Sermon for 2006
The Light of Justification by Faith Alone
came from the East. They
traveled many hundreds of miles. It
must have taken months. They
were not Jews, but they came to worship a Jew.
They came in search of the King of the Jews.
While Herod saw the newborn King of the Jews as a threat, He was
not threat. He did not come
into this world to take away anyoneís political power.
He came rather to take away sin.
And since it was not only the Jews, but all people who were
sinful, He came to take away the sin of the world.
ďFor all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.Ē
is the bitter truth that must be faced before there can be any worthy
worship. We come to Jesus
to cry out for forgiveness because thatís what we need.
God doesnít need anything from us.
We need everything from Him.
ďBeing justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.Ē
are they that are ďjustified freely by His graceĒ?
It is those who have sinned and fallen short of Godís glory.
All have sinned. All are justified freely by His grace. God says to all sinners that it is by His unmerited love that
they are forgiven. To be
justified means to be forgiven. When
sins are forgiven the sinner becomes just or righteous.
God doesnít justify sinners by requiring the sinners to make
themselves righteous. They
cannot do so. Every attempt
to make oneself righteous simply compounds the sin and makes it worse.
Nothing is more offensive to the holy God than a sinner who is
self-righteous. Sinners can
no more make themselves righteous than bathing in filth can make one
justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ
Jesus.Ē We are justified
by Christís redemption. He
intervened and He obeyed the law in our stead.
He paid the debt of obedience to the law that we owed.
He set us free by paying the ransom price.
That ransom price was His obedience all the way to death.
But it was not enough that He should obey the law that we failed
to obey. He also had to
suffer the full penalty for our disobedience.
God set forth as a propitiation by His blood.Ē
A propitiation propitiates someone.
To propitiate someone is to pacify him.
It is to turn his anger away. It
is to make him peaceful. God
sent Jesus in order to be the propitiation for our sins.
By dying, He bore all of Godís anger against sinners.
The only way that Godís anger could be removed from us was by
Christ bearing that anger in Himself.
That is what happened. Jesus
shed his blood and pacified God.
receives this treasure. This
is what makes us so wealthy. When
Godís not angry with you, heaven is open for you.
The glory from which you fell is given back to you.
When Godís Son has borne all of your sins and has set you free
from being judged, your future is filled with joy and hope.
ďArise, shine, for your light has come!Ē It is through faith. It
is not by means of working. Christ
did the work. Faith
receives what Christ gives. Faith
that receives Christ is expressed is worship of Christ.
Faith and worship are inseparable.
The main reason people donít worship Jesus is because they
donít believe in Him. Worship
is our expression of faith. How
we worship expresses what we believe.
To worship the newborn King of the Jews was as high a privilege
as the Wise Men could ever have hoped for in this world.
The gold, frankincense, and myrrh they brought to Him were
confessions of their faith.
demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed
over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the
present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier
of the one who has faith in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is
excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith.Ē
to these words: ďthat He might be just and the justifier of the one
who has faith in Jesus.Ē It
is right, fair, and just that God justify those who believe in Jesus.
Why? Because Jesus
has redeemed the world. Because
Jesus has borne the anger of God against the world.
Because Jesus has fulfilled all righteousness for all people,
Jews and Gentiles alike.
is right for God to justify sinners who believe in Jesus.
All man-made religions find this claim offensive.
How can God say that a sinner is righteous?
Isnít that a lie? How
can a holy God say that sinners who are not holy are holy?
What kind of injustice is that?
they donít understand! It
is for Christís sake. God
justifies sinners not for their own sake but for Christís.
It isnít because of what the sinners did; it is because of what
Christ did. The true
Christian faith is not trusting in what we sinners can do to make
ourselves righteous. It is trusting in what Christ has done. The Wise Men didnít travel to Bethlehem as if this
pilgrimage would win them Godís favor.
They came to worship their Savior.
They came to bow down before the One whose coming was heralded by
prophets, angels, and a star. They
came to see the fulfillment of Godís promise to Israel, and they came
in confidence that it was not only to the physical seed of Abraham that
the promise was intended, but to all people everywhere.
They came from a place where superstition and error reigned.
When they arrived in Bethlehem they found the young Child whose
righteousness exceeded all of the holiest works of the holiest people
throughout history. They
found the only innocent Child ever born.
They found the reason a just a holy God could rightly forgive
we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the
is what Christmas is all about. It
is about being justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.
On December 25 we celebrate the birth of Christ.
On the Twelfth Day of Christmas we celebrate the visit of the
Wise Men to see the Christ Child. This
day is as important as the other. Christís
birth would have been of no benefit to us if He hadnít come
specifically to us Gentiles.
Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, my ancestors were stumbling in the
darkness of pagan delusion. They
lived in fear of evil spirits and they prayed to false gods.
The fact that the holy family welcomed the Wise Men from the East
proves that the barbarians from the North and the West were to be
welcomed as well. The light
shines wherever Christís gospel is proclaimed.
When sinners are taught to set aside any reliance on their own
works and to trust instead on Christ alone, they are justified.
God reckons to them the righteousness of Jesus.
That is, God credits to every believer the obedience of the
Christ born in Bethlehem. This
is why we have confidence that God is our God and we are His people. This is why we are sure that God loves us.
God sees us as we really are.
He sees us are we are without the faÁade of piety and goodness
that we construct for the benefit of people who are watching.
God sees the sin we commit every day.
His light shines in the darkness and exposes it for what it is.
And it is as God sees our sins and we are afraid of Him that God
announces to us that for Christís sake our sins are forgiven and we
are righteous in His sight. When
we believe this, it is Godís own miracle inside of us.
When we believe that God really has forgiven us all of our sins
and removed their penalty and guilt from us, we know the true meaning of
true meaning of Christmas is that sinners are justified and forgiven by
God solely because of what Jesus Christ has done.
God announces to us the absolution and by His grace we believe
it. It is ours. It
is ours because God says so. It
is ours because Jesus came into this world to save sinners, and so He
came to save us.
be justified by faith means that God doesnít see anything sinful in
us. Those who reject the
doctrine of justification by faith alone are rejecting Christmas and the
Christ of Christmas, but they seldom realize this.
In fact, they insist that by teaching salvation by works we are
honoring God. They think
that teaching salvation by grace alone by faith alone through Christ
alone without our good deeds is dishonoring Godís law.
This is because they suffer from the delusion that sinners must
overcome their own sins. If
you believe this lie, you will never be free.
And the Bible so clearly contradicts this claim.
is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles?
Yes, of the Gentiles also, since there is one God who will justify the
circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then
make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we
establish the law.Ē
you hear that? St. Paul is
saying here that when we insist we are justified by God without our
works, without doing anything good at all, solely and only through faith
in Christ, that we establish the law.
We donít tear it down. We
donít deny it. We donít denigrate it or show disrespect to it.
It is showing the supreme disrespect to Godís law for people to
claim that they have obeyed it and deserve to go to heaven on that
account. We show true
respect for Godís law when we admit that we have failed to obey it and
when we claim Christís obedience instead of our own.
I have failed, but Christ did not fail.
I have not silenced the lawís demands, but Christ has.
I have not pacified God and set his anger aside, but Christ has.
And since I have done nothing but get myself deeper and deeper
into trouble out of which I could never escape, I will not trust in
anything I think, say, or do. No,
I will rather trust in Christ alone.
human heart will by nature believe that the road to heaven is paved by
our good works. It is the
nature of sin to believe that it is not sin.
That is why every faith except for the Christian faith is a false
faith. This is also why so many nominal Christians who sincerely
believe that they are Christians are not Christians at all because they
are trusting in their good works instead of in Christ.
truth by which the church stands is the truth that God justifies and
saves sinners like us through faith in Christ alone.
This truth gives all the glory to God.
This truth brings comfort to us when our consciences are afraid.
This truth distinguishes between Christianity and all human
religions. This truth is
the foundation for our Christian faith and the guarantee of everlasting
life. It is the light that
lightens the rest of the Bible, clarifying everything God has ever said
Rev. Rolf D. Preus