The Gospel Is For Sinners Only

Text: Luke 15:1-10

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

What kind of people do you expect to find in church?  Maybe an even better question to ask is this, what kind of people do you think should be in church? 

Now, typically we think of church-goers as those who wear nice suits and nice-looking dresses and skip their way into church each Sunday, with pretty smiles on their faces.  Church-goers are those who have certain moral standards and certain customs and characteristics. For example, it is easy to spot church-goers at restaurants on Sundays after church, for they are the ones with nice clothes and well-combed hair. 

So, generally speaking, we expect that the church should be full of respectable people, those who take life serious, and those who seem to have everything together. 

However, what would be your reaction if the church pews began to fill up with those in our culture that cause us to be a bit worried.  You know, people who live in the back alleys of life.  Yes, what if the pews began to fill up with people who don’t scrub behind their ears – the drug addicts, the swingers, and the drunks!  How would you respond if they started filling up the pews of the church?  How would you feel if they took your seat and you had to sit closer to the front?  You might respond the way that one lady did to me years ago, “Pastor we wanted to reach out to the lost, but not to those lost people.  We need to reach out to normal lost people.”

To make things worse, how would you feel if these people of ill-repute came forward in repentance of their sins at communion, seeking the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ?  What if they drank from the same chalice as you?

Frankly, this would cause you and me a bit of discomfort. 

“What are they doing in this church?”

“Who do they think they are sitting in my pew.  Don’t they know who I am?”

“Do they know what we are about here?”

“They can’t possibly be a Christian, they have just done too many bad things!”

Dear friends, the problem with the religious leaders in Luke’s Gospel, was that they struggled with Jesus welcoming sinners and eating with them.  They began to grumble at Jesus’ acceptance of the ragamuffins of the day.  You see, He not only welcomed poor miserable sinners, but He rubbed elbow with them by eating with them.  Eating with them showed acceptance.  That is to say; saying hi to a sinner or even shaking a sinners’ hand is fine, but eating with them?  This shows too much acceptance.  It crosses the line!  And when lines are crossed, religious leaders grumble.      

And thus we see the problem with the religious leaders.  They did not understand that Jesus and His Gospel were for sinners.  Yes, the Gospel is for sinners only.  The church is for sinners only. 

That means that the Gospel is not for those who have convinced themselves that they are self-righteous.  You see, the self-righteous do not want the Gospel, and they think that they do not need it because they believe that they have everything together in their lives. 

And those who hide their sin?  Well, they don’t think that they need the Gospel either. 

And let us not forget those who celebrate their sins – those who try to normalize sin.  These people are no different than the self-righteous and those who hide their sin because they have dismissed their sin by celebrating it and normalizing it. 

Indeed, a person who denies or conceals or celebrates their sin has no use for Jesus and no use for the Gospel.  When people act as if they are not sinner, whether they are self-righteous or if they are hiding their sin or if they are celebrating their sin, they are essentially demonstrating that they have no use for Jesus and His church. 

However, on the other hand, those who beat their breast and confess, “God have mercy on me, the sinner,” well, these are the people whom the kingdom of God belongs to. Yes, Jesus and His Gospel are for sinners – repentant sinners.  Jesus and the Gospel are for sinners who acknowledge their sins of thought, word, and deed.  Jesus and His Gospel are for those who understand the malady of their sin and desire the medicine of forgiveness. 

This idea, though, of the Gospel being for sinners only offended the religious leaders of the day.  It also seems to offend many goodie-two-shoe church-goers as well in our day and age.  The reason why?  Both the religious leaders of the first-century and in our day and age believe that they are not that bad of sinners.  They think that they have somehow been raised above the status of sinner.  They become oblivious to their sin because they become preoccupied with their self-righteousness and then end up judging other people’s sins, instead of their own.

The Scribes and Pharisees wanted nothing to do with Jesus.  They preferred perfect people, like themselves.  So they missed out.  They did not draw near to Jesus and neither did they draw near to life, salvation, and forgiveness.  They missed out on the kingdom of God.  That is what happens when we deny that we are sinners.  Denying that we are sinners, simply leads us to be all alone, in the lonely hell of our sins forever.

Dear friends, the religious leaders had it all wrong.  And we get it wrong too.  The Gospel is not for the self-righteous, but it is for the sin-sick.  The church is not a museum for saints, but a hospital for sinners.  The Gospel is for sinners only.  The church is for sinners only.  This is why we confess so boldly each Sunday that we are poor miserable sinners in thought, word, and deed and that we justly deserve God’s present and eternal punishment.  In our confession of sin each Sunday, we are acknowledging that we are in this church as sinners – beggars – to receive forgiveness, life, and salvation. 

Indeed, we are all beggars, coming together to receive the free warm bread – the forgiveness of sins.    

Dear friends, we all come to this church not as self-righteous jerks, but we come as sin-sick-sinners.  We come because we have been beaten up by the sins of the world and our very own sins.  We come because we have become dirty by the muck of our sins.  We come to this church knowing that this is the only place in our world that we are not only admitted as sinners but forgiven of our sins.

This is the essence of Christianity!  We come to church in repentance because we know that we are not perfect.  We come with all of our failures.  We come as idolaters.  We come as rebels.  We come as haters.  We come as adulterers.  We come as thieves.  We come as gossips.  We come as sinners to this church – we come before our Lord Jesus Christ – with our broken and crushed hearts because we know that the Lord Jesus Christ not only welcomes sinners but eats with them as well. 

That is the way that it is with the church, my friends.  In the church, you do not find perfect people, but you only find forgiven people.  In the church, you find those who beat their breast and confess their sins boldly and boldly receive Jesus’ Word and Jesus’ body and blood for the forgiveness of all of their sins. 

So, come to the place where Jesus can be found – His church.  Never quit coming to the Lord’s church where the Word and Sacraments are proclaimed into your ears, poured upon your head, and laid upon your tongue.  Continually come to receive from Jesus for you are His, and He is yours. 

Jesus comes for sinners; He especially comes for sinners on Sunday mornings.    He comes to welcome you by His precious Word and dine with you in His holy supper.

Indeed, the Lord welcomes sinners and eats with them… He welcomes and dines with you.     

In the name of Jesus: Amen. 

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