THE LORD WILL CONFIRM US TO THE END
Sermon by Pastor Edward Brockwell
The Twenty-first Sunday After Trinity
Based on 1 Corinthians 1:4-9
The Confessional Lutheran Church of Finland
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I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:4-9)
Dear Friends in Christ,
The Apostle Paul reminds us that since we have God's grace and every spiritual gift that we need, our life in this world is one of living in the hope of the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ; we eagerly wait for His return. However, there is one thing that could give us pause and cause us to worry: we are tempted to doubt about whether we will endure to the end. We see how so many had started well, when they first heard the Word of God, they welcomed it with joy. But they didn’t have any roots. They believed for a while, but in a time of trial and temptation they abandoned the faith and fell away (Luke 8:13). If we are honest with ourselves, we daily experience how cunning Satan is, how alluring the world is, and sadly, how mighty our sinful nature remains. It is not uncommon for Christians to sometimes fear the Last Day instead of looking forward to it with great joy.
C.F.W. Walther wrote, that "God has not given any Christian an unconditional guarantee that He will preserve him until the end so he may do exactly as he pleases until then. The Gospel provides no freedom for security, but instead calls us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12). God has not promised to force anyone to faith by an irresistible grace and to save him despite his own desire to indulge wantonly in sin and unbelief. Yet these warnings apply only to those who in wantonness desire to tempt God's grace and to sin against it." We are Christians! We have been justified by faith through God’s grace in Christ. We have been washed from all our sins and God has assured us He is "able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him" (Hebrews 7:25). Nevertheless, we struggle with temptation, we fear sin and unbelief. However, when we are tempted to sin, our thoughts should be like that of Saint Paul, "How can we who died to sin still live in it?" (Romans 6:2). There are also times when we painfully feel our unbelief, but in such moments, we sigh and cry out to God, "I believe; help my unbelief" (Mark 9:24). It is most absolutely true and certain that we can and should, without fear of falling, look forward with joy to the revelation of Jesus Christ on the Last Day. Why? Because, the promise of our text applies also to you and to me.
Indeed, this promise applies to every person who believes. The main thing is to seize this promise in faith. According to this precious promise, our salvation does not depend upon our wavering faithfulness, but upon the unwavering faithfulness of his God. Our salvation does not lie in our weak hands (for then it would soon be lost), but in the strong hands of our loving and gracious God. We may be ever so weak, but God Himself will be our strength. If, out of weakness, we still stumble and fall, God's faithfulness will always raise us up again. If, out of weakness, we still go far astray, God’s faithfulness will always fetch and bring us back aright, as He did the erring Thomas. The battle may still be hard, but God’s faithfulness will strengthen us for it, and He will fight with us amid our battles. Paul assures us "in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us" (Romans 8:37). True, the devil, the world and our "old Adam" may still cunningly seek after our soul, but God’s faithfulness will not bring us into disgrace. The writer of the Hebrews encourages with these words that should resound in hearts and in the depths of our souls: "I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5).
The enemy of our faith, and of God and His Church, would like to have us think that God has totally forgotten us and has left us to struggle in our own power. The devil likes to torment Christians with his fiery arrows. One such fiery arrow is how we will make it through this life with all our trials and temptations. And once he gets a foot in the door of our minds, he continues with other thoughts: "Go ahead and continue your miserable struggle. You know that your prayers are useless. You cry to God and believe in him – but all for nothing. You had hoped that God would free you and help you. Well, let God save you if he feels like it!" (Martin Luther). Such are the miserable thoughts that the devil would like to depress our minds with.
Martin Luther knew such temptations very well. But he has advice for us who struggle and find it hard to persevere in the faith. He wrote: "When faithful people are happy and when they sing, "The Lord is my strength and my song" (Psalm 118:14), the devil stays far away from them. All complaining and impatience soon end. As long as believers praise and thank God, then temptation, sadness, and unbelief disappear. Heaven is opened wide and hell is shut with words like these: "I will extol the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips" (Psalm 34:1)".
Yes, our text for today is full of hope, light and life! "[You are] eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ." Ah, perhaps the devil and your depressed conscience remind you of your sins. Then as faithful Lutheran Christians, let us turn immediately to the Scriptures which declare, 'As I live,' says the Lord GOD, 'I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways!' (Ezekiel 33:11). To souls burdened with sin and guilt, which means all of us, our Lord says, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). I love this verse, and so do you. Jesus is telling us, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens," or literally, "you who are overburned, and I will give you rest.
Oh, dear friends, let us not charge the Lord with a lie and by not believing in His mercy. Such is the case when we think our sins are too great, like Judas did. We despair and think that God is a merciless and angry judge. But the cost of our redemption and the love of God was so great that God that He "sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:10). Scripture tells us that, "where sin abounded, grace abounded much more" (Romans 5:20). God’s grace infinitely outweighs our sins. Sin is temporal, it happens in a moment of time, but the grace of God is from everlasting to everlasting. Jesus has completely saved us and redeemed from our sins by His death on the cross. Yes, through His death and resurrection the grace of God has been restored to each and every one of us. So, let us flee unto him for refuge.
Therefore, dear friends, we live in the grace of our Lord and walk in faith, believing and knowing that God has chosen us "before the foundation of the world" (Eph. 1:4). He has elected us to salvation, and because of this, his salvation stands so firmly that the gates of hell will not be able to overpower it. "And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified" (Romans 8:30). Thus, you boldly confess that you are "eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord" (1 Corinthians 1:7-9). Amen.