The Eleventh Sunday after Trinity, 2017

The Epistle – 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

The Gospel – Luke 18:9-14

Articles of Religion Sermon Series

Article 9 – Of Original or Birth Sin

Article 11 – Of the Justification of Man

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

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In our combining of the Articles of the day with the Scripture lessons for today, we have one week where the two come together quite nicely.

 

First to Jesus’ Parable….The Pharisee and the Tax Collector.

 

And we are told why Jesus tells the Parable…

“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt…”(ESV)

 

We know this one well.  Two men go up the Temple to pray.  Both have a much different approach to prayer and how they approach God.

 

The Pharisee prays to God thanking God for making him superior to other men…including the tax collector who seems to be close by.

 

He lists his accomplishments.

He lists the many ways in which he believes he is obedient to God.

 

But Jesus leaves it there. He then tells of another man.  The tax collector. 

 

Of this man, Jesus says, “But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’” (ESV)

 

Quite the contrast.  This is what Jesus calls us to emulate.  We are NOT to trust in ourselves and treat others with contempt.

 

Jesus says of the tax collector, “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (ESV)

The tax collector went down to his house justified. This word will be addressed momentarily.

 

In the mean time, we have to figure out why this is.  Why this happens.  Why do we at times act like the Pharisee and treat others with contempt?

 

Why do we sometimes have an arrogant haughty disposition toward others? What is wrong with us that we do these things?

 

The answer to this is found in the first of the two Articles today.  Article 9 – Of Original or Birth Sin.

 

Here we have a very very important Christian doctrine. 

This is an indispensible doctrine of the Church and one that we must hold in the forefront of our minds.

 

If we do, we will have many things answered for us…including why we do the things we do…or why we act like the Pharisee in the Parable…or other things.

 

Original sin stands not in the following of Adam, as the Pelagians do vainly talk, but it is the fault and corruption of the Nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam.

 

First, the Pelagians.  Who are these vain talkers?  We have a number of groups addressed in the Articles; Rome, Eastern Orthodoxy, Anabaptists and now…. Pelagians.

Pelagians are the followers of Pelagius.  He was a British monk who lived or was teaching in Rome in the 5th century.

 

He taught that the Fall of Adam and Eve was not total.  There was still remaining in human nature, a capacity for recovery.

 

There was still an island…a small part or portion of man that was not touched by sin. 

 

Essentially, Pelagius taught that Adam fell from original state of innocence and we too at birth are innocent until we begin to sin and only then are we considered fallen. 

 

But he misunderstood what Scripture teaches.

Paul is very clear in Romans 5 about this. “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— (Romans 5:12, ESV)   

 

He goes on to make the same point repeatedly…

Romans 5:15

 

[15]…For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. (ESV)

 

Romans 5:16

[16] And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin.

For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. (ESV)

 

So one man, Adam sinned. Sin came into the world through Adam.  Sin spread to all men, because all men are born from Adam….right down to you and me.

 

“One man one trespass, one man’s disobedience, with dire consequences for all the human race.”[1]

 

This then is contrasted with Christ.  “This then is contrasted with ‘one man’s obedience’ which makes many righteous.”

 

Paul also makes this similar statement in 1 Corinthians 15, “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:21-22, ESV)

 

So we, are born of Adam or “in Adam”

Everyone who is born from Adam inherits sin.

Everyone who is born of Christ inherits righteousness and eternal life.

 

Some are born to Christ and are justified.

Some remain in Adam and remain in sin.

There is no third option.

 

We are either in Adam or in Christ.

 

So the original sin spoken of here is not just a tendency toward sin from time to time, but more an Original Guilt, wherein we share Adam’s guilt because we are his progeny…his offspring.

 

In a word, according to Paul, “all have sinned.”

 

So this first half lays out the foundation of our position before God as in Adam.

 

Or as the Article says, we are far gone from original righteousness. Our nature is inclined to evil.

 

Notice it does not say that we are totally evil and all we want to do is evil all of the time. This is a misrepresentation of our fallen nature in Adam. 

Rather, it is saying that our entire being…our entire person is tainted with sin. There is no island of untouched righteousness remaining in us.

 

We are totally affected.

 

It is a condition we all possess.  It is not just doing bad things from time to time.  We pray in MP and EP that there is no health in us.

 

We are in a state of helplessness if left to our own devices, and we need the grace of God. We are unable to heal ourselves of this condition. 

 

And even after baptism, and regeneration, sin remains.

 

The Article even reminds us of what Paul tells us in Romans 8.  Even though there is no condemnation for us who believe and are baptized and are in Christ…sin still remains in us.

 

We just hold that since we are baptized and regenerated, we now have an ability to fight against sin that we did not possess before.

We have a new view of ourselves and sin and we learn to hate sin and pray and work to fight against its effects and its influence on us.

 

So there is the dilemma. 

The dilemma we are all in.

 

Second, Article 11 comes along side of this one and gives us the counterbalance.

This is what has plagued man since the fall.

What can be done about my sin?

What can be done so that I can be once again in a right relationship with God?

 

If I'm in Adam, how do I get out?  Is there an out?

 

Or, “What must I do to be saved?

Or, “How can a sinner stand and be considered righteous before a Holy and Just God?

 

So this is where our second Article helps us.

Article 11 – Of the Justification of Man.

 

This Article is written very clearly and is straightforward about it's intent.

“We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings.”

 

This is sometimes abbreviated and simply stated as “Justification by Faith.”

 

We have to be careful because we are justified or counted just in the sight of God because of Christ, not our Faith.

 

But Faith is necessary for us to have.  We have to have Faith and this is not just believing in God or something in come general way.

 

The Faith we are called to have here is a trust and a belief in Jesus Christ…in His saving us…not us saving ourselves.

In Him… being the righteous one who stands before God the Father for us…not any kind of righteousness we might think we possess.

 

We have this embedded into our liturgy and we all say it each time we gather like this.

 

The Prayer of Humble Access.  “We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness…but in thy manifold and great mercies.

 

Many times if you are really paying attention to the words…our liturgy continually contrasts Christ, His righteousness, His saving work…

with us and our lack of righteousness and our inability to save ourselves.

 

The doctrine of Justification has been called the “main hinge on which religion turns.”  

 

Unless we clearly see our relationship to God and His judgment on us for our being in Adam and our sin, there is no foundation for salvation or piety.

 

Paul summarizes and synthesizes these two concepts here for us that we are working through this morning, “For there is no distinction: [23] for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, [24] …..and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, [25] whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. [26] It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:22b-26, ESV)

 

So all of us have sinned.

All of us are at one time in Adam.

By sin, we fall short of what is required of us by God and His Law and His righteous standards.

 

But to fix that, we put our trust and Faith in Jesus Christ to be seen as righteous, and just before God.

 

And God accepts our Faith…. and as a gift, He counts us righteous!!

 

So God remains just because He accepts the righteous work of Christ on the Cross. He doesn't just overlook our sins.  He doesn't just turn a blind eye to our sins.  He deals with them in Christ’s death.

 

AND…He is the justifier.  He is the One who declares us just in His sight.

 

Not by anything that we do.  Faith in Christ is a trust, not a work done by us.

And by Faith….by God seeing our Faith in His Son, rewards us by declaring us Just. 

 

This is a gift of God so that we cannot boast or brag about it.

What have we done anyway to contribute to this?  Our only contribution to the equation is sin.

 

God freely justifies us as a gift.

No earning.

No deserving.

No merit.

No impressing Him by doing good.

 

The Article says that this Doctrine of Justification is a most wholesome doctrine, full of comfort.

 

Why is this comfortable?

It is comfortable because we are now at the same time, justified and …yet we remain sinful.

Notice that the sin doesn't stop?  We still must come here week-by-week and even daily in our prayer life and confess our sins.

 

But we must rise from our confession knowing that we still have faith in Christ and by that Faith, we are justified before God.

 

So we run off to love and serve our neighbor….and when we sin…we come back again, sorrowful for what we have done….which is sin against that God who gave us this gift of forgiveness and justification….and we receive forgiveness again from Him and we go back out and try again.

 

It is comfortable because we could never be sure if we have really done enough good works to earn God’s favor.

 

It is comfortable because what Christ has done in shedding His blood and dying for us is what the Father wants and is what is adequate to take away our sins.

 

So this is why Jesus’ tax collector in the Parable is the one who went down to his house justified…went down to his house righteous.

 

It was not for anything that he had done clearly.  What did he do?  Nothing.  He simply confessed that he was a sinner and asked God for mercy.

 

Finally we cannot detach this from Sanctification.  This is now the process of God working in us to change us.

 

He works in us toward holiness.  We don't just sit back and say, “Ok, I'm declared just and righteous before God.

I guess I can relax now and do nothing.”

 

Rather, now we strive toward holiness so that the inward declaration of us being righteous shows forth in our lives.

 

God now guides us into maturity. 
We progress in holiness, loving neighbor and God…serving one another.

 

The life of the justified sinner becomes practical.

 

We grow in God.

We strive to obey His commands.

We strive toward spiritual maturity.

 

All because of the great and comforting gift that God has given us freely in justifying us through faith in His Son Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.



[1] Fr. Lawrence Wells.  A Layman’s Guide to the 39 Articles.