mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior,
Jesus Christ, the only truly Righteous One. Amen.
it’s one thing we learn from the Bible, and particularly from today’s Epistle
lesson from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, it’s this: Mankind is not in
control. We are in control of some things, of course. But we are certainly not
in control when we consider how insignificant we are in comparison to the size,
power, and problems in the universe around us, and it goes well beyond just
that. In the end, though, we are comforted knowing that God is always in
control. We are comforted knowing that God knows what is best for each and
everyone of us. We are thankful that God does what is best for each and every
one of us.
we are thankful that God has made each and everyone of us a promise—a
guarantee. God guarantees our inheritance. The Lord reminds us, using the
example of Abraham, that because of faith our inheritance is guaranteed. Paul
describes this in another letter, 2nd Corinthians: "Now
it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set
his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit,
guaranteeing what is to come" (2 Corinthians 1:21-22). That
guarantee God has made for each one of us and to
each one of us. GOD GUARANTEES OUR INHERITANCE – an inheritance that we as
people cannot earn with our own righteousness, and an inheritance that God
provides through the righteousness of Christ
recognize Abraham as a great man of faith because of all the things that
happened in his life and, because Scripture calls him that. What did Abraham
learn about justification and faith?
we look at the life of Abraham, we discover that God made many promises to
Abraham, and God kept all His promises. Think of the time Abraham was asked to
sacrifice his long-promised son, Isaac. God told Abraham, even though he didn’t
take along anything else except his son, that He would provide a sacrifice.
Abraham went, built the altar, had the wood to start the fire, and was drawing
his knife to sacrifice his son when the Lord stopped him. Abraham learned that
when he put his faith and complete trust in God, God would always do as He
said. God always did, always would, and always could
do just as He promised.
believed, not as a work, but because of the faith that God had given him. If
Abraham was justified by works, then he had something to boast about—but not
before God. Scripture describes many of the things that Abraham did in
obedience to God’s promises and commands.
of these, some might say, "Look at all the things Abraham did to save
himself." And, if Abraham felt that way, too, he might
boast about how he had saved himself—but that boasting would do no good before
God. Abraham, however, knew it was God who saved him. Scripture says, "Abraham
believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." It
wasn’t what Abraham had done, but it was what God had done for him that saved
him. It wasn’t Abraham’s righteousness that saved him, but it was the
righteousness of God. Abraham could have kept all of the laws, and that still
would not save him.
clear from the opening verses of this passage: “It was not through law
that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of
the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. For if those who
live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless, because
law brings wrath.”
Paul was trying to remind these believers that the law could not save them,
that their own works could not save them. The law was only able to show them
their sin. The law did not show them their Savior.
time began, through the time Paul wrote these words to the believers, and even
in our time and until the end, that simple message has not changed—the law
still condemns. The law shows us our sins and cannot save us. Today, people
have a tendency to avoid the law or feel they are above the law. We see it very
clearly in our society. Many feel if they break only certain small rules or
regulations, it is not as bad as breaking those big laws such as murder,
stealing and adultery.
what does Scripture remind us? It says that the law condemns us no matter the
sin. In the Book of James we are told: "For whoever keeps the whole
law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it"
if we ever have one bad thought, or say one bad word, or do one bad thing, it
makes no difference. Sin is still sin, and we are guilty of breaking all of
God’s commands. So, the law and our own righteousness cannot guarantee an
inheritance for us, for the simple reason that we cannot keep all of God’s law.
We are going to break it, probably sooner rather than later.
fact is: Sin is all around us, and we live in sin. It is described in Isaiah: "All
of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like
filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us
away" (Isaiah 64:6). Isaiah reminds us that even those things
which we might think are good and right before God are still tainted with sin.
They are like filthy rags. So our sins stack up; they stand against us, and can
sweep us away like the wind. Our righteousness cannot earn heaven, because on
this side of heaven all our righteous acts are always still tainted with sin.
what does that mean? This simply means we cannot save ourselves. We can’t try
hard enough. We can’t live well enough. We can’t purchase heaven with all the
wealth in the world. We are told the price of the eternal inheritance. In the
Psalms, God points out: "No man can redeem the life of another or
give to God a ransom for him—the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is
ever enough—that he should live on forever and not see decay"
and I can never believe for someone else. You and I can not give up our life
that someone might be saved eternally. That price, that ransom, to be bought
back from death, from sin, and from the devil, that price is just too much for
us. We are able to rejoice that the price was paid through the one Man—Jesus.
We ordinary mortals cannot pay the price.
still we praise God, because our inheritance is guaranteed by God, not by our
own efforts or righteousness, but by the perfect righteousness of Christ that
He gives to us.
is what Abraham believed, even though Abraham never saw the incarnate Christ
during his earthly lifetime. Yet, Abraham looked ahead, to the promise that God
had made to Adam and Eve. He looked ahead to the promise that God had made that
there would be a Savior. And Abraham believed God’s promises. He didn’t work
for them. He didn’t go out hunting to find God’s promises. God’s promises came
writes that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be
heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. That’s
how God’s promises came to Abraham, and how faith comes to a believer!
the account of Abraham when he was by his tent, and three visitors came to him
with a message. The message was that Abraham and his wife Sarah would have a
son within the year. Abraham did not seek out these messengers to tell him that
the Lord would bless him. Rather, the messengers came and found Abraham and
told him God’s promise for him.
how faith works. Faith comes and tells us we are saved. Faith came to Abraham
and he believed and it was credited as righteousness. Verse 16 says, “Therefore,
the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to
all Abraham’s offspring.”
faith, Abraham is the father of us all. We who are believers today are the
spiritual descendants of Abraham. Descendants not by flesh and blood, but by
the spirit of faith. That was the promise that God made to Abraham—that he was
going to be the father of many nations. Verse 17 says: “As it is written:
‘I have made you a father of many nations.’” Abraham is our father in
the sight of God, in whom he believed. Abraham believed in God—the only true
God, the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not into
existence. That is the God in whom Abraham believes, and the God in whom we
Abraham and for us, God called forth things that did not exist and which seemed
impossible, but they became possible because of God’s promises. Abraham
believed, and it was credited to him as righteousness.
so, we realize that the law cannot save, our works cannot save—only faith can
save. In this, we come to that second great teaching of Scripture—the gospel
that shows us our Savior, through whom our sins are forgiven. By the law, we
are shown our sin, and reminded that by ourselves and on our own, we are lost
and condemned creatures. But the Lord tells us by His grace we are saved.
Rather than being lost and condemned forever, you and I have an inheritance
that is guaranteed. We have eternity. We have heaven as our home. We rejoice in
those familiar words of Ephesians: "For it is by grace you have been
saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not
by works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9). So it is
that we begin to see the miracle of God’s grace.
think how devastating and divisive it would be if we could
somehow work out our own salvation. Working our own salvation would mean some
would believe by their own efforts, and some wouldn’t. Believers then would
say, "I believe, and you don’t. Look what I have done."
We wouldn’t care about unbelievers, because we would conclude that they didn’t
care enough about their own salvation to try hard enough to save themselves.
it is not that way, is it? It is purely out of God’s divine grace that we are
saved. It is absolutely, positively not by us, but by God’s design and plan and
action that any are saved. Paul writes in 2nd Timothy: "God
has saved us and called us to a holy life–not because of anything we have done
but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ
Jesus before the beginning of time" (2 Timothy 1:9).
even before we were born, the Lord had His plan for mankind. God wanted all
people to be saved. The Lord had His grace planned for us as believers that we
would be called out of darkness into His light.
saves us by Christ’s righteousness, by His love, by His mercy, by His grace. It
is a great blessing to know that our future is certain. It is a great blessing
to know that while we may not be in control in this life, God always is. Our
gracious God has prepared a place for each and every one of us. He has
guaranteed an inheritance for us. We might be tempted and sit back and put up
our feet and say, "Well, we are saved. What more do we need? Let the
rest fend for themselves."
would be right to sit back and say, “Our inheritance is guaranteed, I do not
have to work for it.” Yet, we know that is not quite correct.
Lord reminds us that around us Satan is still tempting us. There are the
attractions of this world, and our own sinful flesh that try to lead us down
that wide and easy path of destruction. But instead of following that path, by
His grace our Lord leads us to continue in His Word and grow in our faith.
the Apostle Paul, who spent the last half of his adult life preaching the
gospel and being beat up for the sake of the name of Jesus, realized he still
had to strive to grow in faith. In Philippians, Paul writes and reminds us: "Not
that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I
press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me"
you can picture yourself being grabbed by God out of the depths of hell, so
that you can inherit eternal life and continue to grow and press on in faith?
is where we are today. From today until the time we see God face to face, we
still have opportunity to grow in our Christian faith. We still have a
privilege time and time again to hear God’s Word, and to read God’s Word, and
to study God’s Word, in order to begin to appreciate the great, undeserved love
God has shown us—a love and a message we are to share with others.
the Lord says, "Your inheritance is guaranteed. Your spiritual welfare is
a certainty." He has given us faith. The Holy Spirit is His seal,
guaranteeing our deposit. It reminds us that He takes all of that
responsibility out of our hands, because we cannot earn our inheritance. Rather
we can learn to appreciate our inheritance, to appreciate it and all the work
that Christ has done for us.
describes it: "He redeemed my soul from going down to the pit, and I
will live to enjoy the light" (Job 33:28). Our sins deserve
eternal death. Yet God in His grace, mercy, and love gives us eternal life. He
guarantees us an inheritance, not because of our sinfulness and certainly not
because of our own righteousness, but because of the righteousness of Christ
our Savior. Our inheritance is guaranteed, forever. Amen.