1 Corinthians 10:1-5 I want you to know, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same supernatural food and all drank the same supernatural drink. For they drank from the supernatural Rock which followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless with most of them God was not pleased; for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
Some people have a hard time understanding our text today, for in a very real sense, they had all the advantages, and we would like to imagine that if we had been in their place, we would have had no trouble believing or following God and continuing steadfast in faith unto life everlasting. They saw the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea, they past through its midst, they saw too what happened to the Egyptians, and how they all drowned. The saw God leading them in a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. They ate the bread of heaven, which God provided, and drank of the God provided waters of life. They were the people of God, whom God had freed from captivity. And yet, our text concludes, that God was not pleased with them. And the question that comes to mind is, Why?
And while there may have been many excuses, just as there are in our own day; that God is just too picky, or that the miracles were not really that great, or that they were soon bored with the bread of heaven, or that the grace of God was not sufficient; there was only one reason why God was not pleased, the chosen people of God did not continue steadfast in faith.
Now this news might just have been a passing historical footnote, except that God has told us that we today, face exactly the same danger. For us, as Lutherans, the symptom is a complacency based on a misunderstanding ofMark 16:16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; which many have taken to mean that youíve got to be baptized and believe in something, at least to believe when you die in something. You see while the verse has a gracious promise, which has comforted many, there is also a warning, which is often forgotten -- he who does not believe will be condemned. You see, while it is God who brings us to faith by water and the Word, it is not enough to have once believed, or to have once had faith, for when the text says "He who believes" it is saying one whom God has brought to faith and continues in faith and in the grace of God. Israel in the wilderness did not continue in faith. And it is because Israel did not continue in faith, that God was not pleased. And there are no excuses, for God had provided everything necessary, and God wanted them all to be saved, but instead many perished.
A bullet-proof vest can save a life, but it is not just that having of such a thing which conveys such power, you have to wear it, and wear it regularly, for it will not stop the bullets if you leave it at home. In like manner we are required to have life preservers in our boats, but just because it is in the boat does not mean that it will save your life, unless you wear it. Likewise, when God gave us his Word, and Baptism and the Lordís Supper, and when God worked faith in our heart, it is not enough that God did this once for us, if in day to day living we leave all these things behind. And how often do we see people drowning in the troubles of life, not to mention when we ourselves feel this way, and where can we turn, if we have left God, faith and salvation behind? And if fear of drowning in the troubles of life were not enough, did God tell us about Satan firing flaming darts [bullets?] and didnít God therefore also give us a shield of faith to protect us? But it is of little protection if we leave it hung over the mantle, it was given to us that we might carry it daily.
Why must we carry our faith? If for no other reason then the temptations we face daily. Sin separates us from God, and those who remain separated from God do perish, not just in this life, but perish everlastingly, not in a painless oblivion, but in an eternal punishment. And there is only one thing which brings us back into Godís good graces, and removes the separation caused by sin, and that is the blood of Jesus Christ given and shed for us for the forgiveness of sins. But if you donít know your sins or their fate, how can you desire this forgiveness? And if you know your sins, but do not know about the grace of God in Jesus Christ, and of his sacrifice that our sins might be forgiven, you may be truly sorry for your sins, but be unaware of who they might be cleansed. And this is why we continue steadfast in faith, daily, for the good of our souls, and also for all the souls for whom Jesus suffered and died, that none might perish, but that all might be saved.