The Rev. Paul J Cain
Confess and Believe Jesus
Twelfth Sunday after Trinity, 14 August 2016
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming
For an Elder to Read
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
Confess and Believe Jesus. By faith, the gift of God working within us, Christians confess and believe Jesus.
The sermon text for today is the alternate Epistle lesson from Romans 10. Verse nine particularly resonates with us: …if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Day by day and Sunday by Sunday, Christians confess their sins, confess faith in Jesus, and receive forgiveness for all of their sins. We are saved by grace, through faith, won on the cross of Christ and in His Resurrection, and delivered to us every day of her Christian life as a gift from the Lord.
St. Paul begins chapter 10 showing his godly concern for his own family of people, the Jews.
Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
Many of us are concerned for our families, that they would know, believe, and steadfastly hold to the righteousness that comes only from God. The Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world took away her sin and gave in its stead Christ’s pure white robe of righteousness. This is the righteousness that comes from God. Righteousness based on the law is impossible, for we all sin. We cannot, by our own doing, by being a good person, attain such righteousness. But the righteousness based on faith is here, waiting for you, a gift.
For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. But the righteousness based on faith says, "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?' " (that is, to bring Christ down) or " 'Who will descend into the abyss?' " (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, "Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame." For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
The Word is near you. How near? One would only need to glance at the liturgy each Sunday or that which is before you today to see the Scripture passages, quotations in the service itself, and the Biblical content of the sermon and hymns. The Word is near, here, each week for you.
The Word is near you. It has been in your mouths today, in your ears, and by the work and pleasure of the Holy Spirit, could be in your heart as well, if you have not closed yourself off to the Word. In John, Jesus says, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you…” but Acts 7 makes clear that we can resist the Holy Spirit, just what St. Stephen accused the leaders of Israel of doing. That’s why St. Paul is still concerned for them in Romans 10.
The Word is near you. Or, as the Old Testament lesson said it, the Christ would come to proclaim the year (or time) of the Lord’s favor. That time is now. The message of grace and mercy offered to you for your comfort is the same that sustained us and Christians of generations past in their earthly lives, the same hope they had of eternal life with her Lord.
"The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, "Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame." For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
The Lord brought you to faith by water and the Word, sustains you by His forgiveness and Body and Blood given and shed for you. And together, we call on the name of the Lord and are saved according to the Lord’s own promise.
But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?" So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Many today do not believe in Christ as He presents Himself in the Holy Bible. Either they have never heard of Him, have only heard of a so-called “Jesus” modified by those who think they know better, or some who have abandoned Him after believing at one time. How are all of those people going to believe, if they never hear the message? How can they hear if Christians never tell them the good news about Jesus, if they refuse to come to church? There is no such thing as a solo Christian—one believer on his or her own apart from the body of Christ, apart from the means of the Spirit. Faith comes from hearing, St. Paul reminds us. And hearing through the Word of Christ. The Holy Spirit, third person of the Holy Trinity uses the Word to bring people to faith, to call, gather, enlighten, and sanctify each believer and the whole Christian Church on earth.
Earlier, verse nine said, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. “ In addition, this is also true: if you do not confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and do not believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will not be saved. There is no other Savior than Jesus. It is a hard truth. But just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s any less true.
Confess and Believe Christ. We are all sinners. Christians are also declared to be saints, like all of those forgiven in Christ. Lutherans don’t pray to saints. We thank God for giving such faithful saints to the Church. Our faith is strengthened as we see the mercy God extended to the saints who have gone before us. These saints are examples that we might imitate both their faith and holy living according to the vocations God has given each of us.
Of all of the vocations the Lord has given you in this life, your primary vocation is that of Christian—a baptized child of God, a forgiven sinner, hiding yourself in the Lord, your Rock of Ages and Cleft through the storms of life. As we sing these words, we confessed and believed Jesus:
Not the labors of my hands Can fulfill Thy law’s demands; Could my zeal no respite know, Could my tears forever flow, All for sin could not atone; Thou must save, and Thou alone.
Nothing in my hand I bring; Simply to Thy cross I cling. Naked, come to Thee for dress; Helpless, look to Thee for grace; Foul, I to the fountain fly; Wash me, Savior, or I die.
While I draw this fleeting breath, When mine eyelids close in death, When I soar to worlds unknown, See Thee on Thy judgment throne, Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee.
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.