Reformation Sunday – 2014 LSB #621
Text – Romans 3:19
Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced & the whole world held accountable to God.
Before refrigerators, food was preserved in something called an icehouse. It would have thick walls, no windows, & a tightly fitted door. In winter, when streams & lakes were frozen, large blocks of ice were cut, hauled & placed into the icehouse, then covered with sawdust. The ice would often last well into the summer.
One time a man lost a valuable watch while working in the icehouse. He searched for it, carefully raking through the sawdust, yet found nothing. His fellow workers looked with him & they too, found nothing. An ambitious young boy heard about the fruitless search. He slipped into the icehouse while the men were at lunch & soon emerged with the watch.
Amazed, the men asked the boy how he found the watch so quickly. “I closed the door,” replied the boy, “lay down in the sawdust, & kept very still. Soon, in the silence, I heard the watch ticking.”
497 years ago, a Catholic monk by the name of Martin Luther changed the history of the entire world. Western civilization was going to hell in a hand basket, & the Easter hemisphere was already there. In the third chapter of Romans, the almighty Creator of the universe tells us why He wrote His law upon your heart. He did so in order that every mouth may be silenced.
On the Last Day of time, the Law is going to hold every human being accountable to God. The atheists, who are trying to get rid of every public display of the commandments, the cross, or any other symbol of the Christian faith, will be silenced & held responsible for their actions. It’s what the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to write. People who are twisting the Words of Holy Scripture, to make their case for the acceptance of evolution, on the Last Day, will twist the Word of God no more. Their lies will be silenced & they will be held accountable for their false & blasphemous teaching.
Pastors, judges & politicians, any of whom have worked to overturn our nation’s laws against the practice of gay marriage will find that the Laws of God are not subject to re-writing. The mouths which decreed their stand against our Lord’s design & blessing shall be silenced & they will be held accountable for their rebellion.
Clearly, the majority of the leaders in our nation have no use for the Law of our heavenly Father. They now believe they have every right to make up their own law, & if they refuse to repent of their sins, they shall die for them – eternally:
“Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced & the whole world held accountable to God.”
David, the mere boy who defeated the warrior Goliath, with nothing more than a slingshot, wrote in Psalm 36: “Sin whispers to the wicked, deep within their hearts. They have no fear of God at all.” (Psalm 36:1 NLT) Jesus Christ is loving, kind, gentle & forgiving. He absolutely does love everyone, & yet, He is also Lord of the universe.
He designed it, created it, sustains it. He gave us the Law so that our sin-twisted heart might know how to live. As much as the devil tells the lie, atheism, evolution & homosexuality are not about life. They are death disguised to look pretty. Haven’t you heard this before:
“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, & that it was a delight to the eyes, & that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit & ate, & she also gave some to her husband who was with her, & he ate.” (Genesis 3:6 ESV) You see, the heart of mankind does need to be silenced. For the evil that we have done & for the good that we have left undone, someone must be held accountable. If not, how could anyone respect our heavenly Father for allowing the horrifying evil, that goes on in this world, to continue with no consequence? “Sin whispers to the wicked, deep within their hearts.”
You’ve heard that whisper, haven’t you? In last Sunday’s sermon we learned that the prophet Isaiah turned his attention away from the nation of Judah as a whole. It was refusing to hear Yahweh’s message anyway. Isaiah began directing his words to the godly people of his day. St. Paul is doing much the same thing in today’s reading from Romans 3.
Paul is not preaching to the atheists, or the evolutionists, or to the gay marriage crowd. He is preaching to the religious people of his day. He’s preaching to the ones who are in the synagogue each Sabbath. The Apostle Paul is preaching to you. He’s preaching to me. He’s preaching to the choir, because even the choir is making excuses for their sin.
In the opening illustration, the boy closed the door, lay down in the sawdust, & kept very still. Soon, in the silence, he heard the watch ticking. The question is not whether God is speaking to us, or trying to lead us. The question is, are we being still enough or quiet enough or humble enough to hear & to see & to feel the presence & the will of our almighty Creator?
As Jesus said in the gospel reading for today, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” In a similar vein, you might remember the story of the young man who came to Jesus asking, “…what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16 ESV) After the man leaves, sorrowful, because he’s unwilling to do it, Jesus explained to His disciples:
“…it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the reign of God.” (Matthew 19:24 ESV) The greatest hurdle, or obstacle, is in allowing God to rule. “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced & the whole world held accountable to God.” Haven’t you noticed that all human beings are “team players” as long as they get to make the rules? How willing are you to be held accountable to God for the evil you have done, & for the good you’ve left undone? There’s only one way that’s possible!
The apostle dramatically shifts gears beginning with verse 21: “But now a righteousness of God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law & the Prophets testify.” In Martin Luther’s day that meant no more purgatory. Gone were the days of paying money to have your sins forgiven through an indulgence.
“This righteousness of God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned & fall short of the glory of God, & are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” How much you pray, how much you pay, & how well you obey are no longer the definition of saving faith.
Now, you can freely & willingly come to cross to be held accountable to God. Without Jesus’ suffering, death & resurrection there’s no way we could, or would, openly confess our sins. Without Jesus’ work on our behalf there’d be no point in confessing our sins. We’d be damned anyway. The glory of the cross is that Jesus was held accountable in our place.
Yahweh designed the cross in order to take away the sin of the world, & Jesus is the Lamb of God who was sacrificed there. Our Lord does not back away from the mess of our sin. Instead, He plants the cross smack dab in the middle of it. He plants the people of the cross, you & me, there as well. He plants us there to share the love & the hope we have in Christ.
Yahweh has created you – designer creatures – washed, strengthened, whatever your darkness & calamity, for Himself & for His world. He created you the moment you were conceived & He re-created you with a clean heart, the moment He brought you to faith in Jesus. Yahweh sent His only-begotten Son that you might be set free of the prison of your sins. It’s in that freedom, which we can honestly look at all the immorality & depravity of our time, & even of our own heart, & still find rest & healing. We find them because Jesus has guaranteed all of His promises by the shedding of His blood & by His resurrection from the dead.
Not atheism, nor the theory of evolution, nor the extremist agenda of the homosexual movement can overcome the Alpha & the Omega. In five weeks Advent begins. 60 days from today we’ll remember the birth of Jesus as He entered our world of sin in order that in heaven He could wipe away every tear from our eyes.
The righteousness of God rests outside of us in God’s judgment on His Son, so it’s as firm & immovable as God Himself. All whom God declares righteous are without sin, even though all the world & all devils condemn you, even though your own conscience pronounces you guilty. In Christ your heavenly Father sees you as silent & humble & holy.
Martin Luther found peace in a Savior who gives to us God’s holiness & righteousness. The Law was given, not to frighten us into living holy lives. It was given so we’d become conscious of our sin, & most importantly, so we’d become conscious of our need for Jesus. By the power of God’s Holy Spirit we can now say to the whispers of sin – Silence! Amen.
Let all mortal flesh keep silence & with fear & trembling stand; ponder nothing earthly minded, for with blessing in His hand Christ our God to earth descending comes our homage to demand. Rank on rank the host of heaven spreads its vanguard on the way as the Light of Light, descending from the realms of endless day; comes the powers of hell vanquish as the darkness clears away. At His feet the six-winged seraph, cherubim with sleepless eye, veil their faces to the presence as with ceaseless voice they cry: “Alleluia, alleluia! Alleluia, Lord Most High!” Amen.
 Hamilton, J., Directions: Insights for Christian Living. (Beacon Hill, 1976).
Pastor Dean R. Poellet