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Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost – October 23 2022

Posted on October 25, 2022, Pastor: Pastor Krista Johnson, Mt. Si Lutheran Church in North Bend

Sermons are preached within the context of a particular worship service, and are most meaningful when experienced in that way. We encourage you to view or listen to the entire worship service. 

October 23, 2022

Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost 

2 Samuel 11:1-5, 26-27; 12:1-9
Psalm 51:1-12
Matthew 21:33-41

Worship Service Video Sermon  Video Sermon  Audio

Sermon Text:

As we gather today we are exploring the Lutheran theological gem of Law and Gospel.

In his The Freedom of the Christian, Luther explains “that the entire Scripture of God is divided into two parts: commands and promises.” Luther’s close associate Philip Melanchthon will say more directly, “All of Scripture is either Law or Gospel.”

The law refers specifically to the Law of Moses but overlaps conceptually with other commands of God in Scripture. The Gospel refers specifically to the good news about Jesus Christ, but Scripture often contains promises of the gospel. We recognize that the Bible contains law and gospel throughout – law is not just found in the Old Testament, nor is Gospel only found in the New Testament. Often we find good news in the form of covenant language in the OT – for example – God makes a covenant with Noah to never again flood the earth and in that covenant makes a promise not just to humans, but to all creation to preserve life. God also makes a covenant with Abraham and Sarah – God promises that they and their descendants will be a blessing to all nations. Again, in the time of Moses God makes a covenant to be present with, guide and care for the Israelite people – God upholds this promise even when the Israelites fall short of keeping up their end of the agreement.

Luther found it of great importance to explain to all Christians the purpose and function the law. In Luther’s time he found that the two had become confused. The church was teaching that Gospel was only for the few who could keep the law and that is not what Luther found in Scripture.

Let’s start with the Law – Luther found three basic functions of the law.

First, the law reveals sin. The law is like holding up a mirror and exposing the viewer – no mark or blemish is hidden. In the same way the law reveals sin already present. When we see it, our natural reaction is to fear the consequence of that sin, since Scripture says the wages of sin is death. Luther sees this in Romans 7:9, “I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive in me and I died.”

Second, the law serves to increase sin as found in Romans 5:20 – “Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,”

Finally, It also restrains evil. The law, when followed, effectively thwarts evil.

From these functions Luther began to see their purpose – In 1532 Luther writes a paper called the Distinction of the Law and Gospel. He writes, “the Law has its terminus, defining how far it is to go and what it is to achieve, namely, to terrify the impenitent with the wrath and displeasure of God and drive them to Christ.” In short, the purpose of the law is to turn us to the Gospel, to Jesus.

As his colleague Philip Melancthon wrote, “The Law shows the disease, the Gospel the cure.”

Let’s turn now to the Gospel.

The Gospel, good news, is the basic truth that God’s approval of us is based on God clothing us with the righteousness of Christ. In his 1520 treatise, On The Freedom of the Christian, Luther writes, “In the Gospel, we give up entirely our sin and Christ gives entirely his righteousness. We are then by this union justified by faith. A foreign righteousness becomes ours by faith.” In short, Christ is our righteousness. We begin to see that the gospel of grace saves us apart from any works of the law. The law no longer terrifies us or condemns us, instead, grace covers us, we see that Christ gifts us a place before God.

Let’s take Luther’s Law and Gospel idea and look at our text today from 2 Samuel. It seems a little heavy on the law side, but let’s see what we can find as we look at the text.

First, we want to put on our “law” lenses.

We have three functions we are looking for.

First – what does this text reveal to us about human sin?

Give space for answers

Second – as I look more closely do I recognize something in myself that causes me to pause? Do I sense an increase of feeling trapped, called out or convicted by the words of this text?

Give space for answers

Third – Luther, in his small catechism takes each of these commands and gives them a positive twist. For example, for the 10th commandment, you shall not covet your neighbors wife, which, if you had any doubt, it is one of the 10 commandments King David breaks in this story… Luther writes, “We are to fear and love God, so that we do not coax away our neighbors wife, but instead urge them to stay.”

Why does Luther write this? He sees that he law has a limit – when we fulfill the law, it has the potential to constrain evil. Can you see how turning this law into positive action for our neighbor could have an impact in our world? What would it look like if we could “build up, support our neighbors in their relationships?”

Give space for answers

Now, let’s put on our Gospel glasses.

Where do you hear promise to God’s people in this text?

Give space for answers

If you are not hearing Gospel yet, that’s ok, remember, the law is meant to push us to Jesus –  What do you hear Jesus saying to God’s people?

Give space for answers

Let’s go a step further and use our magnifying glass again – what do you hear Jesus saying to you – to your heart? What word of freedom and grace do you need?

Give space for answers

Each week as we come to worship we will hear law and we will hear Gospel. In our confession each week we acknowledge shortcomings and then receive words of forgiveness, through the music we sing there are verses of grace and hope as well as conviction and command. In the hearing of Scripture we receive law and gospel and, hopefully, through their interpretation in the sermon. We again receive law and gospel at the table as we remember Jesus’ sacrifice and gift of life through the bread and cup. As you study at home and live in community together, I hope you grow in your confidence of the Gospel – that you can hear and know to be true for yourself – you are holy, beloved, righteous, forgiven and precious in God’s eyes no matter well you did or didn’t fulfill all of God’s commands. Be free, children of God – Amen!