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Reformation Sunday (Observed)

October 28, 2018 Speaker: Murray Keith Series: Reformation Sunday

Passage: Romans 3:19–3:28

†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: Romans 3:19-28
Date: October 28th, 2018; Reformation Sunday (Observed); Series B
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
  • “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.” (Romans 3:28). 
  • These words from St. Paul get the very core and essence of Christianity.
  • A sinner, condemned by God’s law, sentenced to death and damnation - is declared righteous by God’s Word, by faith, in Jesus Christ and his atoning blood shed on the cross - apart from works of the law.
  • “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.” (Romans 3:28).
  • These words set Christianity apart from every religion of the world.
  • We heard in our reading from the book of Revelation, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgement has come…” (Revelation 14:7).
  • These words don’t set Christianity apart from every religion of the world.
  • The world’s religions also recognize that we should fear God, that we will be held accountable, that we will be judged by God.
  • This we have in common.
  • But what do we do with that truth?  How do we deal with it?  What has God revealed about it?
  • Well, for the world’s religions, if you want to be judged holy and righteous before God - then you have to be holy and righteous.
  • Follow the lists of do’s and don’ts.  
  • Become enlightened. Jump through all of the religious hoops.  
  • With some religions you even have to learn a secret handshake to be judged worthy to enter heaven.
  • While the details vary between the world’s religions in terms of the specifics of what we are to do and not do - they all have one thing in common - they all teach that salvation is up to us.
  • It’s up to us to earn it.  We have to climb the spiritual ladder.  We have to achieve it.  
  • We have to do something to elevate ourselves to be worthy before God.
  • And this is a great burden.  The Law is a heavy weight when one believes that keeping it is the means to salvation.
  • There are two ditches that are easy to fall into with this type of thinking.
  • On the one hand, you can become convinced that you are holy and righteous before God because of how you live your life.  
  • The Pharisees serve as a good example of this ditch.
  • They didn’t believe that they needed a saviour - they were just fine with all of their Law keeping, thank you very much.
  • On the other hand, you can fall into the ditch of despair as you recognize that no matter how hard you try - you just can’t seem to be holy and righteous enough.  
  • Maybe there is an ongoing sin that you continue to struggle with and fall into, or maybe you did something that you think is just too horrible to be forgiven.  
  • Judas serves as a good example of this ditch.  
  • He didn’t think he had a hope of making it to heaven after he had betrayed our Lord.
  • Luther also fell into this ditch.  No matter how hard he tried - he recognized that he could never be holy enough to earn God’s favour.
  • When we believe that our salvation is up to us to earn - we easily end up in the ditch of hypocrisy or despair.
  • But the Good News of the Gospel, the core teaching of Christianity, is that we don’t do anything for our salvation - it has already been done by Jesus.
  • God has accomplished everything necessary for us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
  • “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.” (Romans 3:28).
  • “We are justified by [God’s] grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” (Romans 3:24). 
  • Our salvation isn’t something that we can achieve.  It’s impossible.  “For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:22).
  • We can’t be holy and righteous enough to earn our way to heaven.
  • Our salvation is a gift from our loving, merciful, and gracious God.
  • This is the “eternal gospel” that is spoken of in our reading from Revelation.
  • This is the “eternal gospel” that Dr. Luther and the Reformers rediscovered as they studied God’s Word.
  • Unfortunately this eternal gospel had become distorted by the church during Luther’s day.
  • There was a shift from relying solely on God’s Word as the source for the teaching and practice of the church - to also relying on church tradition and the papacy.
  • What the pope and church councils had to say carried a much weight as Holy Scripture.
  • During this time the church developed what is known as “the treasury of merit”.
  • In a way, it was taught that everyone has a spiritual bank account.  When you do good things you earn spiritual points.  When you do bad things you lose them.  
  • If you die with enough spiritual points, then you go to heaven.
  • If you die with a spiritual debt, then you go to a place called purgatory where you suffer to pay for the sins you weren’t able to take care of while you were living.
  • The last straw for Martin Luther was the Roman Catholic practice of selling what are called “indulgences.”  
  • These are certificates issued by the papacy that you could buy to reduce the amount of time that you, or a loved one, spent in purgatory.  
  • They would send indulgence salesman to the churches who would guilt people into buying these silly pieces of paper so that their loved ones could be spared of the torment they were supposedly experiencing in purgatory.
  • This was a fundraiser to help pay for St. Peter’s Basilica – the same one in Vatican City today.
  • Luther discovered the truth that we can never be good enough, we can never give enough money, to earn God’s grace. 
  • Luther discovered that true freedom from sin and death is hearing and believing the Good News that Jesus took on our flesh and lived a perfect life for us, that he took upon himself our sin and punishment when he died on the cross, and that he defeated our sin and death when he rose from the grave.
  • As we continue to hear this Good News - this eternal gospel - read and preached, as we take and eat Christ’s true body and take and drink his true blood, the Holy Spirit continues to stir up and sustain our faith in all that he has accomplished for us.
  • The gift of faith that God has given to you receives what Christ accomplished for you.
  • Your faith is the vehicle through which God’s gift of salvation becomes yours.
  • You can’t earn it.  You can’t buy it.  
  • You receive it through faith.  Faith alone.
  • “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.” (Romans 3:28).
  • We give thanks to God this day for restoring these truths through his servant Dr. Martin Luther and the other Reformers that we are able to hear the Good News and receive the peace, comfort, and joy of being set free from sin and death.  Amen.
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The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.