Then you shall again discern between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him. — Malachi 3:18
We are justified by faith in Jesus Christ.
Today is the last Sunday of the church year, which refers to the return of Jesus Christ at the end of time for judgement.
God had sent the prophet Malachi to comfort the people. The devout Jews had seen how well things were going for the wicked and had started to wonder and ask why things were not going better for them, seeing that they kept the law. We can understand this! The prophet encouraged them and gave them the following promise of God: in the end there will be a difference between the righteous and the wicked.
Righteous through faith
One cannot become righteous by performing works of the law. The justification of the sinner is an act of God: God grants him the grace to have fellowship with Him. Through faith in Jesus Christ, the sinner can participate in this grace. That is why Apostle Paul was able to say that sinners are justified by faith (Romans 3:28; Catechism-QA 278).
Righteous – wicked
The fact that we are faithful to Christ does not protect us from adversity. This could cause us to call our faith into question. Is it all for nothing that I follow Jesus Christ? No, it is not, because the Apostles show me through word and sacrament how to prepare myself for the return of Christ.
At the return of Christ, the bridal congregation will be accepted into eternal fellowship with the triune God. She will not have to appear at the Last Judgement.
Those who refuse to follow Christ will ultimately be separated from God at the Last Judgement (Matthew 25:46).
The faith of the righteous
Justification occurs through faith (Romans 5:1). Characteristics of this faith are:
- Obedience to the will of God, which reveals itself in the Ten Commandments, for example (Exodus 20:2–17).
- Trust in God, our Father in heaven (Matthew 6:9).
- Our willingness to forgive, which proceeds from the forgiveness that God has already given us.
Serving the Lord
Let us serve Christ by:
- professing our faith and proclaiming the name of Christ,
- modelling our lives on the gospel and practising Christian love, and
- helping our neighbour as though he were Christ (Matthew 25:40).
Justified by faith, let us enter eternal fellowship with the triune God on the day of Christ’s return.
* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for the divine service held on 20 November 2016 at Midrand Congregation.