Trinity 13, 2019
The Epistle – Galatians 3:16-22
The Gospel – St. Luke 10:23-37
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
Our prayer this morning asks God that we do unto Him true and laudable service in this life….that we faithfully serve Him in this life. And then, that we do not fail to attain His heavenly promises.
And these points are accomplished, it says, through the merits of Jesus Christ alone.
Serve God in this life.
Attain Heaven in the life to come.
Both by and through the merits of Christ alone.
So, it is the merit of Christ that accomplishes these things.
It is the merit of Christ and His work, His obedience, His death and atonement and sacrifice and resurrection and ascension that merit everything for us.
We attain everlasting life, through the merits of Christ.
We pray many times “through the merits of Christ” because our merits are insufficient to accomplish what is necessary.
We sometimes like to think we are meriting what we accomplish. We tend to think we are pretty good people and that it’s our neighbors who are deficient in some way.
But it’s all of us.
All of us need the merit of Christ. This is not to say that we aren’t called to live a life of good works.
This is not even to say that the good works that we do are not good. They are…..
We just remember that our good works are insufficient to be acceptable except that they be covered or superseded by the merits of Christ.
So, this calls us to faith. This should cause us to believe God and trust in Him by faith. ..trust in Christ by faith and not our own merit.
Notice the last paragraph of the Prayer of Consecration that is prayed by the priest during the service. P.81 BCP.
It is broken up into parts if you notice closely.
The priest prays, that we earnestly desire our Heavenly Father’s goodness to accept our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.
A few lines down we then offer ourselves, our souls and bodies… our entire being to be a reasonable, holy and living sacrifice to God.
Then we admit that we are not worthy still, because of our manifold sins to offer to God any sacrifice…
…even of praise and thanksgiving, presumably, because of their impurity and insufficiency…yet, we say…. Yet…so there is still hope….
…Yet we beseech God to accept what we do offer to Him, as a duty of ours anyway, not weighing our merits, but pardoning our offences. …through Jesus Christ our Lord.
So, our offences are pardoned and our offerings to God accepted as a duty we owe to God but not so God can weigh our own merits…implying they don’t weigh very much.
Rather we would have Him pardon our offences, shortcomings and failings….all through the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord.
His merits are what we request God to look at…to consider….since He merits perfectly what God requires…so that all that we do offer Him in the way of praise, thanksgiving, duty, honor, glory, etc., is through Jesus Christ’s merit.
He carries our imperfect praise of God to the Father and the Father is pleased with us because our works are delivered to the Father by and through the Son.
His substitution is so vitally important to remember. If we think in any way that we are sufficient in and of ourselves, we are very wrong.
Now, we must see how this concept is shown to us in the lessons from Scripture today.
In the Epistle. We get an understanding of just what we are talking about here. Faith…merit…
This passage is isolated but is actually part of a longer thought or argument Paul is laying out.
Very early on in the Old Testament, Abraham is called out by God. God speaks to Abraham and tells him to leave his homeland, pack up and move.
Abraham was in Haran, which is south east Turkey today and he was told to go south to Canaan.
God says to Abraham, “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” (ESV)
So, Abraham believes God…he trusts God and he moves.
And we are told that Abraham’s belief was credited to him as a righteous act.
The very act of believing God and trusting God that what He commanded him to do would be blessed by God.
Abraham had faith in God.
This is the first and important thing to remember. Abraham believed God and that was counted to Him as righteousness. Abraham was counted as righteous because he believed God by faith.
A special and unique relationship between God and man was born.
So, as Abraham moved down, settled and began to expand his family, this would be the beginnings of God’s blessing of Abraham…and those who were part of Abraham’s offspring would all be included in this blessing from God.
So, Paul says today the same thing, “Now the promises [of blessing] were made to Abraham and to his offspring.”
God promises that those who are the offspring or seed of Abraham would enjoy a special blessing from God…because they are believing and trusting God has Abraham did.
But as time goes by, Abraham has Isaac, and Isaac has Jacob and then Jacob moves down to Egypt.
Jacob brings the family to Egypt to live. They multiply greatly and in a few generations, the seed of Abraham has grown exponentially.
So much growth that the Egyptians, who have no remembrance of any Joseph and his predecessors, begin to get worried about the seed of Abraham growing stronger and stronger and enslaving the Egyptians.
So, the Egyptians act first, they
enslave the Israelites and now we need Moses to enter the picture.
Moses leads Abraham's seed, out of slavery in Egypt, and in a short while, they begin to act up.
They make the golden calf. They worship it. They sing and dance around it. And Moses comes down from the mountain with the 10 Commandments and gets very upset with them.
The seed of Abraham have lost their way. They have turned from trusting in God alone and have decided to create an idol.
They state that it is actually intended to be an image of God, but that is not acceptable.
They state that it is an image of God and that they just needed something tangible. They needed something they could see and touch and feel.
They had forsaken the promises that God had made to Abraham. The invisible God was not enough…the One who promised that He would bless them.
His presence was sufficient, but they decided it was not. They decided that they needed to enhance the experience they had of God. This shows a lack of faith.
This is most likely why the very first commandment that Moses had on the tablets…even before he came down from the mountain and found the people creating and worshiping the golden calf…. was, “I Am the Lord thy God. Thou shalt have no other God’s before me…and number two, you shall not make any graven image of anything, especially in an attempt to worship me…and we might add, number three… you shall not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
Calling on God in any other way other than how He commands is taking His name in vain…among other ways.
And at this crucial point in history, 430 years or so have passed since Abraham. Abraham to Moses 430..
Now things have to change. What was once a relationship with God through promise has to have a Law given to bring about reinforcement.
God has determined that His word and promise to His people is not enough…it IS enough, but man found a way to get around it…to stray from His promises …to live by faith.
His law written on the heart of man is going to be supplemented by the Law written on stone tablets.
The seed of Abraham had sinned and now God had to give them the Law. The Commandments as a guide….with consequences attached to many of them. P.68.
The people had lived for a long time with only the law of God written on their hearts. They knew what obedience to God was to look like, but now they had gotten to a place where God had to lay down the Law strictly and define the limits of the people.
But this law that is given does not annul or cancel that first special relationship God had with Abraham and the promise God made to Abraham…that Abraham believed.
God promised that through Abraham He would bless many people and that promise still stands even to today.
Paul says today, “…the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul…it doesn’t cancel out or void the covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void.”
Just because God gave the Law through Moses on tablets to the people to obey, the promise to bless and save people through Abraham, through faith… is also still in effect.
Luther - Hereby it appears that Abraham did not obtain righteousness before God through the law. As of yet, there was no law. If there was no law yet, then there was neither work nor merit. What then? …
Nothing else but the mere promise. This promise Abraham believed, and it was counted to him for righteousness.”
We are still to trust God as Abraham did. The Law is there to keep us in check, show us what God requires of us…but Paul’s point to us this morning is that Abraham believed God and therefore fulfilled the requirements of righteousness.
Abraham did not have a Law to obey…yet he was called righteous by God. ..for believing and trusting in God’s promise.
Augustine: “If the law justifies, Abraham was not justified, since he lived long before the law.
Since [we] cannot say this, [we] are forced to admit that a man is justified not by works of the law but by faith. And he compels us to understand that all the ancients who were justified were justified from the same faith. For as we are saved by believing partly in a past event, that is, the first coming of the Lord, and partly in a future one, that is, his second coming, they believed the whole of it, that is, both comings as events. The Holy Spirit reveals this for their salvation. Epistle to the Galatians 23 [1b.3.15–18].
Paul says, “For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.”
So, then we ask a question, “Why then the law? Why did God give the Law?
Paul says, It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made…”
The Law was given by God through Moses to the people because they transgressed. They began to worship God incorrectly.
Luther - When thou hast appointed these things their proper place, the promise and the law, then you walk safely between them both, in the heaven of the promise, and in the earth of the law.
In spirit you walk in the paradise of grace and peace: in the flesh you walk in the earth of works and of the cross. And now the troubles, which the flesh is compelled to bear, shall not be hard unto thee, because of the sweetness of the promise, which comforts and rejoices the heart exceedingly. But if thou confound and mingle these two together and place the law in the conscience and the promise of liberty in the flesh, thou shalt not know what is the law, what the promise, what sin, or what righteousness.”
In other words, he is saying, we must not confuse these two. If we have any troubles, we are to remember the promise that we are called to have faith in Christ…trust the promise of God like Abraham did.
So then we will be comforted in heart by faith.
But if you mix them up and make yourself slave to trying to obey the law perfectly and thinking you are meriting God’s favor …by obeying the law… you will never understand the promise of Christ and the freedom of faith.
And if you live in such a way so as not to keep the law… you live promiscuously not obeying the law and telling yourself you don’t need to obey Gods’ law because you live by faith, then you also go too far the other way and you forget your duty to God.
There was mention here of the seed or the offspring of Abraham here early on. We must not let that concept go by, because it is central to our belief.
Jesus Christ is born in the line of Abraham, therefore, that makes Him the great and final and perfect seed or offspring of Abraham.
We should be thankful to God, then, that Jesus was born in the line of Abraham. Recall that the promise of God was made to Abraham and to his offspring, long before the Law even came.
And Abraham believed God and His promise. Christ is the offspring of Abraham so the offer continues for us.
Through our faith in Christ, and not by the merits of the law, we too are justified, saved, cleansed and glorified.
Just as Abraham believed God and his faith was counted as righteousness, so are all today who believe in God’s Son are justified apart from the Law.
In this way, Abraham is the “father” of all who believe.
If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, and heirs according to the promise.
Therefore in that way, we obtain the inheritance, the blessing, eternal life…and all that God gives to us finally through the promise, and not through the law.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.