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  • Writer's pictureRev. Gerald (Jerry) Reiter, Emeritus

“Just-If-Ied Never Sinned”

Third Sunday After Pentecost


You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.


Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.


Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned —


To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.


But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!

Romans 5:6-15


In Romans 5, verse 9, we read, “We have now been justified by (Christ’s) blood.” Justification! This theme is considered by many to be the most important in the Bible. Especially in the Lutheran Church, justification is the central teaching of the Christian faith. It’s studied and discussed by theologians; conferences are programmed around this theme. Scholarly papers are written on it. Justification was the heart and core of the Lutheran Reformation, and to a large extent it was also the reason for it. It’s summarized in the words of St. Paul: “We maintain that a (person) is justified by faith, apart from observing the law.” In the Epistle lesson this morning the Lord, through Paul, tells us what it means to be “justified.”


The importance of a doctrine is hardly established by theologians who write about it and discuss it, nor by how often we refer to it, nor by how often we use the word in Bible classes, sermons, hymns, and prayers. The doctrine of justification is meant by God to be used in life – to lead us to Christian service and to eternal life. When I’m justified before God, it’s just-if-ied never sinned!


That’s because Christ paid the penalty of sin by His sacrificial death. Paul says, “Christ died for the ungodly.” That’s me; and that’s you, too. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” I’m a sinner, and so are you. We just confessed our sins to God at the beginning of this service. Sometimes we feel a little casual about the seriousness of sin, but we need to remember that sin is the source of all trouble in this life. Heartache and sadness, pain and loss, despair and every other negative thing in your life and mine are caused by sin. Sometimes directly by a specific sin – more often because we are all “by nature sinful and unclean, and we have sinned by thought, word, and deed.” And unless we are delivered from sin, the worst is still to come. There is death and the torments of Hell for all who reject the grace and love of God in Christ Jesus. Sin is in all of us. Sin is in people everywhere, to plague them in this life and to torment them in eternity.


But God has reached out in love and sent His son to die for sinners. “We have now been justified by His blood.” In the Old Testament sacrificial system, lifeblood had to be shed as a penalty for sin. When Jesus shed His blood on Calvary’s cross, His sacrifice was sufficient for everyone, because He was not only true man but also true God. His sacrifice had infinite value. Which means it counts for you and me.


God means for us to use this truth now. He wants us to live without fear. John wrote, “Perfect love drives out fear.” (John 4:18) God loved us with a perfect love when He gave His Son to suffer and die in our place. The first words of the angels to the shepherds at Christmas were, “Do not be afraid.” (Luke 2:10) and to the women at the empty tomb on Easter morning the angel said, “Do not be afraid.” (Matthew 28:5)


How much of life do we live as though God is angry with us? Believing that when we have problems, pain, or loss that He’s paying us back for some sin? How much of the fear of sickness, and the panic at the thought of dying is brought on by a fear of a just God who requires a penalty of death and Hell of those who sin against Him? Actually, we are partly right, He does require it. But the good news is that Christ has already met the requirement! He did so when He shed His blood on the cross for us!


And since we are justified before God through Jesus, God intends for us to live without fear so that we can give our minds, our hearts, our strength, and our time in service to Him and to others. With our souls at peace and our hearts filled with joy, we serve Him best when we spread the good news of justification, by grace, through faith, for Christ’s sake.


Jesus does more than take away the penalty. He makes us righteous so we can stand before God and hear Him say, “Not guilty.” In the hymn we sing, “To Jesus we for refuge flee, who from the curse has set us free.” Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21)


This can be a real challenge to our faith. How can God say I’m not guilty when I know that every day I fall into all kinds of sin? That’s the wonderful mystery of the Gospel. It shows the overwhelming greatness of God’s love and grace. So now I am justified before God – not guilty in His sight – pure, holy, and sinless! Just-if-ied never sinned!!


It seems too good to be true, doesn’t it? But is what God says in His Word true – or is what our reason says true? “Not guilty.” That’s the word from God as He looks at you and me. That’s why justification is seen as such a great and important truth.


How much of life is ruined by people – including Christians – carrying around a load of guilt?! Loaded with guilt, we carry a self-image of being worthless. Loaded with guilt, we try to find a way out. We try to justify ourselves, but it doesn’t work. We compare ourselves to others, but that doesn’t help. We try to work off our guilt somehow, but that doesn’t do any good either. Some try to overcome guilt and depression with drugs, alcohol, withdrawal, and other diversions – all to no avail.


But when we face up to our sins, confess them and seek God’s help, we give ourselves over to Him and receive deliverance. This is the only remedy for sin!


An old woman was walking down the road, carrying a heavy sack. A farmer came down the road with a wagon and offered her a ride. She climbed into the wagon and sat down but kept holding the heavy sack. “Put your sack down there in the wagon,” the farmer told her. “Oh, no,” she said, “it’s enough for you to give me a ride; I can carry my burden myself.”


Jesus said, “Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” He wants to carry us – and our guilt! We who believe in Jesus as our Savior are justified in God’s sight. We are not guilty, now! We are free from the punishment of sin, now! We don’t need to waste our time and strength and life by dwelling on our sins. Before God we are just! Now He counts on us to live out the meaning of what He has done for us. He wants us to tell others about our acquittal. He wants our joy and gratitude to show through in everyday life. We should look different coming out of church than we did coming in!


Paul mentions another blessing of being justified: He says our relationship with God is changed. He says, “We have now received reconciliation.” What does that mean? When we fight – and make up – and become friends again – we say we’ve reconciled. Our relationship has been changed - for the better. When we experience reconciliation with someone, usually both people have to do some bending and changing. It’s usually necessary because neither person is perfect nor innocent. But notice that Paul says, “When we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son.” “We were reconciled to Him.” God didn’t change. He always loved us. He always hated sin and responded with His punishment. He's still the same. Sin incurs His anger, His punishment. But that anger and punishment were spent on His Son as Christ took our place in Gethsemane and on Calvary. God is still pleased only with love, and obedience, and righteousness from us, His children. But now He sees those who claim Jesus as their Savior as having the love, obedience, and righteousness of Christ!


The forgiveness of our sins – being justified before God – being relieved of the burden of guilt – being reconciled to a loving relationship with God – these blessings are to show in our lives! They are to change our lives – and to an extent that others can see that we’re different! That brings glory to God. That also leads others to faith in God. They should look at us and want what we’ve got!


Remembering that we are God’s children, we want to act like God’s children. Remembering how much God loves us, we want to live Him with all our heart and soul and mind and strength – and our neighbor as ourselves. Remembering the price that God’s great love cost Him, we’re happy to give ourselves in service to Him and to our fellow man.


Through Jesus Christ I am justified before God – just-if-ied never sinned! What a gift! May God help us to believe it, live it, and share it!


Amen

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