daily biblical sermons


HOW IS A JUSTIFIED CHRISTIAN NOW SUPPOSED TO LIVE?
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Sunday, 27th Sunday of the Year, October 08, 2017
Isaiah 5:1-7, Psalm 79, Philippians 4:6-9, Matthew 21:33-43


Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted.


"Hear another parable. There was a householder who planted a vineyard, and set a hedge around it, and dug a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country. When the season of fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants, to get his fruit" (Matthew 21:33-34).


This is the parable about the wicked vineyard workers who mistreated and even killed some of the slaves that the owner of the vineyard sent to them to collect his share of the fruit. Finally he sends them his own son, but they cast him out of the vineyard and kill him. Then Jesus' audience says that when the owner returns he will put those wicked workers to death and "let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons" (Matthew 21:41). And finally he tells them, "The kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it" (Matthew 21:43).


It is easy to see that this parable is an allegory of the history of Israel up to and including Jesus and the birth of the Church. The vineyard is Israel. The owner is God. The wicked workers are the people of Israel, the Jews. The slaves whom the owner sends are the prophets and apostles that God sends to Israel. The son of the owner is the Son of God, Jesus Christ, the Messiah and Savior of the world. The murder of the owner's son is Jesus being put to death by the Jews. This final crime, which causes the vineyard to be taken away from those wicked workers and given to other workers who will bring forth the fruits for the owner is Israel's loss of the kingdom of God, which will be given to another people, the Christian Church, the community of those who believe in Jesus. The final conclusion of Jesus is, "Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it" (Matthew 21:43).


Israel's failure was that they didn't produce good fruit for the Lord. They did not work for him, for his kingdom. They only worked for themselves and acted in a most immoral way. Therefore they lost the kingdom of God. It was taken away from them and given to a new people (ethnei), Christ's Church, who would bring forth good fruits for the Lord.


Now what might this parable mean for us today? We also need to be reminded that we Christians are here to produce good fruit for the Lord. What is the good fruit that the Lord requires of us? It is a good moral life lived in accord with God's will, which is made known to us by his moral law.


Now there are three uses of the law of God:


1) The first use of the moral law is to show us how God wants us to live. This use of the law enables us to clearly distinguish between good and evil behavior, between virtuous and sinful actions. We see this first use of the law in Romans 2:13: "It is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified." Those who actually follow the law will be justified and accepted by God as righteous.


Unfortunately, though, no one has ever managed to do this, to justify himself by perfectly following God's law his whole life long, never committing any sin. So no one can stand righteous before God by his own works.


2) This then leads us to the second use of the law, which is to show us how sinful we are, how we have failed to keep God's law, and how we are therefore in need of God's merciful justification. St. Paul tells us of this second use of the law in Romans 3:20: "By the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:20 NKJV).


This second use of the law is most useful to us Christians, for the law makes us feel guilty, because it shows us what sinners we are and moves us to genuinely repent of our sins and believe in Christ to be forgiven and declared and made righteous by God, because of Christ's atoning death on the cross that made full reparation for our sins.


God then justifies us when we genuinely repent of our sins, abandon them, and put our faith in Christ's atoning death for them. God can then justly declare us righteous with the resplendent righteousness of Christ himself reckoned to us, for "to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness" (Romans 4:5 NKJV).


3) Then comes the third use of the law. This third use of the law is for the justified Christian. This use of the law shows him how God now wants him to live as a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) who has died to his old life of sin and risen with Christ to now walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4). As justified Christians, we are now supposed to live for the Lord, to bear good fruit for the Lord, to "give him the fruits in their seasons" (Matthew 21:41).


This means that we are supposed to now live according to God's will. But how are we to know what God's will for us is? He has revealed it to us in his moral law and in the teachings and example of Jesus and in the teachings of the other Old Testament and New Testament books. This is the third use of the law, namely to show us how a justified Christian is now expected to live. And now that he is justified, he has a new power and a new ability to live according to God's moral law, a power that he did not have before.


This third use of the law is progressive sanctification. It is living a life of good works, whereby we grow in sanctification. St. Paul speaks of sanctification, which is the third use of the law, when he says, "Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin" (Romans 6:6 NKJV). We are now to live a new moral life, according to God's moral law, with the help of dying to our old life and rising to a new life in Christ.


We must now renounce and abandon our sins that Christ has atoned for and made full reparation for by his death on the cross. He was our substitute who died for our sins for us so that we might be freed from them, for our punishment for them has been duly paid for us by Christ's death. We are therefore now freed from our sins by our faith in Christ, freed to live a new life in him. "So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus" (Romans 6:11).


"Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal bodies, that you should obey its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God" (Romans 6:12-13 NKJV). In other words, as justified Christians, we are now to live a life that is pleasing to God, which means a life lived in accord with God's will, that is, according to his moral law, for his moral law reveals his will for us, showing us how he wants us to now live. "For just as you once yielded your members to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now yield your members to righteousness for sanctification" (Romans 6:19).


So what we are now supposed to do as justified Christians is clear. It is to obey God's moral law, which is the third use of the law. And our justification enables us to now do this. And if we do this, we will be acceptable to God.


Today, however, we must be especially careful of a new false teaching being propagated within the Roman Catholic Church, which denies the third use of the law and falsely teaches that God does not always require that we live according to his moral law if that is too hard for us to do due to so-called "mitigating circumstances" in our life.


These new false teachings within the Roman Catholic Church are now deceiving and misleading many people to believe in a new one-sided so-called "gospel of mercy" without repentance. These new teachers in the Roman Catholic Church are now teaching that God is so merciful that he no longer always requires genuine repentance and the abandonment of our grave sins, sins such as adultery and fornication. According to this new false teaching, we can continue to live a gravely sinful life and still be Christians and Catholics in good standing before God. This, of course, is manifestly false teaching, contradicting the teaching of Jesus and the New Testament.


This new teaching goes so far as to say that God is even calling some people to sin, and that when they live in grave sin, even in a state of constant, unbroken grave sin, such as openly proclaimed adultery or fornication, they are doing all that God is asking of them now at this point of their life, all that God expects of them, and are fulfilling his will for them by living in this gravely sinful way, and are even growing in holiness by living in this way.


The truth, however, is that justified Christians are always to avoid serious sins and live a good and moral life in accord with God's will, which he has made known to us in his moral law, which is the third use of the law, namely to live a life of sanctification, growing in holiness by doing good works and obeying God's moral law, which as justified Christians we are now newly strengthened and enabled to do.

 

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