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Your Holiness Is in Christ Alone

1 Peter 1:17-25

Pastor Mark Schlamann

Third Sunday of Easter
St. Peter Lutheran Church  
Cambria, New York

Sun, Apr 6, 2008
Third Sunday of Easter
 

IN NOMINE JESU

In our text, and the verses preceding it, the blessed Apostle St. Peter calls his hearers to holiness. He is not encouraging us to merely do the best we can.  He does not give us some generic Protestant drivel. No, what he gives us is a scriptural admonition to be holy in thought, word, and deed. To be holy is to be set apart by God, set apart to be sinless. God says, "Be holy, for I am holy," words repeated by St. Peter in his First Epistle, words spoken by our Lord throughout the Book of Leviticus.  We are to be holy, for our heavenly Father is holy. Peter exhorts us to conduct ourselves throughout the time of our stay here in fear. Peter refers to the time of our stay here, for he knows that we are but strangers here, for heaven is our home. It is as if he knew the hymn which would be written some 1800 years later. Our time us limited here on this earth; our time here is a gift from God, a time full of opportunities to receive God's gifts, render Him thanks for all His benefits toward us, and to call upon His Name in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.

Peter begins our text by saying, "And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear" (v. 17).  God judges man by his works but only on the basis of whether faith in Chris is present in man's heart.  We believe that Christ shall come to be our Judge, and He is an impartial Judge—Jesus the Just.  As Christ our Lord says in the last chapter of Mark, "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mk. 16:16).  We are saved solely on account of God's grace through our faith in Jesus Christ. In the words of the great Reformation-era hymn: "Salvation unto us has come By God's free grace and favor; Good works cannot avert our doom, They help and save us never. Faith looks to Jesus Christ alone, Who did for all the world atone; He is our one Redeemer" (TLH 377:1).

Christ is our one Redeemer, our only Redeemer, contrary to what you may have heard on television or radio or read in the newspapers concerning the Roman Catholic Church and its spiritual (and political) leader, called the pope.  He is the latest in a succession of men who have misled their followers, taking them from the road to salvation to the back alley of confusion and condemnation, falsely teaching their followers that it's OK to pray to Mary, mother of our Lord, as if she could save us, a position not supported by Scripture.  They have deceived their followers into believing that doing good works can shave time off they would spend in the imaginary state of purgatory, a state of spiritual limbo, and that we can do good works to get someone else's soul out of purgatory!  This cannot be done, for a person is judged at the moment of death.  The believer in Christ will spend eternity in heaven, and the unbeliever in hell. There is no in-between state, no middle ground. There is no scriptural foundation for many of their teachings.  Rome has yet to retract the condemnations it placed on the scriptural position of the Lutheran Church in Rome's Council of Trent centuries ago.  Rome still teaches that there is no salvation to be found outside the Romanist tradition.  More than this, the papacy, which our Lutheran Confessions call Antichrist, would deny their hearers the true comfort of the pure Gospel, the forgiveness of sins.  They would deny those who grieve the comfort of knowing that their loved ones who believed in Christ are in heaven.  They would deprive those who are burdened under the weight of their sins the total and complete forgiveness of their sins for Jesus' sake, with no strings attached.  In fact, the papacy demands blind obedience to it over against the true Head of the Church, Jesus Christ.  And this many who claim to be Christian have done, even many outside the Romanist tradition, even many who claim to be Lutheran!

But the teachings of Luther and Rome are not compatible in many respects.  Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk, sought to return the Church to Holy Scripture and its central truth that man is justified solely by God's grace through one's faith in Jesus Christ, apart from works of the Law.  We are to do good works to show that we already have this faith, not to obtain it.  We cannot, on the clear basis of Scripture, believe in Jesus Christ our Lord or come to Him.  We have bought into Rome's lies because we sinners lack for ourselves the certainty of eternal life.  We merely hope we will go to heaven.  We beat ourselves down with our sins, and the devil convinces us that we will never be forgiven unless we do this, that, and the other, which is also what Rome teaches.  This position places the responsibility for man's salvation upon man, who cannot save himself, and removes the central focus from Jesus, whose Name means "the LORD saves."  We need to be released from this burden of sins, doubt, and false belief, lest we fall from the faith.  This is the fear we are to have in the time of our stay here: not the fear of God's wrath but the fear of falling from His grace and the one true faith, the faith that is clearly taught in Holy Scripture.  We need to be redeemed from our aimless conduct received by tradition from those who pretend to be our fathers.

It gives me great pleasure to announce to you this morning that this redemption has taken place.  We have bee bought from this pattern of aimless conduct, but not with such perishable things such as gold and silver, but with something of much greater worth and will never perish—the blood of Jesus Christ.  To make payment for our sins, it is necessary that blood be shed, the blood of a lamb that is without blemish and without spot. For this reason Jesus, our Good Shepherd and our High Priest, became our sacrificial Lamb.  He paid our price with His blood.  Judas received 30 pieces of silver, the price of a slave, for betraying the Lord, and Judas hanged himself.  We receive the blood of Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, and we receive the gift of eternal life. We receive the gift of salvation.  We receive the gift of the forgiveness of sins.  This, fellow redeemed, is how we are made holy: our heavenly Father looks at us who come to Him with repentant hearts, and He sees us through the blood of His only-begotten Son, and He declares us forgiven—righteous—for Jesus' sake.  Our sins are taken away. We have been made holy, without blemish and without spot, in the precious blood of Jesus.

Our holiness comes in the forgiveness of sins, which is nothing other than living our Baptism.  We are to be holy; so God makes us holy. He has set us apart, that we would receive His gifts with thanksgiving.  To this end He has raised His Son Jesus from the dead, so that our faith and our hope are in God.  God gives us this faith and hope as He has given us His Holy Spirit at our Baptism, who creates in us saving faith in Jesus Christ, the faith He strengthens through the preaching of the Gospel and through Holy Absolution, the same faith He feeds and nourishes through the body and blood of the Lord.  By the work of the Holy Spirit, we are holy, made holy through the Word and Sacraments, for in these Means of Grace our risen Lord has attached Himself, to give His gifts to you and for you!

Christ is risen! HE IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!

In the Name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

SOLI DEO GLORIA





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