about the "leap of faith," as though it was something we Christians did. Sure, let's give it a try. Let's leap into the chasm where we can see neither the bottom, nor the other side, nor any help or rescue, like Indiana Jones leaping to his destiny. If faith is such a leap, faith becomes an act of sheer terror. Like standing at the edge of Niagara's gorge watching the water leap over the Falls; our palms begin to sweat as we think about flowing over the precipice into the roiling waters below. Such a leap is but death. God does ask such a deadly leap. We can never bridge the chasm between unbelief and faith. We would be left spiritually exhausted, palms still sweating, upon the edge of faith if this is all we know about faith, as though it were a leap into the unknown.

 

Faith's impossibility is a divine requirement. However, with God nothing is impossible. The gorge between faith and unbelief is traversed by Christ, who is not constrained by the terrors of death, but can rise triumphant from death's roiling depths. He can span the gap between faith and unbelief as He did suspended between heaven and earth. On the cross He was stretched out between the unbelieving world and the faith granted to it by a gracious God and Father. He teaches us of the doubt and fear that we will know standing on the precipice of God's heart gazing at nothing but our sin and weakness and the impossibility of bridging the gap. He cries out in the forsakenness of dying for sin: "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mk 15:34), yet, unlike us, He remains absolutely certain that His Father will rescue Him. He knows His God will not let His holy One see decay (Ps 16:10) and so He abandons Himself to the will of His father leaping into the chasm of death supremely confident of rescue and in His rescue winning our own.

 

So we look not into the unbridgeable chasm by faith, but into the heart and mind of Christ who in His life, death, and resurrection disclosed the fully gracious attitude of God toward poor sweating sinners like us. The chasm is bridged by His suffering and death. We leap not into the great unknown but into the arms of Christ stretched out in death, full of life-giving blood. We step up onto Calvary's quake cracked hill. We stand upon the immovable cross that is the only passage across the gorge of faith, and see only God's love for the world in the death-dimmed sight of His only-begotten Son. We leap not into the great unknown, but in the arms of Christ who has reconciled us to God through His death. Faith itself remains God's gift to sinners, not our leap from a cliff. This is why St. Paul can say, "I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day" (2Ti 1:12). That faith is always in Christ in whom we see the mercy of God. Faith is always in Christ.

 

Martin Luther

 

"If you ask where faith and confidence may be found or where they come from, it is certainly the most necessary thing to know. First, without any doubt it does not come from your works or from your merits, but only from Jesus Christ, freely promised and freely given. As St. Paul writes, 'God shows his love toward us as exceedingly sweet and kind in that Christ died for us while we were yet sinners' (Rm 5:8). This is as if Paul said, 'Shouldn't this give us a strong, unbeatable confidence in that before we prayed about it or cared about it, yes, while we still continually walked in sin, Christ died for our sins?' [Paul] goes on, 'If then Christ has died for us while we were yet sinners, how much more shall we be saved through him, being justified by his blood. And if, while we were still enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be preserved through his life' (Rm 5:8-11).

                 

"Look here! This is how you must cultivate Christ in yourself, and see how in him God holds before you His mercy and offers it to you without any prior merits of your own. It is from such a view of His grace that you must draw faith and confidence in the forgiveness of all your sins. Faith, therefore, does not originate in works. Neither do works create faith. But faith must spring up and flow from the blood and wounds and death of Christ. If you see in these that God is so kindly disposed toward you that He even gives his own Son for you, then your heart in turn must grow sweet and disposed toward God. And in this way your confidence must grow out of pure good will and love; God's toward you, and yours toward God. We never read that the Holy Spirit was given to anybody because he had performed some works, but always when people have heard the gospel of Christ and the mercy of God. Faith must rise at all times from this same word and from no other source, and in our own day, too. For Christ is the rock from which men suck oil and honey, as Moses says in Deuteronomy 32:13." 

 

Martin Luther, 
Treatise on Good Works, 1
 
Prayer

Dear Christ, give me the faith that must spring up and flow from Your blood and wounds and death. Let me see in these that God is so kindly disposed toward me that He even gives You for me, that my heart would grow sweet and disposed toward God. By Your Holy Spirit, grant confidence that must grow out of God's pure good will and love, so that I might have love and good toward God. Amen.

 

For all those who are afraid to confess Christ to those who need to know the faith of the church, that they might be encouraged by the gift of the Holy Spirit and say what He gives them when called to account for the hope that is in them

 

For Martin and Marnee Littmann, as they celebrate the gift of thirty years of holy marriage, that the Lord Jesus would grant them many more years of His blessings


For the dying that they might have care unto life's end from those whom they love and the faith that believes in sins forgiven for Christ's sake unto eternal life

 

For the call committee of Memorial Lutheran Church, that they would be led by the Holy Spirit

Art: Eyck, Jan van  The Adoration of the Lamb (1425-1429) 

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