Summary: The bell of justification tolls not for our death, but for our life in Christ.

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Title: For Whom the Bell Tolls

Text: Romans 5:1-5

Thesis: The bell of justification tolls not for death… but for life!


Over the centuries, bells have been used in every culture. Bells have been attached around the necks of free-roaming livestock so the herdsmen would know the whereabouts of their herds. A pet owner may attach a little tinker bell to the collar a pet for the same reason… or to give the local coyotes an unfair advantage. Bells have been attached to the harnesses of horses to warn pedestrians of their approach. In some places, cow bells are rung with great enthusiasm at sporting events. The stock exchange has an opening bell. Salvation Army Ringers ring for change at Christmas time... to the tune of ten million dollars a season. In medieval days, arriving guests rang the door bell to drive evil spirits away from the door before it was opened to receive the visitor.

Bell ringers have served as the clock for a village, much like the town whistle in some rural communities. When I lived in Winterset, Iowa the whistle blew at 7 a.m., noon and 1 p.m., 6 p.m., and 10 p.m.. I suppose it was about getting up and going to work, taking lunch, getting back to work after lunch, going home for supper at the end of the work day, and falling into bed so you could get up and do it all over again the next day.

On July 8, 1776 the Liberty Bells peeled out from the tower of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, calling the residents of the city to hear the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence.

Today we use musical bells in our worship, we ring bells to announce service times, to celebrate weddings, and to mark the passing of the deceased.

In the 17th century, whenever the church bell tolled, the immediate question that came to mind was, “Who died?” “For whom is the bell ringing?”

It was during that period in England that John Donne wrote the poem, For Whom the Bell Tolls, in which he compared the washing away of a clod from the continent of Europe as diminishing to Europe as the death of a fellow human being is diminishing to human kind… he is saying we are all connected. So, when the bell tolls to mark the death of another person… it marks something of a death in all of us.

John Ortberg tells a story from the early years of their marriage. They sold their VW Beetle and bought a beautiful new mauve colored sofa.

From that day on, the number one rule of the house was, “Don’t sit on the sofa! Don’t play near the sofa! Don’t eat around the sofa! Don’t breath on the m sofa! Don’t even think about the sofa… for upon that day you will surely die!” They had three children: Laura was 4, Mallory was 2 and 1/2, and Johnny was 6 months. One day his wife discovered a stain on the sofa. She called the children and said, “Do you see that stain. That’s a red jelly stain and it is never going to come out for all eternity. Do you children know how long eternity is? It is how long we are going to sit here until someone tells me who put the jelly stain on the sofa, even if it takes all eternity.

Ortberg said they sat there for a long time and then Mallory cracked. She said, “Laura did it!” And Laura said, “No I didn’t!” And then it was silent for a long time. Ortberg said he knew they were not going to confess because they had never seen their mother so mad, ever. He said, “I knew that none of them was going to confess to putting that jelly stain on the mauve couch because, I was the one who put the red jelly stain on the couch, and I wasn’t saying a word.“

After telling the story Ortberg commented, “I guess in one way or another, we have all stained the sofa.” (“Why Serious Preachers Use Humor,” The Art and Craft of Biblical Preaching, Zondervan, 2005)

I guess you could say, In one way or another, the bell has tolled for us all. The bell has announced our sin and spiritual death, but this morning, it also tolls to announce that we have been justified by faith.

I. We are justified by faith.

“Therefore being justified by faith….” Romans 5:1

Justification is the initiative of God providing the necessary means so that we may be treated as righteous and worthy of salvation.

A. One of the ways we can be justified is by being perfect… by never doing anything wrong. We can be declared perfect if we never make a mistake or commit an act of sin in thought, word, or deed. We may be said to be righteous if we keep all of the 10 Commandments, always love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. And, love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

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