The one who believes in him is not condemned, but the one who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God. (John 3:18 - EHV)
It’s a common question whenever this past Sunday’s Gospel is read (Matthew 25:31-46, “The Sheep and the goats”). The question goes something like this: I thought we are saved by grace through faith, apart from anything we have done. Why do some passages in the Bible make it seems as if we’ll be saved by our works?
First of all, there are some passages that may seem to say that we’ll be judged according to our works. Take for example Matthew 16:27, the Son of Man will come in the glory of his Father together with his angels, and then he will repay everyone according to his actions. John 5:28,29 is another such passage, a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29and will come out. Those who have done good will rise to live, but those who have practiced evil will rise to be condemned. It is this passage that is quoted at the end of the Athanasian Creed, “Those who have done good will enter eternal life, but those who have done evil will go into eternal fire.” And when we think of the sheep and the goats from this past Sunday’s Gospel, many may point out that the sheep were saved because of what they did for the “least of these” while the goats were condemned because they didn’t do such things for the “least of these.”
So how can we reconcile passages like these, with the passage from John 3:18 above and others, that clearly teach that we are saved by grace through faith alone? To answer this question, we turn to Scripture—which is always wise! In John 15:5 and Hebrews 11:6 we see that without faith is it impossible to please God, because we are sinners who are unable to obey God’s commands perfectly, we cannot do anything that is good in God’s sight. Even the seemingly good things that we do are tainted in sin (Isaiah 64:6), but God in his grace counts whatever is done in faith as good, since all our sins are washed by the blood of Christ!
So, who is it that does good works? Believers! Their works, done in faith, are considered good in the Lord’s eyes only because they have been washed clean by Christ. But unbelievers don’t do good works—even if they do the exact same things as believers, one is done in faith while the other is not. So the two lines of the Athanasian creed simply describe what will happen in the Final Judgment. “Those who have done good,” refers to believers. “Those who have done evil” refers to unbelievers.
And what about the sheep and the goats? If we are saved by our works, then we would most certainly keep track of all the good things that we do, so we can tally them up at the end of our days to see if we have done enough to pay for our own salvation. However, notice that the sheep don’t even realize that they did all these things. They simply lived their lives as Christians, showing love to others, and not paying attention to or keeping track of the works of faith they have done. As James says in his letter, faith without works is dead (James 1:17).
Work righteousness—salvation by our good works, is the natural religion of sinful mankind. Countless false religions teach that we must follow certain laws and regulations to please a certain deity and get into some version of the afterlife. Because this is so natural to us, we can easily fall into thinking that we earn our own way to heaven. So we look at our lives and realize that we have not done good on our own—and only in the Lord are our sins forgiven and that anything we have done is considered good.
So the answer to the question is this: We are saved by God’s grace alone through faith in Christ alone, but faith is never alone!
Pastor Andrew Frey
Special Mission Offering
At our Voters’ meeting Tuesday evening we designated special offerings. $3500 to Sure Foundation Lutheran Church in Brandon SD, a new congregation in the Sioux Falls area. $3500 to WELS Mission for Christ in Kenya. And $3000 for WELS Christian Aid and Relief that helps out WELS congregations, members, and others after natural disasters hit.
Pastor Frey has started a Bible study on the Christian and the Government—looking at what God says concerning the government and the Christians relation to his other Kingdom. We may be sick of hearing about politics already; but with so much information being thrown at us on a daily basis, it is important to step back and look at what God has to say to us. Join us Sundays at 9:15am.
Pastor Gartner also started a Bible study on "The Life Moses -- A Study of the Book of Exodus". Please join us either Mondays at 8:00am or Tuesdays at 5:30pm.
All these Bible Classes that will be starting will be held at church. If you are not comfortable attending them in person or can't make these times and you would like to receive a recording of these Bible Classes, please contact one of the Pastors and we will send you the link for these recordings.
All men are invited to join us for our Bible Study and LWMS meeting on Tuesday November 17 at 9:00 am. We are continuing to look at the WELS official doctrinal statement, This We Believe.
If you are not comfortable sending your child to in person Sunday School, we have weekly recorded videos of each weeks Bible Lesson and the Lesson sheets that we can send to you so that your child can still learn the valuable truths of God's Word. Please contact us if you would be interested in these materials.
In order to encourage and practice social distancing, we are trying to limit each Worship service to 75 people. We are offering 8:00 and 10:30 services on Sunday as well as 6:30 pm on Monday. We are also asking everyone to sign up each week for whatever Worship Service you plan on attending. Please note, that we are in need of volunteers to help sanitize the sanctuary between services. When you sign-up you’ll have an opportunity to mark whether or not you are willing to help out—it only takes about 10 minutes, so we pray that you will!
You can find the link to sign-up on the front page of our website at: www.stjohn-appleton.org.
We rejoice that we have been able to return to the Lord’s house to worship together, but at the same time we want to do so in a safe manner. The 8:00 am service is the most attended service, which perhaps will make some of you feel uncomfortable. First off, if you feel uncomfortable in this more attended service. we encourage you to attend either the 10:30 am or the Monday evening service which offer plenty of room in order for you to socially distance. In addition, our Council has decided to remove the ropes for the first few pews of the lectern side of the sanctuary. People deciding to sit in these “unrestricted” pews should use their own good judgment on social distancing. We hope that, with enough worshipers sitting in this section, it will leave enough space in the rest of the sanctuary for everyone else to socially distance. If you have any questions, please speak to one of the Pastors or a Council members.
As we go forward, we will continue to live-stream our services and posting our worship folders online. We will be recording our Sunday 8:00 am service which means you can watch anytime after 8:00 am on Sunday morning. If you need any help accessing these resources, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
You can find our worship services at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCCsQs-LDzlHE1NTjOaVaQ2A.
You can find a bulletin for each Worship Service so you can follow along here: https://stjohncenter-my.sharepoint.com/:f:/g/personal/pastor_frey_stjohn-appleton_org/EqetvOMWflhLsfsLRcDkxSgBL2cnYkpiuk8Klh7d-r_XQg?e=07dSma.