Lutheran Worship and Resources
Norma Boeckler, Artist-in-Residence
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson
Bethany Lutheran Worship, 7 PM Central on Wednesdays.
The Hymn #158 Wem in Leidenstagen 4.70
The Order of Vespers p. 41
The Psalmody Psalm 8 p. 124
The Lection Passion Harmony, TLH
The Sermon Hymn #267 War Gott nich mit uns 4.61
The Sermon – Declared Righteous Through Faith
The Lord’s Prayer
The Collect for Grace p. 45
The Hymn #562 Seelenbraeutigam 4.27
KJV Romans 3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: 23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; 26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. 27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
There are clear divisions in the Bible. One is between believers in Christ and unbelievers.
Another is between Law and Gospel.
A third is between the righteousness of works and the righteousness of faith.
Clearly, these clear divisions belong together. They are closely related and not independent, the way systematic theologians write paragraphs on this topic and paragraphs on that topic.
An unbeliever trusts in the righteousness of the Law. If you do not believe that, listen to a non-Christ speak about merit, virtue, or righteousness. Atheists are especially clear. They are righteous because of their works and they condemn Christians for their failings, sins, hypocrisy, and lack of works.
A believer trusts in the Gospel, which is conveyed to us in the Word of God by the Holy Spirit. The Gospel teaches the righteousness of faith, that trusting in the work of Jesus gives us a declaration of innocence. That declaration (justification) is not related to our merit but to the merit and works of Christ, chiefly dying on the cross for our sins.
Whenever justification by faith is denied, justification by works (also called works-righteousness) is substituted for it. This passage (Romans 4 and 5, too) is so dangerous and threatening to works righteousness that all false teachers use the term “justification by faith” while denying it and doing everything possible to destroy.
I still have a WELS devotional page titled “Justification by Faith” where this was attempted once again.
So there is no use in paying attention to the words used vainly when the content is denied so forcibly.
What does Paul say here, inspired by the Holy Spirit?
Romans 3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
The Law can only elevate the sense of sin and make us feel the wrath of God. Therefore, whatever works we do to placate God will only make us feel the guilt more strongly. Even going back to the Sunday School teacher (1st grade) and apologizing to her will not justify the sinner.
All efforts at self-atonement are really works-righteousness, so they will be unfulfilling.
Remember too that condemning people for not trusting the Gospel is the work of the Holy Spirit (John 16). “He will convict the world of sin, because it does not completely trust in Me.”
21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;
The Law and the Prophets led up to the crucifixion and witnessed to it, centuries before it happened. Christ crucified is the revelation of the righteousness of God without the Law.
22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:
As the Formula of Concord teaches, the righteousness of God is by faith in Jesus Christ for all of those who believe.
2. Accordingly, we believe, teach, and confess that our righteousness before God is (this very thing], that God forgives us our sins out of pure grace, without any work, merit, or worthiness of ours preceding, present, or following, that He presents and imputes to us the righteousness of Christ's obedience, on account of which righteousness we are received into grace by God, and regarded as righteous.
5] 3. We believe, teach, and confess that faith alone is the means and instrument whereby we lay hold of Christ, and thus in Christ of that righteousness which avails before God, for whose sake this faith is imputed to us for righteousness, Rom. 4:5.
6] 4. We believe, teach, and confess that this faith is not a bare knowledge of the history of Christ, but such a gift of God by which we come to the right knowledge of Christ as our Redeemer in the Word of the Gospel, and trust in Him that for the sake of His obedience alone we have, by grace, the forgiveness of sins, are regarded as holy and righteous before God the Father, and eternally saved.
7] 5. We believe, teach, and confess that according to the usage of Holy Scripture the word justify means in this article, to absolve, that is, to declare free from sins. Prov. 17:15: He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the righteous, even they both are abomination to the Lord. Also Rom. 8:33: Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth.
8] And when, in place of this, the words regeneratio and vivificatio, that is, regeneration and vivification, are employed, as in the Apology, this is done in the same sense. By these terms, in other places, the renewal of man is understood, and distinguished from justification by faith.
9] 6. We believe, teach, and confess also that notwithstanding the fact that many weaknesses and defects cling to the true believers and truly regenerate, even to the grave, still they must not on that account doubt either their righteousness which has been imputed to them by faith, or the salvation of their souls, but must regard it as certain that for Christ's sake, according to the promise and [immovable] Word of the holy Gospel, they have a gracious God.
23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; 26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. 27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
These six verses, which are used for justification WITHOUT faith, are clearly given to teach justification BY faith.
The Gospel, in the narrowest sense, is the crucifixion of Christ for the sins of the world. That is what the Christian Church teaches. That is the treasure, conveyed by Holy Spirit through the Word.
Faith is that trust in the Gospel that the Holy Spirit stirs up in our hearts. Justification by faith has been used to say this comes from man’s merit or will or intelligence. The Word of God says just the opposite. The Gospel is God’s work and the proclamation is also God’s work. Creating and sustaining faith is the work of the Gospel in the Word.
KJV Mark 9:24 And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.
The answer to the father is this – God does that through the Gospel, because we are all weak, fallible creatures, easily doubting and backsliding. All are equal that way. But the Gospel declares to us that God is gracious and merciful to sinners.