One Bible verse says one thing and another says something else. Yet both have been used to reach the same conclusion: Some people will be saved and others will perish. Is there another way to see these important words of Scripture? Yes. As evangelicals (people who cling to the good news of salvation), we can depend upon the grace of God to cover all needs, including that for forgiveness.
“Therefore I tell you, people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven” (Matthew 12:31). The Spirit is the quiet person of the Trinity whose mission is to make known the saving work of God through faith in Jesus. Blasphemy against the Spirit is rejection of the Spirit’s work, of the message of salvation. It’s to say, “I have no need for Jesus, the savior of the world.”
In his explanation to the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed, Martin Luther says: “I believe that by my own understanding or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him, but instead the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith ....” The Spirit does what we can never do for ourselves.
“I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21b). The kingdom of God is the rule of God. The kingdom or rule of God is seen and not seen. It is present and future, realized and anticipated, now and not yet.
Some years ago at a convention, John Kuethe, former philosophy and religion professor, said the rule of God involves a people “who strain for God and are a strain on God; saints who sin and fall short of the glory of God.”
Early in my work as a parish pastor, I met frequently with a man struggling with alcohol addiction. Once he said, “Pastor, I’m finished with it. I’m not going to drink again.” I encouraged him. But when he left my office, he turned straight toward the liquor store. It never occurred to me to challenge his salvation. He believed in Jesus as his savior. But his inheritance, the kingdom or rule of God, hadn’t been fully realized.
Is this not true for us all? Is there any among us with the temerity to throw the first stone? If so, is that person seeking to remove the speck in another’s eye while neglecting the log in her or his own?
The ELCA is part of God’s kingdom. God rules in and through the ELCA by means of the word, the sacraments and the mutual encouragement of the saints. Perhaps we who claim the name “evangelical” can try to use our short time in this world to assure that the ELCA is big enough for everyone.
This week's front page features:
Assembly takes dramatic step: In addition to sexuality statement, assembly approves full communion with Methodists and initiatives on HIV/AIDS and malaria.
What next? Conflict, conversations, commitment.
Assembly approves full communion with Methodists : Three decades of dialogue culminate in "Confessing our Faith Together."
Lean times result in slimmed down budget : Income expected to fall over next two years.
Also: How Tweet it was.
Also: What now, ELCA?
Deadline extended: Bible verses that made a difference
What Bible verse made a difference in your life and why?
Please explain in 250 words or less. Include your name; the Scripture
(book, chapter and verse); your congregation (provide town and state);
and your e-mail address or phone number.
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Deadline: Sept. 29
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