Summary: This is a Lutheran Reformation sermon that reminds us what the Reformation was about and is about in our lives.
Today is the day of the Church year that we celebrate the Reformation. To some people, this day may just be a glorified pep rally, thinking to themselves, “U- Rah, Rah, Lutherans!” To others it might be nothing more than a day where we once again tediously reflect on the history of the Lutheran Church and its founder. Neither of those two will be our objective this morning. Instead, we will focus on the message that God restored through his servant Martin Luther, namely justification, the teaching from Scripture that God has declared sinners not guilty because Jesus has paid for all their sins.
As we listen to what God has to say in this portion of Scripture, we take note that...
Theme: We are justified freely by God’s grace, as Scripture testifies to all people, and as God’s patience proves.
I. God wants people to realize first of all that we need this justification. That is why God’s law allows no boasting of human satisfaction. The Apostle Paul wrote that this law silences our mouths because we have all sinned and we fall short of God’s glory. When confronted by God’s law that demands sinlessness and perfect obedience, we cannot say a word of what we have done, because we have failed God completely.
The law also shows that we are accountable to God for all the things we do wrong. Our consciences suggest this. God in his Word makes it clear, “The soul who sins is the one that will die.” No one is excused from God’s law. It shows each and every one of us that we are sinners. Paul wrote that “ through the law we become conscious of sin.”
Martin Luther felt the weight of this law intensely. He knew that his sins would condemn him when he died. He knew that his sinfulness only earned him eternal death. He tried to earn God’s love by doing all sorts of good works which the Catholic Church said would free him from his sins’ guilt. But inside, he knew that God’s law still condemned him for his sins. He knew there was no price which he could pay that would remove his sins. He despaired.
How often isn’t that our experience? We sin by not loving God as we should. We don’t give God a proper place in our lives. We are blessed to know the answer to the question, “How can I be saved?”, but how often do we really appreciate it? God has spiritual food at our fingertips and we act like it’s no good. Think to yourselves for a minute about the many times when you just put studying God’s Word off for stupid excuses. Have you ever vegged in front of the television all evening and not opened the Bible? Have you skipped church and Bible study because Sunday is your only day to sleep in? Have you ever used church as nap time instead of listening to what God has to say through the preaching of his Word? Do you cherish God’s Word and study it at every opportunity? If Martin Luther were alive today I think he would be pretty sad at how this generation of Lutherans treats God’s Word as if it were no longer that precious. In the Wisconsin Lutheran Synod, the average church attendance is 40 to 50 percent of the members, while average Bible class attendance is 10 - 20 percent. Out of our church, we average 40 people in the adult and teen Bible classes. That isn’t even 10 percent of our communicant members! When we realize how we are treating God, do we despair of what we have done? Do we ever feel like we don’t deserve God’s love but only his fiery wrath?
Martin Luther the monk had access to God’s Word. Thankfully, Luther turned to God’s Word to find the answer to his dilemma. Just as the Holy Spirit made Luther aware that he needed a Savior, so the Spirit made us aware that we need a Savior.
When Luther turned to Scripture to find out how he could be saved, he found that the gospel message told him that he had a Savior, someone who already paid for his sins. He found out that we could only be saved by what God has done for us. As he was teaching about God’s Word at Wittenberg, he came across a passage that talked about “the righteousness of God.” As studied what the Scriptures taught about this righteousness of God, he found it was not a righteousness demanded of us by God, but a righteousness given by God to us freely. Romans 1:17 states, “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."