“It is not enough just to keep the commandments!”

For many Christians faith has become a tradition. And yet, Christian faith also entails struggle, suffering, following, and corresponding actions! This article offers some explanations from a divine service with the Chief Apostle.

Pasadena is not far away from Los Angeles. The metropolis in the west of the USA showed itself in its best light on the last Sunday in November 2016, when Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider conducted a divine service there with the local congregation.

The words recorded in Isaiah 48: 17 comprised the content of the Chief Apostle's sermon: “Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: ‘I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you by the way you should go.’” This passage deals with the proper teaching, and what human beings are to make of it. Chief Apostle Schneider began by filling the congregation in on the historical context: “The Bible text makes reference to the act of salvation which God performed upon the people of Israel. In His compassion, He liberated the people by forcing the Pharaoh’s hand and then leading them into the Promised Land.” This liberation was an act of grace! Grace signifies receiving the love of God undeserved. However, the people of Israel also had to subordinate themselves to the will of God in order to reach their goal. Various efforts were necessary to this end, said the Church leader: “Israel had to cross the desert and do battle against its foes!”

Making an effort to reach the goal

“Today God seeks to liberate mankind from the rule of sin and lead them into His kingdom,” said the Chief Apostle, drawing a comparison between the past and present. “This salvation is also an expression of grace that we cannot earn for ourselves. In order to attain our goal, we must likewise align ourselves with the will of God and make the required efforts.”

These include believing in God’s magnificent act of grace, namely the sending of His Son into the world as the Saviour. “Thanks to His sacrifice we can be delivered—provided we believe in it!” But the Chief Apostle went on to state that—in addition to believing in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and believing in His death and resurrection—believing the message of the gospel also incorporates:

  • believing that which He taught!
  • performing deeds that are consistent with the gospel.
  • remaining steadfast in the gospel!

“One cannot make a business out of the gospel,” said the Chief Apostle to clarify. It is not merely a code for good behaviour or a reference tool for good ethics, nor is it a manual for a successful life! Rather, the necessity of being reborn out of water and the Spirit, celebrating Holy Communion, and preparing oneself for the return of Christ are inseparably connected with the doctrine of Jesus Christ, he explained.

Following Christ is the way

“God desires to lead us into His kingdom, and also shows us how we can get there, namely by following Jesus Christ.” Chief Apostle Schneider then went on to put together the pieces necessary for salvation like a puzzle: rebirth out of water and the Spirit, celebration of Holy Communion—that is how divine life can develop. And in the process it is up to each of us

  • whether we want to make the effort. “The path of following Christ is not a comfortable path!” In order to be saved by God, human beings must struggle and battle their way forward.
  • whether we want to suffer with Christ. “It is not enough just to keep the commandments!” In order to become like Christ, human beings must overcome the old creation. This is often painful.
  • whether we want to be patient. “We are on the way to our heavenly home, but we have not even seen it yet!” It is not always easy for us to wait for it in patience.

“God will grant complete redemption to those who sincerely long for it.”

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Peter Johanning
Divine service