Second Sunday in Advent – Wednesday
He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. – Mark 16:16.
Christ will come to judge the living and the dead. Do we know exactly how and according to what rule He will pass sentence? Yes, indeed. He will not pass sentence on us according to the law of Moses, not according to our works. If He did that, we would be lost. How, then, will He judge? According to faith and unbelief, as this is also reflected actions—fruits of faith, or lack thereof.
Do you see His Word at the head of this lesson? If you – a poor, miserable, sinful being – do, in faith, accept the things which Christ gives you in His Word and seals to you in Baptism – the salvation which He has earned, and which consists in the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation – then you shall be saved.
If, on the other hand, you – a poor, miserable, sinful being – do in unbelief, reject the things which Christ gives you in His Word – the salvation which He has earned, and which consists in the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation – then you shall be damned.
That is the standard – the rule of mercy – according to which judgment shall be pronounced. Not according to the law of Moses, not according to our works, will He judge us. And yet, He will make His ruling according to our works too; but only in so far as by works He will publicly show and proclaim a person’s faith or unbelief. He that believes begins to serve Him with his deeds; he that does not believe, does not serve Him with a single deed. Thus, on the basis of works, the divine Judge will set forth and prove a person’s faith or unbelief. But that which turns the scales of judgment is faith or unbelief alone. – What a blessing that even now we know exactly according to what rule we shall be judged! There is no doubt or uncertainty here.
PRAYER. – Lord Jesus, I, a poor sinner, believe in Thee. My soul longs, yea, even faints for Thy salvation. I rely upon Thy Word. O everlasting Father, Thou wilt not enter into judgment with Thy child; Thou, Good Shepherd, wilt not damn Thy poor sheep. Look not upon my sins. Thou hast atoned for them. Look only upon Thine own imputed righteousness, which I have received by faith, and upon that new thing which Thy Spirit hath created within me. Thou wilt surely do this, O Faithful One. And so with joy and confidence will I approach the day of judgment. I shall not be damned. I shall be saved.
Lo, the Lamb, so long expected,
Comes with pardon down from heaven.
Let us haste, with tears of sorrow,
One and all, to be forgiven.
That, when next He comes with glory,
And the world is wrapped in fear,
He may shield us with His mercy
And with words of love draw near.
Hymn 60, 3. 4.