The Righteous Shall Live by Faith (Romans 4:13-25)
Rev. Edwin Morrow
To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
That is Paul’s greeting to the Christians in Rome as he begins his letter known as Romans.
Let me try that again, in context of our worshipping together today:
To all those at St James Lafayette, who are loved by God and called to be saints, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
And in a prayer you know well, the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, our rock and our redeemer.
Sneak peek, all of our Epistle Lessons from now to mid-September are from Romans.
All of our Gospel lessons are from Matthew.
One word of God stands out as being common to both.
In Romans Chapter 1 Paul writes: 16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, 17 For in the Gospel the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
“The righteous shall live by faith.”
Maybe we can stay connected to that theme each week as I say and you say – try
Under that theme each week, I will strive to bring Matthew’s Gospel and Paul’s letter together in the sermon for each Sunday.
We think of the attitude of the Pharisees in our Matthew reading.
To set the scene, Jesus has called an extremely unlikely fellow to be His next disciple.
Matthew a Jew who gladly worked the Romans.
He taxed for Caesar from rich and poor alike.
A nice tidy commission for himself, eat, drink and be merry at the expense of his countrymen.
After Jesus invites Matthew to follow Him, Matthew does some inviting as well.
Soon Jesus is dining with a whole bunch of social rejects.
Pharisees mumbling and grumbling to the Disciples as they judge Jesus and the company He is keeping.
They had a “holier than thou, pietistic, sinful, self-righteous attitude.”
Let’s call that a “Pharisaical Attitude”
Attitude that skips words “Chief of sinners though I be” going right straight to almost everybody is worse than me and my fellow!”
What did Jesus say, when He overheard the judgmental Pharisees:
Jesus said: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
I am pretty sure that didn’t not get the gist of what Jesus was saying, but this is the gist:
You think you are righteous, but you are not.
You look down your noses and consider others as unclean outsiders compared to you.
You are just as unclean and even more so since you see no reason to repent.
You think you are “insiders” with my Father because of what you do and don’t do.
You are wrong! In fact, you are dead wrong!!
You think you are not sick with sin. But you are!
You think you have no need of me as the Physician for your soul.
Die without me and see where that gets you – it won’t be heaven.
Go away and come back when you see the need for mercy and forgiveness.
We all need to see and feel the need for mercy and forgiveness?
Paul says: “The Law brings wrath!” upon the Pharisaical attitudes that we have all had in our thinking about others at various times in days gone by.
And what does Jesus say concerning our attitude toward others?
In previous Matthew chapters, Jesus has said:
If you do not want to be judged don’t judge others.
Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.
Love your neighbor as yourselves, love even your enemies.
As your sins are forgiven by your heavenly Father, you must forgive the sins of others.
Now is the time to repent of your sins for the kingdom of God is at hand.
These and other words of Jesus should give us cause to pause and think about our thinking about others.
When we fail to have God-pleasing attitudes toward all, the Law shows us how unholy, unrighteous, impure, and imperfect we really are.
But here is the great and glorious Good News. Paul says:
Our trespasses are not counted against us because Jesus was raised for our justification.
We are declared to be righteous through our faith in Jesus.
We are declared to be justified through our faith in Jesus.
For today let’s think of being righteous and justified in this simple way:
Jesus was holy, pure, righteous, and perfect in our place.
In the waters of Holy Baptism we have been united to the holiness, purity, perfection, and righteousness of Jesus.
When God looks at us, He sees His Son Jesus.
He sees us as righteous.
He sees us just as if we have never sinned.
Or making it personal, when God looks at me, He sees me just as if I’d never sinned.
Just as I can say that to be true, so can you!
In a few minutes, as God’s righteous and justified sinners, we will kneel at the altar.
We will do so not as insiders or outsiders according to attitudes of the world.
We will kneel as brothers and sisters in Christ.
We will kneel as the beloved, baptized children of God.
Spiritually speaking, there is no one closer to you than those you kneel with.
We are all on our way to heaven together.
The righteous will live forever by faith.
Our brothers Abraham, Matthew, and Paul await us.
All promised eternal life not because of what we do, but because of who we believe in.
As Jesus invites us to His table in a few minutes to receive His loving and forgiving embrace:
We think of Matthew who invited other outcasts to his home to meet Jesus.
This is your church home and forever how long, it is my church home too.
Matthew reminds us to reach out to others and invite them to our house.
Inviting others to sit with us in the pew.
Inviting others to hear the Word of God.
Inviting others to sing and pray with us.
Inviting others to kneel with us at this altar.
Inviting others to join with us in worship and fellowship.
Inviting one and all to join us in following Jesus.
Indeed, Jesus said come follow me!
And Paul said the righteous shall live by faith.
On our way to heaven together, may we so do.