290. Sixth Sunday after Trinity. I.
Lord Jesus, expound to us thy holy word. Amen.
Gospel Lesson, Matthew 5, 20-26. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill: and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore, if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer. and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.
The righteousness of the Pharisees was an external righteousness. The better ones among them kept the law “to the best of their ability” and imagined that this made them righteous before God. The others were careful to make themselves seen of men; prayed at the street corners, and gave alms, that they might have glory of men, while they at the same time robbed widows and orphans. Though the more sincere among the Pharisees were men who in a way did much tor God. and were zealous in his cause, their righteousness was of no account. For the law of the Lord deals with the heart; so that none can escape its condemnation save the man who is perfect in holiness within and without. The law of the Lord demands charity out of a pure heart. and of good conscience, and of faith unfeigned. The least uncharitableness, even though it be but a passing impulse; the least spark of anger, or selfishness, or any other wrong feeling, is sufficient utterly to destroy your righteousness; for “whosoever shall offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” It takes but one break of the thread to lose all the beads on the string. The law of the Lord is perfect, as is the Lord himself; and your life must be absolutely blameless in every detail, else the law can not pronounce you righteous before God.
Is any man, then, perfect in holiness? There has dwelt but one such on earth, our Lord Jesus Christ. But he lived for us: and God counts this for righteousness to all who believe in him. For the Son of God had no need to keep the law, and to suffer the punishment of transgression for himself; but he did it for us. If you believe, it is yours; God has so ordained from eternity, and revealed it on earth before the law of Moses. The holy demand of the law is satisfied, the “works are done, and nothing is wanting; the righteousness which exceeds that of the Pharisees has been given you. He who believes this grace of God in Christ, need have no fear; he “shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life.”
As Christ, then, is my righteousness, shall I in my life and conduct discard the law of God? On the contrary, the law is now once more written into the heart. The man who understands the final demand of the law, who is sensible of his want of righteousness, who believes in Christ, and who dies from the law, now finds it possible to do that which he never could do while he was under the law. and regarded himself as righteous; — he keeps the law, he loves God and his neighbor, and leads a holy life. This life, however, which has in truth been kindled in him, is still imperfect by reason of the flesh. It can not enable him to stand before God; but neither does he need it for this purpose ; for by faith he is already a child of God and heir to the kingdom of heaven. In the mean time he is thus sanctified unto perfect purity in the day of Christ.
“O Lord, thy blood and righteousness The treasures are which I possess; With them shall I before thee stand, And have a place at thy right hand.” Give us this grace by thy Holy Spirit, merciful God. Let this lesson be life and truth in us. Amen.
The law is good; but since the fall
Its holiness condemns us all:
It dooms us for our sin to die,
And has no power to justify.
To Jesus we for refuge flee,
Who from the curse has set us free,
And humbly worship at his throne,
Saved by his grace through faith alone.
— TLH 295, “The Law of God Is Good and Wise” [melody]
291. Sixth Sunday after Trinity. II.
Lord, make us partakers of the grace of thy death and resurrection. Amen.
Epistle Lesson, Romans 6, 3-11. Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ, being raised from the dead, dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
This truly is a grand lesson, a power unto faith and sanctification. Learn this epistle lesson well, and heed its instruction; and sin can never have dominion over you. You are righteous, and alive, and free, and strong in Christ. Christ dies no more; and neither shall you, who by baptism are united with him, if you believe. Death has no more dominion over Christ; neither has it dominion over you who believe. Loehe writes:
If one died for all, then have all died. All believers are dead in Christ; in him they have been punished for their sins, for which they have in him fully atoned. Their union with him in faith makes them all partakers of his suffering and death. But if they be counted like him in his death, they are like him also in his resurrection: in faith they already live the life of the resurrection. And even as the glory of Christ shone in his resurrection; as he by his resurrection was acquitted of all that which men had brought to his charge, and for which they had condemned him; and as God justified him by raising him from the dead; so are all believers, in that he rose again, absolved from all sin, even as they all were punished in his death. A blessed exchange between us sinners and him, who died and rose again in our stead! It is a marvellous truth, which never entered the thought of man, a truth which no man could understand or have courage to accept, did not the Spirit of God in his mercy enlighten us. There is no truth more sure, or which has a more firm foundation; but alas, it does not find a foothold and take root among men. Yet all the world and its wisdom is as nothing compared with this truth; and if this truth were not, what would then be? This is our salvation: I in them, and they in me. Jesus all things in all; wisdom, righteousness, holiness, redemption. We in him, as partakers in all that he has.
Then ponder this epistle lesson well, word for word, and ask the Spirit of God to give you light.
We pray thee, merciful God, give us the grace of the Spirit to understand the word, to believe it, and to show it obedience. Amen.
My faith looks up to thee,
Thou Lamb of Calvary,
Now hear me while I pray,
Take all my guilt away,
Oh, let me from this day
Be wholly thine.
May thy rich grace impart— TLH 394, “My Faith Looks Up to Thee” [melody]
Strength to my fainting heart,
My zeal inspire:
As thou hast died for me.
Oh, may my love to thee
Pure, warm, and changeless be,
A living fire.