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Psalm 116

 

I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live. The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish. Then I called on the name of the LORD: "O LORD, I pray, deliver my soul!" Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; our God is merciful. The LORD preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me. Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you. For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling; I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living. I believed, even when I spoke, "I am greatly afflicted"; I said in my alarm, "All mankind are liars." What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD, I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people. Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. O LORD, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant. You have loosed my bonds. I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD! (ESV)

Ratcheting Up Comfort

Wednesday of Easter 2

15 April 2015

What saves? The Bible says that Jesus saves, His blood saves, His resurrection saves, His cross saves, faith saves, grace saves, and baptism saves. Sometimes these differing sources of salvation are all wrapped up into a single passage, such as Rm 5:9-10, in which we find justification by Christ's blood, salvation by His life, salvation by Him, and reconciliation with God. When confronted by the question which of these saves, the answer is "yes." Even salvation saves! This is what John Chrysostom means when he says that this passage appears to be a "tautology." A tautology is a statement of definition which employs the same terms on both sides of the copulative, like "black is black." Uh, huh. This does not tell us anything we didn't know before. It is entirely redundant.

 

Paul is not being redundant in Romans 5:9-10. No, he is setting before his readers the riches of God's grace, pleading with them to have confidence in the God who has gone to such extraordinary lengths to rescue them from God's wrath and save them. When I was a seminary student, a professor chided us against being redundant in sermons: "Gentlemen, you can't be redundant when you preach. You can't repeat the same things over and over again, because people become tired of it. If you keep saying the same thing repeatedly they will become irritated with you. Redundancy is burdensome to the hearer, so you should never do it. Saying the same thing all the time is boring." "Ok, already, we get it!" Paul is not being redundant in this way. We should never become tired of his telling us of our salvation in Christ, in His blood, grace, cross, resurrection, and in His baptism. What wife would tire of hearing her husband whisper in her ear the unvarying words, "Honey, I love you"?

 

God's generous grace in Christ is highlighted by Paul's rhetorical efflorescence. Look at all that God is doing for us! He wants to extol God's work with as much variety as possible, because it is generously multi-faceted. Especially here Paul employs the lesser to the greater argument when he says, "How much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life" (Rm 5:10). If God has offered His only Son, how could He be anything but gracious to us and save us? If our heavenly Father has planned to save us through the death of His Son while we were still His enemies, how much more should we be confident of our salvation when He has not only done this for us when we were sinners, but now has even called us His friends? Paul just keeps ratcheting up the precious comfort for the redeemed. He can't help but raise the beauty of the story of salvation with every syllable.

 

John Chrysostom 

 

"What Paul says in Rm 5:9-10 appears to be a tautology. However, it is not to anyone who looks carefully at it. Consider that He wishes to give them reasons for confidence concerning the things to come. First he had given them a sense of shame from the decision of the righteous man, Abraham, when he says, that he also 'was fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised' (Rm 4:21). Next, he gives them confidence from the grace that was given (Rm 5:2), then from the suffering, as sufficing to lead us into hope (Rm 5:3-4); and also from the Spirit, whom we have received (Rm 5:5). Next, He rescues from death and from our former viciousness (Rm 5:6-8). It seems that what he mentioned was one thing, but it is discovered to be two, three, and even many more. First, 'He died' (Rm 5:6). Second, that it was 'for the ungodly' (Rm 5:6) Third, that He 'reconciled, saved, justified' (Rm 5:9-10) us, made us immortal, and made us sons and heirs. It is not only from His death that we draw strong assertions, but from the gift which was given unto us through His death. And indeed if He had died only for such creatures as we, it would prove to be the greatest love! But when He is seen at the same time dying, and granting us a gift, and that such a gift, and to such creatures, what was done casts into shade our highest conceptions, and leads the very dullest on to faith. For there is no one else that will save us, except the One who so loved us when we were sinners, that even gave Himself up for us.

 

"Do you see what a basis this topic affords for hope? For before this there were two difficulties to our being saved; our being sinners, and our salvation requiring the Lord's death. His death is a thing which was quite incredible before it took place, and required exceeding love for it to have taken place. But now since it has happened, the other requisites are easier. For we have become friends, and there is no further need of death. Is it possible, then, that the One, who spared His enemies while not sparing His Son, would fail to defend those who have now become friends, when He has no longer any need to give up his Son? For it is either because a person does not wish to be a friend of God, or because, although he may wish it, perhaps yet he is unable to do it, that He does not save. None of these things can be said of God. His willingness is plain from His having given up His Son. He proved likewise that He is able to save, from the very fact of His having justified sinners. What is there then to prevent us any more from obtaining the things to come? Nothing!"

 

John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, 9
 
Prayer

Lord Christ, You have saved us while we were yet sinners. Give us the comfort of knowing that Your death has made us Your friends. Now that we live in that friendship, how much more shall we be confident of our salvation. Help us to share your generous gifts to us with sinners like us who yearn to know the peace that surpasses human understanding. Amen.

 

For Chaplain Don Ehrke (Major, U.S. Army), that the Lord would be with him as he serves at the Pentagon

 

For all the family members who are grieving over their apostate family, that the fallen would be called back to the church by the voice of the gospel

 

For Scott Saenger, that the Lord would watch over him and grant him healing 

Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias Resurrection (1515)

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