Sunday, October 27, 2013
The central question of the Reformation was that of orthodox teaching. Was the Roman church of Luther's day teaching truth, or did the bible teach the truth? This was, and remains the critical question for evaluating any church or preacher. For teaching must be "orthodox" which means quite literally "giving God the proper glory". So Martin Luther posted his 95 theses in hopes of debating what church practices gave Jesus the right glory. His main question was about selling "indulgences".
The question may have begun about whether forgiveness and complete pardon for sins was for sale, but it soon became a matter of whether man could do a single thing to earn, merit, or make himself worthy of God's grace. Did you have to strive and struggle to be righteous first to find God's favor, or was God already gracious to you because of Jesus? From his extensive study of God's Word, Luther learned that the righteousness of God was a free gift, which came to a believer by faith alone.
Now, this Reformation mantra, "Faith alone" is not found in today's text, although it is implied, as it is a faith which is apart from works. In Luther's German translation of this text, he inserts a technical old German term for "alone" to make it clear to those speaking that language that man is righteous "alone, by faith". No works of law obedience are required for you to be righteous in God's sight! It is a gift!
But your old Adam in your flesh doesn't want to believe it. Salvation must be earned! It is so valuable that it must cost dearly! It seems to you, at times, to cheapen the whole process if redemption comes to you freely, by faith, and even that faith is a gift and working of God in you. You want to show yourself to be deserving of such a blessing. So you strive, struggle and strain, and then boast about it to others.
But bragging is excluded. What? There's no commandment against it! But it is excluded just the same. For there is no one who deserves to be saved. You have all sinned like Adam and Eve, and you all have lost that image of God which once reflected His glory. You are all in the same boat. You could boast, "look at me, I'm a good Christian" but you'd be lying, and everyone knows it. No, all bragging is excluded by the law of faith. God made you a believer and gifted you with His righteousness freely.
This is seen clearly at your baptism. You were conceived and born a sinner, in need of much help. So God washed your sins from you that day, but He didn't leave your heart empty. Your sins were deposited on Jesus at the cross where He died your death there. Yet Jesus' Own holy goodness He gave up for you at Calvary--His righteousness given to you as a free gift to make you worthy of eternal life! Your baptism is a sign of the proof of God's righteousness, through Christ Jesus your Savior.
This comes to you also at the Lord's Supper. Jesus, your "propitiation" is your atoning sacrifice appeasing God's wrath as the sacrificial lambs of old. He passes over the sins you did before as the true Passover Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world. He is the mercy seat, covering over the commandments in the ark of the covenant, with His shed blood poured out for your salvation. His body given and His blood shed for you are another sign of the proof of His righteousness for you!
Through word and sacrament, God Himself makes you orthodox, that you too be of the proper glory, just as God Himself is. Your own self-righteous attempts fail to bring you any lasting glory, falling short. But your glorious God–Christ Jesus, gives up His Own holy righteousness at Calvary for you. God's glory is now reflected in you by the righteousness of Jesus, credited to your account by faith! The glory of Christ alone is now your own glory, as the image of God is restored to you in Jesus! This is the orthodox teaching of God, from His Word, for it gives Christ all the glory for your salvation!
hymns for today from LSB:
#556 Dear Christians One and All Rejoice!
#656 A Mighty Fortress
#555 Salvation Unto Us has Come all 10 stanzas
#655 Lord Keep Us Steadfast in You Word stanzas