Summary: Lenten Sermon
How Are We Saved?
Not by the Law Which Brings God’s Wrath
But by God’s Grace Through Faith
The story is told about a small, country church where the pastor called a special meeting of the congregation to approve the purchase of a brand new chandelier. After some discussion pro and con, one member stood up and said, "Buying a new chandelier may seem like a good idea to you, but I’m against it for three reasons. First of all, it’s too expensive and we can’t afford one. Second, there isn’t anybody around here who knows how to play one. And third, what we really need in this church is a new light fixture."
In a way this story illustrates one of the basic points in sermon text for today. No matter how well-intentioned, sometimes we misunderstand what God’s will is and we get things wrong. But by the grace of God, he has given us his word so that any misunderstandings we have can be cleared up, if we only allow his word to say what it says and we do not try to make it say what we want it to say. In St. Paul’s letter to the Roman Christians we have a great example of this. For two thousand years people have totally misunderstood God’s plan of salvation and have concocted many different solutions as to how we are to be saved. This morning God spells out his plan as to how we are saved. This morning God answers the question, “How Are We Saved? Its not by the law which brings God’s wrath but by God’s grace through faith.
As most of you know, for the past two weeks the Olympic Games have been taking place in Salt Lake City. Our American athletes have performed exceedingly well but what makes these Olympic Games notable is not only the amount of gold, silver, and bronze medals we have won, but the ethnicity of the athletes. For example, Gold medalist Apollo Ohno is a Japanese American, Vonetta Flowers, the 1st African American to ever win a gold medal in the winter Olympics, and Derek Parra, is the first Mexican American to win a gold medal in the winter Olympics. These individuals are being praised not only for their athletic talent but they are also held up as an example to America’s young people as to what you can accomplish if you train and work hard.
Things were not much different in St. Paul’s day. The Jewish people held up Abraham as an example; they held him up as an example of someone who was justified by the law. The Jews believed that because Abraham had given God total obedience he must have earned God’s favor. Abraham had successfully passed God’s trials and under the most trying circumstances. As we heard in the 1st lesson, God came to Abraham and told him to leave his home, pack up his belongings and his family and go to the land that God would show him. At the age of 75, Abraham without knowing anything about the place he was going to, did exactly what God said and set out for the land of Canaan. He even followed God instructions to sacrifice his only son Isaac when God told him to do it. In the eyes of the Jewish people Abraham was justified, but was he really?
Paul writes, “If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God.” The person who says Abraham’s life was good enough to make him acceptable before God has not examined Abraham’s life carefully enough.
Our Old Testament lesson tells us how the Lord came to Abraham with the great promise of how all nations on this earth will be blessed through him; how through his son the earth would be blessed. And no sooner had that great promise been given than its fulfillment was placed in jeopardy by Abraham himself. Abraham tried to pass off Sarah as his sister, and was responsible for Sarah’s being taken into the pharaoh’s harem. Some two dozen years later Abraham did the same thing and Sarah was taken by Abimelech. Only a short time previously the Lord had promised that within twelve months Sarah would have a child. But God’s time table was to slow for Abraham. To help God out he fathered a child with Sarah’s servant Hagar and Ishmael was born. Throughout his life Abraham failed to obey the very first commandment of God to put him first and trust in him above all things. Because of his sinful nature, Abraham was impatient and tried to father an heir in his own way.
Like Abraham we also have broken God’s laws. But if you think that there is no way you could possibly do so much evil, just run through God’s law and commandments and see if you have kept any commandment perfectly. If you were to stand before God thinking you were saved because you have kept the law, what the verdict would be. God says, "You shall have no other gods before me." Have you devoted yourself to God totally, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? Have you put off coming to worship the Lord so that you could do something else? The Verdict - GUILTY! God says, "You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name." Have you used the phrase "Oh My God" lately? How about "Oh God" or "My Lord." If you are not using God’s name to give him thanks or praise, or witnessing about him, you are breaking the second commandment. The Verdict - GUILTY!