Instruments of God

Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. (Romans 6:13)

In Article 5 of the Augsburg Confession, when the first Lutherans describe how God works to instill and sustain faith in us as believers, they speak of Word and Sacrament as the tangible instruments God uses to do his work in us. They explain:

[God has] provided the Gospel and the sacraments; through these, as through means, he gives the Holy Spirit, who works faith, when and where he pleases, in those who hear the Gospel. (AC-5)

This understanding of how God uses “means” (instruments) to get his work done is one of the most important emphases in Lutheran theology. It reflects what we actually see in Holy Scripture, time and again, in the stories of deliverance and salvation found in both the Old Testament and the New.

For example, when God’s people were in bondage in Egypt, God used a burning bush as the means by which he revealed himself to Moses. God used Moses himself as his instrument, by sending him to the Pharoah to deliver his message, where by means of many plagues God secured the release of his people. At the Red Sea, God used the wind, water, fire, and mud not only as a means of delivering his people, but as the instruments of his judgment upon their enemies.

Again, in the New Testament, we see similar examples of God’s use of ”means.” From the spittle and mud that Jesus used to heal the blind man’s eyes, to the cross itself, which the Father made the instrument of our salvation from sin, God brings about his deliverance through the real things of this world which he has chosen to accomplish his purpose.

The Apostle Paul learned this lesson first hand in the experience that made him a disciple of Christ (Acts 9). In a flash of light and word of the risen Christ, Paul was called on the road to Damascus; and in the healing hand of Ananias and the scales that fell from his eyes, Paul experienced a taste of both the cost and blessing of discipleship. Through these means, God made Paul himself into a living means of grace, saying: “he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15).

It is not surprising that when Paul later spoke of our everyday lives as disciples of Christ, he used the same biblical language of instrument and means:

Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. (Romans 6:13)

Like he did with Paul, God intends to use us as his instruments for righteousness. That is to say, God desires to use us as his “tools” for making things right – both in the world at large and in the lives of our neighbors. God has set us apart in faith, so that he may accomplish his work of salvation and deliverance through us.

This is our “sacramental” discipleship: to know and understand that God has a purpose for us, and that God has chosen to use us as his means of grace. It is through us as his disciples – the body of Christ — that God conveys his promise of salvation to a dark and hurting world. As those who have been brought from death to life, the Holy Spirit uses us the living instruments through which he carries out his divine work of faith.

– Rev. Steve King

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