daily biblical sermons

From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand"
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Monday, after the Epiphany, January 06, 2020
1 John 3:22-4:6, Psalm 2, Matthew 4:12-17, 23-25


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




“And leaving Nazareth he [Jesus] went and dwelt in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: ‘The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, toward the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles – the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.’ From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (Matthew 4:13-17).



Today we see the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry where he goes about preaching that the kingdom of God has arrived, and therefore people must repent. St. Mark summarizes Jesus’ Galilean preaching as saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Here Matthew reports him as saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17).



The importance of repentance is stressed in today’s text, but it is implied that belief in the good news is also required. Just as repentance is contained in genuine New Testament faith, so faith is understood as contained in genuine repentance, as in St. Peter’s first sermon on Pentecost, where the people were “cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what must we do?’ And Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 2:37b-38).



In today’s gospel too faith is not mentioned, but it would be ridiculous to conclude that faith is not necessary for salvation, since it is included in genuine repentance, just as genuine repentance is included in genuine faith.



The reason given by Jesus today for repenting is that the kingdom of heaven (which is the kingdom of God) is now at hand. Jesus is bringing it into the world with his own presence and preaching. Our response should, therefore, be repentance. Faith, of course, in what is being preached is included in this repentance. 



This emphasis on repentance is of the greatest importance today, because some of our highest Church leaders are now falsely telling us not to worry so much about repentance, because God is merciful and you can continue in your sins, even in mortal sins, even in a constant state of mortal sin, in many cases, if it is too hard for you to keep his biblically revealed moral law. This is the great false teaching going on in the Catholic Church today by some of our highest Church leaders, and today’s gospel reading about Jesus’ first sermon refutes it head-on.



The first word of Jesus’ sermon is “Repent” (Matthew 4:17). This is how the great light will shine in our lives. This is how we will be “the people who sat in darkness [that] have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region of the shadow of death light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:1-2 quoted by Matthew 4:16). If you want to experience this light in your life, you must repent of your sins, especially those that are most serious.



Well over a hundred years ago, JC Ryle (1816-1900) refuted this false teaching that you need not necessarily repent of your serious sins, saying, “All must repent and be converted, if they would be saved. And true repentance is no light matter. It is a thorough change of heart about sin, a change showing itself in godly sorrow and humiliation – in heartfelt confession before the throne of grace – in a complete breaking off from sinful habits, and an abiding hatred of all sin. Such repentance is the inseparable companion of saving faith in Christ. Let us prize the doctrine highly. It is of the highest importance. No Christian teaching can be called sound, which does not constantly bring forward ‘repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Acts 20:21)” (JC Ryle (1816-1900, emphasis added).



It would be hard to stress the importance of repentance too much today, because the spirit of the age, the Zeitgeist, has entered into the Church itself and is being falsely taught as though it were official Church teaching or “authentic Magisterium,” and is even being called such, which, of course, it is not, for it does not possess the qualities of authentic magisterium, namely that it never contradicts Scripture, especially the New Testament, which this new teaching does. This false teaching tells us that it is okay to do things that are condemned as gravely sinful in the New Testament, such as adultery, fornication, and homosexual actions. The Zeitgeist (the spirit of the age), which is the spirit of the modern world around us, contradicts all of this biblical teaching and tells us that homosexual sex is fine and adultery is not a problem nor is fornication.



So some of our misguided Church leaders have concluded that this must be the Holy Spirit speaking to us through the world, and so we must update our teaching to align it with what the world is teaching. But this is exactly the opposite of what we, the Church, should do. Our preaching mission is precisely to bring divine revelation into the misguided world and to condemn what needs to be condemned, basing ourselves on the inspired Scriptures, particularly the New Testament. This is the teaching and preaching mission of the Church, and it is especially needed in the area of sexual morality today, when the LGBT (lesbian gay bisexual transgender) agenda is seemingly reigning supreme in the world, in our country, in our colleges and universities, in the Democrat Party, and now even in the Church among many of our most important bishops, especially the bishops of Germany.



Therefore we must listen carefully to today’s gospel telling us to repent, hate sin, and make a complete break from past sinful habits, since faith without this kind of genuine repentance is not genuine justifying and saving faith. “Such repentance is the inseparable companion of saving faith in Christ” (JC Ryle, emphasis added). The great preacher JC Ryle condemned our Church leaders, when he said, “No Christian teaching can be called sound, which does not constantly bring forth ‘repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Acts 20:21).”



So we can’t just continue living in grave sin and falsely try to convince ourselves that God is whispering in our conscience that for us, given our difficult life situation, he doesn’t expect us to reach such a high bar as to actually keep his biblically revealed moral law, and then imagine that he is giving us a lower law more suitable to our circumstances, because he is merciful. This is the deadly mercy heresy – a complete distortion of the biblical notion of God’s mercy – that has arisen in the past few years in the Catholic Church and is deceiving many and leading them to jeopardize their eternal salvation.



This kind of false teaching is not authentic Christian teaching. It is false magisterium and false teaching. It is the duty and the obligation of a Christian preacher to point this out, for this erroneous teaching is one of the greatest obstacles hindering people from experiencing God’s salvation in Christ today.



Genuine preaching, therefore, is very important, and we have the example of Jesus’ own preaching. What are we to preach? The gospel! What is the gospel? It is the good news that God has now provided us with a means of salvation from our sins and the gift of righteousness and eternal life if we genuinely repent and believe in Jesus and his saving death, whereby he redeems and saves us by atoning for our sins on the cross, making full reparation for them, if only we put our faith in him and genuinely repent of our sins.



This is what we must preach, namely that Jesus came into the world to save us from our sins by taking our sins upon himself and suffering and dying in punishment for them, vicariously, that is, for us – for our sins, in our place, so that we won’t have to suffer this punishment for our sins.



If we put our faith in him and accept his saving act on the cross, God will credit our personal account with his suffering and death as paying our debt that we have with God of suffering and death in punishment for our sins and will therefore declare us ungodly sinners righteous and reckon to us his own righteousness by our faith in him (Romans 4:22-24).



To preach this is to preach the gospel. The gospel is no man-made message, but a divinely revealed message from God himself given to us through his Son Jesus Christ and then after his death and resurrection preached to the world by his disciples. This is the work of the Church to the present day, to preach this gospel to the nations, to those who have never heard it, for their eternal salvation and to invite them to repentance and faith in Christ.



These same Church leaders who are telling us that we don’t always need to repent for our sins are also telling us that we shouldn’t preach this message to nonbelievers, because that would be imperialistic and would be imposing our culture and religion on them, when they have their own culture and religion that is good enough for them, and so we should never try to convert anyone by preaching Christ to them and arguing with them about its truth and meaning.



It is hard to decide which error is worse, the error that we do not need to always repent or the error that we shouldn’t preach the good news to the nations that have not yet heard it and should never try to convert anyone (make disciples of them). They are both equally diabolical errors, the worst and most serious errors of our day, the errors that a genuine preacher must mention and correct for the good of the Church and of the faithful.



Do we really preach the gospel of Christ and his apostles? “It [preaching the gospel] is the means which God has been pleased to use above any other, for the conversion and edification of souls. The brightest days of the Church have been those when preaching has been honored. The darkest days of the Church have been those when it has been lightly esteemed” (JC Ryle). If we are priests, ministers, or pastors, let us preach the gospel of Jesus Christ as we find it in the New Testament and call people to genuine repentance and faith in this good news about God’s salvation now available in Jesus Christ.



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