Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Who of you confirmed members remember the Ten Commandments? What is the Fifth Commandment? Number five? Do not kill, that is correct. In our text for today, our Lord speaks of this commandment: "You have heard it said by the ancients: Thou shalt not kill: and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment."
But before this, Jesus said, "I tell you that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." He had criticized the Pharisees and scribes for their hypocrisy, but now he commands his followers that they should be more just than the Pharisees and scribes.
But, are we not justified by faith alone, not by good works? What does this mean? First, the gospel does not negate the law. The law is still God's holy will for our lives. However, Christ delivered us from the slavery of sin by His suffering and death on the cross.
Sin came into the world by the devil, who rebelled against God first, and by man, who by his own will was seduced to sin. So now for us, there are two kinds of sin: original sin and current sin.
Original sin is the total corruption of all human nature, that we have inherited from Adam through our parents. Original sin blames us, condemns us and leaves us all without true fear and love of God, spiritually blind, dead and enemies of God.
Thank God that in holy baptism, we receive by faith the new spiritual life in Christ, free from the condemnation that we inherited from Adam and Eve.
Also, there is current sin, which is all our personal actions against the law of God. In Christ, there is always forgiveness of current as well as original sin for those who repent. However, current sin does not consist only of external acts, as many think. This was the error of the Pharisees and scribes. Therefore, Christ says, "But I say that anyone who is angry with his brother without cause is in danger of judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say thou fool, shall be in danger of hellfire."
Current sin also includes evil desires and thoughts, whether we are able or willing to act on these desires and thoughts or not. Because we still have new life in Christ, but at the same time, the sinful human nature, that is, the old Adam, active in us until physical death, we must trust the Holy Spirit who gives us faith and will continue with the work of sanctification in us.
We are not saved by obedience to the law, because no one can fulfill the law perfectly, except Christ. As St. Paul says in our Epistle for today (Romans 6:1-11): "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may increase? By no means: for if we are dead to sin, how can we live in it? Do you not know that all who are baptized into Christ Jesus are baptized into his death?"
We struggle against the sinful nature, but remember we already have victory in Christ. But we must repent of the evil thoughts and desires, not only from outward acts.
The law does not save us, but still has its purpose. First, as a brake to restrict, to some extent, the deeds of evildoers. This is the domain of civil government, who God has given authority to use force of arms to protect the people.
Second, and most importantly, the law as a mirror, teaches man the true knowledge of sin. Therefore, the law must be preached to unrepentant sinners. We preach the gospel, the good news of forgiveness of sins in Christ, to penitent sinners. And part of the process of repentance is reconciliation with our brothers. "First be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift." With joy we are reconciled to others because Christ reconciled us with God first.
As Christians, we are penitent sinners and the redeemed of God. The Bible says repentance is metanoia, which means in Greek, a change of mind, a complete reassessment of priorities. We therefore more righteous than the Pharisees and scribes, because we have the forgiveness and a clean conscience,not only for outward acts, but for all our desires and thoughts.
So we pray in the Liturgy, "Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me." If we confess our sins, God is faithful and righteous to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
The peace that passes all understanding be with you forever. Amen.
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