O thou Spirit of God, let us hear thy word with close attention. Amen.
Acts 13, 38-41. Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him. all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses. Beware, therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets; behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you.
No man can be justified by the law; no sin can be taken away by the law; there neither is nor can be forgiveness for any man who trusts in the works of the law. But in Jesus Christ is remission of all sins, and for all sinners. The law demands punishment, and Christ grants mercy for every transgression. He has done all the work, suffered all the punishment, fulfilled all righteousness. Therefore the announcement is: “Come; for all things are now ready.” None has sins so foul that they can not be washed away by the blood of the Son of God; none has sins so many that they outweigh the merit of the Son of God. None is so corrupt that Jesus can not heal him; none has fallen so low that Jesus can not raise him up. In Jesus there is a remedy for every evil; in him only, and in none other. Could you search through heaven, you would find none other able to take away your sin; for there is no other Savior. Come, then, to him with everything that oppresses your conscience; he takes it all away! — For this he became man; for this he died; for this he went with his own blood into heaven, and makes intercession for us; that we might have full forgiveness of sin, and everlasting life in his name.
We here learn that “forgiveness of sins” and “justification” are essentially one and the same thing; as is taught with equal clearness in other Bible passages also. What is meant by being justified? Answer: When I believed, God had mercy on me; he “imputed to me the righteousness ofChrist, acquitted me of sin and its punishment, and regards me in Christ, as if I had never sinned.” — Thus I stand without fear under my great high priest, and joyfully say with Saint Paul: “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect ? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” (Romans 8, 33. 34). All is given me of pure grace, without any work or merit on my part.
Our Bible lesson is the conclusion of Paul’s first recorded sermon, and gives us the substance of all that he spoke and wrote: Justification by faith in Christ for Jew and gentile. He finds it necessary, however, to add a warning to the Jews; and let it be a warning to us also: “Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish,” etc. The Lord wrought a work with the Jewish city and people which they would not believe when it was declared to them in advance. This work stands complete before our eyes. Let us beware, then, lest we also in unbelief despise his love, tread under foot his grace, which brings justification, and call down upon ourselves his angry judgment!
Merciful God, make us to see our sin, and draw us by thy call of grace. Do not abandon us; for Jesus’ sake, do not abandon us to sin and unbelief; but give us conversion, and make us righteous in his blood. Amen.
Blest is the man to whom the Lord
Imputes not his iniquities,
He pleads no merit of reward,
And not on works, but grace relies.
How glorious is that righteousness
That hides and cancels all his sins!
While a bright evidence of grace
Through his whole life appears and shines.
Suggested tune: anything CM, but TLH 131 works great.