Last night at our Lenten Service our Pastor spoke on the Wondrous Works of God in Christ. It got me thinking about how God uses the ordinary to work the Extraordinary, namely the salvation of sinners. This morning I awoke with this thought still going through my mind that God uses ordinary things, what are called Means, to effect His works which are extraordinary.
Growing up Pentecostal/Baptist we readily recognized that God had, in the past, worked through ordinary things but often denied that He still does now. We looked for “miracles” where ever we could find them. If we didn’t, well, either we didn’t have enough faith or perhaps our faith just wasn’t quite strong enough and that would, eventually, lead to spiritual depression or worse. You might end up wondering if God even loves you or if you are truly his.
Becoming Reformed we readily recognized that God had, in the past, worked through ordinary things but He does not do that now, unless one is thinking of God’s Providential works. The only ordinary things God worked through was the preaching of the Word. Of course, God does work through the ordinary preaching of His Word but He also works through water, bread and wine.
So I thought I would just briefly look at what God has worked through in the past and what He works through now for the salvation of sinners.
Ordinary bush on fire - - - extraordinary fire does not burn the bush (Ex. 3:2)
Ordinary waterway Israel must pass through - - - extraordinary the waters mount upwards to open a dry passageway through the waters (Ex. 14:21-22)
Ordinary stone - - - extraordinary victory over the Philistines (1 Sam 17:49)
Ordinary muddy waters of Jordan - - - Extraordinary curing of Leprosy (2 Kings 5:1-14)
Ordinary young virgin girl - - - Extraordinarily blessed mother of our Lord Jesus (Luke 1: 43)
Ordinary wood - - - Extraordinary Cross (John 19)
Ordinary sour wine - - - Extraordinarily fulfills prophecy (John 19:28-30)
Ordinary burial tomb - - - Extraordinary Resurrection (Luke 24:1-9)
This is what God used: ordinary things (means) to bring about an extraordinary salvation (grace).
These were the Means of Grace for God’s people. Some ordinary things: stones, fire, mud, wood which God used in extraordinary ways for the good of sinners. God, however, has not stopped using the ordinary to do the extraordinary: Saving sinners from sin, death and the devil. Here is what He still uses today:
Ordinary water - - - Extraordinary salvation and the forgiveness of sins (1 Peter 3:21)
Baptism, which corresponds to this (the ark of Noah) now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ…
God, working with the Word in the waters of Baptism actually saves you, brings forgiveness of sins and cleanses you having washed you from all your sins. Baptism, ordinary water with the Word actually buries us with Christ and raises us too in new life (regenerates us) (Romas 6:1-5). Quite an extraordinary work is done with ordinary water: Salvation from sin, death and the devil.
Ordinary bread - - - Extraordinarily the True Body of our Lord, given for us (Luke 22:19)
Ordinary wine - - - Extraordinarily the True Blood of our Lord, given for the forgiveness of our sins (Luke 22:20)
Scripture tells us that when we partake of the Bread and Wine we are partaking of the True Body and True Blood of Christ. For it says,
The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? (1 Cor. 10:16)
Ordinary Bread and Wine with the Word means that Christ feeds us with His True Body and True Blood to strengthen us in the faith for life unto godliness.
Ordinary speaking - - - Extraordinary power of God unto salvation
Paul tells us that the Gospel is the “power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16) and that through the “folly of what we preach to save those who believe.” (1 Cor. 1:21).
Ordinary speaking and preaching the Gospel, ordinary hearing through the Word of God brings about an extraordinary thing: Salvation from sin, death and the devil.
God has not stopped using the ordinary to bring about the extraordinary. He continues to work through ordinary water, bread, wine and speaking His Word.
For most of my Christian life I would have only agreed with the latter; preaching of His Word, to affect the salvation of sinners. However, as I read the Bible more, paying attention to what it says and not to what I had been taught or the theological hoops I’d learned to jump through, it is true, God uses these ordinary means to effect the salvation of sinners. Once forgiven in the ordinary waters of Baptism with the Word, He continues to use the ordinary Means of Grace, that the Preaching of His Word, the Ordinary elements of bread and wine, His True Body and True Blood, to bring to us forgiveness, life and salvation.
Don’t despise these ordinary means for they are true Gifts of God and extraordinary ways God still works within His Church and at the local churches to deliver you from sin, death and the devil. Do not forsake attending the Divine Service and He will feed you through the ordinary means of speech, bread and wine which He turns into Extraordinary Means of Grace in the Word and His True Body and True Blood.