People have probably always wanted to associate faith with something special and miraculous. Pharisees and Sadducees demanded that Jesus give them a sign from heaven (Matt. 16:1). Corinthians showed misguided appreciation for the speaking in tongues (1 Cor. 14). In modern religious communities people may value the healing of the sick or even attempts to awaken the dead. It seems there are not many people who still accept the Bible as the sole and sufficient basis of their faith.
The rich man’s special requests
Jesus’ narrative of the rich man and Lazarus includes a demand to awaken the dead (Luke 16:19–31). The rich man in the story was not a believer, while Lazarus was. Both died. Angels carried Lazarus to Abraham’s side. By this Jesus means that Lazarus was saved.
The rich man was tormented in Hades because of his disbelief. While there, he made two requests to Abraham. The first request was about himself. He asked Abraham to send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and to cool the rich man’s tongue. Abraham could not consent to this request, because salvation and perdition were separated by a great chasm that could not be crossed in either direction.
The rich man’s second request was about his unbelieving brothers who were still alive. The rich man understood that his brothers would also end up in damnation if they did not repent. He therefore asked Abraham to send Lazarus back on earth to speak to his brothers about the importance of repentance. The rich man thought that the appearance of dead Lazarus would be such a great miracle that the brothers would be ready to repent.
But Abraham also refused this request. It was not possible to bypass the order of salvation established by God. Abraham said: ”They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them. – – If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” (Luke 16:29, 31.)
Faith comes through hearing God’s word
The expression ”Moses and the Prophets” refers to the law and the gospel, the two aspects of God’s word. The people of Israel were given the law through Moses on Mount Sinai. The word ‘law’, or Torah, also referred to the five books of Moses. The prophets were preachers of God’s word who proclaimed God’s will and the gospel of Jesus, the Messiah who was to come.
In matters of salvation and faith people need not demand special signs or miracles – either from beyond the grave or from this world. God has given us his holy word, which is a sufficient basis of faith. We should only hear God’s word, for faith comes through hearing and hearing through the word of God (Rom. 10:17).
The tasks of the law and the gospel
The task of the ten commandments given to Moses is to make a person conscious of his sins (Rom. 3:20), to show that he is guilty and sinful before God, and to make him seek mercy and forgiveness from Christ. Christ and forgiveness can be found in the gospel of God’s kingdom. The core of this gospel is the forgiveness of all sins.
The sermon of the law reveals the person’s sins, but the sermon of the gospel points towards Christ, who has atoned for our sins. The law condemns the person to perdition, but the condemned person is pardoned through believing the gospel. The law drives the penitent person to the gate of God’s kingdom; the gospel helps him enter the kingdom through the gate of repentance.
God’s word proclaimed by a believer contains the power for re-birth: through belief in the word the sinner is born again as a child of God (1 Peter 1:23). A child of God is protected in the care of his father and mother: God is the father in heaven and the congregation is the mother on earth.
Text: Ari Pelkonen
Source: Siionin Lähetyslehti 7–8/2008
Julkaistu englanninkielisessä kieliliitteessä 24.11.2015.
Raamatun mukaan jokainen Jumalan valtakunnan jäsen on avoin lähetyskirje omassa toimintaympäristössään (2. Kor. 3:2–3). Tämä asia voi olla kipupiste uskovaiselle ihmiselle, sillä henkilökohtaisesta uskosta puhumiselle on korkea kynnys nyky-yhteiskunnassa.