Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
Passage: 1 Corinthians 9:16–9:27
†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: 1 Corinthians 9:16-27
Date: February 4th, 2018; Epiphany 5; Series B
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
“A Christian is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; A Christian is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to everyone.”
These are some paradoxical and confusing sounding words that Dr. Martin Luther wrote in his famous work, Concerning Christian Liberty.
Hear them again, “A Christian is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; A Christian is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to everyone.”
When Luther wrote these words he had in mind the words of St. Paul from our Epistle lesson, “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them” (1 Corinthians 9:19).
So, what does it mean that as Christians we are free - but also at the very same time we are servants?
First, we will consider our freedom. What are we free from?
We learn from Scripture that we were all born slaves - slaves to sin and death.
Jesus puts it like this, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin” (John 8:34).
While we much prefer the popular idea that we are all born basically good, the truth is we are born slaves to sin.
In fact, our slavery to sin even goes back to before we were born.
David recognized this of himself when, inspired by the Holy Spirit, he wrote in Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”
Sin is far more than just the wrong things we think, say, and do.
The wrong things that we think, say, and do are really just manifestations of our sinful and corrupt nature.
We commit sinful actions because we are conceived and born poor miserable sinners.
And because we are poor miserable sinners - we die.
St. Paul tells us that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
So, we enter this world bound. Bound to sin. Bound to death and the grave.
But you who are bound, hear the Good News promised by Christ Jesus, “…if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).
Jesus, God in the flesh, entered this world to save us from our slavery to sin and death.
He has broken the grip of all that binds us. He has released us from all that keeps us captive!
And how did he accomplish this?
He freely gave himself up to be bound in our place. He was nailed to a cross. He was wrapped and bound in burial clothes and was laid dead in a sealed tomb.
He took our place in captivity to sin and death - in order to set us free from it!
He willingly submitted himself and became a slave to sin and death.
But the Good News is that, “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it” (Acts 2:24).
When the women went to see the tomb, an angel of the Lord met them with the wonderful news, “He is not here, for he has risen, as he said” (John 28:6).
We read in the book of Acts, “[Jesus] presented himself alive after his suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).
Jesus’ resurrection shows that he has broken the chains of sin and death.
His victory is your victory. His life is your life. His freedom is your freedom.
Through our God-given gift of faith - we have been set free!
A Christian is the most free lord of all, and subject to none!
“If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).
You are free from the compulsion of the Law. You are free from the Law’s threats and burdens.
By the forgiveness of your sins you are free from guilt and shame and death and damnation.
By the Gospel preached, by the Absolution spoken, by Christ’s true body eaten and his true blood swallowed, by the Promise believed - you are set free!
As we read in Galatians, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).
My brothers and sisters in Christ - you have been set free!
But this freedom is for a purpose.
As Christians we are free, but at the very same time we are servants.
Christ has set us free, but that freedom is not to be used as a cover for sin. Ours is a freedom to serve.
In his letter to the Galatians, St. Paul says, “For you were called to freedom…only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13).
Or, as St. Peter says, “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God” (1 Peter 2:16).
God has set us free to care for each other - to serve one another in love.
It is in this freedom that we understand Luther’s words, “A Christian is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to everyone.”
The freedom that Jesus has won for us is more than just freedom from something - it is freedom for something.
Our freedom is for the purpose of loving our neighbour.
Again, this is what Paul teaches in our Epistle lesson, “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them.”
St. Paul freely makes himself a slave, binding himself to serving people, binding himself to preach Christ and him crucified so that they will believe and be saved.
Jesus has also set you free to make yourself a servant of all people, serving them with love and compassion, proclaiming to them the salvation (the freedom) that Christ has won for them and the entire world.
In loving and serving our neighbours, all of the people God has placed in our lives, Christ makes his saving work known.
The King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, who is greater and far above all things - for us and for our salvation came down from heaven and was made man to become a servant.
Jesus, God in the flesh, declares, “I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27).
Jesus is among us as the one who serves. He serves us his body given into death, his blood shed on the cross - that we receive the forgiveness, freedom, and life we all so desperately need.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, “A Christian is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; A Christian is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to everyone.” Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.