“For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God…holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught…” (Titus 1:7ff)
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you. (Titus 2:11-15)
After their fall into sin Adam and Eve were unable to think about any grace from God. In fear they ran and hid from Him (Genesis chapter 3). Yet notice how Adam quickly thought of himself as some sort of “god”—even developing his own theory of “justification” (but not by grace through faith alone!).
Conscience does that—it causes one’s sin(s) to require a scapegoat. And Adam made not just one but two, putting the blame on both God and his wife, saying in effect: “The woman You gave me, she caused me to sin!”
Conscience causes that in all of us. In order to get some sense of absolution and peace, we blame someone or something else, all the time, every day!
God actually already had a scapegoat in mind—His own dear Son! Completely undeserved by mankind, and beyond mankind’s wildest imagination, Jesus would be the embodiment of divine grace.
We find the grace of God in many passages in the Old Testament. And then in the New Testament He appears in Person, bringing salvation to all mankind. Born of Mary, Jesus goes to the cross as the Scapegoat—the blame—for all our sins. Then He rises, ascends, rules now over all of us, and will come again—in a “blessed hope and glorious appearing.”
We now live in the gap between Jesus’ first appearing and His final appearing. We realize that His first gracious appearing has taught us many things. It’s a long list: how to believe; how to worship, pray, and sing; how to attend the Sacrament properly; how to read and understand the Bible; how to have a generous spirit; how to live purified lives; how to see our future in heaven; how to die.
And much more!
In all those things we are passive participants, God working them in us. His grace trained us, and still trains us. He takes us by the hand and leads us.
And in between weekly worship services He leads and trains us in other things. The passive existence becomes active: how to deal with the nasty world around us; how to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts; how actually to do good works; how to act as God’s own dear children; how not to accuse others for our own sins; how to be zealous to please God; how to do mission work in our own town and neighborhood as well as overseas; how to speak the truth in love with directness and tenderness; how to rebuke with kindness; how to organize our life and help our congregation do things in an orderly way; how to dispel fuzziness and muddled thinking as we make plans and carry them out.
The list goes on.
There should be no reason why living in the gap means the gap cannot be filled with things we actively and actually do as believers in our Savior, from Sunday to Sunday.
So, in this gap let’s stop kidding ourselves. Let’s stay in God’s gracious training! And fill the gap!