daily biblical sermons


The kingdom of God grows on earth by the power of God's justifying righteousness in our hearts
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Friday, Third Week of the Year, January 31, 2020
2 Samuel 11:1-4a, 5-10a, 13-17, Psalm 50, Mark 4:26-34


 

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

 

 

 

“The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed upon the ground, and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he knows not how. The earth produces of itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the year. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come” (Mark 4:26-29).

 

 

This parable is meant to teach us that the kingdom of God has its own internal power that causes it to grow. Although there are preachers of the gospel, they do not cause the kingdom to grow in people’s hearts, but it grows by a power all its own. What power is this? It is the power of God’s justifying righteousness, worked through Jesus Christ, and announced in the gospel, which is the message that God has sown power on earth for salvation to all who have faith in his incarnate Son.

 

 

This power that makes the kingdom of God grow in the hearts of people and upon the earth is the power of God’s justifying righteousness, that is, it is the power of the righteousness of God that makes us righteous, through our faith in Christ. God is righteous in himself because he is all just, but God’s righteousness also makes us just, that is, it justifies us who put our faith in God’s Savior, Jesus Christ. This is the power of the kingdom of God that causes it to grow in our hearts and in the world, namely the power of God’s justifying righteousness.

 

 

God is not just righteousness in himself, but he makes us righteous too through our faith in Jesus Christ, because of Christ’s atoning, reparation-making death on the cross for the sins of the world. Christ was sent by the Father as our substitute to suffer our death penalty for our sins for us, in our place, on the cross, so that we would not have to suffer it eternally in hell.

 

 

In order to benefit from the substitutionary atonement that Christ made for our sins we must put our trusting faith in him as our Savior and genuinely repent of our sins and have the intention of following him as our master and Lord by obeying his normative biblically revealed moral law. When we put our trusting faith in Christ, God then credits Christ’s suffering and death on the cross to our personal account as though it were our own suffering and death in just punishment for our sins.

 

 

Hence God can therefore in all justice acquit us of our sins for the simple reason that our death penalty for them has already been suffered for us by our substitute Jesus Christ on the cross. So the divine Judge counts Christ’s suffering and death as sufficient payment and punishment for our sins so that he in all justice acquits us and drops his case against us for our sins, declaring us ungodly sinners righteous and free to go.

 

 

This is how God plants the kingdom of God on earth, for he implants this kingdom in human hearts that put their faith in Christ and genuinely repent of their sins and abandon them. The kingdom of God is therefore planted in the hearts of all that believe in Christ.

 

 

This kingdom had very small beginnings, like a tiny mustard seed that grew into a huge plant. In the beginning it was only a few people, and at first even they did not really understand much of what I just explained above. They simply understood that somehow Jesus was very special and connected with God, and so they followed him. Little by little they came to recognize him as their longed for Messiah and as the divine Son of God. Only after his resurrection and Pentecost did they put it all together and see him as their Savior because of his Paschal mystery, that is, because of his suffering and death on the cross followed by his victorious resurrection.

 

 

This kingdom grew from his twelve apostles and their disciples, and in several centuries they actually converted the entire Roman Empire, including the Emperor himself to faith in Christ. This truth is prophesied to us by the parable of the mustard seed, which is also part of today’s gospel reading. This parable tells us that the kingdom of God started on earth like a very small seed, a mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds, and it gradually ended up as a huge shrub.

 

 

So we should not be disappointed with small beginnings in our own personal life and ministry, for the kingdom will slowly and gradually grow in our heart leading us step-by-step to ever greater holiness. Our work of preaching the gospel may also have small beginnings, reaching only one small congregation or only a small group of readers on the Internet, but gradually it will spread out by a ripple effect, by the grapevine, and by word-of-mouth from one person to another until a great number of people are affected by the gospel that we preach.

 

 

But we must make sure that it really is the gospel that we are preaching and that we preach the central point of the gospel, which is salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, because of his atoning death for the sins of the world on the cross. If we preach this gospel with this New Testament theology of salvation (NT soteriology), Jesus in these two parables assures us that our words will have a great effect, like a tiny mustard seed turning into a an enormous shrub, growing perhaps nine feet high within one year’s time, as the mustard plant sometimes does in Palestine (RT France, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text (The New International Greek Testament commentary; William B Eerdmans, 2002), page 216).

 

 

Although the kingdom grows of its own internal power, namely the justifying righteousness of God in our heart through faith, our work of preaching the gospel is also essential for it to grow, for unless someone preaches the gospel of salvation, people are not going to come up with kingdom growth all on their own, for this is a work of divine revelation that only comes through Jesus Christ and the Scriptures. This is not a philosophy that intelligent people can develop for themselves by their own reasoning based upon their careful observation of the world around them and of themselves. That would be simply a natural philosophy. But Christianity is a revealed religion. Therefore it is totally different from all other merely natural religions, such as Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, and the animism of Africa and the Amazon rain forests.

 

 

It would be a very great error to think of Christianity as just one of many world religions, all of which are more or less on the same level, no one being superior to another. The truth is that Christianity is on a completely different level, for it is based on divine revelation, and divine revelation is only contained in the Scriptures and in Jesus Christ. All of the other religions of the world, no matter how noble they may be in certain aspects, are simply human creations by observing God’s creation and their own inner selves and then drawing conclusions using natural human reason.

 

 

Therefore all other religions are full of massive errors on all the main points of importance. This is why Christianity needs to be brought to people of every culture and religion on earth and needs to be preached to them, for this is the mission of the Church given to her by the risen Christ, namely, to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).

 

 

So we go with humility and respect for other cultures and even for the positive aspects of their religions and seek to make known to them God’s revelation in the Scriptures and in Jesus Christ for their eternal salvation. We present the truth about salvation that God has revealed to us in the Scriptures, and we invite them to accept it with faith, giving them complete freedom to decide and not coercing them in any way.

 

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