Redeemer Lutheran Church Blog

Wednesday, December 14, 2016 - Romans 1:16-25

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Posted: Thursday, December 15th, 2016 by Pastor Westgate

This church year we celebrate the 500th Anniversary of The Evangelical-Lutheran Reformation. 500 years ago this coming October 31, Dr. Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of Wittenberg’s Castle Church. He was primarily concerned with the Roman Church’s practice of selling indulgences, something it still does today. Scripture does not command them. Instead, it says that all sins are already paid for, are already forgiven. There is no punishment needed for them anymore, because Christ has already paid for them completely with His Blood. So we need not pay for any part of our salvation with silver or gold or anything else. It is accomplished completely.

But Dr. Luther did not always understand that. He had been led to believe that God’s righteousness is that He is holy, and we are not. More than that, it was that God must punish, and will punish, the sinner. He did not know God’s mercy. He thought He had to run to the saints for that. They might talk Jesus out of punishing him. But Jesus was to be feared. He was scary.

So when he read the opening words of tonight’s Epistle, that The Gospel reveals God’s righteousness, he did not hear what you hear. He believed The Gospel is a new law and Jesus a new Moses. In other words, it really wasn’t good news! It was just more stuff for him to do if he wanted to have a chance at getting saved. And God had made his conscience strong enough that he knew, maybe far more than many of us, just how truly sinful his every deed and thought was. Staupitz, his prior in the Augustinian order, kept pointing him away from himself to Christ, but the message never got across.

Until it finally did. Staupitz realized the only way he’d get through to Martin is if he made him teach The Scriptures. So he sent him to Wittenberg to teach in the new university. He taught books like Psalms, Romans, Hebrews. Eventually he got back to Romans; and when he got to the opening verses of tonight’s Epistle, he had his famous Tower Experience. He came to realize the way he had been led to read the words “the righteousness of God” made absolutely no sense in the context of the Epistle, as well as all Scripture.

What did He realize? He realized God’s righteousness is not that He is angry over sin all the time. God’s righteousness is that He has taken that anger out on Jesus. God’s righteousness is that Jesus has already been punished for all our sins, all our corruption, yes, for all the sins of the world. God’s righteousness is that Jesus by His Death wins forgiveness for all our sins, and He wants to give it to us. We are righteous not when we do enough good to please God, but when our sins are forgiven, when we receive and trust what Jesus did for us on The Cross. To be righteous is to be forgiven by Christ!

God be praised for this! God be praised that Jesus has drunk down to the dregs and beyond the chalice of God’s wrath. God be praised that He gives us the chalice of The New Testament in His Blood, given and shed for you for the remission of sins, instead! For God’s wrath is revealed from heaven upon all godlessness and unrighteousness! Especially for those who do what they know they shouldn’t and suppress what they know to be true!

God is very serious about His Law. Dr. Luther was always right about that. He says what He means, and He backs it up with the punishments His Law requires. When He says don’t steal, don’t defraud, don’t be impure, don’t disobey, He means those things. When He says pray to Me, listen to My Word, help others, speak well of people, He means those things too. Keep His Law. Don’t break it. Love Him alone and not yourself. Self wants to break His Law, but love wants to keep it.

But we are always looking out for our own advantage, not others’. Our minds have been impure ever since our teenage years, if not before. We haven’t met an authority we haven’t liked to disobey. We've been lax to pray and hear God’s Word. We love to speak poorly about people and hear gossip. We know better, but we don’t do better. Doing bad even feels good sometimes. And God’s Law says He must punish us. His Law wants to tie His hands. It says He must condemn us. How can we sinners escape?

Dr. Luther was always right. He couldn’t escape God’s wrath. He didn’t have a prayer. You don’t either. Except that God’s wrath over sin has been quenched. It has been quenched. It has been poured out unto and into Jesus. He has suffered God’s wrath in His flesh. He has drunk it down. He has been punished for every sin that has ever been done. He has been punished for all the times we did what is wrong and all the times we didn’t do what is right. That means God has no more punishment left for us. He does not want to send us to hell. He wants to give us heaven.

So He has given you faith in Him. You did not choose to believe in Him. He chose to give you faith. He worked in you with His Word. Perhaps someone told you about Jesus. Perhaps you were baptized as a baby. He was hard at work then, giving you faith, causing you to trust in Him. That trust, that faith, saves. Why? Because it takes hold of Jesus. It confesses that He died for you. It says, “Jesus, since you have died for my sins, here they are. Take them. Nail them to your cross – bury them in your tomb. Pardon me. Do not punish me, for you were punished. Give me eternal life. For you were born of Mary not to condemn me, but to save me.”

So live by that faith. Grow in faith. Do not give the devil the chance to steal you away from Christ. Study His Word. Hear it. Pray. Receive The Sacrament. Put off fleshly lusts and strive to do what is right and good in His sight. Cast off the works of darkness that you may wear the armor of light during this earthly life. Keep these words of St. Paul before you: “Rejoice in The Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men: The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing: but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.” And pray, “Stir up Thy strength, O Lord, and come and save us,” for He exalts those of low degree and helps His servant Israel in remembrance of His mercy.

Categories: Pastor Westgate's Sermons

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