Thursday, December 15, 2011

I Believe In . . .

The Christian Creeds, particularly the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds, clearly state “I Believe in . . .” These are credos, statements of faith.

Many people today, and in times past but even more so today, reduce these to “I believe in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.” They insist that this is all that really matters and that it does not matter what form this confession of faith assumes. Very often, if a person is asked to explain what the person believes and why, the simplistic “I believe in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, and that is what matters,” will be what is given.

Occasionally an additional “Jesus is my personal Lord and Savior,” and “My Lord lives in my heart,” will be stated rather vehemently.

OK. How does Jesus come to be a person’s personal Lord and Savior? How does He get into one’s heart?

To step back and ponder this question from another perspective may be helpful.

If a person has a dreadful infection and that person adamantly declares, “I believe in antibiotics!” does this save the person from the infection? How do the antibiotics get inside the person to do the saving from the attacking bacteria? If a physician tells the person, “You need to be injected with this antibiotic or you must take it orally in order for it to have effect,” will saying, “I believe in antibiotics and that is what matters” accomplish the same thing? Will the infectious invading organism be driven out by saying repeatedly with sincerity “I believe in antibiotics and that is what matters”?

Regarding sin and salvation from sin, the Scriptures very plainly teach that Jesus is the answer. But do the Scriptures leave it at this? Do they not give specific answers regarding how Jesus gets in to accomplish this salvation?

How is it that when St. Peter plainly says in Acts 2 that Baptism is for the forgiveness of sins and for imparting the gift of the Holy Spirit, and then says again in 1 Peter 3 that water saved Noah and his family and today we have the antitype of Baptism which now saves us through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, how is it that people think that this can be ignored, or worse, rejected? When St. Paul in Titus 3 calls it the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, how is it that people think that this is not a “basic doctrine” of salvation? How is it that when Jesus explains to Nicodemus in John 3 that no one is able to enter into the kingdom of God except through water and spirit, that people insist that Baptism is not necessary and can even be rejected as a means of salvation?

The same is said regarding the Holy Supper. St. Paul warns the Corinthians that misuse of the Supper is equal to falling asleep or death. He equates the eating and drinking of the Supper with forgiveness and with communion in the body and blood of Christ. How can this be treated as anything but the very life of the Church? The Lord Jesus says:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever. (John 6:53-58)

How can anyone imagine having a personal relationship with Jesus apart from the communion of His body and blood?

Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are two of the ways in which the Scriptures say that Jesus comes to us and enters into our hearts and lives. The other is the preaching of the Gospel, which of course, is included in these two Sacraments.

So why do so many people imagine that these can be reduced to only hearing and believing? Is this what the Scriptures teach? Is this what Jesus says?

Many people struggle with the Scriptural decrees that say a person is saved through faith apart from works and on account of these cannot hear what the Scriptures say about this being worked through Baptism and the Lord’s Supper by the Lord Himself. Instead of hearing God declare that these are His works many people insist that these are their works.

Why is this? If the physician orders the nurse to give an antibiotic by hyper dermic injection when the patient is at the office, and then prescribes an oral form of the antibiotic to be continued throughout the course of the treatment, does the patient then say that the injection was not one’s own work of healing but that swallowing the pill or liquid is? And if in the hospital an attendant washes an infected wound and applies antiseptic to the wound, does the patient insist that by allowing this that a work has been done on the patient’s part?

Yet this is what people who reject Baptism and the Holy Supper say of them. But by saying these things, what do they say of the Holy Spirit who inspired the apostles and evangelists to record what Baptism and the Supper do?

Is it a small thing to call the Holy Spirit a liar and a fraud? Is it possible to deny the inspired doctrine that has been recorded and to have true faith in the God whose name is invoked in Baptism? Is it possible to have a personal relationship with Jesus that depends upon true faith while saying that He does not do what He promises in the Holy Supper?

How much of what Jesus and His apostles and Scriptures say does a person believe in? How much of what is recorded in black and white can be minimized and reduced and interpreted without losing it altogether? If a person has a personal relationship with Jesus as one’s personal Lord and Savior, how much of what Jesus has commanded for the discipling into His kingdom (Matthew 28) will a person ignore or reject?

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1 comment:

Gary Cepek said...

Pastor Siems,

Thanks for the apt analogies to illustrate the means by which the Spirit has chosen to "call (the elect) by the Gospel, enlighten them with His gifts, sanctify, and keep them in the true faith."

The spiritually tragic reality of present day minimalism has at its roots the deceptions of Satan, the absolute spiritual blindness of our sinful natures, and the foolishness of the world. As you aver, human reason cannot and will not grasp the Spirit's truths. May The LORD mercifully overcome these enemies that His will be done.

Gary Cepek