For the past few weeks I've been focusing on what affects our faith in Christ in a negative way. At the same time I have been driecting readers in those same articles to the Word of God and His Means of Grace.
The great enemies of the Christian faith are summarised by Dr. Martin Luther on the Sixth Petition of the Lord's Prayer in the Small Catechism:
“And lead us not into temptation.” “What does this mean?”
'God, indeed, tempts no one; but we pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us, so that the devil, the world, and our flesh may not deceive us, nor seduce us into misbelief, despair, and other great shame and vice; and though we be assailed by them, that still we may finally overcome and gain the victory.'
A fuller description of these enemies is found in Luther's Large Catechism;
“Temptation ... is of three kinds, namely, of the flesh, of the world, and of the devil. In the flesh we dwell and carry the old Adam about our neck, who exerts himself and incites us daily to inchastity, laziness, gluttony and drunkenness, avarice and deception, to defraud our neighbor and to overcharge him, and, in short, to all manner of evil lusts which cleave to us by nature, and to which we are incited by the society, example and what we hear and see of other people, which often wound and inflame even an innocent heart.
“Next comes the world, which offends us in word and deed, and impels us to anger, and impatience. In short, there is nothing but hatred and envy, enmity, violence and wrong, unfaithfulness, vengeance, cursing, raillery, slander, pride and haughtiness, with superfluous finery, honor, fame, and power, where no one is willing to be the least, but every one desires to sit at the head and to be seen before all.
“Then comes the devil, inciting and provoking in all directions, but especially agitating matters that concern the conscience and spiritual affairs, namely, to induce us to despise and disregard both the Word and works of God, to tear us away from faith, hope, and love, and bring us into misbelief, false security, and obduracy, or, on the other hand, to despair, denial of God, blasphemy, and innumerable other shocking things. These are indeed snares and nets, yea, real fiery darts which are shot most venomously into the heart, not by flesh and blood, but by the devil.” (paragraphs 101-104)
But set in contrast are the three witnesses God has placed on the earth through which the Holy Spirit brings us forgiveness, comfort, endurance, and eternal life.
He has given us His Word, the Bible. It is to be read, preached (Mark 16:15), proclaimed in the Absolution (John 20:22-23) and relied upon. In His Word He teaches us His Law and His Gospel. The Law is that Word of God which tells us how we are to be, and what we are to do and not to do (Leviticus 19:2). The Gospel is that Word of God wich reveals the salvation Christ has won for all people (John 3:16). The shows us our sin and the wrath of God (Romans 3:20); the Gospel shows us our Savior and the grace of God in Christ (Romans 3:21-26). The Law must be preached to all people, but especially to impenitent sinners (I Timothy 1:9); the Gospel must be preached to sinners who are troubled because of thier sins (Matthew 11:28).
He has given us Baptism (Matthew 28:18-20) where He takes our sin and guilt from us and places it upon Himself on the Cross (Romans 6:1-14). Baptism is also where He clothes us with His righteousness (Galatians 3:26-29). Through Baptism Christ washes away our sins (Acts 22:16; I Peter 3:21), grants us faith and pours out into us the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38-39; John 3:5-6; Titus 3:5-8) and cleans our consciences of the guilt of sin so we may stand before the thone of God on Judgment Day (Ephesians 5:25-26; I Peter 3:21; Mark 16:16).
And He has given us the Lord's Supper where he nourishes us with the forgiveness of sins by the same Body and Blood that were given on the cross (Matthew 26:26-29; I Corinthians 11). In the Lord's supper the real and true body and blood of Christ are given to us sinners (I Corinthians 10:16). He gives His body and blood to us to forgive our sins and strengthen our faith; as He said “given for you for the forgiveness of sins.” He unites Christians together through His body and blood (I Corinthians 10:17). The Supper is for sinners who are sorry for their sins and desire Christ's forgiveness (I Corinthians 11:17-29).
These great gifts testify here on earth to the grace of God to us in Jesus Christ.
The Holy Spirit comes to us through the Word, the Water, and the Blood: as St. John wrote:
“And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one.” (I John 5:8)
And these gifts are the answer and cure for the attacts that come upon us through the devil, the world, and our own flesh. This is were God feeds, heals, comforts, and secures us in His grace. Word and Sacrament are where God has said He comes down to us for our good.
“For He has delivered us from the power of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whome we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14)