Catechism Unit Question Numbers: 294-300
The Means of Grace
2 Peter 3:18 urges us, “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” I think Christians can sometimes slip into focusing on the Law too much. We might focus so much on the sins we’ve committed, that we might begin to wonder if God could forgive us. On the other hand, we might focus so much on how well we’ve been resisting certain temptations for a while, or we might focus on all the good things we’ve done, that we start to puff ourselves up with sinful pride. Certainly the Law must be part of our focus, to convict us of our sin and convince us of our need for a Savior. But the Law cannot be our only focus; we must regularly refresh our souls with the means of God’s grace. Although we are baptized only once, we can recall what baptism means to us and rejoice at how the water connected with the power of the Word washed away all our sins and made us children of God. We should regularly partake of the Lord’s Supper, not simply as a pious act or ritual, but rather eating and drinking the bread and wine with the body and blood of Christ sacrificed for us for the forgiveness of our sins. We should daily be in the Word, so that we may better recognize our sinful condition and better know our loving Savior and place all our trust in Him. And we should all praise our loving God for giving us this full and free access to his grace which saves us!
In thinking of the means of grace, I am reminded of a particular sentence from a comforting prayer at a Christian funeral: “Lord, lead us to rely firmly on your promise that you never forsake your children and that Satan cannot intrude on your grace.” In baptism God takes us out of Satan’s clutches and wondrously wraps his loving and protecting arms around us. The devil cannot stand in the way of us taking the Lord’s Supper, for Christ has given himself freely to us, without cost. Satan’s lies and accusations are completely disarmed when Christ crucified is preached and God’s love and mercy for sinners is proclaimed. Jesus’ victory over sin, death, and the devil is ours by faith, gifts of grace upon grace from our righteous and merciful God. By nourishing our souls and arming ourselves with the means of grace, we receive all the needed strength and protection to ward off the attacks of Satan.
The means of grace strengthen and preserve Christians in faith until we reach our heavenly home. Yet the means of grace must also be employed to give spiritual life to those who don’t yet believe. In Acts 16:14 we read, “The Lord opened [Lydia’s] heart to respond to Paul’s message.” Would we credit Lydia’s response to some inherent goodness in her heart? Certainly not! Would we say that Paul was responsible for working a change in her heart? Absolutely not! The LORD was the one who opened Lydia’s heart. The power of the means of grace is our almighty, loving, faithful Lord. We don’t have to be spiritual surgeons. We don’t need to be effective public speakers like Paul. We don’t need to be skilled at debate. In fact, worrying about such things can divert our focus from the one thing needed – Christ. “If you cannot speak like angels, If you cannot preach like Paul, You can tell the love of Jesus, You can say he died for all.” (CW 573) Though it may not always feel like it, we are all fully equipped by God to tell others about Jesus. That same gospel message which caused a change in our hearts is the same message we ought to readily share with others. We can trust that whenever we share this saving message, the Holy Spirit is wielding his awesome power to work faith and change hearts and lives. Thanks be to our all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving God for the means of grace!