The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.
In the Name of Jesus Amen.
The old Lutheran teachers said, “Preach the Law as if there were no Gospel and then preach the Gospel as if there were no Law.”
Sometimes folks hear one thing. Sometimes, we hear the other.
Often, when we’re be-bopping along, living our lives, we have a habit that is part of our sinful human nature: we don’t notice our own sin. Remember how you get used to how you smell after working hard all day in the sun? And then, when you actually pay attention and notice, you reek and really need a shower? (It may be an unpleasant comparison, but it is quite accurate.) Sin behaves like that. Sin hates to be called sin, especially when it is true. And we’re so shocked to be called on our sin, we may—may—be so focused upon that realization that we miss hearing the Gospel.
Sometimes we hear one thing. Sometimes, folks hear the other.
When we’re already feeling guilty, we often don’t hear any further preaching of Law. We’ve had it. We know we’re done—we’re cooked—we’re without hope on our own. And then comes the preaching of the sweet Gospel. Forgiveness! Life! Salvation! Comfort! Reconciliation! Renewal!
The old Lutheran preachers said, “Preach the Law as if there were no Gospel and then preach the Gospel as if there were no Law.” They learned it from
1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Can it really be this bad? Yes. Why would God lie? Why would Paul lie? Dead. Worldly. Following the Devil. Disobedient. Fleshly. Selfish. Children of wrath like the rest of mankind.
Spiritually dead. That is a hard concept for many Christians to swallow. We say, “Don’t take it from me…listen to Scripture.” What choice did you have in being born? When someone needs CPR, they can’t give it to themselves. They need action from the outside.
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Merciful. Loving. Enlivening. Gracious. These words inform us that the Law has paved the way for the proclamation of the Gospel. Take away one word from this newsletter article—just one—and it’s a Gospel word: GIFT.
Out of the richness of God’s mercy, because He loved you, even though you were dead in our original sin and actual sins—despite all of that, God has spiritually resurrected you and promises you a seat with Christ in heaven because of what He has done for you. That’s Gift!
Why? He did all this “so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
God graciously acts out of mercy and love. He is true to Himself, for He does not violate His own rules, His holiness, or His justice. Christ Jesus was the substitute. That too, is Gift!
And His actions have two purposes.
First, they glorify Himself. This is always true.
Second, His actions are the actions of salvation for you and for many for the forgiveness of your sins.
When we tell the good news about Jesus, when we invite someone to Bible Class, Sunday School, VBS, or Church, when we care for someone else during their time of need, we fulfill both of those purposes. We share salvation in Christ and we bring God glory.
You probably know verses 8 and 9 well. Hear them together with verse 10 and understand them all better.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Scripture alone. Christ alone. Grace alone. Faith alone. To God alone be the glory. These are the slogans of the Reformation. And they came from this text along with many, many others.
We know we have been saved by grace through faith. We know that this is not our doing. We know it is the Gift of God. And we know that it is not a result of our works, but a result of Christ’s work. So then, what is the purpose, the role of good works in the life of a Christian?
Let’s answer that question with two more. The first is: Are good works necessary? We could ask that first question another way. Did God, in His Word, ask His people to do good things for others? Yes, He did. Therefore, yes, good works are necessary.
Now the second question: Are good works necessary for salvation? The clear answer of the Bible is No. Good works are not necessary for salvation.
Putting the two questions together gives us a better view of the big picture. Good works don’t save us, but God called for them, so we do them. Good works are a way for us to show our love and concern for a neighbor, anyone in any need, and give evidence that our faith in Christ is still alive.
“For we are his [God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” You are a good work of God Himself. He created, redeemed, and sanctified you so that you would be a blessing, for you were created for good works, to do good works in the name and for the sake of your Lord.
You are a gift to your loved ones, your school, your workplace, your neighborhood, your community. You share the love of Christ, the Gift that is Christ to the end that others may be gathered by the Lord to be His people, give Him glory, and continue to share Jesus, the Gift. Amen.
In the Name of Jesus Amen.