As a Christian and a Lutheran, I hold near and dear the truth that it is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone that I am saved. Years ago, when my oldest grandson was only five years old, I asked him if he understood what this Bible verse meant: “Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness” (Romans 4:3). I was prepared for this to be one of those teaching moments where Papa could impart great truth to his grandson. But before I could say any more, and without missing a beat, he answered, “Oh yes, ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast’” (Ephesians 2:8-9). I can tell you, that was the greatest sermon I have ever heard because it came from my five year old grandson. Even at that young age, not only was he a Christian, but he was Lutheran! Many years later, I still marvel at the wisdom proclaimed by my grandson that most people in our world completely miss!
It is this great “miss” that occupies so much of the energies and resources of the Church of the Lutheran Brethren. So many people have never heard the good news of grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Even in our own neighborhoods, if you ask people what the Bible is about or what it means to be a Christian, you will rarely get an answer that is close to the truth. How did the message get so lost, even in North America?
This issue of Faith & Fellowship is focused on the three themes of 1 Corinthians 13: faith, hope and love. Over the years I have heard many sermons preached from this text. A number of times the sermons have explained that love is the greatest because it is the only one of the three that will continue forever—as is so eloquently stated by Paul in the second half of the chapter. Faith and hope will pass away because we will be in the presence of God and will no longer need faith or hope. The first half of this chapter, however, I believe holds the key as to why love is the greatest, and perhaps answers the question I asked above, “How did the message get so lost, even in North America?”
In the first half of the chapter, Paul says something that is actually pretty shocking, especially to someone who takes grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone seriously. What I am referring to is the last part of 1 Corinthians 13:2, “…and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” Even if I had extraordinary faith that could move mountains, I am nothing without love. Could it be that the message of salvation has become lost to our world because we have focused on the vehicle of salvation (faith) to the exclusion of the heart of salvation…that God so loved the world…?
Immediately following the verses my grandson quoted, we read this: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). How else will our world see the love of God if not through the good works done by his children for the benefit of their neighbors? God so loved the world that he prepared good works for you and me so that his love would be seen by the world. What a privilege to be his smile and his helping hand to a world so desperate for love!
Roy Heggland serves the CLB as Associate for Biblical Stewardship.