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Reformation Sunday

October 25, 2020 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 25th, 2020; Reformation Day (observed); Series A
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 works of the law.
  • Those are radical words that set Christianity apart from every other religion in the world.
  • They were written by St. Paul in his letter to the Romans and they reveal a drastic change in his understanding of his relationship with God.
  • Instead of dealing with God on the basis of our commandment-keeping, our good behaviour, our attempts at being righteous - these inspired words from St. Paul reveal to us the gospel truth - that our victory over sin and death is a gift from God that we receive through faith.
  • This is a truth on which the Christian Church either stands or falls. 
  • It’s that important.
  • Back in the 16th century, it is a truth that had become distorted in the church. 
  • Instead of being justified by faith, the Roman Catholic Church was teaching that you were justified by your good works, and by doing penance (things that you would say and do as punishment to pay for your sins), and even by purchasing indulgences (pieces of paper issued by the papacy that would literally pay for your sins, or the sins of your loved ones).
  • Instead of being justified by faith, the teaching at that time was that you were justified by being good, by punishing yourself through penance, by giving the church money. 
  • As Dr. Martin Luther read the Holy Scriptures for himself, he discovered that what was being taught and practiced in the church did not align with God’s Word.  
  • So he brought the eternal gospel before the pope and emperor, along with the words, “Here I stand, I can do no other. So help me God.”
  • He was willing to give up his life for the truth of the eternal gospel so that it could be proclaimed to all who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people.
  • So that it could be proclaimed to you today.
  • We who were born into sin and death, we who continue to struggle with our sin and deserve God’s present and eternal punishment, we who stand before the all-holy God of the universe, the Creator of all things, the righteous Judge - are justified by faith in Jesus Christ apart from the works of the law.
  • Being justified means that we are made right with God, that our relationship with Him is restored, that the gulf between us resulting from our sin is removed, and we are at peace with Him.
  • In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul teaches us that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 
  • We are all held accountable to God because of our sin.
  • And ultimately there are two ways to deal with our sin and death problem.
  • One way is to attempt to deal with our sin and death by our own efforts.
  • Again, in one way or another, this is the way of all the religions of the world. 
  • But the reality is that in order for us to deal with our sin before God in this way, we need to be perfect. We need to be completely holy in our thoughts, words, and deeds. 
  • Dealing with our sin before God in this way demands absolute and faultless fear, love, and trust in God above all things, and a perfect love for our neighbour. 
  • However, St. Paul teaches us that, as hard as we might try, we simply cannot deal with our sin in this way. It’s not possible.
  • He said, “For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…”
  • God’s law is not given to us as a way to climb up to Him or to earn His forgiveness and salvation.
  • No, through the law comes the knowledge of sin, St. Paul said. 
  • God’s law is a mirror that we look into that reveals to us that our sin problem is at our very core. 
  • Our sinful thoughts, words, and deeds are only symptoms of our deeper problem.
  • If all we had is God’s law to deal with our sin then we should live in constant fear and terror.
  • Luther did. 
  • In fact, he lived in such fear and despair over his sin that he admitted that it got to the point where he hated God. 
  • He hated God for demanding a righteousness that he could not provide.
  • However, then Luther read St. Paul’s words “But now…” 
  • But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law.
  • Yes, it’s true that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
  • But it’s also true that all are justified by God’s grace. 
  • His underserved love and unmerited kindness.
  • Our justification, our salvation, is a free gift that we receive by faith in the redemption that is ours in Christ Jesus.
  • His blood. Not ours. 
  • His blood shed on a cross and put forward as the necessary sacrifice for the sin of the world.
  • All of our efforts to deal with our sin, and to bargain with God, on the basis of our holy living is an insult to Christ’s shed blood. 
  • Every attempt to wave our good works before God trying to claim His favour is an insult to the cross of Jesus. 
  • Every time we try to justify ourselves, we insult the price that Christ paid - His very life!
  • So, hear the Good News of the eternal gospel.
  • You, who are born into sin and who struggle with sin every day - stand righteous before God in Christ. 
  • You stand righteous before God not because you have done good, but because Christ has done good for you. 
  • You stand righteous before God covered not in the resume of your religious works, but covered in the robes of Christ’s righteousness.
  • You stand righteous before God redeemed, reconciled, restored, raised up to eternal life through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
  • “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” 
  • Those inspired words from St. Paul propelled a 34 year-old Augustinian monk to challenge the institutional church of his day - even though he knew that he might lose his life because of it.
  • We celebrate Reformation Day because the church returned to having Christ as it’s centre and it restored the voice of the eternal gospel back to the pulpit.
  • The Reformation was not about rebellion, or innovation, or change. 
  • It was about restoring the eternal gospel.
  • It was about restoring the truth, the life-giving message that we poor miserable sinners are justified before God by faith in Christ—apart from the works of the law—and eternal life is ours. Thanks be to God! Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.