Saturday, May 27, 2017

Easter 7

28 May 2017 – Easter 7 - Romans 1:8-17
The Righteous shall live by faith

Today we begin a series of sermons. Based on the book of Romans. For the next sixteen weeks. The epistle lesson is taken from St Paul’s letter to the Romans. It was Luther’s careful study of this book, which lead him to understand the gospel namely that we are justified by God freely apart from works of the law.

From that discovery came the inspiration which sparked the Reformation 500 years ago. Luther grappled with an age old dilemma. How do I get right with God? How do I know God cares? How can I know that He love me? And if He does, in fact, care for me. And love me. How do I know this?

Luther was keenly aware that all was not well. There was something broken. From the testimony of God’s Law. From the evidence of the existence of evil in this world. From the conviction of my own conscience. These all remind me daily of the fact that I am a poor, miserable sinner. Sin is real. With sin come consequences. Consequences often lead to great cost and loss. The penalty of sin is death. And death we cannot avoid. So how do you make sense of all this?

Says, Luther “I questioned this passage for a long time and labored over it. The phrase “the righteousness of God” barred the way. The phrase was customarily explained to mean that the righteousness of God is a virtue by which He is Himself righteous and condemns sinners…As often as I read this passage, I wished that God had never revealed the Gospel; for who can love a God who was anger, who judged and condemned people…This misunderstanding continued until enlightened by the Holy Spirit. I finally examined these words, “The just shall live by faith”…then the entire Scriptures became clear to me and heaven was opened to me. Now we see this brilliant light very clearly, and we are privileged to enjoy it abundantly.”   [1]

With St. Paul we can say “I am not ashamed of the Gospel.

1.     It is the power of God for salvation.

a.     Christ bore our sin, guilt and shame on the cross and gave us His life for us.

b.     Receiving these gifts by faith, and empowered by the Spirit, we are no longer ashamed of the Gospel. Rather we cherish the Gospel. It is good news and it is life.

2.     It is for everyone.

a.     It is for the Jew first. Why? Paul explains. “to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. (Romans 9:4-5)

b.     But the Gospel is for pagans also. On the first Pentecost. Gathered in Jerusalem were Jews from every tribe and nation. Peter in his epic sermon speaks of the Father’s guarantee of salvation. “For the promise is for you and for your children” But then he adds,” and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:39) The great promises of the Gospel. The power of God for salvation. His good and gracious favor has come for you.

3.     It is the righteousness of God.

a.     Revealed from faith to faith. Paul would remind us that our standing with God has everything to do with faith from start to finish. It begins with the faithfulness of God and is continues into faith in the heart of the believer. God is completely responsible for your salvation from front to back! You don’t one-day wake up and decide to follow Jesus – He plants the seed of faith in your heart. He then nourishes that faith by giving you His eternal Word, which is able to make you wise unto salvation. This is what St. Paul reminds us when he tells us in Ephesians 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.”

b.     Faith is God’s gift. Created by the Holy Spirit who works in and through the Gospel. He brings us to repentance. And in faith we trust the Father’s promises. Repentance and faith. They work together. Both simultaneously and concurrently. They are like a chorus. Occurring all together. At once. And what are these two? Repentance and faith? Repentance is simply giving up all hope of a better past. While forgiveness is no longer haunted by a troubled past.

c.      It is entirely God’s work. “The one who is righteous by faith shall live.” You are declared righteous. Thus, you live by faith. If you are in Christ. God considers you. Counts you. Credits you as His good and faithful servant.  You are declared righteous because of Christ’s righteousness, which has been poured out all over you. It is the life of Jesus that now becomes your credentials to be with Christ in this life and the one which is to come.  It is the life of Jesus whom the Father will recognize as He greets me in glory. It is Christ’s righteousness that will be counted as your own righteousness. How Jesus lived His life is what is being counted in place of how you lived your life. How Jesus died, is what is being counted as your death. How Jesus obeyed is what is being counted in place of how you disobeyed.

The struggles with which Luther struggled five hundred years ago continue to this day. How does God regard me? How do I know God cares? How can I know that He love me? As we review this book of Romans we are given these words which have become the center of our faith. “The one who is righteous. By faith. Shall live!”  

Words – 1,025
Passive Sentences –9%
Readability –81.2%
Reading Level -4.2
Luther’s Seal © Ed Riojas, Higher Things

[1] Plass, Ewald (1959). What Luther Says. CPH: St. Louis, MO. p835

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