Pentecost 21 Romans 3:21-28 Pastor Andy Schwartz
21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. 28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I have to admit that I think we may end up better off if some of those I know sitting out there with us today was up here preaching our sermon this morning. Now I’m not saying that I don’t appreciate what our text from Romans tells us today, no way! I most certainly do! As much as many of you! But the reason why it may be more beneficial for some of those out there is this- I’ve never known what it was like to not know Jesus as my Savior.
I’ve never known what it’s like to know that I’m “right with God” not because of anything I’ve done, but because Jesus has made me one with God- Jesus was and is my only ever needed sacrifice of atonement- that’s what atonement means- to be AT ONE with God! And I’ve never ever dreamed of that sacrifice having anything to do with me besides me being the one who gets a chance every day to wake up thankful for what has been done FOR me in Jesus!
I’ve never known what it is to be justified or declared innocent by works of the law– in other words what I do or what I could try to do to appease God. Friends, I’m not the best candidate to stand up here because I have never known what it is like to not have saving faith. And I am spoiled rotten. I truly am.
500 years ago there was a man who didn’t know what it meant to be saved by grace alone, by faith alone. And I can’t imagine what that was like. But I know some of you can.
I actually know some of you know exactly what it’s like to not have the sure and certain comfort that if you die tonight and stand before God in heaven and he asked you “Why should I let you in to my heaven?” that faith in Christ is the only answer you need. Because you didn’t always have that faith. YOU friends are the ones that should be up here preaching right now. YOU should be the ones sharing what it means to be saved by faith alone. Because now you are. Because God has given you faith. So we speak today of faith alone. Faith alone! Saves! Faith alone- is God’s gift to YOU!
One of Luther’s greatest discoveries as he was cracking open the Scripture did not come when he realized that he no longer needed to pray to Mary. It didn’t come when Luther realized that he no longer needed to whip himself to satisfy a blood-thirsty tyrannical God. It didn’t come when Luther realized that he could finally start eating and stop fasting himself nearly to death on a nearly regular basis. One of Luther’s greatest discoveries came when he sat wherever he was at the time and read from Romans, For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” And then he read on, and when he came to Romans 3 and 4 he must have nearly fell of his stool as he read yet again, we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith.
It was never about Luther. It was about Christ. It was never about doing, it was about believing. It was never about fruits- it was always about faith. Faith in Jesus. Faith dear friends- not powerful because of the act of believing, but powerful because of the object of that belief. Faith alone. As God tells us here, apart from works of the law! Faith- God’s sweet and precious gift, as he tells us in Ephesians, not by works so no one can boast. As he tells us in John- To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God! Faith- why don’t you just rejoice that this is God’s gift, God’s blessing, God’s work in you through His Word and the Sacrament of Baptism! This is faith- that clings to the Cross and Empty Tomb for our salvation! Faith- that sets us free and believes that God has the power to do what he promises! (Romans 4:21) Faith- which is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1)!
Faith changed everything about Luther. He couldn’t help it. To go from captivity to freedom, from death to life, it changed Luther. It drove him. Faith in Christ. Sola Fide. It saves. And friends, it’s also God’s gift to you.
Today we remember these words from Romans, we remember these words from Paul, but really, we remember these are words right from God. But these words were not spoken in a vacuum. God spoke these words for Luther, and he spoke these words to you. Because, let’s be frank here, some days, these words are all we got. Thank God they are all we need.
There are days when we will seem alone. But in faith God reminds us that he will be with us always, to the end of age. Some days we feel like we don’t want to get out of bed. And faith doesn’t mean you’ll want to, but it will try so very hard to remind you that your God will watch over your sleep, and whether you feel it or not, God’s love for you will never change. Your mind may doubt that on more days than you will ever admit, even to your spouse, but your faith will not. When that time comes, God will not look at you and judge your sleep patterns, your depression, your doubt, your fears, your times of weakness, your God will judge you by faith- so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
I’ve never known what it was like to be without faith. Yet I know some of you have. Do you ever want to go back there again? I never even want to try. So let us live in faith. Faith alone, Grace alone, Scripture alone. Let us not join simply with Luther, nor even the Apostle Paul, let us join with the Holy Spirit of God in celebrating this great gift that HE has given you, that HE has created in you by water and the Word, by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that GOD is continuing to grow in you, and that GOD will continue to bless until we live not by faith, nor by hope, but by love which realizes them all together forever in heaven. To God alone be the glory dear friends. Faith Alone- saves, and it is God’s gift to you! In Jesus our Savior. Amen!