Brothers and sisters, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. (Gal 3:15 NIV)
Already in the very first book of the bible – Genesis – God concludes: “Every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood.” (Gen 8:21 NIV) This is the result of the fall into sin. As God wanted to continue to do good to his people, he resorted to pure grace as a means and way to do this. His plan to educate his people and humanity as a whole in faith was supported by his promise of this heavenly grace as a gift. It is very similar – if not the same – to the way humans prepare a testament during their lifetime. In such a testament a person promises solemnly and legally that at this or that point in time the heir is to receive this or that. The testament therefore is not much else than a promise which precedes the actual gift. That’s the same with God’s promise of grace. He promised that a descendant of Abraham would bring salvation through the forgiveness of sins to all nations. This testament was made out to Abraham. From Abraham to Christmas we have a wonderful waiting period – even if it stretched out for a considerable time and length. Into this time of great expectations falls the bestowal of the law through Moses. This was to make the people receptive for the godly promise. The promise focuses the heart and mind onto the divine goal. The law shepherds towards this goal. The fulfillment grants it and faith receives it. That’s the divine order of salvation (Ordo salutis).
One of our faithful Lutheran Fathers demonstrated this order of salvation to the congregation and Church entrusted to him: God gives it, Christ earns it, faith receives it, works demonstrate it, the Sacraments confirm it, the faithful believer has it here in time through hope, there he will have it eternally as member of God’s household. Therefore be patient and faithful. You are called and redeemed to live with God in holiness and peace eternally.
Oh Lord our God, you are a God of order and peace. You have ordered everything in creation most wisely and wonderfully. Even after the fall into sin, you found a wonderful way of salvation and reconciliation so that your children would not be lost forever, but rather be saved and live with you rather. Thus you rectified and put back on track, what Satan and sinful man had corrupted and defiled by cunning, treachery and evil intent. Oh Lord, let us seek and find our salvation according to your good will and order – and attain it through your grace in Jesus Christ your dear Son, our Lord and savior. Amen.
The sum of all his precious thoughts are full of forbearance, grace and unshaking favour. Even as my soul is in dust and ashes you remain my comfort and my life. (Christian Gregor, 1723-1801)
This is a rather free translation of Wilhelm Löhe’s devotion for the thirteenth Sunday after the high holiday and festival of the Holy Trinity. It is found on Pg. 306 in Lob sei Dir ewig, o Jesu! (Eternal Praise to you o Jesus!) edited by A. Schuster and published in the Freimund Verlag, Neuendettelsau 1949.