True Saving Faith
Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, we thank You, that of Your indescribable grace, for the sake of Your Son, You have given us the holy Gospel, and have instituted the holy Sacraments, that through these we may have comfort and forgiveness of sin: We beseech You, grant us Your Holy Spirit, that we may heartily believe Your Word; and through the holy Sacraments day by day establish our faith, until we at last obtain eternal salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.
Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.
21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”
22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
23 “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
24 Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.
25 The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!”
27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”
28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book;
31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.
These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.
Dear fellow redeemed,
Everyone has faith. We can’t live without faith. You had faith in your alarm clock that it would wake you up in time to get ready for church today. You had faith in your car to get you here today. It took faith to sit down in the pew trusting that it would not collapse under you.
Even atheists have faith, trusting in the daily things as we do, alarm clocks, cars, and maybe not church pews, but chairs, etc. But even the beliefs and worldviews of atheists are based on faith. They often set up faith against reason. They boast in their reason. But it is not reason that leads them to deny God’s existence, it takes faith to believe that lie. They take a leap of faith when they believe that all that exists is only the material universe and that the the supernatural does not exist. It even takes faith to believe that they can depend on reason and logic and their observations.
The point is, is that everyone has faith in one thing or another. A faith may be rightly or wrongly placed. Faith in a new car out of the sales lot is a good bet. Faith in a car that looks like it just exited the demo derby would probably be unwise. Faith in lies and falsehoods is a wrongly placed faith. Faith in truth, is a correctly placed faith. Faith in the risen Christ is a correct and saving faith.
The truth was presented to Thomas, but Thomas didn’t believe it. He wasn’t there that night of Jesus’ resurrection when the risen Jesus appeared to the disciples. The disciples saw Him and conversed with Him and then later proclaimed the amazing truth to Thomas: Christ is risen!
But Thomas was a skeptic. Jesus would have us believe through the testimony of Scripture. That is why the Holy Spirit led St. John to write, “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” Jesus desired that Thomas would believe the words of the disciples, but he required that he see Jesus for Himself.
But Jesus, in His grace, showed Himself to Thomas, and Thomas believed. Though we often call Thomas doubting Thomas, we actually get an excellent lesson on faith here.
First, faith recognizes the truth. Thomas recognized the truth that Jesus is risen! The point here is that faith isn’t blind. Faith rests upon God’s real activity in history. When God called the Old Testament Israelites to leave their false gods and turn again to Him in faith, He often pointed them to His activity for them in history. “I redeemed you from bondage in Egypt. I have defeated your enemies. I have brought you this prosperous land. I have made you My people. Return to Me.” So also, our faith is not based on something that happened behind closed doors, on some ideas or rumors that have questionable beginnings. Our faith does not rest upon baseless claims. Nor does faith rest in wishful thinking. Rather, our faith rests upon God’s real and public activity in history. Jesus publicly died on a cross, and He publicly rose from the grave and showed Himself bodily risen from the grave to many before He ascended into heaven.
This is why Paul speaks about the many who saw the risen Christ in 1 Corinthians 15—even 500 hundred at one time. And he added that many of them were still alive. They could tell you that they saw the risen Jesus! Peter, in his Pentecost sermon preached, “This Jesus Christ God has raised up, of which we are witnesses.” St. John, in His first letter wrote, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life…that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us” (1 John 1:1,3).
And so, faith believes that Jesus lives.
This is what Thomas saw. Thomas saw that Jesus lives. But Thomas’s confession claims more than what he saw. In faith, He confessed Jesus to be the Lord and God. What it means that Jesus is Lord is that He has redeemed the world from the enemies of sin, death, and the devil. He has freed men from their sins, delivered them from death, and released them from Satan’s prison, and brought them into His kingdom, where there is forgiveness, peace, and the life everlasting as God’s people. Thomas confesses Jesus to be God Himself, the second person of the Trinity. Thomas confesses that He who was crucified and died, and who stood before Him living in human flesh was the eternal, almighty, infinite God through whom all things visible and invisible were created.
This belief about Jesus is belief in what is true, however, it is not yet true saving faith. Even the devils know these things about Jesus. They very well know that Jesus is the true Lord and God, though they hate this truth (James 2:19).
But notice the beautiful saving faith confessed by Thomas: “My Lord and my God.” This is the faith given Benjamin today in baptism. It isn’t just the confession that He is Lord and God, but He is my Lord and my God. Even for me, though I have sinned against Him so greatly. I have doubted Him and His word. I have gone about as though His promises fail. I have lived in such a way that I have made myself lord, following my own sinful will and desires rather than God’s good and righteous will for me. I have made an idol of myself.
Yet the righteous God shows me mercy. He went to the cross to pay the price for my wretched and damnable sins. By His suffering, He saves me from my sins, delivers me from death, and releases me from Satan’s prison, and brings me into His kingdom, where I live with Him, He is my God, and I am His dear child. And in this blessed state, He rules over me as my gracious Lord, and under His kind and merciful rule over me, I follow Him to joyfully live in the purity and righteousness to which He has called me and given me to live.
And so, we repent of our sins before Him with contrite hearts, and we hear and believe His Word that proclaims to you the truth. God has acted in history. He was crucified for you, and He is now risen, and you are forgiven, saved, and delivered into His gracious and eternal kingdom. And we each can trust that He has done this for you, and you can then make that beautiful confession saying, “My Lord and My God.” This is the true saving faith. Amen.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.