Full Bulletin Insert Series (to date)–>HERE
The Visible Word
The Holy Spirit produces faith in our hearts through the preaching of the holy gospel. Just as God preached creation into existence, so He preaches us into the new creation (2 Corinthians 4:4-6; 5:17). Already now our life is hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3). But we do not yet experience the fullness of that life (Romans 7), as our old nature still clings to us. We are, as Luther put it, simul justus et peccator (at the same time righteous and sinner). In and of ourselves, we are still sinful and we still sin; but through faith alone in Christ alone, we are accounted righteous in Him. This is the heart of the gospel. It brings us profound comfort on the one hand, knowing that our righteousness is complete in Christ. It brings us profound sorrow on the other hand, knowing that in and of ourselves we are still sinners.
It is precisely at this point that the beauty and usefulness of the sacraments come in. In His goodness, grace, and kindness, God has taken consideration of us in our weakness and has given us the gospel not only to hear with our ears in the preaching of the Word, but also to see with our eyes in the sacraments, which are a visible Word. In fact, not only do we “see” the gospel in the sacraments, we also “taste” it, “smell” it, and “touch” it. Through the preaching of the Word and the administration of the Sacraments, God means to get the gospel to us through all of our senses. That’s how much He wants us to know the good news!
The Heidelberg Catechism puts it this way: “Sacraments are holy signs and seals for us to see. They were instituted by God so that by our use of them He might make us understand more clearly the promise of the gospel, and might put His seal on that promise. And this is God’s gospel promise: to forgive our sins and give us eternal life by grace alone because of Christ’s one sacrifice finished on the cross” (LD 25, Q&A 66). The Sacraments themselves don’t save, but as signs they point us to the One who does. They are seals authenticating the gospel promise of God.
The Catechism goes on to state clearly that “both the Word and the Sacraments…focus our faith on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross as the only ground of our salvation….In the gospel the Holy Spirit teaches us and through the holy sacraments he assures us that our entire salvation rests on Christ’s one sacrifice for us on the cross” (LD 25, Q&A 67). This is the good news we need! Both the Word and the Sacraments proclaim the gospel. Both the preached Word and the visible Word are given to us by God to usher us in to the new creation, and to nourish and refresh our souls unto everlasting life. Taken together, the Word and Sacraments are a wonderful testimony to the goodness and grace of God given to us in the gospel of His dear Son!