Our Easter countdown continues. We’re now about 60 days away from Easter – Sexagesima. Last week you heard you are saved by God’s grace alone – His undeserved, fatherly, divine, loving-kindness for us sinners, grace won for us by His Son upon The Cross – sola gratia.
How do you hear about Christ? How does His saving message enter your heart? We want to know how God talks to us. Does He directly interact with us? The Apostle says that in these last days God has spoken to us by His Son. You heard St. Peter say 2 weeks ago that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation – that doesn’t just mean we can’t interpret it however we want; it also means we can’t look to ourselves to find words from God. Holy men of God, Apostles and Prophets, wrote The Old and New Testament Scriptures as they were carried along by The Holy Ghost. He gave them their words, and they wrote, so that you might believe that Jesus is The Christ, The Son of God, and that by believing you might have life in His Name – sola Scriptura.
So if you want to know what God has to say to you, look to The Holy Bible alone. Don’t look to any other book or any other person, not even yourself. This Bible is where He speaks to you. That’s where you learn what God’s will is for you. That’s where you learn how He wants you to live. That’s where you learn how you enter eternal life. That’s where you learn anything God wants you to know. It has nothing to do with you. It has everything to do with Christ Jesus and Him Crucified.
He used certain men to write The Scriptures; one was St. Paul. We hear today’s Epistle, the longest of the year, today because this Sunday often falls earlier than it does this year. It often comes around January 25, the day The Church celebrates the conversion of Saul, Christian-killer into St. Paul, Christian-teacher. The Evangelist St. Luke worked with him, so that Gospel may well reflect his preaching; perhaps Mark’s Gospel does as well since he too worked with Paul. Acts, also written by Luke, is largely about Paul’s ministry. The Epistles that follow, to the Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, and Thessalonians, to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon are all written by him. Many have thought, and a growing number today still think, he wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews.
Why Paul? There was nothing in him that led God to him. No, God should have run away from him scared – if God were like us. After all, Saul was putting Christians to death left and right, had been ever since he was head cheerleader for St. Stephen’s killers. He was on his way to Damascus to kill more when Jesus stopped him dead in his tracks. Yet Jesus turned His persecutor-in-chief into His preacher-in-chief. He who zealously killed the saints zealously preached people into being saints. He who fought God fought the good fight of faith.
Why Paul? To make you think you need to be just like him to enter heaven? No. His pre-Damascus Road crimes surely condemned him. Saul-become-St. Paul is Scripture’s picture to you of God’s grace for you. Through him you see that God does not condemn sinners, even if they’re the worst sinners ever in our point-of-view. Instead He is ready to forgive those who repent. When you repent of your sins and believe The Gospel, He truly forgives you, for Jesus’ sake.
That is the message of The Scriptures, The Word of God sown by The Sower, preached by the preacher, spoken by Christ Jesus, given you by The Holy Ghost. Repent of your sins and believe The Gospel, and you shall be saved. Believe that Christ Jesus died for you, that He suffered in your place for all your sins, and you shall be saved. That’s what the sower went out to sow. That’s The Word of God he was preaching. That’s the message of all The Scriptures. That’s the message you should get out of this preaching and out of your daily devotions. It’s a message some never believe, some believe for a time and then give up for whatever reason, yet some believe onto eternal life. Some of us have even been in any or all of those categories, maybe many times.
Many people hear God’s Word and don’t believe. Perhaps they believe another organized religion. Perhaps they’re skeptical of anything. Perhaps they don’t think sin is a big deal. Perhaps this was you at some point in your life. Maybe you struggle with it now too. Yet God’s forgiveness is for you even now and is always available.
Many people hear God’s Word and believe for a while but then faith withers and dries up because it has no moisture. If a plant doesn’t have water, it will dry up and die. What does faith need? It needs access to God’s Word. God’s Word keeps faith alive. Food and drink give your body the nutrients you need to stay alive. Holy Scripture gives you the nutrients you need to stay in The Faith unto life everlasting. He forgives our neglect of it – we have all neglected it. He calls us to hear it, because He wants us to remain in The Faith and never leave it. If you don’t get the spiritual nutrients you need, faith could die when you’re tempted.
Many people believe until faith is choked out. It can happen many ways. Jesus mentions the cares, wealth, and pleasures of life. Perhaps something goes wrong and we wonder: “Why didn’t God stop it?” Perhaps we get really sick and start to think: “If I’m truly a Christian I wouldn’t get sick.” Perhaps money, possessions, or the desire to get them becomes more important than the need to hear God’s Word, or we even think: “If I’m truly a Christian I’d have it all already.” Maybe you’ve had thoughts like that. He forgives you your sin. He assures you He will always provide for you and care for you in sickness and in health, in wealth or poverty, or weal and woe.
There are also people the Greek text might call the doubly good ground, those who remain in the true Faith unto life everlasting. Jesus encourages us to be those people. Be in The Word. Study it. When you do you will repent of your sins, believe The Gospel, and produce fruit worthy of repentance, during both good times and bad, during times of wealth and times of little, during times of health and times of sickness, at all times. That Word will bring you into everlasting life.
What fruits does God want? He doesn’t expect a great feat of faith or something really special. He wants you to keep His commands, yes, The Ten Commandments. He wants you to do this willingly, out of love for Him, not out of fear. So love Him. Love His Word and pray to Him and to Him alone – since only He can defend you against all adversity – no matter the situation and thank Him for His grace. Love your neighbor as yourself. Respect the authorities. Help your neighbor keep and improve what he has. Help make him look good when others want to make him look bad. Don’t lust after things and people that aren’t yours.
Christ Jesus has given you the pure Scriptures to free you from your sins and bring you to everlasting life. They do it. God does it through them. Nothing else can reveal Him to you. Not your reason, your thoughts or emotions, not any other religious book. Just Scripture alone. Scripture alone calls you to repent, believe The Gospel, and produce fruits in keeping with repentance, fruits that show you belong to Christ, not Satan. Scripture alone – sola Scriptura.