April 25, 2010 — Fourth Sunday of Easter
“Why Are Some People Saved and Others Not?” — Pastor Lassman
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My Fellow Redeemed in Christ,
One of the most difficult theological questions is this one: “Why are some people saved and others not?” It’s an old question that’s been around for a long time. And it has been answered in more than one way. Why do you have faith in Jesus and someone else does not? Is it because God likes you better than the person who doesn’t believe? Or do you have faith because you are better person than those who don’t believe? Or is it because the other person is more evil, more sinful than you? Or is this difference: you made a decision to believe in Jesus and the other person did not. In our Gospel lesson for this morning our Lord Jesus tell us “Why Some People Are Saved While Others Are Not.”
I. It is, of course, true that some people don’t believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Why don’t they believe? Whose fault is it? God’s? Or their own fault?
A. Well, it’s not God’s fault. God loves all people. How do we know? Because he tells us in probably the best known and perhaps most beloved Bible passage of all, John 3:16 (ESV): “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.“ And verse 17 goes on to say: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” Jesus Christ entered our world to reveal God’s love for all people. He could do this because, as he says in our lesson, he and the Father are one. This is a reference to the mystery of the trinity. Before he became a human being the Son of God existed as the second person of the triune God with the Father and the Holy Spirit. And it was the second person of the triune God, the Son, who came into the world as the man, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is both God and man in one person. When Jesus says “I and the Father are one” he is referring to his divine nature, as the second person of the triune God equal to the Father and the Holy Spirit. But when he says: “The Father is greater than all” he includes his human nature which is never made equal with God. And when Jesus died on the cross he died for the sins of the whole world, for every human being who has ever lived, is living now, or will ever live as Peter says in his first letter: “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” 1 Peter 3:18, ESV) And finally, we also know that God doesn’t want one person to go to hell but that he wants all people to believe in Jesus as Paul says in his first letter to Timothy: “...God our Savior...desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (2: 4, ESV)
B. And yet, even though God wants them to believe, many people...most people, do not believe. But as we have heard God can’t be blamed for their unbelief. He wants them to believe. So if people do not believe...it’s their own fault. Which is exactly what Jesus says in our Gospel lesson. Those who did not believe in him surrounded him at the temple and demanded of him: “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Sounds like they are accusing Jesus of doing something wrong, doesn’t it? And what does Jesus say? “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe.” Jesus was telling them: “Don’t blame me for your unbelief...it’s your own fault.” He did tell them who he was and his works confirmed who he waw. But they didn’t believe. It was their own fault. This is the way it is with those who don’t believe. They hear the same thing we do. They have the same evidence that we have...but for those who don’t believe...it’s never enough. People have all kinds of excuses for not believing in Jesus, always asking more and more questions. “Well, about this?” or “What about that?” Such questions are only a cover up for their lack of faith. God wants them to believe. But they refuse. Sinful human beings have the awesome ability to reject the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And that’s why in our second reading they are not numbered among those who are saved. They will be damned and lost on the judgment day and it will not be God’s fault...but their own fault.
II. But how about those who do believe and are saved? What about you and me? Can we take any credit for our faith? No, for our faith in Jesus is a gift from God.
A. Jesus says that those who believe in him “...hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” To hear his voice and to follow Jesus means to trust in him for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life in the resurrection from the dead, and to live for him. But we don’t follow him because we made a decision to follow him. Jesus tells us why we follow him and the source of our faith: the Father who sent him: “my Father...has given them to me.” Just as Jesus said earlier in John’s Gospel “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (6:44, ESV), “draws him”, and later in verse 65 he says, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father” (6:65, ESV), “granted him.” And this is what Jesus is referring to when he says of those who believe in him: “My Father has given them to me.” Faith then is a gift. It is not our doing. We do not choose God; he chooses us as Paul says in his second letter to the Thessalonians: “But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our Gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our lord Jesus Christ.” (2: 13, 14, ESV) Do you understand how comforting this is? Your salvation is not in your weak, sinful hands...but in the hands of God. This means you can be certain of your salvation. If you have faith in Jesus Christ, and it’s not your doing, but God’s doing, then you know that God has chosen you to be saved from death and damnation. Your faith in Jesus is the proof that God is working in your life...otherwise you wouldn’t believe in him.
B. But God not only gives us our faith in Jesus he also keeps us in our faith as well. Jesus says: “No one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” Why not? Because, Jesus says: “I and the Father are one.” This is also comforting, especially in those times that we feel so weak in our faith; those times that we feel so sinful, so unworthy. At such times we receive great comfort, peace and joy in knowing that our faith is not in our hands...but in the hands our heavenly Father who has given us to his Son Jesus, who has died for all of our sins to give us eternal life. And when we are dying and Satan reminds us of all our sins not even then Jesus says will anyone be “able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” the Father has given us to Jesus and he will keep us there. And so one day we will find ourselves as described in our second reading: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the lamb...for the lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd...and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Rev. 7: 9, 17, ESV)
Conclusion: Why are some saved and others not? Well, how do we want to answer this question? Do we want to answer it with human reasoning and logic? Or do we want to answer it with God’s word? That’s the first question that needs to be answered. Once we answer that question the rest is easy. Why are some people not saved? Jesus says: “You do not believe.” And he says it not just once but twice: “You do not believe.” In other words, if people do not believe in him, it is their own fault. God wants them to believe but they refuse to believe. And how about those who do believe, you and me? Well, God gets all the credit. We didn’t choose God; he chose us. The Father has given us to his Son and our savior, Jesus. Our faith is a gift from God given through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For he and the Father are one. Why are some saved and others are not? We have our answer. Amen.