October 30, 2016 A+D
Psalm 48; 46; Romans 3:19-28
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Reformation was a quest for security. The Medieval Roman system of theology preached insecurity. It was incredibly complicated and difficult, obtuse, but at the popular level, God was simply depicted as angry with sinners yet doing little to alleviate His anger. Sinners then had to appease God’s wrath through their own works and they could never be sure if it was possible to do enough.
Luther felt this burden more deeply than most. He took it seriously and it nearly drove him to despair, but the Lord is merciful. The Lord used it to drive Luther to the Scriptures. There he discovered that God’s wrath has been appeased by His offering of the Son whom He put forward as a propitiation by His blood for the sins of the world. Luther learned from the Spirit in the Scriptures that sinners are justified by God’s grace as a gift which they receive by faith.
This is secure, safe, steadfast. This is not dependent upon the wavering will of fallen men or their half-hearted efforts. This rests upon the infallible promise of God. Sinners are justified by God’s grace as a gift which they receive by faith.
We see quite a bit of this promise of security in the Psalter. In the Gradual and Alleluia verse today we hear verses 12-14 of Psalm 48:
12 Walk about Zion, go around her,
number her towers,
13 consider well her ramparts,
go through her citadels,
that you may tell the next generation
14 that this is God,
our God forever and ever.
He will guide us forever.
Echoing in all our ears today is also at least part of Psalm 46:
1 God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
This security is also sounded in Our Lord’s words to the Jews who believed in Him: “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
The Christian’s salvation is not precarious and uncertain. There is no ambiguous amount of sin left to be purged away in purgatory. The Son sets free indeed. He washes away sin for certain. He declares sinners to be righteous forever. He is not a half-way God. He is not simply giving us some seed money and another chance to try again: He is the God who makes sons out of rebels. He didn’t die so that we would be inspired by His sacrifice. He died to make us His, to cleanse us, to rescue us from our sins. The freedom and peace that He declares have no strings attached. He died for the sins of the whole world. He loves the whole world. He has baptized you into His Name and family. That doesn’t just slip away like the dew in the morning. Baptism is not dew, or some puddle that evaporates in the blazing sun, it is not buckets and swimming pools either, it is oceans and galaxies and the entirety of the heavens. It isn’t going anywhere. The waters that covered Pharoah also drown the devil and our old man. They give rise to new birth and new life. Out of slavery, come the free, out of death, come the living, out of rebellion, come sons.
So it is that faith is not a tightrope walk without a safety net – where the breathless crowd hopes for the morbid thrill of watching you fall. Nor is it an act of our will, dependent upon our strength and commitment. If it were, then it would be of little use. Rather faith is sitting secure in our God who is a fortress, a citadel, with ramparts and bulwarks, who, though the earth itself give way, is not and will not be moved. Faith rests in Christ.
God Himself is a fortress because the earth will eventually give way and our faith is under attack. He is not a fortress that we build with our sincerity or with the strength of our faith, rather He gives Himself as a fortress for our safety and security. He is unmoving and His word cannot be broken. Bad things do happen. Sorrows and temptation come. But the gates of Hell have raged against Him since the fall in Eden though they took His life on calvary they were defeated in the act. They were overcome by their own violence. Jesus lives. He is our fortress and refuge, against whom the gates of Hell could not and have not and never will prevail, He lives and so do we and so do all those who believe in Jesus – even though who rest in the grave.
Faith sits, it rests, securely in Him, in His promise, in His death and resurrection. In Him, we are safe, secure, solid. Walk about Zion and look upon the Temple built without hands. See the marks where the nails bit into His wrists and feet. Behold the place where a spear was thrust in His side. There is security. There is the undoing of death, the satisfaction of God’s wrath, the end of our seeking our own way.
We do not need, then, to be constantly looking over our shoulders to see if the devil is trying to get us. He is trying to get us, but he can’t. “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” We do not need to measure our faith or count up our good works. They are paltry when compared to the Law but “The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our fortress.” We trust not in our faith, in our works, in our sincerity. We fear not though we have failed to keep the Law. We trust in the Lord. We rejoice in His security for we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. “The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our fortress.”
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.