Six gifts of God’s undeserved grace
One sentence from the New Testament defined the divine service on 10 June 2018 in Luanda (Angola). It was powerful, and so was the Chief Apostle’s sermon. Here are the most relevant extracts.
In Philemon 25 it says: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” This also applies to us, Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider said at the beginning of the service. “Grace is a gift of God!” We can neither earn it nor could we even afford to pay for it, if that were possible. And we certainly do not deserve it either.
The grace of our earthly existence
God has given us our life and the strength to provide for our needs. “Everything we have, we owe to God’s grace.” But God’s grace is always connected with a mission. The grace God grants us is not intended for us alone, Chief Apostle Schneider said. In fact, God calls on us: “I expect you contribute to the well-being of the people around you with what I have given you.”
The grace to be able to recognise that the Lord is God
An important grace of God is the gospel, the Chief Apostle continued. The ability to recognise that Jesus Christ is God is a grace. By their own wisdom, human beings cannot come to this conclusion. “We also recognise that Jesus Christ has come for the salvation of mankind and not to solve the problems in this world or to make life better on this earth.” To serve Him, he said, is therefore a matter of the heart. “Not the works as such are important, but our heart’s attitude.” It is not only important that we do something, but that we also do it with the proper attitude.
The grace of baptism
“This is a tremendous act of grace by God,” the Chief Apostle said. Through baptism with water we are cleansed from original sin, and Jesus opens the way for us to come to God. No human being deserves this. But, “At baptism—and later at our confirmation—we made a vow. Because God granted us this grace in baptism, we are committed to renounce evil and to follow Christ in faith and obedience,” he said. Those who are aware of the grace of baptism, who remember their promise, will not come to God to demand signs or something else from Him. “After all, God could say: You promised to follow Me in faith and obedience, so why don’t you just believe!”
The grace of forgiveness
God grants us the forgiveness of sins. “We cannot pay for it, we cannot earn it. It is grace!” Since we cannot come to God without having received forgiveness, Chief Apostle Schneider went on, we yearn for it. His appeal is: “Should you ever be very far away from God and have fallen deep into sin, remember the prodigal son. God does not forget anyone. He will receive you with open arms when you come back. So come back!”
Here too we have a task, the Chief Apostle said. God does not only forgive us. He also forgives our neighbour. “And He does not ask us whether we agree or not. He forgives whom He wants and does not ask how we feel about it.” That means it is not our place to judge our neighbour. “On the contrary, let us forgive our neighbour as we receive forgiveness.”
The grace of election
Concerning this, the Chief Apostle said: “We are children of God by grace. He has given us the gift of the Holy Spirit, the guarantee of eternal life. We were not able to earn it, nor do we deserve it.” Of course we can come to God with our petitions and wishes, but let’s not file a lawsuit against Him if He does not give us everything.
The grace of perfection
The Chief Apostle mentioned a final grace in the divine service in Luanda. “The only way we will attain perfection is by grace!” No one will be perfect when the Lord returns. Even the church will not be perfect when the Lord appears. “But we will not allow this to unsettle us, but struggle on. Those who persevere until the end will be granted grace, and they will be perfected.”