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July 18, 2009

Pastor's Note – July 19-20, 2009

by Rev. A. J. Iovine

If you are looking for a book of the bible to read and really sink your teeth into, then you can find no better a book than Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans. It is a blessed writing, crafted very systematically and detailed, driving a reader’s heart into a true understanding of what it means to be a child of God. In our Wednesday Night bible class, our direction is focused squarely on the central meaning of the book: the justification by faith alone without work of the Law.

This theme has been critical to the Lutheran understanding of the church since its inception back in 1517. We can never do enough or live our lives as stringently to satisfy the perfection called for in the Law of God. Luther saw this clearly in his day as he watched God-fearing people being used and abused by the church. He saw how the church was taking the Word of God and corrupting it to make the church more powerful than God Himself. Luther showed how faith in the papacy took the hope of a better day away from God’s people. They missed the incredible message found in Romans—how we are graciously granted forgiveness of our sins not because we deserve to be forgiven by God, but because He is merciful and gracious and through His Son He forgives our overwhelming amount of sins solely by our having faith in Christ and His work at the cross for us.

When we think about justification, it almost sounds as if it is too easy. Just believe, we’re told, and that’s it. Faith only in Christ, not in our work, will grant us freedom from sin. The sad rebound is that God’s people forget that even though we’re forgiven of our sins, it doesn’t mean that we should go on sinning like there is no tomorrow. It is a faulty understanding of the Lutheran theology on justification by faith that says “God will forgive my sins; so I will go out and sin as much as I want.”

If you have that understanding of Lutheranism, speak to me about a refresher catechism course immediately after church.

Justification by faith alone in Christ, without works of the Law, is THE central theme of all Scripture. However, there is nothing within the pages of Scripture that point us to the belief that since we’re forgiven, it means we can sin more and more and more. It is just the opposite!!

God’s children try to combat sin in their lives. When tempted to do something wrong (and I mean what is wrong in the eyes of God according to His Law, not our own personal ideas of what is good and bad) Christians are compelled by their faith not to sin. Our faith should prod us to do what is good, to act in a God-pleasing way all the days of our lives.

This challenge is critical to each of us for we do sin plenty each and everyday. We fall short of God’s glory. That is why our faith compels us to do good, not because we receive special benefits for our goodness, but because Christ has already paid the debt of our sin to God the Father and in His mercy, grants us forgiveness.

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