Reformation Day (observed on Pentecost 21) October 30, 2022
19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”
34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
In the Name of Jesus.
If a pastor were to preach only one sermon, what would it be. If only one sermon, this would be it.
—By the Law, no person is justified in God’s sight.
—By the Law comes the knowledge of sin. Not good works, not good motivation, not the power to love, by the Law, but, the knowledge of sin. The Law always accuses.
—But now God has manifested to us a righteousness apart from the Law.
—This is a righteousness not earned by the sinner, but given to the sinner by God, and which the sinner receives not by works, but by faith in Christ.
—So, the sinner is justified by God, pure grace, and this through the redeeming blood of Christ Jesus.
—This means that God is just, and in Christ Jesus, he is the justifier. He justifies the sinner, declaring the sinner righteous, and the sinner holds this by faith in God’s promise.
—For, to be clear, the sinner is justified by faith, apart from works of the Law.
That’s the sermon. If a pastor were to give just one sermon, that’s it.
But there is only one sermon.
If we were teachers of the Law, there would be many sermons—how to love more—for Paul reminds us that love is the summation of the Law, how to comport yourself in public, how to make up for a major sin, how to make up for a minor sin, how to give offerings, how to live ethically, how to make Christian decisions, on and on. If our Lord gave us to be teachers of the Law, the sermons would be endless, the pressure of the Law, unremitting, the guilt, inconsolable.
But we have only one sermon:
By the Law, no person is justified in God’s sight. By the Law comes the knowledge of sin.
Not good works, not good motivation, not the power to love, but, the knowledge of sin. The Law always accuses.
But now God has manifested to us a righteousness apart from the Law. The righteousness God gives as gift, received by the sinner by faith in Christ Jesus. So that the sinner is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. [Romans 3:28]
Because, as Paul writes to the Church in Corinth,
We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
[1 Corinthians 1:23]
We preach Christ crucified, says the Apostle. Not Christ the example, not Christ the motivator, not Christ the life-coach, not Christ the law-giver. But Christ crucified. Christ, the holy One shedding blood on the cross to atone for your sin. Christ, your Redeemer. Christ, the One justifying you before his Father in Heaven, so that by faith in Christ, you are justified.
That’s the one sermon.
Scripture, says Jesus, testifies of me. [John 5:39]
All Scripture testifies of him; all Scripture preaches Christ crucified and the justification of the sinner by faith.
So Adam and Eve sin; and then the Lord in mercy comes to them and gives the promise that Eve’s seed would crush Satan’s head, would justify the sinner, and by faith in that promise of the Christ, Adam and Eve are justified.
The promise of the seed is then preached to Cain and Abel. But Cain gives sacrifice as the way to justify himself, and by that sacrifice of self-justification, Cain is condemned. But Abel gives sacrifice as a receiving of the gift of the promise, and by faith in that promise, Abel is justified. [Hebrews 11]
All Scripture testifies of the justification of the sinner by the promised Christ.
So Abraham, a great sinner, has faith in the promise, and is justified by that faith. [Genesis 15:6]
Later, King David, a great sinner, heard the preaching of the promise, heard the forgiveness of his sins, and was justified by faith in that promise. [Psalm 51]
Then, the promised One, Christ Jesus comes in the flesh, and preaches the forgiveness of sins, justifying sinners throughout Galilee.
Then in our text this morning, John 8:36:
[Jesus said to the Jews who had faith in him,] “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
Free from what? In our world we know of this word freedom. It can be freedom of debt. It can be freedom from oppression, freedom from government tyranny. It can freedom to travel, or to speak, or whatever.
When Jesus says, “When the Son sets you free, you are free indeed”—free from what?
Jesus sets you free from the Law. Free from the accusation of the Law. Free from your guilt before the Law. Free from your shame. It is always, with Jesus, freedom from needing to justify yourself with works of the Law.
Because he, Jesus, justifies you. So that you are justified never by your works of the Law, never by your own righteousness, never by your works of love—which is the summation of the Law, but, apart from the Law, you are justified by faith in Christ Jesus.
That’s the sermon. The one sermon.
Every other sermon—a sermon on works of love, a sermon on grace, but grace mixed with works of love, a sermon on ethical living; a sermon on motivated Christian life—every other sermon is a sermon of Law, and Jesus did not need to die on the cross if we are still to live under the Law.
In Christ Jesus, you are free. That’s the one sermon for the Christian pastor to preach.
The promise preached to our parents Adam and Eve, preached to Abel, preached to Abraham, to King David, to all the other sinners in the Old Testament, preached to Peter and John and the other Apostles; preached to the woman at the well, to the tax-collectors and drunks; preached to the centurion, to the Pharisees and teachers of the Law; preached to you and me and our children, the promise that the sinner is forgiven by the blood of Christ and you are justified by faith in him—that’s the one sermon:
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith … [and this] so that [God] might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus …
For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
In the Name of Jesus.