A man telephoned his pastor. “I’m worried about my salvation. How do I know that I’m saved from sin and death, and hell?”
“John,” the pastor responded, “did you confess the words of the Apostles’ Creed during worship the other day? Did you say, ‘I believe in God the Father almighty...I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord...I believe in the Holy Spirit…’?”
“Yes,” John answered. “Did you believe that when you said it?”
“Well,” the answer came back slowly, “I wanted and I want to believe it.”
“Then,” said the pastor...who happened to be me, “exercising the Office of the Keys that Jesus gives to His Church, I can tell you confidently, John, that you are saved from sin, death, and hell through your faith in Jesus.”
When John asked how that was possible, even for someone who doubted his own faith, I told him, “I learned long ago that only the people who want Jesus concern themselves with whether they’re saved from sin and death. If you didn’t believe in the God we meet in Jesus, you wouldn’t wonder you were saved or not.”The reason for this is simple.
In today’s Gospel lesson, Matthew 16:13-20, one of Jesus’ first followers, Simon the son of John, who we know as Peter, tells Jesus, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16)
How did Simon, Paul, and the other first Christians come to confess Jesus in this way?
So how do we come to faith or to even want faith in Jesus?
If you and I believe in Jesus as Savior and God--or simply want Him as Savior and God, it has nothing to do with us and everything to do with God and His powerful Word working in our lives.
Our salvation then doesn’t depend on how we may feel on any given day, or if we think we’re being good people. Our salvation depends on the power of God’s Gospel Word, given to us in Christ.
In The Small Catechism, Martin Luther famously says, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ or come to him; but the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in the true faith.”
These were more than just words for Luther. They were cherished truths that God impressed on him at a time of despair like that of the man who called me up one day wondering if he was saved by Christ or not.
Friend, God’s Word is clear. “All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”