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Pentecost 15 2021 Proper 18
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
September 5, 2021
Isaiah 35:4-7a, James 2:1-10, 14-18, Mark 7:31-39

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                           pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                        bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:   bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

            Last Sunday we finished reading through St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.  A beloved passage from a few weeks ago is Ephesians 2:8–9 (ESV) 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 

            This Sunday we begin the book of James, likely written by Jesus’ half-brother who became the first Bishop of Jerusalem.  In James we read James 2:14 (ESV) 

14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” And James 2:17 (ESV) 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 

            Many people have the Ephesians 2 passage as their confirmation verse.  I don’t know anyone who has James 2 for theirs. 

            You are saved by grace through faith and not by works. Faith without works is dead.  It appears we have a contradiction.  Which is true?  Saved by faith or faith without works is dead?  The answer is both.  You are saved by grace through faith, and, faith without works is dead.  Both of these truths need to be heard, so the big question here is who needs to hear which one and when. 

            When we study the catechism we learn about Law and Gospel.  The law Shows our Sins, S.O.S.  The law tells us what to do and what not to do.  The law has three uses.  It curbs our behavior.  Like when you are driving down route 129 and see a state trooper up ahead in the median. What do you do?  You slow down, even if you are doing the speed limit. The law curbs your behavior.  The law also functions as a mirror to show you your sins and show that you are a sinner.  The third use of the law is to function as a guide.  How shall I live?  Love God and love your neighbor.  Now the law does not only condemn, but it always condemns.  The law always shows you to be a sinner. 

            Hearing that “faith without works is dead,” is law.

            You are saved by grace through faith is Gospel.  The word Gospel in Greek means good news. The Gospel is the good news of forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ.  The Gospel Shows our Savior; S.O.S.  The Gospel tells what God has done for you in Jesus Christ.  That Jesus died on the cross to pay for your sins and rose from the dead to conquer death.  That, in Christ, you have eternal life.  The Law is the Word of God and the Gospel is the Word of God.  So when should we use Ephesians 2, and when should we use James 2?

Thesis VIII … the Word of God is not rightly divided when the Law is preached to those who are already in terror on account of their sins, or the Gospel to those who live securely in their sins. 

            C.F.W. Walther was the first president of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, which was founded in 1847 and was originally called the Die Deutsche Evangelisch-Lutherische Synode von Missouri, Ohio und anderen Staaten, or The German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio and Other States.  In 1947, Ohio lost out and the name was shortened to the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.  A sort of strange geographic name, but it is the one chosen because the Synod began in Missouri and is still headquartered in St. Louis.  Walther’s gave a series of Friday night lectures between September of 1884 and November of 1885.  His teachings about Law and Gospel were compiled from lecture notes in a very useful book called the Proper Distinction of Law and Gospel.  Understanding Law and Gospel is vital for Christians.  The confusion of Law and Gospel has caused no end of trouble in the Church.  People thinking they are saved no matter what they do and people thinking they are saved by what they do.  Walther helps us understand when to use Law and when to use Gospel.  His eighth, ninth and tenth theses help clarify.

Thesis VIII … the Word of God is not rightly divided when the Law is preached to those who are already in terror on account of their sins, or the Gospel to those who live securely in their sins. 

Thesis IX … the Word of God is not rightly divided when sinners who have been struck down and terrified by the Law are directed, not to the Word and the Sacraments, but to their own prayers and wrestlings with God in order that they may win their way into a state of grace; in other words, when they are told to keep on praying and struggling until they feel that God has received them into grace. 

Thesis X … the Word of God is not rightly divided when the preacher describes faith in a manner as if the mere inert acceptance of truths, even while a person is living in mortal sins, renders that person righteous in the sight of God and saves him; or as if faith makes a person righteous and saves him for the reason that it produces in him love and reformation of his mode of living.

            The Law and the Gospel are both useful.  The Gospel should be preached to those who are in terror of their sins.  The Law should be preached to those who live securely in their sins. 

            If someone is struggling with guilt and shame because they know God is holy and they are not…because God demands obedience and they fail to obey…because they try to stop sinning, but they cannot…this person does not need to hear the Law.  They know the Law.  They need to hear the Good News that Jesus died for sinners to forgive them of their sins. They need the Gospel.   

            However, if someone is secure in their sins…if they are living in ongoing, unrepentant sin…if they think, “I like to sin, God likes to forgive, that’s a pretty good deal,”… or they think, “I know that what I am doing is wrong, but everyone else is doing it, it’s no big deal, I got baptized, so I’m not going to hell,”…if they live in ongoing hatred towards others rather than love…they need to hear God’s Law.  They need to hear that faith without works is dead.  They need to hear that they must obey God’s commands and not live a life of lawlessness.  And when they repent of their sin and understand that they are indeed a sinner and the wages of sin is death, then they are ready to hear the Gospel; then they are ready to hear that their sins are forgiven in Jesus.

            James 2 is law.  Faith without works is dead.  Don’t think that just because you say you believe in Jesus that is real faith.  Real faith produces fruit; the fruit of good works. The good works do not save you, but they are present because of your faith in Christ.  As a baptized follower of Jesus you cling to the cross of Christ. You treasure the Word of God and you gather to hear the Word and receive the gifts of His Body and Blood for forgiveness of sins. 

Cling to Jesus knowing you are forgiven, and live out your forgiven life. Love your neighbors by doing what you have been given to do.  Do what you have been given to do as a wife, husband, friend, mother, father, child, grandparent, student, teacher, worker, employer, neighbor, shopper, citizen.  Do all that you have been given to do in love for your neighbor, and when you fail to love; confess your sin, receive forgiveness and live your life as a faithful follower of Jesus.  Ephesians 2:8–9 (ESV) 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 

            Matthew 5:16 (ESV) 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. 

            Live so people see your good works and give glory to God.  Now, good works are not some specific works like going on a pilgrimage or spending a certain set amount of time each day in prayer or Bible reading.  Good works flow from knowing you are forgiven by the blood of Jesus and living out that forgiven life in all that you do. 

God’s Law shows your sin.  God’s Gospel shows Jesus has saved you from your sin.  Live in Jesus’ forgiveness.  Amen.

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