Second Sunday after Pentecost
Passage: Romans 5:6–5:15
†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: Romans 5:6-15
Date: June 18th, 2017; Pentecost 2; Series A
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Last Sunday, in the Old Testament reading from the book of Genesis, we heard the account of the Creator creating the universe and everything in it.
We heard that God made an ordered creation that was very good.
He created humanity (he created you!) in his own image.
He created us to be in a loving and harmonious relationship with him and with each other.
He created us to live holy lives according to his will.
He created us to take care of his creation so that it could flourish and so that we may enjoy the fruit of the earth.
God made a creation that was not just good, but was very good.
Sin changed everything.
Sin brought disorder into creation. Natural disasters. Illnesses. Suffering. Death.
Sin has caused us to be focused on ourselves, on our own selfish desires - instead of on God and his will for our lives.
Sin has caused us to become turned inward in our relationships with our neighbours.
God gives us so many gifts in this life in order that all may thrive. But instead of receiving these gifts and sharing them, our sinful nature takes as much as we can get and keeps it.
In so many ways we see and experience the sin-caused chaos and disorder in the world and in our lives.
And we see throughout history that human beings have tried to make sense of living in this fallen world, of the difficulties we face, of death, in many different ways.
There are thousands of religions and world philosophies out there that attempt to address sin and death.
But, it’s interesting to note that while there are so many different ideas and approaches on how to deal with our plight - they all can basically be distilled down to two understandings.
The first understanding is that it is up to us to fix everything and make it right again.
The specific details vary from religion to religion and philosophy to philosophy, but the underlying idea is that we need to make ourselves worthy of God’s favour through our holy living or we need to become enlightened.
The first understanding is that we need to climb a spiritual ladder to God by following commandments and laws, or specific pillars of faith, or by doing ceremonies and rituals.
We need to climb a spiritual ladder to God by becoming enlightened as we learn through our experiences - maybe even over many different lifetimes. Or we learn from those who have achieved enlightenment before us - like the Buddha.
In a nutshell, the first understanding is that it is up to us to fix everything through our holy living or some kind of spiritual illumination.
And this understanding is very appealing.
It seems to make sense to us because that’s the way things work in the world.
For the most part, we need to earn what we get. We need to pay for our mistakes. We need to achieve things through our own efforts.
Even more, we like to be able to accomplish things on our own. We don't like to be dependent on anyone else. We like to receive credit and earn things.
However, while the first understanding of how we overcome sin and death is appealing, it is a dangerous and deadly lie.
The Bible makes it absolutely clear that it’s impossible for us to earn our way to heaven through our own efforts.
The prophet Isaiah gives us a sobering description of our own efforts at good works when he said, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all of our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).
In his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul lays this out plainly when he said, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
This leads us to the second understanding of how we are to deal with sin and death; or more precisely, how God has already dealt with it.
The second understanding is that there is nothing we can do through our own efforts to save ourselves.
So out of his love, mercy, and grace - God has done everything necessary to save us.
The first understanding includes all of the world’s religions and philosophies.
The second understanding includes only Christ Jesus who is the way, and the life, and the truth. Not a way. The way.
The first understanding requires us to clean ourselves up, pay for our mistakes, make ourselves worthy before God so that we can earn eternal life.
The second understanding is the Good News that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
The truth is that not only are we unable to earn our way to God’s favour through our actions - but apart from God, our actions are sinful and deserve his punishment.
And when we consider our lives honestly we know this is true.
Sure, we might think we are doing okay, and even pat ourselves on the back, when we compare ourselves to some of the people around us or the bad people we see on the news - but it’s a different story when we take an honest look into the mirror of God’s law.
Honestly, how secure would you feel if your eternal life was based solely on your life - past, present, and future?
The truth is that we “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” and we deserve God’s eternal wrath (Romans 3:23).
But hear the Good News that we heard earlier in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by [Christ’s] blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (Romans 5:9-10).
Our salvation from sin and death is not earned, it is not something we can achieve.
It is a free gift given to us by our loving and gracious God. A free gift that we receive through the God-given gift of faith.
Our salvation is not something that we need to do. It is something that is already done.
It has already been accomplished for us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Again, St. Paul teaches this truth so well in his letter to the Romans, “…sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin…But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many” (Romans 5:12-15).
My brothers and sisters in Christ, sin has brought disorder, suffering, and death into this world and into our lives.
We are unable to change that fact or fix it through our own efforts. It’s impossible.
God has done everything necessary to restore creation, and all of us made in his image - through his Son, Jesus Christ.
And having received God’s gifts of forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life through Baptism, his Word, and Holy Communion - we have the great privilege of loving our neighbours as we serve and care for them and as we proclaim to them that this life-changing and eternal-life giving gift is also for them. Thanks be to God! Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.