by Pastor Norman Bahlow
Christian News, March 25, 2013
After hurricane Sandy and the tragic events at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, as well as many other national and international conflicts and calamities--including the worldwide abortion of over a billion babies in the last 90 years and the attempt to change God’s design of the male/female union in marriage into an ungodly samisen “relationship” –a person may well ask if there is any real hope for our troubled world.
The Holy Bible of the Old and New Testament makes it clear that there is, indeed, hope for mankind through the Person and work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who is the promised Savior of the world. According to the Biblical worldview, God created a perfectly good universe by His Word and Spirit in six days. On the sixth day God made man in His own righteous image, giving him dominion over the Earth. He blessed Adam and his wife, Eve, and told them to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the Earth and subdue it, giving them dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the Earth. God also put man in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it. As the first two people on Earth, however, Adam and Eve disobeyed their Creator by eating forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God permitted the fallen angel, Satan, who is an evil spirit and is also called the devil, to speak to Eve through a serpent and to tempt her to eat of the forbidden tree.
When Eve listened to the devil, the father of lies, and ate of the forbidden fruit, she gave some of it to Adam, who also ate of it. Sin, death, and the devil then began to plague the world. God caused thorns and thistles to grow, and the painful results of man’s disobedience to God began to take effect.
But God in His mercy spoke to Adam and Eve and promised them - and us - a Savior who would be born of a woman, and who would win the victory oversin, death, and over that murderous and accusing adversary, the devil, and his other fallen angels or demons.
According to the predictions of Moses and God’s other prophets in the Old Testament, and as revealed more fully in the New Testament writings of the apostles and evangelists, the promised Savior of the world is Jesus Christ, whose birth some 2,000 years ago marks the beginning of our Christian calendar and the final segment of world history.
Jesus Christ (“Christ” means “Messiah” or the “Anointed One”) is, according to the Bible, a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (whose othername was Israel). Jesus is also, according to His human nature, a descendant of Israel’s great king David. The prophet Isaiah was inspired by God towrite of Christ’s birth of a virgin as well as His deity as “Immanuel,” which means “God with us.” He said that “the government shall be upon His shoulders, and His name shall be called, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah, chapter 9, verse 6).” The prophet Micah foretold that this great Savior and eternal Ruler would be born in Bethlehem of Judea.
As Matthew and Luke wrote about in the New Testament, Jesus Christ was conceived in the womb of Mary, a Jewish virgin, by the power of God’s Holy Spirit. In this way the Son of God, through whom and for whom all things were made, entered the world “in the fullness of time” by being born of a woman, born under the Law, to be the Redeemer and Savior of sinners who could not save themselves.
Jesus, whose name means “the Lord saves” or “Yahweh is salvation,” grew up in Nazareth of Galilee. People knew Him as a member of the family of Joseph and Mary, Joseph being a carpenter. Jesus began His public ministry at about the age of 30, calling sinners to repentance and to faith in Him, for the Kingdom of Heaven (that is, of God) was at hand. His forerunner, John the baptizer, had prepared people for the coming of Jesus, the “Mightier One,” who would baptize those who received Him with the Holy Spirit of God and those who would reject Him with unquenchable fire on the day of judgment. Christ’s many great miracles of healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, making the deaf to hear, cleansing lepers, casting out demons, raisingthe dead, calming storms, feeding thousands of hungry people with a few fish and loaves of bread, etc., all testify to His identity as the Son of the living God, who came into the world to seek and to save sinners.
As our substitute, Christ kept God’s Holy Law perfectly for all of us, resisting every temptation of the devil. In fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation, He also suffered and died on a cross outside of Jerusalem, taking upon Himself the curse of God’s Law that we deserved as fallen sinners. (Isaiah 53; Galatians 3 & 4; Hebrews 9, 10 & 13) Everyone, therefore, who trusts in the merit of Christ’s perfect obedience and in His sacrificial death on the crossfor the sins of the world, and who also believes in His resurrection from the dead on the third day after His burial in a nearby tomb, receives God’s full and free forgiveness and is “justified” (declared by God to be righteous in His sight for the sake of our righteous, sin atoning Savior, Jesus Christ).
Through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, into whose saving death and resurrection we are baptized, we receive the gift of God’s Holy Spirit and are made members of Christ’s “body,” the Church. Believers in Christ are all in the family of believing Abraham, who trusted God’s promise that through hisseed the promised Savior--all nations would be blessed. (Galatians 3; Romans 4 & 5)
Although Christians still face temptations that come from the devil, the world, and the remnants of their old sinful nature, God provides the preaching and teaching of the Biblical word of Christ, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper as instituted by the Savior and risen Lord of the Church to nourish and strengthen their God-given faith and life. Before Christ ascended into heaven forty days after His resurrection from the dead, He commanded His followers to go and make disciples of all nations, beginning in Jerusalem.
They were told to baptize people in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Three Persons in One Divine Being, commonly referred to as the “Trinity,” the “Three-in-One God), and they were to teach people everywhere to observe all that Christ had commanded them (Matthew 28; Acts 1). Jesus promised to be with His disciples to the end of the age, also in the midst of persecution and suffering, in the urgent mission and ministry of the Church among all nations.
Christ, who is now enthroned at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, promised to return suddenly on the clouds of heaven in power and great glory on the last day. He will raise up all who have died and will be the Judge of the living and the dead (Matthew 25; John 5:21-29).
As God’s forgiven and merciful children, all true believers in Christ will inherit God’s glorious kingdom of everlasting life and blessing. God’s redeemed children will live in a new world free from bondage to decay, and they will worship and serve the one true God in righteousness, joy, and peace forever (John 3:16; Matthew 25; Romans 8; Revelation 21 & 22).
False prophets, however, and all other unrepentant, unbelieving sinners will be sent to the eternal hell of fire, which was originally prepared only for the devil and his evil angels (Matthew 25; Revelation 19, 20, & 21).
The salvation of fallen sinners is, therefore, by God’s undeserved grace and mercy alone, for Christ’s sake, through faith alone. As evidence of our faith in Christ, the only Savior of the world, we are led and empowered byGod’s Word and Spirit to begin here in this very troubled world to thank and praise, serve and obey the one and only gracious God who, in Christ, first loved us and forgave us of all our sins.
To God alone be the glory! A joyous and blessed new year of Christian faith, hope, and love to all in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit!
Pastor Bahlow lives in Festus, MO, and is a retired minister of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. He is a member of Grace Lutheran Church in DeSoto, MO, and still preaches and leads Bible classes as opportunities arise. He may be contacted at (314)686-0950.(St. Louis MetroVoice, February 2013)