The Summary of Theology in One Sentence
Reformation Day (Observed) Trinity Lutheran Church
30 October 2016 Murdock, NE
+ Jesu Juva +
If you want to know the essence of biblical theology or the centrality of salvation according to the Scriptures, it’s really not that complicated. You don’t need to research volume after volume after volume of some esoteric, wig-head, dry-as-dust theologian. You don’t even have to go to seminary to learn it. In fact, even a worthless and pathetic good-for-nothing country bumpkin pastor named Kuhlman can teach it to you today.
So, I propose to do just that. I will summarize the Bible’s teaching of salvation in one simple sentence just like Dr. Martin Luther did for the church in Germany almost 500 years ago. I know you think I’m crazy (and perhaps I am), but for one Sunday humor me. If there’s one sermon of mine you stay awake long enough to listen to, let it be this one. Are you all in? Good.
So what is the rundown of all of theology? What is the epitome of the entire teaching of the Bible regarding salvation? I’m glad you asked. It’s this: you are a dead, damned sinner … and God is the Justifier of you the sinner! There you have it! You’re a sinner and God in Christ saves you the sinner! You: total sinner. Jesus: total Savior of the sinner while you are a sinner!
That’s the heart of it! Of all theology. Of all Scripture. Get those two biblical points straight and you’ve got salvation straight. The pastor runs into problems all the time when he can’t even get to first base (theologically speaking) with people. Too many won’t confess they’re a sinner that sins.
Instead of confessing they boast! They justify themselves. It usually goes like this: “Well, Reverend, I do my best. I haven’t hurt anyone. I always try to help people. I’m not perfect Reverend, but I’m certainly not as bad as so and so over there. And I’m certainly not as bad as Kuhlman. Good grief! He’s the worst. Sinner? Sin? I don’t buy that Reverend. You’re such a Debbie Downer. No wonder your church doesn’t grow. Look here Reverend. Get lost. Shut your pie hole. God will certainly take into account all the good intentions I have and the fact that I’ve done the best that I can. I jumped through your religious hoops. Baptized. Confirmed. My good far outweighs my bad. In fact, I’m really a pretty good person. God will give me what I deserve.”
Really? Yes. People actually want God to give them what they deserve? Yep. That’s how people JUSTIFY THEMSELVES. How they make their case. Looking to themselves and most especially using the law as THE instrument of salvation. Everyone does it. You do too. Salvation by your merit goes on all the time. 24-7-365. The justifications are endless for who you are and what you do. So I’m here to tell you: deny that you’re a sinner (a lost and condemned one) and you are a God-within-er. You’re just Like Adam and Eve in Genesis 3, your first parents, who had the damnable desire to be like God! As if your words are better than God’s. As if you know better than God. As if you’re infallibly divine! As if you can justify yourself by what you do or do not do.
The truth of the matter, however, is what God says. Yes, that’s right, what God says. He speaks and all of us must fall silent to passively hear Him. He declares: “All have sinned.” Did you hear that? “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Or as Jesus Himself says: “Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” Deny that truth and who have you made the odd man out in your life? In your salvation? It’s the Lord Jesus! The Savior of … sinners! Divorce Jesus from sinners and all their sin and … well … all your sin and all its hellacious punishment remains on you.
So, it’s time for a biblical reformation in our Lutheran congregation here at Trinity and in our Lutheran lives. It’s time for all of us to recover and believe the twofold Biblical truth. First, that we are sinners. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” That we have sinned against God in thought, word and deed. That we have not been content to be His given-to creatures but have incessantly craved to be little divinities. That as self-absorbed, turned on ourselves sinners we truly deserve God’s temporal and eternal punishment.
Second, let’s relish and believe the following: that God doesn’t ignore sin or sinners. He deals with it. God acquits or justifies you His sinners through the Good Friday-shed-divine-holy-precious-blood of His Son Jesus Christ. Yes, it takes the Good-Friday-all-atoning-all-availing-death of Jesus to turn away God’s eternal wrath against you and give you His divine and gracious favor. The favor of heaven! You are “justified by God’s grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood to be received by faith.”
Yes, salvation, your salvation, the world’s salvation was achieved and done only by Jesus in His bloody death on the cross. All your merit disappears. All boasting is silenced. No more justification of the self. There is only justification before God through Jesus! Jesus as pure gift FOR YOU. FOR YOUR SALVATION He donates Himself as pure gift. He shed His blood and died FOR YOU. All your sin is forgiven. Not counted against you. God refuses to give you what you deserve as a sinner! Seriously! No joke! He gave what you deserved as a sinner to Jesus. All your sin and all its damnation as He hung on the cross. What good news!
Faith simply believes /receives passively what Jesus has done FOR YOU. How does faith talk? It only speaks of what is preached. And that’s Good-Friday-dead-on-the-cross-Jesus! Faith says: “Jesus is the divine gift given FOR ME. Gift given. Gift received in the gospel, my baptism, the absolution and the Supper. Amen.”
So there you have it. It was easy wasn’t it? You’re a sinner. But God deals with His sinners by sending Jesus to suffer and die on the cross FOR YOU. “You are justified by his grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” “For we hold that one is justified by faith [that’s faith only in Jesus] apart from works of the law.” Or as Jesus says: “So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” And you are. This is most certainly true.
Happy Reformation Day!
In the holy Name of Jesus.