Some disciples of John the Baptist were questioning him
about the baptism and preaching of Jesus. Many disciples were going to Jesus
instead of John the Baptist.
John the Baptist answers: “A person cannot receive even
one thing unless it is given him from heaven” (John 3:27).
John the Baptist says this to show that Jesus, His
teaching, and His baptism are from heaven. God provides everything we have in
body and soul.
We are taught this in the meaning of the Apostles’ Creed
in the Small Catechism.
In the First Article of the Creed, we learn that God has
made us and everything in the universe.
“He has given me my body and soul, eyes,
ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of
them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife
and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me
with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all
danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of
fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For
all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.”
In the Second Article of the Creed, we learn that God
sent His Son, Jesus, to humble Himself by taking the form of a servant.
In so doing, He “has redeemed me, a lost and
condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the
power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood
and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under
Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and
blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all
In the Third Article of the Creed, we learn that the
fruits of what Jesus Christ, the Son of God, did are given to us through the
work of the Holy Spirit in the Church.
“That I cannot by my own reason or strength
believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has
called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me
in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and
sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ
in the one true faith. In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives
all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and
all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.”
Indeed, “a person cannot receive even one thing
unless it is given him from heaven.”
But how easy is this for us to forget? How easy is it for us
to think that what we have in life is because we have earned it?
How easy is it for us to forget that all our skills – the
abilities of our hands and minds, the ethic to work diligently, and the desire
to improve – is given to us from heaven, just as John the Baptist said?
How easy is it for us to forget that it is Christ alone, and
the work of the Holy Spirit, that reveals His salvation to us, delivers it to
us, and that none of this is our doing?
Sure, we have responsibility for coming to church, for
delving into God’s Holy Word, and for praying without ceasing.
But even these responsibilities are given to us from
heaven. These duties are not earned; they are given in response to what He has
accomplished for us.
Everything we have, and everything we are – in both body
and soul – are gifts from God in heaven.
Let us then respond in thanksgiving and give back to Him
as He asks – with a first-fruits, generous proportion offering of what He has
given to us.