Reformation Day October 31, 2021
19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.
In the Name of Jesus.
What does the Law do to you?
That’s not the first way we think of the Law. Normally, we think of the Law as something we do—a list of rules, perhaps. Or regulations to help us stay on the right path. Or methods of living.
In this way, we tame the Law. We turn it into something that doesn’t scare us. It’s just a list of rules we need to work a little harder at following. That’s a baseball player learning the rules of the game so he can win on the field. It’s the quilter learning the different methods of quilting so she can make better and better pieces of art.
We can make friends with the Law when we have it in way—rules and regulations and methods for us to live better. This is easy Law, comfortable Law. When we’ve reduced the Law to being God’s instructions on how to live better, that’s when we will hear people saying, We need more Law. The sermon has too much Gospel, how about a little more Law?
Of course we want more Law when we’ve neutered it, when we’ve reduced it to methods of helping us to live by God’s design or something like that.
But no sinner wants more Law when we are hearing the Law in the way the Lord speaks it.
When we rightly hear the Law, we’re not hearing comfortable words about how to live by God’s design, not neutered instructions about God’s will for our lives, and certainly not just methods and procedures of obedience.
When we rightly hear the Law, we hear the voice of God—and it is the voice of God declaring us guilty—guilty along with the whole world of sinners.
We hear God accusing us so directly that we finally give up the game and admit that we cannot justify ourselves. We hear God consigning us to live at best as slaves in the house. Romans 3:19:
Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
This is no friendly Law. When we rightly hear God’s voice of Law, we cannot domesticate it into being manageable rules of how to live, we can’t neuter it so it runs around our house like a housebroken puppy; when we rightly hear God accusing voice of Law, no sinner would want the sermon to end with it.
When we rightly hear God’s Law, our mouth is stopped, we have no excuse, we stand guilty before God.
For, as long as we are in our sinful flesh, the Law always accuses.
No matter how much we try to reduce the Law to being Christian methods and procedures, no matter how much we think it’s helping us to be obedient, the Law always accuses—so that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may become guilty before God. [Romans 3:19]
The Law shows us our sin—and since we are, indeed, living in our sinful flesh, the Law will always declare us to be slaves to sin.
But the Apostle Paul did not write his letter to the Church in Rome to leave sinners under the accusation.
And Jesus did not take our sin upon himself and shed the atoning blood on the cross to leave us under accusation, to leave us as slaves under the Law—slaves just hoping to somehow tame the Law so that we could live with it without being destroyed.
Paul wrote to these Christians in Rome to free them from slavery, to proclaim to them the righteousness that comes to the sinner not by works of the Law, but by the gift of Jesus Christ.
Jesus took our sin upon himself and shed his blood to atone for us in order to forgive our sin, to set us free from slavery, to release us from the Law’s accusation, so that by faith in him we would know our righteousness.
What does the Law do to you? It makes you guilty before God. Indeed, our sin makes us guilty, but the Law is that sentence, that verdict, and we dare not try to tame it.
Because, the way out of slavery to the Law is not more Law, nor neutering the Law, nor obedience to the Law.
The way out of slavery to the Law is, first, hear the Law as what it is: God’s voice declaring us, declaring the whole world for that matter, guilty, so that every mouth may be stopped.
Then, the way out of slavery to the Law is to hear God’s voice of Gospel.
Jesus is the Gospel. John 8:36:
[Jesus said,] “The slave does not does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
Jesus has set you free. He ransomed you with his own blood on the cross.
In Baptism, he brought that cross to you and made you one with it, so that the righteousness of cross belongs to you as much as it does to Jesus. That’s what it means to be baptized into Christ. The righteousness of the cross—it belongs to Jesus by what he did, what he earned, what he accomplished by his own suffering and death; it belongs to you by gift.
That’s the gift we witnessed the Lord giving to Abir this morning—Abir, our brother in Christ, for in Baptism, we all bear the same Name, the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
That’s what it means to be freed from slavery to the Law, from slavery to the accusation and to sin, death, and the devil, and to be brought into the house. It means to bear the name given in Baptism and to belong to the righteousness which is apart from the Law. Romans 3:24:
Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith.
Righteousness apart from the Law, says Paul.
Righteousness of God given to you.
The righteousness of Christ Jesus, made fully yours by gift.
Righteousness received by faith, not works; righteousness held on to by faith, so that even as you live in your life of sinful flesh under the Law’s accusing voice, at the same time in your life of faith you hear the voice of God in the Gospel.
It is the voice forgiving your sin, the voice of Jesus justifying you before his Father, the voice of Jesus calling and inviting you to take his Body, take his Blood, eat and drink, for the forgiveness of your sins.
What do you receive in the Supper? The full Jesus, nothing left out. The fullness of his Body, the fullness of his Blood, the fulness of what he did on the cross to redeem you, the fulness of what he did by walking out of the tomb, to give eternal life to you, the fullness of his righteousness.
Yours by gift.
Yours by grace, not by works of the Law.
In the Name of Jesus.