For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person -though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die- but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
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The Best Is Yet to Come
Monday of Lent 5
23 March 2015
We must walk by faith, because we cannot know or fathom all the blessings in which God has established us to stand by grace and through which we hope in His glory. Our poor minds and souls are incapable of getting a grip on all the gracious gifts our heavenly Father wants to give to us in His Son, Christ our Lord. He forgives us in Christ and reconciles us to Himself, but with that come all the great graces of the word and sacraments: assurance of salvation, regeneration, repose in God, eternal life, the certainty of glory, joy in all God's blessings, and uncounted others. The Bible is replete with promises recounting our blessings in the salvation of Christ and all mediated through the simple preaching of the divine Word and the proper administration of the holy sacraments.
I love what Paul says about the Spirit's work interceding "for us with groanings too deep for words" (Rm 8:26). The Greek word for "too deep for words," means something like "is unutterable," or "is unable to be put into speech." It doesn't mean words that are incoherent, but it means unable even to be put into words of any kind. We are not able to express the description of these blessings, because we cannot fathom how great they are or even what they could be. Why should this unutterability surprise us? "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Is 55:8-9). Cannot God give us greater blessings than we could fathom? Elsewhere the Apostles blesses the God who, "is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us" (Eph 3:20). Why should wonder or worry about all these blessings? We have them from God and we cannot even talk about them they are so great!
While the Bible does not teach a doctrine of implicit faith, that is, a faith of which we are unaware, it does teach that faith grasps and possesses many things which are themselves given implicitly by the means of grace. We cannot know all things that faith receives by grace. Only by death will we become fully and actively aware of the enormous blessing showered upon us by a gracious God. We have all those things now. Imagine yourself surprised by being named in the will of a rich stranger, who in his fortune bequeathed to you his palatial mansion. Upon driving through the gate of the grounds of this estate for the first time, you might have some idea how incredibly rich you have become, but it is not until you are taken on a tour of the house's interior by the staff that you become fully aware of your good fortune. We live every day as Christians on the cusp of that understanding, glimpses of our ultimate redemption appearing on the horizon, but the fullness is not known until later (1Co 13:12).
Now in time we should be encouraged that the little we grasp, which is an enormous blessing points to greater blessings yet. It also means that when you are in church attending to the Word, you get far more than you know. God's Word does what it says. Why should we be surprised by this, for the best is still to come.
"'Through [Christ] we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God' (Rm 5:2). Christ died for us, reconciled us, brought us to Himself, and gave us unutterable grace...What grace is this? It is being counted worthy of the knowledge of God (2Co 10:5), being forced from error and coming to a knowledge of the truth (1Ti 2:4), and obtaining all the blessings that come through baptism (Tit 3:4-7). He brought us near that we might receive these gifts. For it was not that we might have only remission of sins and be reconciled; but also that we might receive countless blessings beside. Nor did He even stop at these, but promised others, namely, those unutterable blessings that surpass both understanding and language (Phil 4:7). This is why Paul has set them both down also. For by mentioning grace he clearly points at what we have at present received, but by saying, 'And we rejoice in hope of the glory of God,' he unveils the whole of things to come.
"Paul rightly said, 'in which we stand.' For this is the nature of God's grace. It has no end, it knows no bound, but evermore is in advance of greater things, which in human things is not the case. A person who has become a ruler and possesses glory and authority, yet he does not stand in it continuously, but is quickly cast out of it. If another does not take it from him, then death comes and is sure to take it from him. God's gifts are not of this kind. For neither man, nor occasion, nor crisis of affairs, nor even the Devil, nor death can come and cast us out of them. Even when we are dead we then have greater possession of them, and go on enjoying them more and more. So if you feel in doubt about the things to come; believe in them on the basis of those things now present, which you have already received.
"This is why Paul says, 'And we rejoice in hope of the glory of God,' that you may learn what kind of soul the faithful ought to have. It is not only for what have been given, but for what is to be given, that we ought to be confident, as though it were already given. For one 'rejoices' in what is already given. The hope of things to come is even as sure and clear as that which has already been given. In that way also we 'rejoice.'
"For this reason he also called them to 'glory.' For if it contributes to God's glory, come to pass it certainly will, though it does not for our sakes, yet for Him it will. The blessings to come are worthy of being gloried in. Even the evils of this present time are able to brighten our countenances, and make us find in them even our rest."
John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, 9.2
Merciful and everlasting God, You did not spare Your only Son but delivered Him up for us all to bear our sins on the cross. Grant that our hearts may be so fixed with steadfast faith in Him that we fear not the power of sin, death, and the devil; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
For all those who are preparing to be received into the membership of the church through the rite of confirmation, that the catechumens would be prepared to confess Christ as the only Savior from sin and death
For Rita Rosenfield, that the Lord Jesus would watch over her, granting her strength and healing in the midst of things she cannot understand
For all police and other public safety officers, that the Lord would send His holy angels to watch over them and guard them
Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias Isenheim Altarpiece (1515)
© Scott R. Murray, 2015