Spiritual Reflections Blog
|Posted on January 9, 2015 at 2:10 PM|
St. Paul continues his discussion of life in Christ, with an examination of sin. He identifies some fundamental truths that people have been trying to avoid for centuries, and no less in our own time. At root, there are only two paths in all the world: one of life, and one of death. While it may look like there are a multitude of philosophies, theories, and religions out there, all that confusion can be broken down into these two fundamental realities. There is God and His way, known to us by His Word, and there is every other way, known to us by their respective conflict with God and His Word. Only in God, the author and sustainer of life, can there be the way of life. This is why Jesus can say that He is truly the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that no one can come to the Father apart from Him. The difference between Jesus and His Way, and all the other ways of the world, is as great and as stark as the difference between eternal life and eternal death.
Sin and evil, properly understood, are deviations from God and His holy will, made known to us by His Word. Always and everywhere, evil is a corruption of the good will and creation of God. As some have reflected throughout the centuries, evil cannot exist by itself, but only as a cancer or corruption of something already good. Even so, where sin exists in the world, it corrodes and defiles things and people originally made good, twisting them into something contrary to God’s holiness and righteousness. Sin and evil twist what was originally good into that which is not, drawing everything it touches away from life into the way of death.
The first to experience this wicked twisting, were the devil and his evil angels. Corrupted by their own pride and rebellion, they sought to be what they were not created to be, and thereby fell into the twisted wickedness of their own evil. Originally created good and pure, with a free will and power beyond human reasoning, the devil and his evil angels are now completely contorted in their wickedness, wielding their still frightening power in the aim to corrupt and enslave all of God’s good creation. They are ancient, evil, intelligent, and powerful… and they are the beginning of all that is wicked and corrupted in the universe. It was they who tempted our first parents to follow them into their Fall, and they who exercised dominion over the whole human race once we left our Creator to follow His horrific enemies.
But our God was not content to leave mankind in the way of death they had chosen, deceived by the wicked lies of the devil. Into our way of death God sent His Only Begotten Son, so that He might suffer and die for us all. Our Lord Jesus Christ, the very Word of God Made Flesh, steps into our death, and trades His life for ours, so that we might be brought back into His life. Because Jesus is the only Way of everlasting Life, reconciling all who will repent and believe in Him by the power of His Word, there now exist in this world two paths for all mankind. There is the way of death in which we find ourselves from birth as slaves to sin and the devil, and there is the way of life in Christ found by grace through faith in His saving Gospel.
It’s important for us to get this sequencing of events right, according to God’s Word. God did not invent or push upon us the way of death. Rather, He created us good, fully made in His wonderful image. It was we who invited in the devil, and with him, our own slavery to sin and death. This cursed earth upon which we live out our short and painful lives is a result of the death we brought upon in, and our suffering and death is justified. But it is God who comes to our rescue, that we might know the way of life again. It is God in the Person of His Son, who steps into our death, so that we might have His everlasting life. God is not the author of sin, slavery, or death, but rather of redemption, righteousness, love, and life.
For this reason, the Christian will always find himself at war in this world. By our fallen nature, we see around us the Law of sin and death, and the old marks of our slavery as sinners. Our bodies break down, we grow old, sick, and frail. We bury our fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, and sometimes even our own children. But the blessedness of the saints in Christ Jesus, is that though we justly endure this world and all its corruption as sinners, we are alive forever by the grace and forgiveness of our Savior. Thus even though we die, our lives are hidden in Christ, so that we live forever in Him. We are alive: though we suffer, though we break, though we fall into the earth or the fire or the water. We are alive, because the life of Christ Jesus lives in us by the power of His grace.
This is the work St. Paul tells us is accomplished through Holy Baptism. By the infinite power of the Word of Christ, it is Jesus who baptizes you into His death, and Jesus who raises you up to newness of life. It is Jesus who makes you a servant of righteousness by the power of His Word, speaking to you His Holy Law and His Everlasting Gospel. It is Jesus who renews the grace given to you in your baptism when, after having fallen to sin and temptation, you hear His voice anew, and repent and believe. Just as we do not credit the worthiness of the preacher in his preaching when the Word of Christ brings faith and life into the hearts of its hearers, so we do not credit the pastor or the believer when the Word of Christ baptizes a person in His death and life. It is not in the person of the pastor or of the believer, nor in any human work that the Christian trusts, but alone in the Word and Work of Christ our Savior. This is saving faith—a faith which trusts Christ and His Word, and lives in Him by His grace.
To Him alone be all glory and majesty, now and forever! For He has brought to us the Way of Life, piercing the darkness of our sin and death with the forgiveness won for us through His Holy Cross. He has broken the shackles of our slavery to the devil, and breathed His Holy Spirit into us, that we may rise up, forgiven and free, alive forever by His Word of grace. He has reconciled us with the Father, bound us all together by His Holy Spirit, and washed us in His Holy Blood. Thanks be to Christ our Savior, now and forever more! Amen.
Reprinted with permission from A Lutheran Hermit.
Author: The Most Reverend Bradley Varvil, Tacoma, WA