Sermon for Reformation, Sunday November 3, 2019
Sermon for Reformation – Sunday November 3, 2019
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria (To God Alone the Glory)
Lutherans…especially conservative Lutherans are often misunderstood by those outside Lutheranism.
First, there is our name – Lutheran. It hearkens back to one man in particular: Martin Luther.
Most every other Christian Denomination is named for some other reason:
Presbyterians, Congregationalists are so named because of their form of church government.
Baptists because they have arisen from the Anabaptists, a group insisting on adult re-baptism.
Methodists because of the ‘method of instruction’ used by the Wesley brothers.
7th Day Adventists because they insist on worshipping on the 7th Day – Saturday, the Sabbath of Old Testament Israel.
Roman Catholics because their form of Christianity rises from the early church in Rome.
So those who look at us from the outside may think that we idolize or perhaps worship the man, Martin Luther. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. We recognize that Martin Luther was a sinful human being. He studied and then taught the Bible relentlessly…but not everything he said was accurate.
When people first started calling Christians ‘Lutherans’ it was to belittle them. Martin Luther didn’t want people who believed the Scriptures as he did to call themselves Lutherans. He said:
“In the first place, I ask that men make no reference to my name; let them call themselves Christians, not Lutherans. What is Luther? After all, the teaching is not mine [John 7:16]. Neither was I crucified for anyone [1 Corinthians 1:13]. St. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 3, would not allow the Christians to call themselves Pauline or Petrine, but Christian. How then should I—poor stinking maggot-fodder that I am—come to have men call the children of Christ by my wretched name? Not so, my dear friends; let us abolish all party names and call ourselves Christians, after him whose teaching we hold.” (Luther’s Works, Volume 45: The Christian in Society II, Pg. 70-71, Philadelphia, Fortress Press):
We recognize that God used Martin Luther and other men to turn the Christian Church back to the Holy Scriptures and the pure teaching to be found in the Scriptures. While we may talk about Martin Luther – especially on Reformation Day – we don’t focus on Him, but on the One in whom Martin trusted, Jesus Christ.
While we sing hymns written by Martin Luther, we meditate upon the Word of God. This morning we will not be preaching about Martin Luther. We will focus upon three important truths that were restored by the Lord Jesus through the Reformation. These truths are sometimes connected to a Latin word, meaning ‘Alone.’ Sola Gratia, Sola Fidei, Sola Scriptura – Grace Alone, Faith Alone and Scripture Alone.
We meditate upon these truths as they are found in two places: Ephesians and 2 Timothy. We begin with verses 1-7 of Ephesians chapter 2, and the teaching of Grace Alone.
And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
The Letter to the Ephesians was written to the Believers in the city of Ephesus, which was located in Asia Minor, today the country of Turkey. The Apostle Paul had visited the city three times when the Holy Spirit directed him to write this letter (near the end of his 2nd Missionary Journey, for 3 months, cf. Acts 18:18-21, 24-27; on his 3rd Missionary Journey for nearly 3 Years, cf. Acts 18:23-19:41; to establish Timothy, cf. 1 Timothy 1:3, 3:14).
The Spirit of God wanted to move the Ephesian Christians to give thanks to God, so he urged them to remember what they had been before they heard the Good News of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. They had been spiritually dead in trespasses and sins.
They had lived to fulfill their sinful desires and were in the crosshairs of God’s Judgment…so it is for every unbeliever, every unconverted human being.
God intervened. Truth be told, God’s intervention started already in the Garden of Eden, when God determined to send a Savior for Adam and Eve and all their descendants. Instead of looking upon us all as a ‘science experiment gone wrong’ He determined to save us, by sending His Son.
Now, you know the rest of the story. The Savior came and completed the work of Salvation. The Savior ascended to heaven and has promised to return. He sent out men like Paul, Barnabas, Timothy and Apollos out to spread the Gospel of Christ and the Holy Spirit used that news to save individual sinners and still does today.
Why did God determine to save the Ephesian Christians? For that matter, why you and why me?
The answer is…in a single word…Grace. Grace is simply defined as ‘God’s Undeserved Love.’ Grace isn’t a shot in the arm that God gives us to enable us to measure up to his perfect standards (Infused Grace, Roman Catholicism). We don’t and can’t measure up by our own efforts.
Grace isn’t a quality in us, but a quality in God. God didn’t save us because of some intrinsic value in us. He didn’t save us because of our potential. He looked upon our pathetic, disobedient parents Adam and Eve, and had mercy on us.
Grace…is God the Father determining to send His Son into the Human Race to save sinners who were his enemies.
Grace…is God the Son humbling Himself to live for us, die for us and rise again to comfort and forever deliver us.
Grace…is God the Holy Spirit coming to us in the Scriptures, making us spiritually alive and keeping us in faith.
Grace is a gift of God. Grace is God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense. Grace is God promising and planning to show us the overabundant riches of His love toward us in eternal life. Our rescue was begun and completed by God’s grace…alone.
Let’s praise God for His Amazing Grace by singing the first stanza of Hymn 377, “Salvation unto Us has Come.”
This past week the secular holiday of Halloween came and went for another year. A procession of children dressed as movie characters, sports heroes and monsters came to our door and held out bags expecting to have them filled with sugary treats. Halloween, for many, is the celebration of things scary, of imaginary monsters designed and created by men.
There are real monsters…who aren’t counted as real. Our adversary, the Devil is a very real foe, as are the fallen angels in his employ…but few take him seriously. There is yet another monster that resides in each one of us this side of heaven – our fallen, sinful nature.
Then there is the monster that is human pride. While there has been an effort to soften and repackage it as ‘self-esteem’ as we are told that if we don’t first love ourselves, we can’t love God or anyone else. In the process, God is hip-checked off the throne and replaced with…well…us.
God, in eternity, determined to save sinners. Sinners, in time, want to take credit for God’s gift of grace and salvation. We, because of human pride, want to believe that we have something to do with obtaining heaven. There is a part of us that wants to believe that God chose us because of a quality in us…because we were ‘good people’ or at least ‘not as bad as some.’ There is a part of us that wants to believe that we can earn points with God and be saved because of faith and our actions. There is a part of us that even wants to believe that our part is – to believe. Faith, is the bridge that we have to build to reach God and his salvation.
We aren’t saved by God’s Grace through Faith and works, but by means of faith alone, faith that is a gift of God. We’ve all heard the Scripture, but let’s review it again:
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
God’s Undeserved Love determined to save us…by means of faith. Faith does not boast in oneself. Faith boasts in Jesus and what He has done. The faith of which the Scripture speaks declares (Galatians 6:14):
“…God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
It has been properly said: “Faith is the hand created by God, into which He places the forgiveness of sins and every needed spiritual blessing.”
Faith is a gift of God…not an act of man. Faith…clings to Christ…and because it is joined to Him produces fruits. We love others…because God first loved us. We strive to keep God’s commandments, not to earn a place in heaven, but because it has been freely given to us already.
God the Holy Spirit first kindled faith in many of us at Baptism. God continues to keep faith alive and active through the Word of God and the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper in which He confirms that we stand forgiven because Christ gave His body and shed His blood to pay our debt and reconcile us to God.
Faith in Christ saves…faith alone…but faith is never alone. Faith expresses itself in love, love toward God and one another, giving evidence that the Christ dwells with us and in us. Faith Alone, faith in Christ and what He has done saves…that faith is a gift of God.
Let’s praise God for the gift of a living faith by singing the ninth stanza of Hymn 377, “Salvation unto Us has Come.”
God gives life here on earth…He sustains and supports life...and He is to determine when life will end. It is a simple concept that so many in our world dismiss. So many think that they are in control of their own lives and destiny…until they hit the wall called death, and see how truly foolish such an idea is.
Life must be supported. An infant child could not survive without the care of another. The bodies we think are indestructible when young begin to break down in our later years. We begin to understand that without shelter, food and water we cannot survive. We need not fear, for God graciously supports life.
The Faith begun at Baptism also needs support. God surrounds us with fellow believers. God provides our individual faith support through His Word and Sacrament. So it is that the Holy Spirit moved Paul to encourage Timothy, and encourages us:
14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.*
“Well, I just don’t agree with that.” Opinions are like noses…everyone has one. Some are huge and hard to miss; others are small and barely noticed. Opinions are based on personal feelings and personal experience. More and more today, personal opinion is treated as fact. A large segment of our society thinks that Truth is subjective – what you believe to be true is true for you (even if it isn’t objectively true).
When it comes to matters of faith…things that have to do with sin, death and salvation…personal opinion means less than nothing. We can’t afford to build our hopes for eternity on the playing card mansion of human opinion. We don’t have to because God has given us His Word.
The Word of God is absolute truth…because it is ‘inspired by God’, literally ‘God breathed.’ The same God who once called the earth and universe into existence by simply speaking…has chosen to speak directly to human hearts and minds through His Word. Therefore, in matters where God has spoken, we have a rock-solid foundation. Where God has not spoken, we dare not elevate and insert personal opinion. There is good reason the Holy Spirit urged Timothy to continue in the Holy Scriptures.
While the world around us runs ‘willy nilly’ down the wide road that leads to destruction….the Word of God turns us around by pointing us to Jesus, God’s chosen and anointed Savior.
When individuals and churches build upon God’s Word Alone, they build a solid and comforting support system for the faith created at baptism. When men depart from that word, they build on the sand. The Scriptures stand-alone…and don’t need to be qualified or interpreted by men. Scripture interprets itself.
If we humbly continue in the Scriptures – and not allow opinion or human reason to overrule the Word – then we learn solid teaching, are rebuked for our sins, corrected in our faulty opinions and instructed in Righteousness…fully prepared to live as Christians, die in Christ and enter the Father’s House.
May God grant us His Grace that we continue in and are led by Scripture Alone. Amen!
Let us conclude with hymn 264:1, 5.