Three Reasons I converted
1. Is means Is
2. Baptism now saves you
3. The Warnings are Real
In previous blog posts I’ve gone through the first two reasons why we converted from Calvinism to Lutheranism. When I write, Is means Is, I’m speaking of what Jesus said about the Bread and Wine of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. He spoke plainly, “This IS my Body…” When I write “Baptism now saves…” I’m actually quoting Peter when he speaks of the waters of baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
The hardest part of my coming to Lutheranism was #3. I was pretty rooted in the teaching of Predestination and that one’s eternal salvation was something one could not lose. After all, one had not earned it and it is a gift of God to sinners. However, I would come across scriptures, such as this from James 5:19-20, and I would try to explain them away.
19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
How could someone saved by grace lose that salvation? Impossible! Yet when confronted by the plain reading of scripture, I would pass it by in lieu of other passages I thought denied this. Of course, that meant I was pitting scripture against scripture. Nevertheless, that is what I did. I confess that I read into the text things that I wanted to be there and denied the things I didn’t like. I’m sure you never did that, but I sure did.
Yesterday, this text from James was read and our pastor preached on the chapter. This particular section, though, for me, jumped out at me. Has that ever happen to you? I’m sure it has. Well, this is what stood out to me:
1. The subject is one who “wanders from the truth”.
Note well that James did not say this person had never been in the truth, never knew the truth or never believed it. You can’t wander away from somewhere you’ve never been. So, this person was in the truth, knew the truth, believed the truth. Of course, as Calvin believed one could be in the truth, believe the truth, produce the fruits of the truth and actually have never been in the truth and God just fooled him (see my post on that here: https://www.lutherangirl.org/blog/befuddled-much ). Anyway, the Bible says person wandered from the truth. So, we can comfortably say, they were a true believer.
2. Someone brings him/her back
Back from what? Well, back from wandering away. Ah, Calvinists hold that a person can wander, but if they are of the elect, the saved elect not the ones elected to damnation, they will eventually come back. Well, Scripture says they have to be brought back. Anyway, James says that someone brings them back. But then, he says,
3. You’ll save their soul from death
Here I was, a dozen or more years as a Calvinist denying this. There I was telling others that once they were saved, always saved. There I was defending that the “some” that are saved can never walk away. Yet, HERE, the Bible says if we bring back a wanderer we save their soul from death. Not their body but their soul. The Bible is talking spiritual death here.
That left me shocked yesterday. James was saying that apostasy is real. Real believers can walk away and heading to eternal damnation, eternal death. That does not fit in with my old Calvinist beliefs at all and, honestly, it is a bit shaking. James tells us that believers can reject their salvation. Most will say, “lose” their salvation but they don’t lose it like they misplaced it, they reject it.
What am I to think about this? Well, the warnings are real. What does Scripture say? It says plainly that believers can reject their salvation. Where do believers then get their faith strengthened?
The Gospel…given to us in the Preached Word and the Sacraments. More and more I see the importance of attending the Divine Service. First, we Lutherans get to confess our sins together and then receive Absolution of them right from the start of the Service. From there we chant, sing, listen to the Scriptures read and hear the good news preached and then receive the True Body and Blood of our Lord for the forgiveness of our sins and the strengthening of our faith.
True Food for our Faith
Think about this: Just as you eat food to strengthen your body, Jesus gives us His True Body and Blood to strengthen your spirit, to build up your faith, to nourish you. Here, from outside of you, you are fed. You don’t have to summon it up from within you. You don’t have to work on exciting yourself to continue believing. No! Instead, God gives us the gifts of Himself to us in the Divine Service from Absolution to the Lord’s Supper. We hear it in our ears when we are told our sins are forgiven and then we taste in our mouths that Body and Blood for the forgiveness of sins. I have to admit, for a woman who grew up thinking these things were just symbols then moved to “well they’re sacraments but they really don’t impart grace” (the Calvinist view) to understanding that what the Bible says they do they ACTUALLY DO! Praise the Lord! The Sacraments is where our faith is fed, strengthened and equipped to live for Him. Since God has given us the food necessary to feed us and strengthen our faith, how wonderful that we don’t have to wander away. But, if we do, the beauty is that we can come back and confess and receive absolution and partake of His True Body and Blood so that we have a “multitude of sins covered”.
Extraordinary Provision for His People
I said in the beginning “The warnings are real.” There are many other verses which speak of these warnings. Another is when Paul says that he does not want to shipwreck his faith in the end. Well, I don’t know about you, but for me, I’m not a Paul. I’m Nancy. So, if Paul, the great Apostle, wrote that he could shipwreck his faith, how much more me? Or you? However, laying hold of the gifts of grace, the Means of Grace in the Sacraments, God strengthens us for this journey, for the battles ahead.
He keeps us through His Means of Grace. Baptism actually does save and the Lord’s Supper is truly His Body and Blood shed for YOU for the forgiveness of sins. He has provided what we needed so that we take the warnings serious and rejoice that He has provided what we need to stay in the faith.