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God’s Word for You

1 Corinthians 15:2 You too are being saved

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, July 6, 2023

2 Through it, you too are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I preached to you—unless you believe in vain.

I want to unpack this verse like an old family photograph. All of the best things are here, the most delightful parts of life and faith and love and the hope we have in Jesus.

Let’s start with the present tense verb “being saved” (σῴζεσθε). Your salvation is held out or renewed for you every time you hear the gospel. It’s like looking into the eyes of your mother; love is always there, never hidden, never missing. Even if all you have is an old photo or a drawing of her, the love is there. And so it is with God’s love in Christ. His love is there every time we hear the gospel, and we are constantly “being saved” in this way. We get reminded over and over of our salvation, and it isn’t hidden from us.

The verse begins with “through it.” This is a reminder, and a doctrinal proof text, that we are saved through hearing the gospel just as we are saved by the other means of grace, the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. There is actually very little difference between the Lutheran definition of a sacrament and the Catholic definition, but there is a difference in how closely we stick to those definitions. The Catholic will say, “A sacrament is an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace,” or as Peter Lombard said, “A sacrament is the visible form of an invisible grace.” We Lutherans say: “A sacrament is a sacred act instituted by Christ using the Word of God with an earthly element that gives the forgiveness of sins.” The distinction of “instituted by Christ” dismisses five of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church, as well as the true meaning of grace. But we are left with Baptism and the Lord’s Supper as the true indisputable sacraments, which the Catholic church retains correctly but which most of the Reformed churches and especially the Evangelicals today have turned on their heads into commands to be obeyed and not channels of God’s grace and forgiveness at all. As we state in our Augsburg Confession: “It is against Scripture to require the observance of traditions for the purpose of making satisfaction for sins or meriting justification, for the glory of Christ’s merits is dishonored when we suppose that we are justified by such observances” (AC XXVIII:35-36). Let us remember: “Through it,” that is, the gospel, you are saved. Not by obeying it, but because it is given to you as a free gift.

“Too” is one of the commonest words in Greek (καί): “and, also.” Here it connects you, O reader, with everyone else who hears the gospel. The gospel of forgiveness isn’t for some people but not for others. Solomon prayed: “Forgive your people, who have sinned against you; forgive all the offenses they have committed against you” (1 Kings 8:50). And Paul said to the Romans: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24).

There is nothing new to add to the gospel. Its message remains the same: We are forgiven on account of the blood of Christ shed for us. But Paul needs to root out the trouble behind troubling words from the Corinthians. So he puts his foot on the spade and thrusts it into the dirt. “Unless!” he says. Is this it? Unless? Unless your faith is in vain; for nothing? This is the tip of a very long root of trouble. When I was a missionary in Washington, we had a weed in our yard called vetch that pretended to be grass. If you yanked on it, you would uncover a longer root system like a rope that wound all over the yard. One vetch plant (or system) could infest a whole neighborhood. Once you started pulling on it, more kept coming, and more and more and more. This is what Paul’s “unless” does to the Corinthian doubt about the gospel. If you dismiss the gospel, just how little of Christianity will be left as they rip everything else away? But Paul isn’t going to leave things here. He has 56 more verses on this subject before we finish the chapter.

Here is another delightful preaching of the gospel from forty years ago. My father-in-law, Pastor John Meyer, said: “The Gospel, the good news about Jesus as the Savior who died, was buried, and rose again for the salvation of sinners, has been the power of God unto salvation for all of us. Let us listen to that good news regularly, always finding hope and joy in its message of love.”

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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