Sunday, July 10, 2022

The Hope of Salvation

 Romans 8:18-23

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.  For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.  And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.

Sermon for 4-SAT                                                           7/10/22

The Hope of Salvation

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

A common mistake that we encounter in the world of religion today is when someone says that their religion or their faith is a private thing between them and God.  Many people have this idea, although it has nothing to do with what Scripture teaches.  They imagine – and say out loud sometimes – that their relationship with God is something strictly between them and the Lord, and no one else is involved or has anything to say about it.  I understand the feeling, and it is very American in its individualism, but the concept is still contrary to the teachings of the Bible.  And nowhere in Scriptures are we going to see that more clearly than right here, in our text.

Now, it is true that what you believe is personal and individual in the sense that you are the one doing the believing and you personally will either go to heaven or hell, but our text shows us how wrong the idea is that "its just between you and God."  Here, our text says that the whole creation waits, and the whole creation groans as it eagerly awaits the public revelation of just who is and who is not the child of God.  The creation also awaits that day looking forward to the freedom from the curse of corruption and decay and futility under which God placed it for the sake of man, who had just fallen into sin and death.  Far from being just between you and God, your faith and your relationship to God is of cosmic significance and has the very fabric of reality involved in it.  Let us look at our text this morning, and our theme is the Hope of Salvation.

We are going to focus on two important truths from our text, this morning.  These two truths are; first, that we have been saved, and, second, that our salvation is in hope.  Everything else taught here is a reflection of those two truths, or something that we understand because of these two truths.

I think people are often tempted to think of one's being saved as a presently inconsequential "spiritual" matter.  They think of heaven, perhaps.  Many people imagine that salvation is something like getting a ticket upgrade, or going to New Orleans rather than Nashville.  Somehow they see it as a one time event of personal and eschatological value.  But our salvation is the undoing of the damage of sin!  And what has sin done among us?  It has killed us, our friends, our parents - and everyone we know, one-by-one.  Sin has spoiled our lives and our plans and our joys.  Sin is why things rust and decay and get old.  Sin is why the good old days seem to be the "good old days."  It isn't your imagination, things are going downhill morally, socially – and, sadly, physically.  All of this is the work of sin!

Even the world of nature around us has been subjected to futility – that is how God describes our corruption and decay.  You cannot build forever because it is just going to fall apart eventually – futility.  Raise the perfect tree and it will die one day – futility.  Weed your garden immaculately, and the stupid weeds will just keep on coming – futility.  Dust the house today, and next month it will need to be dusted all over again.  God subjected the entire creation to this futility of corruption and decay for our sakes, because we sinned.

If He hadn't, could you imagine how hard it would be to have flowers last longer than you?  Sin leads inevitably to our death and corruption.  Every meaningless bit of flotsam and jetsam would have more permanence – more reality – than you, if God had not condemned the world to corruption and futility for you.  Your sin possesses cosmic influence and significance – and so does your salvation!

There are two ways to look at that, of course.  First, your salvation is of cosmic significance because the Creator of all that is personally got involved on your behalf.  He came, He became one of us, He suffered for you and in your place the agonies that you have earned and deserve, and then He died in your stead.  God Himself did all of that for you.  He humbled Himself – even to the point of death on a cross, taking upon Himself His own curse upon anyone who hangs from a tree.  What love!  What cosmic importance!  The One who holds all of reality together and guides the destiny of entire galaxies took a personal interest in you, had mercy on you, set Himself aside for your redemption and forgiveness, and died that you might live!

Because of Jesus Christ, because of the cross, because He rose from the dead, and because He promised it to you, your sins have been forgiven!  Because your sins have been forgiven, death has been set aside, and you have been given eternal life!  And while you walk through this life and this world, He who holds all things in His hands is your benefactor.  He loves you and blesses you, and watches over you, and rules all things for your good – little things like your car starting this morning so you could be here to hear His Word, and big things, like the course of history and the fate of nations – is all for your good.

Of course it doesn't always feel good.  We don't necessarily experience it as pleasure or enjoyment.  Sometimes it is downright miserable and painful.  That is where the hope part comes in – and we will get to that soon, but first we have the other half of the cosmic significance of your salvation.  Not only is it of cosmic significance because God was personally involved, but your salvation is the present point of this world and this life, and all of nature – every bird, tree, bush, rock, and catfish out in the lake – is awaiting eagerly the revealing of the sons of God – they are looking forward to the day of judgment publicly pronounced to see who is God's.  Their existence is for our sake.  Their work, their lives, and their deaths are for our well-being.  They don't know which of us they serve, but they are waiting eagerly to see.  

The way St. Paul describes it, it sounds almost as if the whole creation – right up to the sun and moon and stars – are standing on tippy-toe trying to peek over the fence and see who we are – and who is not among us in truth.  God speaks of creation as having a will, and intelligence, and a hope – and we dare not say that it does not, just because we do not perceive it.  He tells us through Paul that, The anxious longing of creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.  So when you are tempted to think that your faith and your religion is just a personal, private matter just between you and God, think again!  All of creation is involved – and vitally interested.  Not that you can tell by looking around you.

The world seems the same for everyone – believers and pagans alike.  We cannot see who are the hypocrites or distinguish them from the true believers.  At least not usually.  And neither can creation.  None of this cosmic significance stuff appears to be true.  You can't see it or feel it.  Those who clearly reject Jesus seem to thrive and prosper, often better than many of those who cling to Him.  You would think that having all of that cosmic significance, that power and all of nature working with you and for you would make some sort of difference you could feel!

But that is where the hope comes in.  Hope in the Biblical sense of the word is that knowledge which has no clear support in the experience of life, just the attestation of God's Word.  It is the possession of realities which are not fully sensed or experienced here, but are guaranteed to us and will be fully revealed – and experienced – in the future.  Hope is confident expectation of something God promises which you cannot empirically prove to be so.  It is precisely what the writer to the Hebrews called faith in Hebrews 11:1, Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

We have been saved  ———  in hope.  Our salvation is sure, and yet it is not felt.  If you think you can feel it, you are experiencing a feeling about your salvation.  You cannot feel salvation.  You may be feeling about your forgiveness, but you are not feeling forgiveness itself, for we have no nerve endings in the soul to experience the sensation of forgiveness.  It is in hope, confident and certain and sure, and a real possession, not just wishful thinking, but without that certain something that we can press to the litmus paper and prove it to the unbelieving around us, demonstrating that it really is so!  The verses in Romans just after our text say it well, For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

The one thing we can be sure of feeling in this world is suffering.  The world hates us, just as Jesus said that it would.  The flesh hates denying itself the fruits of sin.  The world around us hates us and the judgment implicit in our faith –


that WE ARE GOING TO HEAVEN and that THEY ARE GOING TO HELL, if they remain without faith in Jesus Christ.

They hate it and they try to lure us away from the faith, or to destroy us if we will not be moved.  That is the only way to silence the implicit judgment that our confident hope speaks to them.
 Then there is the old evil foe, whose one mission and goal it has been to destroy.  He will attack wherever he can.  He will use mobs, as we can see in some Islamic countries and in many of the protests in ours by BLM and Antifa and those hoping to cling to abortion, or individuals, such as terrorists, or governments, as we observe in the rising wave of anti-Christian persecution in Europe.  He will use the talking heads in the media who daily assault believers and accuse us of being more dangerous than those who go about actually killing others. I think of Frank Schaeffer, the son of the once renown Francis Schaeffer, who writes today that Christianity ought to be eradicated.  

The Adversary may even use church members, as is becoming the pattern even in our own Synod, to silence our words, destroy our faith, or crush the life right out of our bodies, if he can.  The one feeling you can be confident of experiencing as a Christian is suffering.  And St.  Paul tells us the truth about suffering in the midst of this cosmic relationship we share with one another and with God, For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

God has always been aware of the already-not yet nature of the salvation He was pouring out on us.  He understood long ago the suffering we would have to endure in order to still remain faithful, and He did not leave us utterly without that which we could see and hear and taste and touch.  He left us His Word.  He pours out His Spirit through the Word, that we who hear might believe.  He tells us, in His Word, that what He has prepared for us is so wonderful that the sufferings of this present age are not even worth comparing to it.  When we get there, we will find it so glorious that we will wonder that we were so reluctant to endure the little while and the little bit of pain and trouble here.

And while we are here, enduring, He has also given us the Sacraments.  Baptism allows us to "see" the pouring out of the Spirit on us and on our children and to hear God speak our names and claim us as His own.  And in the Holy Supper Christ gives us His body, once given on the cross, to eat — and His blood, once shed for us and for our forgiveness and salvation, to drink.  He has arranged for His salvation to be delivered to us personally and individually so that we cannot ignore that this good will and love is meant for us, personally, individually.

But, as Luther said, we will not be rationalistic know-it-alls who doubt and question the Word of the Lord, but we will expect and believe and trust in all that He has promised, and so confess and believe that here, in this Holy Supper is something also of cosmic significance – the body and blood of the one who died for us and won for us peace and freedom, forgiveness and salvation.  And it is in a "communion" – a sharing together in something sacred.  So particularly here where God deals with you individually – your faith and your relationship with God is nothing strictly personal, or "just between God and you."  It is a fellowship thing, and a common confession, and a shared thing.  So we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

We are linked.  Each of us and our faith and our relationship to God is part of that cosmic thing called "the body of Christ" or "the Church".  What we believe and the salvation we possess and share is not merely personal, but also communal – a family thing shared by us all.  And your healthy participation in it makes a difference to the whole body of Christ here as well – and to the world of nature around us, although we do not always perceive that difference and significance, except through the Word of God.  And what we share, that unites us, is summarized by our sermon theme – the Hope of Salvation.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
(Let the people say Amen)

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