daily biblical sermons


Justification comes through faith that proclaims the gospel, which gives birth to faith in others by which they are saved
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Monday, the Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle, November 30, 2020
Romans 10:9-18, Psalm 18, Matthew 4:18-22


Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted

 

 

 

“If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The Scripture says, ‘No one who believes in him will be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’ But not all have obeyed the good news; for Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our message?’ So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ. But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have; for ‘Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world’” (Romans 10:9-18 NRSV).

 

 

Today is the feast of an apostle, St. Andrew, who spent his life preaching the gospel to bring God’s salvation in Jesus Christ to all who would accept his preaching with faith, for justification comes through faith in the gospel.

 

 

The gospel is the good news that God sent his Son to the earth as our Savior to be our substitute to suffer our punishment for our sins for us by dying for them on the cross so that all that put their faith in him might be credited by God with his suffering and death as paying their debt of suffering and death that they have with God for their sins.

 

 

For “he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:5-6). God punished our sins in Christ’s flesh on the cross instead of in our flesh (Romans 8:3-4).

 

 

Therefore, when God sees that someone believes that Jesus died for their sins and thereby suffered their punishment for their sins for them on the cross, God declares that person righteous, because his sins have been justly paid for by Christ’s suffering and death.

 

 

Therefore St. Paul teaches us that we are justified by faith, not by good works. We are justified by faith, because it is not our works that justify us, but rather Christ’s work on the cross that paid the debt that we have as sinners with God of suffering and death in punishment for our sins. It is only when we put our faith in Christ and truly trust in his work for us on the cross that God considers our debt for our sins as paid, and therefore since we have no more punishment to suffer for our sins, he declares us righteous (justifies us). God’s declaration that we are righteous makes us righteous indeed.

 

 

This is the great mystery that St. Paul speaks about in today’s first reading, which has been appropriately chosen for St. Andrew, the apostle, who spent his life bringing this good news of God’s salvation in Jesus Christ to those who had not yet heard it.

 

 

St. Paul says today, “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9 NRSV). It might seem odd that St. Paul stresses Christ’s resurrection and doesn’t even mention his death, which is what paid our debt. But the resurrection shows God’s acceptance of his death as paying for our sins, and so the full victory over our sins was finally won when Christ not only died for them, but was also raised by God from the dead to make manifest that he had conquered sin and liberated us from it, when we put our faith in him.

 

 

“Express mention is made [here] only of Christ’s resurrection; which must not be so taken, as though his death were of no moment, but because Christ, by rising again, completed the work of our salvation: for though redemption and satisfaction were effected by his death, through which we are reconciled to God; yet the victory over sin, death, and Satan was attained by his resurrection; and hence also came righteousness, newness of life, and the hope of a blessed immortality. And thus is resurrection alone often set before us as the assurance of our salvation, not to draw away our attention from his death, but because it bears witness to the efficacy and fruit of his death: in short, his resurrection includes his death” (John Calvin, 1509-1564).

 

 

So, St. Paul says that if you confess Christ publicly and, in your heart, believe in him, “you will be saved” (Romans 10:9b NRSV). Then he repeats this, speaking of the importance of faith in our heart as that which justifies us, but also of the importance of publicly proclaiming this good news (the gospel) of God’s salvation in Jesus Christ, for one who publicly confesses Christ is saved. “One confesses with the mouth and so is saved” (Romans 10:10 NRSV). This is not just an empty confession or proclamation, for it comes from one who believes in his heart that God raised Jesus from the dead.

 

 

We should note here that this is initial salvation. In other words, it is justification, whereby we are set right with God and reconciled with him. Our alienation from God, caused by our sins, is overcome through faith in our heart and through proclaiming the gospel. This is because faith in the heart connects us to the work that earns our salvation, namely that of Jesus Christ in suffering and dying on the cross to make reparation and satisfaction for our sins.

 

 

Once we experience this salvation from our sins, which we call justification, we should then proclaim it to others to enable them also to be justified, reconciled with God, and saved from their sins. If one should die the minute he is justified, he would go to heaven to live forever with God. But most people have a long life to live after their justification, and they should pass these years involved in a process of sanctification, which means doing good works and living according to God’s normative biblically revealed moral law. If he remains faithful to this, he will go to heaven when he dies.

 

 

If he sins along the way, he must confess his sins, put his faith in Jesus Christ, and be justified again, and then begin again to do good works, which will be proportionately rewarded in heaven, for Jesus says, “The Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works” (Matthew 16:27 NKJV). One who does greater works with more dedication will receive a greater reward in heaven.

 

 

Then St. Paul, quoting Isaiah, says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame” (Romans 10:11 NRSV), and, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13 NRSV). Who is this Lord that we have to call upon to be saved? The next verse makes it clear that it is the Lord Jesus Christ, for St. Paul asks, “But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:14-15 NRSV).

 

 

So, it is clear that St. Paul does not mean that the Gentiles can call upon their pagan idols to be saved. They have to call on someone of whom they have never heard, namely Jesus Christ. And how can they do that unless someone preaches the gospel to them? And how can someone preach the gospel to them unless he has been sent by the believing community to preach to non-Christians?

 

 

So, it is very clear that it is necessary to hear the gospel about Jesus Christ who died for our sins and rose triumphant over them in order to be saved, in order to be justified. This is the whole basis of the Christian missionary movement. This is the key to understanding the life of St. Andrew and all the apostles and their successors throughout the history of the Church. The essence of their missionary vocation is to preach the gospel so that people might have an opportunity to put their faith in it and experience justification and salvation.

 

 

Not everyone will believe. But at least everyone will have had a chance to believe. This was St. Paul’s goal. He wanted to preach to both Jews and Gentiles in all the major cities of the Roman Empire, and from there, Jews would spread the message to other Jews until all the Jews would know the gospel and make it known to their pagan friends with whom they lived and worked. And so, the gospel would filter down to everyone in the then known world.

 

 

Our world is bigger now, since we know of continents that St. Paul did not even know existed – North and South America and Australia. Our mission field has greatly expanded since our knowledge of and ability to communicate with the world has greatly expanded. People all over the world can now Google Christ, Christianity, and salvation on their iPhones and read, watch, and listen to sermons on the gospel on the Internet and YouTube.

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