Rev. Rich Heinz
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“We will watch your career with great interest,” says the newly-elected Chancellor Palpatine. You can hear the schmoozing and insincerity in his voice. And years later he declares, “Everything that has transpired has done so according to my design.” He prepared situations, events, and placed the right people in the right locations at the right times to do what he devised. And Anakin and others unknowingly did the works which Palpatine prepared in advance for them to do.
Yes, the Galactic Emperor is fiction, and yes, he is evil. So Perhaps he is not the best example of this. Yet we can see that the works were not necessarily Anakin’s, or anyone else’s; they were the Emperor’s, who prepared them for others to do.
The Lord God has GIVEN you Baptism and called you by grace – out of His holy and perfect love and mercy that is completely undeserved. He has GIVEN you faith. He has GIVEN you His Gospel and His Absolution that speaks Christ into your ears and into your hearts. He has GIVEN you His Holy Supper so that Christ enters your body with forgiveness, life, and salvation.
These GIVEN things are precisely what you confess when you declare: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” The trouble is, this is where you usually cut it off. The passage you learned by heart typically stops with verse 9. But wait! There’s more!
“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Hold on, Pastor. We are saved by faith alone, not by works.
You are right. Martin Luther once quipped that we are saved by faith alone, however, he said, faith is never alone. Where there is faith, the littlest thing is a good work. Washing dishes for your family, taking out the trash, defending your classmate from slander on FaceBook, these are just a few examples of good works that God has prepared in advance for you.
Although face it, are you always doing these with a pure heart and in sincere faith? Not a chance. Like Anakin serving Palpatine, you can have wrong motives. Your heart is not always in it. Even if you might have the good of someone else in mind, such as trying to save your wife from dying, in the end, so much is motivated by selfishness. You fail to be perfect in these works of love.
And teaming up with you is the old evil foe. Satan tries to give you gifts too – gifts of doubt, gifts of self-centeredness, gifts of anger, fear, and aggression. These gifts are really burdens of evil. Your flawed human nature is attracted to these gifts, and would rather pursue them with your own works than receive the free gift of salvation in Christ.
That is why God does not leave this up to you. He has reached out and redeemed you by the precious suffering and death of Jesus. He has delivered that redemption to you through His Holy Gifts of the Means of Grace.
And He does not save you on the basis of your works. He does not even demand them as a follow-up to redeeming you. Yet He produces them in your life of faith. He provides the works and the opportunities – He even provides the will to do these things that He “prepared in advance for [you] to do.”
Have no fear. God watches you with great interest, but the Lord is not scheming and not requiring good works of you. He has GIVEN them to you! He does them through you and your brothers and sisters in Christ. He even does them when you least expect it. Rejoice and be glad. This morning’s text is not some Law-requirement that you do something. No. It is a joyful declaration of the Gospel, and delivers God’s forgiveness and peace as He reminds you of the good works that He gives you, and to you.
Created: August 13th, 2010