Greetings in the name of our Lord! May mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance!
By now we have hopefully come to see very clearly that Scripture teaches us, through Law and Gospel, that we are justified before God by grace through faith in Christ Jesus, the one who was sacrificed on the cross for the sin of the world. However, there is one small issue that I find arises from the core of the Lutheran faith centered on the grace found in Christ. That issue is that grace, in and of itself is not something we can physically experience. We can say all we want that God’s grace has been bestowed on us but until we are physically able to experience this it does not become real for us. It is almost like saying that you have had a savings account opened for you, but you are not able to physically touch that money nor are you able to see a bank statement verifying that fact. Unless we can experience it with any or all of our five senses, it just isn’t real for us.
However, God has given us gifts in which we can physically experience the grace of God in Christ Jesus. These gifts are what Martin Luther commonly referred to as the means of grace, where as “means” here refers to the way things actually occur. When someone asks “by what means of transportation did you come?” we know that they are asking how it actually happened that they arrived, was it by car, train, plane, etc. And so when we talk about the means of grace we are talking about the ways in which we physically experience God’s grace.
According to Lutheran teachings there are two means of grace: word and sacrament. That is through the holy word of God, i.e. Scripture, and through the two sacraments instituted by God, we are physically able to experience the grace God bestows on us through Christ Jesus. In the article Lutheranism 101 the means of grace is explained in this way: “When good news is preached, when someone is baptized, when we receive the Lord’s Supper, grace happens.”[i] In other words, when we hear the good news, when we feel the water, when we taste and smell the bread and the wine, we know that we are physically experiencing God’s grace.
With this understanding we can be certain that grace is not something that we have no connection to, but instead is something that we experience every time we come to worship, whether that be on a Sunday morning, at a midweek Bible Study, or by your own personal devotions. Through all of these methods we receive the means of grace by which we have received the justification spoken of through the Law and the Gospel by the cross of Christ.
Next month, as we get closer to Holy week, and the season of Easter, we will take an in-depth look at what Lutherans call the Theology of the Cross.