Faith goes deeper than the surface

Can we declare something to exist that we can neither explain, nor touch, nor even see? There are many reasons that speak against it. However, faith makes it possible.

Nearly 7,000 believers gathered in Brandenburg on the Havel (Germany) and in the surrounding congregations for a divine service by Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider on Sunday, 26 May 2019. He based his sermon on John 20: 28–29: “And Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’”

Like the disciples before him, Thomas did not believe in the testimony of those who proclaimed Jesus’ resurrection, the Chief Apostle said at the beginning of the divine service. Thomas wanted proof so that he could believe. When Jesus appeared to him, Thomas cried out, “My Lord and my God!” And he was happy, the Chief Apostle said. Jesus was alive and showed him His love. “This is not only a profession of faith, but an expression of his blessedness!” Jesus explained to him that in future this blessedness would be reserved for those who believed without seeing. Mankind would no longer be able to see Him, but they would be able to experience His presence and love if they believed in the Holy Spirit, whom God would send to them.

Sometimes people have a somewhat strange conception of faith. “Faith? Sure, I think that’s true, that’s right.” The Chief Apostle thinks that such a definition is incomplete. “Faith is much more than that. Those who believe in the gospel also trust the gospel. They rely on it. For them it is the truth. The deep meaning faith is absolute trust. The gospel, the law of love, the commandments of Jesus Christ—we believe in them. This is what the Holy Spirit has imparted to us. This is the truth. If we follow this path, we will be safe.”

With respect to the present, the Chief Apostle referred to five theses.

“We believe in the testimony of the Bible.” The Bible testifies that Jesus Christ is God, the Son of God, who came to earth and became man. The entire gospel, the glad tidings, is inspired by the Holy Spirit who made sure that the Bible is available to this day. If we reads the Bible, particularly the New Testament, we have the testimony of the Holy Spirit: Jesus Christ is God.

“We believe that God speaks to us through the sermon.” The Holy Spirit is active where the gospel is preached. And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to our spirit that we are children of God. He tells us what we should do today, here and now. And if we do this, God will be with us. We will experience that God knows us, that He loves us, and that He helps us.

“We believe that Jesus Christ sends His Apostles, and we believe in the power of the sacraments.” The Holy Spirit prepares us for the coming of the Lord, something he does through the apostolate. We believe in the effectiveness of Holy Baptism, Holy Sealing, and Holy Communion. The effects are: “Indeed, I can manage to renounce evil. In fact, there is a development within me.”

“We believe that the Lord is present among His own people.” When we look around in the congregation, we see a group of friendly people. We believe that God chose every single one of them, that God loves every single one of them, that each one has been called by God. And I am always happy, the Chief Apostle said, when I can recognise the Lord Jesus in the words and deeds of my brothers and my sisters. This contributes to our blessedness because we realise: Jesus Christ is here; God is here. He loves me. He knows me. He knows my needs.

“We believe in the Lord’s return as announced by the Holy Spirit.” We have full confidence that He will complete His work. The Chief Apostle said that he often hears people say, “We always imagined the completion of the Church differently. All you are doing now is closing down congregations.” He said, “This hurts me. If anyone suffers, then it’s me. Believe me.” But this will not prevent the completion and perfection of His work. God is busy completing His work. We believe this because Jesus promised it, and because the Holy Spirit says: “There is no reason to worry unnecessarily, the Lord is coming soon.”

The Chief Apostle encouraged the congregation to trust in the Lord. God will fulfil His promise, even if reality sometimes seems different: “Those who have this faith, this trust in the testimony of the Holy Spirit, can already today experience blessedness and actually feel: God is here; He lives; He is active; He loves me; He knows me.”

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Oliver Rütten
Germany, Chief Apostle, Divine service