Romans 3:19-28, John 8:31-38
Grace, mercy and peace are yours from God the Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
The Motto of our LCMS during this 500th anniversary of the Reformation has been It's still all about Jesus. I think that's a good motto, although that idea should always be obvious. I mean, let's face it, when hasn't it been all about Jesus?
With Adam and Eve, it was all about Jesus. Remember that they believed the lie of the Serpent and said no to God. After that, God intervened when He made the promise of the Savior from sin to Eve and Adam in the presence of the Serpent in the Garden. To make that promise shockingly real, God then killed animals and clothed Adam and Eve with their skins. This showed that forgiveness of sins would come through the shedding of Blood. The entire OT is the story of God bringing about the final sacrifice for sin at the cross of Jesus.
Our text begins, “19 Now we know 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.” This verse speaks of the Law. It also speaks of us. We are under God's Law which tells us what we are to do and not to do. By comparing ourselves to God's law, we find that we always fall short, and our mouths are stopped. We can make no excuse, and there is nothing we could offer to God in exchange to make up for having fallen short in thought, word, deed, and desire. As we are reminded from Romans 3, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
We were lost and condemned sinners by the sinful nature which we have inherited from Adam, and by the sinful things we do each and every day. We are also completely dependent upon God's grace in Christ Jesus, because we have nothing to bring. Luther's actual last written words were, “We are beggars. This is true.” These words were found written on a scrap of paper in Luther's pocket shortly after he died. This is true for all people. And since we're all beggars, we find this next thing to also be true, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” It stands to reason that falling short is falling short, always, with every try.
So stop trying to measure up with your own works and efforts and merits. Relax, and simply understand that your good works are the fruit of your faith, given to you by God from before the foundation of the world. They do not save you, though they do benefit your neighbor. This sets you free. “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” The Son, Jesus, has indeed set you free by his death and resurrection.
We who sin and continually fall short of God's glory then, “are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” The idea that we have here in Romans 3:24-25 is the same idea expressed by Paul at Galatians 2:15-16, 21, Ephesians 1 and 2, Philippians 3:9, Colossians 3:11-14, Titus 3:3-7, and by Jesus at John 3:14-17, John 15:3. Then look at Isaiah 6:6-7. These passages describe forgiveness as a gift through God's working alone in Christ Jesus. It is still all about Jesus.
But what is it about the idea in this particular verse, and others like it, that is so amazing and joyous? You, dear Christian, “are justified by his grace as a gift.” Your works, abilities, merits, and partnership with God is not needed. Really, God himself eliminates dependence on anything of ourselves. This is based in God's essential qualities of grace and mercy. At Psalm 103:8 and many other places we read this; “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”
We all know that Jesus is God's grace, mercy, and steadfast love in human flesh. He is the kind and loving human image of God, our Father in heaven. We count on that being the truth about God.
Our Christian brothers and sisters 500 years ago did not know God as Gift-Giver. Including Luther, they mostly saw God as a terrible, and vengeful judge, who had little, if any, fatherly kindness and love toward them. God was only angry righteousness. And that made for an oppressive and desperate existence, always being fearful of judgment and retribution. In their hearts, they knew they could not really give the holy God what he needed, which was perfection. In the end, there is nothing more liberating than to have God's favor toward you be revealed as a gift of love for the sake of Jesus' work of redemption.
The eternal Son, Jesus, became flesh and made his dwelling among us, in order to “....show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
It's Still all about Jesus. Jesus, who is “...the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” (Colossians 1:19-20)
Forgiveness of sins was won for you by the blood of the cross of Jesus. This is what has made peace with God for you. The cross of Jesus stands at the center of history because of what it accomplished for sinners like you and me. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead shows that Jesus' sacrifice on the cross did what it was supposed to do. It reveals God's friendly heart for the sake of Jesus. It also reveals that forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are a great gift of God.
We have nothing of ourselves to boast about. But we can boast of Jesus, and his saving work on our behalf. Faith in Jesus and in his saving work is all that is needed. And faith, too is a gift of God through the Word of Christ. It is Still all, only, and always, about Jesus. Amen
The peace that surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Reference verses: Isaiah 6:6-7, John 3:14-17, John 15:3
Galatians 2:15-16, 21, Ephesians 1 and 2,
Philippians 3:9, Colossians 3:11-14, Titus 3:3-7