Sermon Notes – November 19, 2017

Destined for Salvation – 1 Thessalonians 5:9

   As our Scripture readings pry into the future it is possibly with anxiety that we consider the Day of the Lord, the Day of Judgment.  Zephaniah does little to settle our fears: “A day of wrath is that day, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness...” (1:15)  In the same assigned readings, however, the Apostle Paul does much to settle our anxieties: “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us…” (1 Thessalonians 5:9)  Why are these passages chosen to be read at the same time?  Why are they in the same Bible?  Don’t they contradict each other?

   Dr. C. F. W. Walther, one of the founders of our church body and one of its greatest teachers: “Comparing Holy Scripture with other writings, we observe that no book is apparently so full of contradictions as the Bible, and that, not only in minor points, but in the principal matter, in the doctrine of how we may come to God and be saved.  In one place the Bible offers forgiveness to all sinners; in another place forgiveness of sins is withheld from all sinners.  In one passage a free offer of life everlasting is made to all men; in another, men are directed to do something themselves towards being saved.  This riddle is solved when we reflect that there are in the Scriptures two entirely different doctrines, the doctrine of the Law and the doctrine of the Gospel.” And, “Both have for their final aim man’s salvation; only the Law, ever since the Fall, cannot lead us to salvation; it can only prepare us for the Gospel.” (Law and Gospel, pages 6, 7) 

   The Law indicts us because of our sinfulness and it tells us the Day of Lord is a day of judg-ment and wrath because we did not live perfect lives.  For us to be saved the Gospel must take over and we must rely on what God has for us (not what we have done for ourselves) in the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Law and Gospel differ greatly, but in the end they complement one another and do not con-tradict one another.  The great use of the Law is to bring us to our knees in repentance and prepare us for the Gospel—to scare the hell out of us (literally and legitimately, for God’s wrath is not fake – Galatians 6:7; Hebrews 10:30-31). 

   The Gospel, however, is God’s last Word on the subject of our salvation, when through the Holy Spirit we are brought to faith in Christ and receive the full blessings of His saving work. “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us…”  (Ephesians 2:8-9; 1 Peter 1:3-5)  The Day of the Lord is, for those saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, a day of salvation and mercy.  It is guaranteed.  The ending for the faithful will not be anything other than salvation.  [Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour,” Paul’s story of a moment, 1 Corinthians 15:52]

   So, Paul urges us, expect the expected.  “For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.  While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.  But you are not in dark-ness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief.” (1 Thess. 5:2-5)  Be watchful for you know the Day is coming [like labor pains].  Stay awake when you should be awake [Mr. Davies math class and a day of humiliation]. 

   The Law of God warns you to not be complacent like those “who say in their hearts, ‘The LORD will not do good, nor will He do ill.’” (Zeph. 1:12)  The Law of God warns you to not be like “the worthless servant” who will be “cast into the other darkness.” (Matthew 25:30) Live your life as a redeemed child of God who is destined for salvation and do all the good you can with everything God has given you, especially His love and mercy, that on the Day of the Lord the Lord will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.  Enter into the joy of your Master.” (Matthew 25:21, 23)    

  

 

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