How far does God’s grace and faithfulness reach? As far as the heavens and the clouds? What does that mean? And how should people respond when they experience God’s goodness? The Chief Apostle explained all this in a divine service in Angola.
Around 13,000 believers attended the divine service for the departed in Luanda, Angola, on 2 July 2023. This divine service coincided with the celebration of the Church’s fortieth anniversary in Angola. Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider based his sermon on Psalm 57: 10: “For Your mercy reaches unto the heavens, and Your truth unto the clouds.”
God is good
“The goodness of God is His love and devotion to human beings, His mercy,” the Chief Apostle said at the beginning of his sermon. Not even the richest or most gifted person can buy or earn God’s goodness: “The good that God gives us is mercy, which is undeserved.”
Variations of this Bible text occur several times in the Psalms and, depending on the passage, speak about God’s goodness or grace, His truth or faithfulness.
The salvation, the good, that God wants to give us is heaven, the Chief Apostle said. “He wants human beings to dwell with Him in heaven.” He wants us to grow into the image of Jesus Christ and then reign with Him.” No one can achieve this on their own: “No human being can become like Jesus Christ, that is, without sin. Even the best person remains a sinner.”
His goodness and mercy reach far
“God can forgive those who believe in Jesus Christ everything.” After all, His goodness, His grace reaches to the heavens. And that means: “God wants the salvation of all people, even those who are very far from Him,” Chief Apostle Schneider reminded the congregation.
The fact that God’s goodness reaches to the heavens also means that His sphere of influence goes far beyond our limited horizon. “Goodness and mercy extend into the world beyond, of which we can see nothing at all. God continues to work on the salvation of people in the beyond.”
And there is a third aspect to the extent of His goodness: God’s perspective is an eternal one, the Chief Apostle said. “God doesn’t just want to give us a few good years on earth, He wants us to be with Him forever!”
God is reliable
“God is true and faithful. He is absolutely reliable,” the Chief Apostle assured everyone. This also means that His commandments are eternally valid for all human beings. “The commandments of God are not only for the poor or only for the rich, not only for this nation or that nation. The commandments of God are valid for all people without exception: in this world and in the beyond, both for the living and the dead.”
The following applies to all of them: “Whoever wants to attain salvation must believe in Jesus Christ and follow Him,” the Chief Apostle emphasised. Peter had already made this clear: “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Jesus had special compassion for the poor and promised them that they could obtain salvation. “This was not cold comfort, not an empty promise given to the people. God will keep this promise,” the Chief Apostle said. “Jesus Christ also promised that He would be with His Apostles every day and that He would defend His church so that hell could not overpower it. This is a promise of Jesus Christ!”
What is our response?
The Chief Apostle described how we can benefit from God’s grace and faithfulness.
- On the one hand, we must truly believe in Jesus Christ, and trust and obey Him: “I trust Him no matter what and I do His will in every situation.”
- We must also sincerely own up to our mistakes and be determined to do better: “We always try to make light of our sins, downplay them. And we are very talented at making excuses. But those who want to experience the grace of God must honestly and truly confess their sins. They must feel remorse and repent.”
- And last but not least: “Whoever wants to experience the promise of God must remain faithful until Jesus Christ fulfils His promise. That’s the way it is.”
Then Chief Apostle Schneider asked all those who have already experienced God’s goodness and mercy, the question: “How do we respond to that?”
- Those who have grasped the dimension of grace should respond accordingly: “After all, we have experienced how faithful and true, how reliable God is. And because of this we serve the Lord not to get a reward or earn something, but out of gratitude and love.”
- A special form of gratitude is to respond to Jesus’ desire formulated in John 17: 20–21: “That they may all be one.”
The Chief Apostle said, “A great sign and expression of our gratitude is our endeavour at unity. We can give God no greater pleasure than to continually strive to be one in Jesus Christ.”