19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20For "no human being will be justified in his sight" by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.
21But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, 22the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 23since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; 26it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus.
27Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.
John 8: 31-36
31 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, "If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." 33They answered him, "We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, 'You will be made free'?"
34Jesus answered them, "Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. 36So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.
Today’s Gospel poses a very interesting picture for those of us with wild imaginations. Can’t you just imagine Jesus hanging around with his followers when they respond to his statement, “The truth will make you free,” with the outrageous commentary, “We are descendents of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone?”
One doesn’t need to have read very far into the book of Exodus, to know that their statement was a blatant lie. Of course they had been slaves! They were slaves to Pharoah and after that to countless other nations that rose up to oppress them when they disobeyed God.
Apparently Jesus chose to ignore the silliness of their response, because rather than reminding them of the epic battle between Moses and Pharoah, he simply said, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin…But, if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”
Indeed, it was the good news about our freedom in Jesus Christ that was the very spark that set the flames of the reformation burning one day for a Roman Catholic priest and professor named Dr. Martin Luther who was working in Wittenberg, Germany. One day, as he was reading the Bible, the Holy Spirit of God revealed to him the true meaning of Romans 3: 19-28 which says in short,
We are made right in God's sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done. For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Yet now God in God’s gracious kindness declares us not guilty. God has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins. Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on our good deeds. It is based on our faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.
Now what shall we do in response to all of this love and forgiveness? Well, when Martin Luther experienced it, it set a fire ablaze in his heart that could not be quenched. In theses 43 through 45 Luther stated, “Christians are to be taught to give to the poor and lend to the needy. Christians are to be taught that love grows by works of love and that if we see a man in need and pass him by, we purchase the indignation of God.”
Isn’t this wonderful, good news! Our freedom in Christ Jesus necessarily causes us to want to do good works. We do not do our good works to purchase a ticket to heaven. Instead, we do good works to bring glory to our God in Heaven! We seek reformation in our cities, state, country, and world in order to be like Jesus.
Jesus was the true reformer! He was a reformer of the status quo. He was a reformer of societal norms and values. Ultimately, he was a reformer of the hearts and minds of those around him. Jesus teaches us by his example that our faith necessarily means that we must go to the highways and byways and bid everyone to come to God’s Welcome Feast.
A woman named Lisa Frenz wrote on Reformation Sunday 2003, “There is a revolutionary sitting among us, a person who is working to upset the status quo, change the face of society, throw out the old way of doing things, strip away everything that is comfortable and reliable, everything that is us, who we are.
Follow him. That is the call of a revolutionary. Follow him where? Follow him out of the bounds that society has said are correct. Follow him into no mans land. Follow him into a world where you’ve never been, into a world inhabited by strangers and outcasts—the homeless, the mentally ill, the prostitutes and pimps, the thieves, the dishonest, the immigrants, the elderly, the people with AIDS. In other words, the people who smell funny, talk strangely, live badly, look ugly, who may be dangerous—the people you would never, ever take out to dinner, much less invite into your home. That’s where this revolutionary leads. That is where Jesus is taking us.
Today, we celebrate the revolutionaries amongst us who have heard and heeded the call and example of Jesus Christ! We celebrate all of those people in the Holy Christian Church who daily make it their mission to ensure that all people have access to the Gospel, healthy food, a roof over their heads on a cold night, and to the Good News that Jesus Christ, saves and He saves to the utmost.
Go forth my friends secure in the Amazing Grace of God which has already secured our salvation. Do good works, not to earn salvation, but to glorify our God in Heaven. Be a reformer…God knows our world still needs it.