June 18, 2017

Pastor Bernt P. Tweit

Old Testament Lesson; Deuteronomy 11:18-21

                                      Deuteronomy 11:26-28

Gospel Lesson; Matthew 7:15-29

Sermon Text; Romans 3:21-25a

                       Romans 3:27-28

Happy Father's Day to all of the fathers who are here today. With this Father's Day message, it is focusing on scripture. And just as your dads, or parents, may have shared God's Word with you, so I share God's Word with you, today. I am not telling you anything new, but simply sharing with you, and reminding you what scripture says about our being justified by faith.

So, this morning, let's look at Romans chapter three, looking at selected verses from verses 21 to 28. This is in Jesus' name. The apostle Paul writes:

But now, completely apart from The Law, a righteousness from God has been made known. The Law and the Prophets testify to it. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all and over all who believe. In fact, there is no difference, because all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus whom God publicly displayed as the atonement seat through faith in His blood. What happens to boasting then? It has been eliminated. By what principle – by the principle of works? No, but by the principle of faith. For we conclude that a person is justified by faith without works of The Law.

This is God's Word.

This year, 2017 marks The Five Hundredth Anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation. To commemorate that, we have been looking at confessional readings from The Book of Concord. So, after the sermon, and after the offering, we will look at another confessional reading. Those confessional readings, again, remind us of how it is we are saved.

We are saved by grace alone,

through faith alone,

in Christ alone.

At the end of his life, Martin Luther was reflecting back on his earlier life, and how he hated the phrase in scripture, The righteousness of God” or, “The righteousness from God”, that we are going to see in our text a couple of times. He thought every time he came to that phrase, “The righteousness of God”, it referred to this. God, who was holy and perfect in righteousness, would condemn, and punish all sinners. So Luther was terrified of that phrase, “The righteousness of God”. Here is what he wrote near the end of his life, about what he thought, when he was younger, about that phrase, “The righteousness of God”. He said this, and it is a quote.

“I hated the term, 'The righteousness of God', because I had been taught that means God is righteous in Himself, and does good, and He punishes all sinners, and the unrighteous. I discovered in the sight of God, I was a great sinner. My conscious was troubled, and distressed. I also did not trust my ability to ease the anger of God, with my satisfaction, and merit. For this reason, I did not at all love this righteous, and angry God, who punishes sinners. Rather, I hated Him, and was full of secret anger toward Him.”

You see, all Luther was seeing was Mt. Sinai, where God had given The Law, The Ten Commandments to Moses on Mt. Sinai.

All The Law does is demand.

It demands from you, and from me. It demands, and tells us what to do, and what not to do. All The Law can do is show us our sins. And so, Luther hated God, because all he could see was the first mountain, Mt. Sinai.

Leading up to our text for today, in Romans chapter one, Romans chapter two, Romans chapter three, going up to verse 20, the Apostle Paul shares with us that no one is righteous. From the worst of scoundrels, to the one you may think is the most upright, there is no one who is righteous.

Then, there was that moment in Luther's life, when he began to see this phrase, “Righteousness of God”, or “Righteousness from God” in a different light. Instead of hating God, he loved God. He came to the conclusion, and realization that the phrase “Righteousness of God” is God showing His love for us. And so again, near the end of his life, Luther was reflecting back. This is what he said about his love for this phrase. This is a quote.

“To that point. I immediately felt I had been born again. And had found a door wide open, leading straight to paradise. As much as I had hated the term 'Righteousness of God', before, I now loved it, and treasured it. This passage from the Apostle Paul, in Romans, chapter three, became for me 'a gate to Heaven'. You have a true faith that Christ is your Savior, and at once you have a gracious God. This is what it means to behold God in faith. You should look upon His fatherly, friendly, heart in which there is no anger.”

In doing so, Luther was now seeing the second mountain. That mountain is Mt. Calvary, in which God doesn't demand from us anymore, but rather,

God provides for you, and for me.

In His great love for us, the provision God gave is

He gave His Son

for you, and for me.

So, Luther no longer hated that term, “Righteousness of God”, or

“Righteousness from God”, but he truly fell in love with it.

With that background this morning, I want to now get into our text. Again, just break down for you nothing new, but to share with you, and remind you of what you already know. Let's look at verse 21. Verse 21 says,

“But now, completely apart from The Law,

a righteousness from God has been made known.

The Law and the Prophets testify to it.”

What this verse is simply telling us is what God has done through His Son, Jesus, He has done for everybody.

Sometimes, we use the phrase, 'Objective Justification', or 'Universal Justification' to talk about that. What does that mean? In Catechism Class I will ask my students, “When Jesus died on the cross, whose sins did He pay for? Whose sins did He die for?”

They will answer, and correctly so, when they say, “Everybody!” Yes, when Jesus died on the cross,

He died to pay for everybody's sins.

The Law, and the Prophets testify about that.

-Even all the way back in the book of Genesis, when God was speaking to Abraham, and called him, this is what the prophet Moses wrote. He said, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as 'righteousness'.” There is that word.

-The prophet Habakkuk, when he was writing said this. “The 'righteous' will live by their faith.”

And so, the prophets testify that this “Righteousness of God” is for everybody.

Go to verse 22. It brings it in tighter, as it says,

“This righteousness from God

comes through faith in Jesus Christ

to all and over all who believe.”

So what Jesus has done for everybody, Jesus has now done for you, by faith. Each one of you can personally say, “Jesus did this for me, when He died on the cross.” It is a very personal, and a very subjective thing. You have “Righteousness from God”, through your faith in Jesus, as your Savior.

Now we hear some Law. These next two verses are very familiar to you. Probably, everybody here has maybe memorized them. Verse 23 is simply a Law passage in which it simply says,

“...all have sinned

and fall short of the glory of God...”

There are two connotations that come out to us in the Greek language here. The first is we have sinned. Really, the Greek word there, 'amarton' has this connotation of 'missing the mark'. Now, let's say you were into archery, and that is what you love to do. Perfection in archery is what? Hitting the bulls-eye. Imperfection would be missing the mark. It would be missing the target. What God's Word is saying here is we are bad archers. We have missed the mark of what God demands from us.

The second word, that we have fallen short, really has that Greek connotation 'we have come too late, and we have missed out'.

You might remember the portion of scripture of The Ten Bridesmaids. Five of them were prepared, and five of them were not. When the Bridegroom came, the five who were ready went in, and the doors were closed. The five who were not ready, were left outside. They had come too late. They had fallen short. They had missed out.

God shares with us, through The Law, that we have missed the mark, and we have fallen short.

But, Paul follows right up with that bad news, with some good news for us, when in verse 24 he says this. (I am going to explain three words.)

We “are justified freely by His grace,

through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus...”

We hear those words so often, we may forget exactly what those words mean.

We “are justified freely...”

We are declared to be not guilty. There is no record of wrongs God has against you and me, anymore. To help us to understand that word, I share with you an illustration. Many years ago there once was a man in England who wanted to drive his Rolls Royce around Europe. So, he put it on a boat, and they crossed over The English Channel.

He began his road trip, but after awhile, his car broke down. He had a problem with the motor. Back in those days you cabled. So, he cabled the Rolls Royce company, and said, “I have a problem. Can you help me out?”

That is when Rolls Royce flew a mechanic to where he was, repaired his motor, and he continued on his journey throughout Europe.

Later on, when he got back home to England, he thought to himself, “How much is this going to cost me, for them to fly a mechanic to come, and fix my motor?” So, he wrote a letter to the Rolls Royce company. He said, “How much is it going to cost me for the repair that was made?”

Here is the response he got from the Rolls Royce company in a letter. It said,

“Dear Sir,

We have no record anywhere in our files that anything ever went wrong with your Rolls Royce.”
There was nothing that he had to pay. There was no record that had been kept.

That is 'justification'.

'No record of wrongs'.

We are declared to be not guilty. No payment to pay.

We “are justified freely by His grace...”

Sometimes we hear that word 'grace', and we just glance over it. But, God's grace simply is His undeserved love for us who are sinners. Receiving something we don't deserve.

I will share another illustration here, too. Billy Graham, when he was once on a crusade, was driving through a small southern town. He was picked up for speeding. In that town you automatically went to court. So, he showed up in court, and the judge asked, “Are you guilty or not guilty?”

Billy Graham said, “I am guilty”.

The judge said, “The price that needs to be paid is ten dollars – one dollar for every mile per hour you were going over the speed limit”. That is when the judge realized who he was talking to. He had not known it was Billy Graham, but now he recognized him. He said, “The penalty needs to be paid”. And then, he took a ten dollar bill out of his own wallet, attached it to the ticket, paid the fine, and took Billy Graham out for a steak dinner. That is grace.

That is 'grace'.

'Receiving a gift we don't deserve'.

We are justified freely by God's grace, through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

The word 'redemption' simply means 'to buy back'.

I will share an illustration here, too. A number of years ago in Boston there was a pastor who was standing outside of his parish. There was a young boy, who was a parishioner of his, who was walking past the church with a rusty cage, and a few birds inside. The pastor asked the young parishioner, “What are you doing?”

He said, “Well, I am going to take these birds I caught in a field, and I am going to play with them for awhile, and then I am going to feed them to my cats.”

The pastor said, “Can I buy that rusty cage from you? And, can I buy those birds from you? I will give you two dollars in change.”

The boy said, “No you don't want to do that. That would be a bad deal for you.”

But, the pastor pleaded, implored, and begged. Finally, he gave him two dollars in coins, and the boy went off, whistling happily, with the money he had received.

The pastor went around the church to the other side, opened the door on that rusty cage, and the birds flew away.

That is 'redemption'.

He had paid a price to set those birds free.

That is what Jesus has done for you, and for me.

Jesus paid a price to set us free from our sin,

and from death,

and from the devil.

The price Jesus paid was His holy precious blood.

Verse 25 reminds us of that, when it says,

“...God publicly displayed as the atonement seat

through faith in His blood.”

When Jesus was nailed to the cross, it was a public display, a public display of God's grace to you, and to me.

The apostle Paul says this, and it should remind us of The Old Testament tabernacle, or temple. Inside the Holy of Holies was the Ark of the Covenant. On top of The Ark of the Covenant was the Mercy Seat. The Mercy Seat was where the High Priest would go once a year. He would sprinkle blood to make payment for the sins of the people. When the Apostle says, “...whom God publicly displayed...”, he is reminding us that Jesus' death on the cross is that public display of the shedding of Jesus' blood on the atonement seat to fully, and freely pay for all of our sins.

And so, there is no boasting we can possibly have in our works, and who we are, and what we have done. That has been eliminated. And so the Apostle Paul concludes today by saying this, in verse 25.

“For we conclude that a person is justified by faith

without the works of the Law.”

Incidentally, here is where Martin Luther adds one word into his German Bible, which is not in the Greek text, and that is not in our English translation, either. It is the word “alone”. Here Martin Luther is not adding to scripture, but he simply is emphasizing what this teaching is.

We are justified by faith alone.

-It has nothing to do with our works.

-It has nothing to do with who we are.

-It has nothing to do with what we have done.

But, it has everything to do with what God has done for us,

through Christ.

Praise God for the Lutheran Reformation. This year we are celebrating the 500th Anniversary of that. It brings us back to not anything new, but it brings us back to, and simply reminds us of what scripture says on how it is we are saved.

We are justified by faith alone.