Thursday, June 5, 2014
Why repent when our sins are covered and our guilt is atoned for by Christ Jesus? The question speaks to the objective character of salvation from the cross for the whole world and its subjective application to us who receive it through faith. When Christ died, He died that all would be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim. 2:4) You and I might feel tempted to lethargic complaissancy. You and I are tempted to think: Since we are covered by the blood of Jesus, we have the permission and even the prerogative to live life free from blame. We can pick and choose the ways in which we want to hear/receive God’s Word based on our mood, based on our schedule, at our own leisure and convenience. Such thinking stands in complete opposition to God’s Word, however. After all, sin still dogs us every day. Where the commandments call us to honor our father and mother, we trash talk them behind their back. Where the Law tells us not to covet, you and I long for that luxurious unscheduled bit of vacation so much that we’ll dock our own pay and financial provision for those extra hours in bed, a mismanagement of the things our Lord gives us to support our bodies and life. Where the cross frees us from the terrors of a guilty conscience, we keep hammering in the nails to punish ourselves for breaking our high standards of self-designated piety. The apostle Paul addressed his Corinthian hearers with their abuse of the Lord’s Supper. Instead of treating it with reverence, receiving it as the medicine of immortality, the feast of forgiveness, they turned it into a social free-for-all. Whoever got in line first ate the most. WE might call their clamoring for prominence and jockeying for status a form of altar drama. Hence, the apostle says it was not the Lord’s Supper they celebrated. (1 Cor. 11:20) The divisions they manifested in pitting one faithful pastor against another they carried over intheir attitude toward receiving Christ’s body and blood in the Sacrament. Picture this. Some members oured themselves more wine and dished out more food just for the status of enjoying themselves and having their fill. Such is not the discernment our Lord through the apostle Paul calls His Church to demonstrate. As important as recognizing what He gives in the Sacrament is, eequally important is its use and administration. Pastors who officiate at the celebration of the Lord’s Supper are its stewards—admitting to the Table all who have been baptized and adequately instructed in the Christian faith. When passing such judgment on the Corinthian congregation, Paul didn’t assert anything more than what God through His Word imparted to Him. (1 Cor. 11:17-18, 23) The judgment he called the congregation to practice was not mere discrimination based on appearance, ethnicity, or economic status. Instead, good judgment and discipline was grounded the discernment of the Lord’s body and blood borne by the bread and wine given and sheed for all Christians to eat and to drink. (1 Cor. 11:27-29) Judgment toward worthy reception of the Lord’s Supper is a call for repentance—not just to the Corinthian congregation but to all Christians. (1 Cor. 11:31) We do not proclaim ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord (2 Cor. 4:4-5) This is most certainly true when receiving the Lord’s Supper for our forgiveness, life, and salvation. Judgment, says 1 Peter 4, begins with the household of God. And, because we are scarcely saved—that is, only because of and dependent on Jesus’ mercy—we desire such discipline which befits the unity of faith that we profess. (1 Cor. 11:32-33) As the Lord gives Himself as one Lord to His Church through one faith in one Baptism that we may know the one God and Father of us all (Eph. 4:4-6), He calls us to receive His true Gospel in this most holy and united means of His grace. He calls us to eat and drink of the same cup and same loaf—being bodied together and bloodied as His blood-purchased bride. (Eph. 5:25-27) Why repent? Jesus extends His mercy and forgiveness for the sins we commit and the stewardship we omit—not only with regard to His means of grace but in all areas of our daily lives and vocations. Without such repentance, we go our own way, straight down the road of unbelief—whether cheating on a spouse, lying to gain prestige among our friends and family, stealing financial assistance that’s not due us, debasing our own capabilities that others may pity us. Since death came through sin, then unrepentant sin leads of eternal death in hell, finally separate from God’s mercy. Repentance, however, turns our trust anew to Jesus who saves us from such condemnation. He longs for all to be saved and come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9) For this very purpose, Jesus still offers His grace through public and private absolution. He baptizes us as His adopted brothers and sisters—children and fellow heirs of of glory before our heavenly Father. His Supper upholds and strengthens our faith in Him just as His preached Word delivers His same Gospel for our hearing. Why repent? Why confess our sins to God and each other? Jesus forgives, pardons, and relieves us free of charge.