Pastor Hopkins preached this sermon on the sixth Sunday after Trinity 7/19/2020. The service was broadcast live on Facebook at 11am, and is now available on the FLC youtube channel. To follow along from home, the bulletin is available as a PDF: Trinity6 Bulletin
The text for the sermon was the day’s gospel lesson. To read the Bible texts for the sixth Sunday after Trinity, click here.
At Mt. Sinai, God revealed His Law to His people. There, they were given the Ten Words by which they were to order their lives. And it was all rather simple, as Jesus would summarize later:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27
The Law was not given as a list of arbitrary commandments from a tyrant. The Law was given in love. Keeping the Law would actually be good for you and good for your neighbor. Keeping the Law was how life would work best. Keeping the Law kept you out of trouble, and it kept others safe.
But even more importantly, the Law has always been a reflection of God’s own character. It is good because He is good.
And so, if God’s own people would not keep His Law, if they would behave like the pagans surrounding them, then it was not merely they, but God Himself, who would be defamed.
This is partly why God takes His Law so very seriously. It’s why the punishment for sin, namely death, is so severe. (Romans 6:23) But this was known long before the Exodus.
This was known when sin first entered the world through Adam. When he and Eve were exiled from the garden; when he and Eve became estranged from God’s presence; when they began the journey to their temporal deaths, they knew it was because of their sin, their breaking of God’s Word to them. But the arrangement did not change.
God’s Word, His Law, did not change. Though Adam & Eve left Eden; though God’s people rebelled against Him; though they rejected His kingship; still, He loved them. Still, He gave to them His Law. Still, He spoke to them and promised them over and over again: you’ll be back.
Nevertheless, as so many years passed, they lost view of the Law’s purpose. Because they were not attentive to the first three commandments, which directly regard the worship of God alone, the use of His Name, and the hearing of His Word and Promise, they no longer understood what the Law was for.
If they had truly regarded the Sabbath Day and kept it holy, they would not have despised preaching and His Word, but they would have held it sacred and gladly heard it and learned it. Then they would have known that the Law was not given to save them.
No man goes to heaven because he is well-behaved. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) Salvation is not through the Law, but through Jesus the Christ, and Him alone. John 3:36
He did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it. Jesus came to satisfy the Law’s demands. Jesus came to keep the Law perfectly in your place, even as He came to suffer and die in your place. Jesus did this without your asking and without your permission, and He has fulfilled His task perfectly and completely.
Still, many would be tempted to think that the Law is an option for salvation. If you’re not the sort of person who goes around killing people, you may think that you’re in a good position with respect to the fifth commandment. But Jesus Himself says that if you have ever once been angry with someone, even if you never showed it, that you are fully accountable before God for murder. This is not an exaggeration or hyperbole. It is the true requirement of the Law, and by grace, Jesus tells it to us, that we would be stripped of all confidence in our own works. By grace, Jesus shows us this so that we would trust in Him alone for our salvation.
On the cross, Jesus suffers the Father’s wrath over your sin, your anger, your murder. On the cross, Jesus suffers and dies for your breaking of the Law. And then something else happens: this great exchange, this magnificent reversal: as your sins are heaped upon Jesus, His perfection is heaped upon you. This is what happens in your Baptism. In your Baptism, you are covered in Christ’s own righteousness.
That sounds like a tall order for water, and it is; but to the water, Jesus adds His Holy Word. And then it becomes a life-giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul says in Titus, chapter three:
He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. Titus 3:5-8
Now, the Kingdom of Heaven is yours. Now, your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the Pharisees, because Jesus Christ is your righteousness.
For you, life forever with God in His Kingdom is certain. Period. And now, the nagging question: What comes next?
We know our relationship with God in His Son; namely, that by the Holy Spirit, we have faith with Him and fellowship with the Father. So, what does that mean for our relationship with the Law?
God is still good, and so His Law is still good. God still loves us, and so God still disciplines us. (Hebrews 12:6) But God is not like Caesar or King George. He does not send a fully armed battalion to remind you of his love. He will not coerce you or force you into anything.
You have been baptized into Jesus own death and resurrection; because Jesus lives forever, you live forever. And your eternal life does not begin later; it began in your Baptism. You actually are supposed to walk in newness of life.
The Law still shows you your sin, because you are still a sinner. It still reminds you that you fall short of the glory of God, and so it spoils any hope you would have in satisfying it.
But the Law is also a guide for you. It shows you what God wants for your life, and what things are pleasing to Him.
You’re actually free to do these things. Knowing that you are not saved by them, you can do them in freedom and love, not for God, but for your neighbor.