HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
July 23, 2007, Herald Journal
Pastor's Column

Believe . . . and you will be saved

Rev. Michael Nirva, St. James Lutheran Church, Howard Lake

St. Paul writes to the Philippian Christians: “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12)

Paul would say, “Be much concerned about your salvation. You are the losers if you are not saved. You are lost forever unless you are saved. Salvation is the personal and individual concern of every human being.”

Says the prophet: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way.” (Isaiah 53:6)

By nature, no man is any longer on the way on which God once placed man; they have all left it and, leaving it, they have lost the approval of God, His favor, and His heaven. I am lost until and unless I am saved. That makes salvation personal.

The jailer of Philippi fully realized it, asking “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30) That cry proves two things: one, that he was lost; the other, that it was up to God to do something about his salvation.

But what was it that made the problem so pressing at that particular time? It was the crisis that had come into the poor unbeliever’s life.

In his prison, during the night, most suddenly and most unexpectedly, things began to happen. “Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once, all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose.” (Acts 16:26)

The jailer is ready to commit suicide; the Apostle Paul prevents it. The jailer is assured that all the prisoners are still there, he has no reason to fear death because of the escape of those for whom he was responsible to the authorities.

He calls for a light and assures himself of the truth of Paul’s statement. It is as Paul had said, they were all there. Now, the jailer falls down before Paul and Silas, and the jailer’s one concern is about his own salvation.

God has a plan of salvation, and the Almighty offers it in His Holy Word. This solution is beautifully summed up by St. Paul in the words: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household.”

This is the brief answer to head off despair and suicide; to flash the flood of divine light into the darkness of man’s soul. But we also read that Paul and Silas “spoke the Word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house.” (Acts 16:32)

The Word of the Lord is the word concerning Jesus Christ, the word of Him who had been promised of old, who, after his incarnation, was the only one among all people who had the qualifications to be a savior for the world.

As it is written in Galatians 4:4-5, “When the time had fully come, God sent His son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” This is the active obedience of Christ, that He fulfilled the law and met all its demands for people for whom it was altogether impossible.

Death has come upon all people, because sin had come upon all people. But since God, according to His gracious and good will, wanted to save people from death and damnation, “The Lord has laid on Him (Jesus Christ) the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6) and made Jesus for all times and for all people truly the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.”

Jesus was obedient, “obedient to death – even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:8) This is the Christ that Paul preached to the jailer at Phillipi. Salvation is found by faith alone in Jesus Christ. (Romans 3:22-28)

Faith in Jesus Christ’s vicarious atonement is all that is needed for salvation. All that the jailer and any person must do, and can do, is just leave it that way and receive God’s offer without any ifs, ands, or buts, without any reliance whatsoever on deeds or intentions.

Forget all that you are and do, believe in Jesus and hold fast to what He did for the entire world (John 3:16). God has solved the problem of people’s salvation, and this salvation, thought out and completed by God alone, is now available to all people through His Word.

The Christian man or woman can be certain of salvation by God’s grace through faith. The question, “What must I do to be saved?” is answered: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.”

Believe and trust in your Savior Jesus Christ and you are, and will, remain truly peaceful and content. (Acts 16:30-31)

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