daily biblical sermons


HOW GOD SAVES US FROM OUR SINS
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Thursday, Thirteenth Week of the Year, June 30, 2016
Amos 7:10-17, Psalm 18, Matthew 9:1-8


Scripture quotations are from the RSV unless otherwise noted.

 

"And behold, they brought to him a paralytic, lying on his bed; and when Jesus saw their faith he said to the paralytic, ‘Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven'" (Matthew 9:2).


What could possibly be more important than to have God forgive our sins? Surely nothing is as important to us as to have a clean and happy conscience, filled with light and God's peace, with Christ's own righteousness shining in us, illuminating us from within, rejoicing our heart. For this, Jesus came into the world - to forgive sins, to reconcile us to God, to cast out our fear of going to hell for our sins, and to assure us of salvation.


Here Jesus sees a paralyzed man being carried on a stretcher and placed before him. Jesus immediately sees his faith and his true problem, and he tells him, "Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven" (Matthew 9:2). Then to prove to the scribes, who find Jesus' words blasphemous, that he really does have the power to forgive sins, he heals him of his paralysis.


Now at last this man can be happy. He is no longer paralyzed and can now live a normal life; but far more importantly he can now live a truly happy life in the Lord. The one thing that was destroying him, his unforgiven sins, are now lifted from him, because of his faith.


Only God can forgive sins, as the scribes rightly remark, for "who can forgive sins but God alone?" (Mark 2:7). Jesus is the only man who can forgive sins, because Jesus is God. And we see, furthermore, in Jesus how God forgives sins. He does it through Jesus' own suffering and death for them. Jesus is our scapegoat on whom God puts our sins to carry them away from us into the desert (Leviticus 16:21-23). He is our lamb of sacrifice on whom our sins are placed and who is then killed to die vicariously for them to atone for them (Leviticus 4:27-31). Like the lamb, he dies in our place, instead of us dying for our sins. He is the "Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). He is the Suffering Servant of the Lord on whom God puts our sins, and who is then bruised and chastised in punishment for them, to make reparation for them by his suffering and death, instead of us being chastised for them (Isaiah 53:5-6).


This is how God can pronounce us righteous, just, and holy, when we come to Christ with faith. It is because our sins have been duly and justly dealt with, condemned, and fully punished in Christ's flesh on the cross (Romans 8:3-4). "For our sake he [God] made him [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21). He bore our sins and suffered their punishment for us so that God could justly declare us righteous.


We are cursed by the law for our sins, so Christ fulfills the law's requirement by taking our place in being cursed on the cross for our sins so that we could go free. He bore the law's curse for us, fulfilling its demands for us, namely that the sinner should die for his sins. He died for our sins so that God could acquit us. "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us - for it is written, ‘Cursed be every one who hangs on a tree' - " (Galatians 3:13).


Our sins were duly judged, condemned, and punished in Christ's flesh on the cross, as St. Paul tells us, "For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh [of Christ], in order that the just requirement of the law [that the sinner die for his sins] might be fulfilled in us" (Romans 8:3-4). Christ fulfilled the law for us. What law was that? The law that we should die for our sins (Ezekiel 18:20). He died for our sins instead of us dying for them, thus fulfilling the law's requirement on our behalf. "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:3).


Therefore if we are in Christ by faith and have repented of, abandoned, and confessed our sins (1 John 1:9), we are no longer under God's condemnation. God no longer condemns us for our sins. "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). So "if God is for us, who is against us?" (Romans 8:31). "Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? Is it God who justifies; who is to condemn? Is it Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us?" (Romans 8:33-34). Surely Christ who died for us and who now intercedes for us will not condemn us if we have come to him with faith and repentance for our sins.


The blood of Christ washes us clean when we put our faith for our salvation in him. "The blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). "You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot" (1 Peter 1:18-19). Indeed, "he himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed" (1 Peter 2:24).


So let us not fail to cry out to Christ in faith for our redemption, "because 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" (Romans 10:9-10 NRSV). Calling out to Christ in deep faith and repentance is the way of salvation from our sins, forgiveness, and justification. "For, ‘every one who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved'" (Romans 10:13).


Jesus is the one who expiates our sins by atoning for them on the cross, for his death made full reparation for them, satisfying divine justice on our behalf, and this is applied to us when we call out to him in faith. "My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world" (1 John 2:1-2 NKJV). Christ is the sacrifice of propitiation given to us by the Father to fulfill his justice for us sinners so that through our faith in him we might be declared righteous. Christ is the one "whom God set forth as a propitiation by his blood, through faith" (Romans 3:25 NKJV).


This is why Christ came. This is why he said, "The Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). He ransomed us for God by paying to God the price in suffering for our sins that we owed God and that was necessary to be paid so that God could justly set us free from our sins and guilt, free of our debt. How fitting it is for an all-just God to forgive us in this way. It was Jesus' shedding of his blood on the cross that redeemed us from our sins to assure our entrance into heaven. This is why Jesus said over the cup of wine at the Last Supper, "Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins" (Matthew 26:27-28).


The letter to the Hebrews sums it all up, "He has appeared once for all at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Hebrews 9:26). Indeed "the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:6 KJV). "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5 KJV).


In him is our salvation, and in no one else. "No one comes to the Father, but by me" (John 14:6). No one else died in punishment and reparation for our sins. No one else made reparation for them but him. Through faith in him is the way God wants all peoples everywhere to be saved. That is why he sent out his missionary apostles to the ends of the earth to preach this saving message to every creature (Mark 16:15) and to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). It is the mission of the Church to see to it that this happens.

 

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