Three virtues that lead to salvation
We can argue and debate about many things, but there are three things that are and remain existential. Here is an excerpt from a sermon on familiar but crucial virtues.
Six District Apostles accompanied Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider to Berne-Ostermundigen in Switzerland on 3 June 2018. He celebrated a divine service, retired District Apostle Markus Fehlbaum, and appointed Jürg Zbinden as the new District Apostle. The Chief Apostle based his sermon on 1 Corinthians 13: 13: “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
In our divine services there are likely few terms that are mentioned as often as faith, love, and hope. And yet it is wise, the Chief Apostle said, to periodically examine ourselves in order to make sure that these three virtues really do determine our thoughts and actions.
The Christian existence is conditioned by faith and thereby creates the prerequisite for eternal life. This is a special challenge for the believers, because “to believe means to be convinced of something which one can neither see nor understand nor envisage”.
“We believe that God is love,” Chief Apostle Schneider continued. We believe in the triune God: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. We also believe that God created man and that he will return into fellowship with God. “We believe in Jesus Christ, whom God sent to earth out of love and who brought His sacrifice. That is the way paved by God in His love so that we can come to Him.” The Chief Apostle explained further that we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Maker of the new creation. “He will first create a new man, He will create salvation, and He will be active and complete the plan of salvation.”
“We also believe that God, in His love, has given us the church, the ministry, and the sacraments. And we believe in the promise that Jesus has given, namely that He will return and then establish His kingdom and make the new creation for all human beings who follow the example of Jesus,” Chief Apostle Schneider said. He continued that it is important that the believers are always aware of this.
Regarding the return of Jesus, the Chief Apostle said: “We believe in God’s plan, expect and desire its fulfilment, and are patiently preparing ourselves for it. This is the definition of hope,” he added. And very important: the Christian faith is future-oriented. Sometimes he does perceive faith in the Christian world, he said, but “the hope in the future—eternal life, for us the first resurrection, and later salvation for all in the new creation—has diminished”. Hope is an integral part of faith. “Where a person’s faith is no longer associated with the future, it becomes a mere tradition or a moral standard, but it will not bring salvation. I am really concerned about this. Let’s hold on to our hope,” Chief Apostle Schneider urged.
“The church is not perfect, ministers are not perfect, the faithful are not perfect, peace is not perfect, nor is salvation perfect yet. Everything is still developing.” But hope helps us to remain steadfast, the Chief Apostle said. “Even if we have to go through temptation or hardship, let us remain firm in hope. It’s worth it. The kingdom of God is coming!”
“Faith tells us: God loves you; God loves all human beings. God permits us experience this love, to understand it. Hope shows us all that God will give us. This results in reciprocal love. Because God loves us, we love Him.”
The Chief Apostle referred to Paul and said that faith becomes active through works of love. “Just as faith without hope is worthless, faith without love is a dead faith.” Love is the criterion used to measure faith, the Chief Apostle said. And how do we recognise this love? “The Lord Jesus Himself said: Whoever loves Me, will keep My commandments. Whoever loves Me, will be obedient. Do we still have that sincere desire to model our lives on the commandments of God?”
And last of all? Faith will become sight and our hope will be fulfilled. Love as the binding element between God and man will never cease. And what about love for our neighbour, Chief Apostle Schneider asked in conclusion. “This will not cease either. Mankind will live in new circumstances. They will then all be filled with the love of God. In this close communion with God, the relationship between mankind will also be very different. All that is sinful will have disappeared, everything human will be gone. The focus will be entirely on God. God will be all in all!”