It's Jesus With A Period - Not A Comma!

Text: Galatians 3:15-22

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Back in college, when I was struggling with the Christian faith, I requested to meet with a local pastor. I had a lot of questions because I was on the verge of leaving Christianity.

Well, long story short, as I visited with this Pastor, he asked me a simple yet powerful question. It was a question that made me put everything on the line. He said,

“If you were to die right now, where would you end up – with Christ or in hell?” 

Obviously, I replied, “In heaven.” 

To which he responded, “Why would you go to heaven?” 

Now, I want everyone to listen very closely to what I told this Pastor. I said, I would go to heaven because of Jesus and because I have walked a moral life.” 

I can remember it like yesterday, that Pastor sat back in his chair and said,

“You think you are going to heaven because you have been a good boy for God?  Really?” 

With a small chuckle and without hesitation, this Pastor opened his Bible and had me read some verses from Paul’s letter to the Galatians. 

Later that afternoon, when I was at home, Serenity asked me how my visit went, to which I responded with anger,

“Not good; he called me a sinner.” 

Dear friends, the reason why I bring this story up to you is that my response to that Pastor was a response that blended a Law answer with the Promised Gospel.

Sure, I gave credit to Jesus, but I also gave credit to myself. I was saved due to the promises of God in Christ ‘and’ my moral piety. 

That Pastor, though, went to work on me. Like a crowbar coming between two pieces of wood, that Pastor shared scripture to drive a wedge between Jesus and my moral piety. According to my way of thinking, I was saved by Jesus’ work and Matt Richard’s work. But again, that Pastor wanted to blow up that connection between God’s work and my work. He wanted to separate the connection between God’s Promise and my moral piety.

So, today, are we saying that our moral piety contributes nothing toward salvation? Yes, we are. Actually, that is what Paul is saying in our reading from the Epistle of Galatians.

Dear friends, during the time of Paul, many Jewish people blended together what is called the Mosaic  Covenant and the Abrahamic Covenant. In simple terms, they placed salvation on a person needing to follow the Ten Commandments ‘and’ trusting in the Promise of the Messiah given to Abraham. In the reading from Galatians 3, the Apostle Paul, like that Pastor, explodes this connection. He drives a wedge between the Law and the Promised-Gospel. 

However, as we know through human history, mankind has had a tendency to put the Law and Promise back together again – blending the two. One doesn’t have to think too far back to the Reformation when Christians supposedly obtained salvation before God through Christ and a whole list of Roman Catholic abuses. Indeed, they blended the Law and Promised Gospel by blending Jesus plus indulgences. The Law and Promised Gospel were also blended through Jesus plus penance, Jesus plus monastic vows, Jesus plus saying the mass, Jesus plus severe discipline, and so forth. The Roman Catholic theology of the 1500s was Jesus with a comma. Martin Luther and the 16th Century Reformers, though, dared to remove the comma after Jesus and put a period. Jesus – period. They wedged a period between Jesus and all the silly, pious games the Roman Catholic Church was orchestrating at the time.   

Now, I wish I could say that churches in America have not blended the Law and Promised Gospel; however, tragically, that is not the case.   You see, just like the problems in the days of Paul, as well as the problems in the 1500s, the versions of Christianity in America today have a view of Christianity as ‘Jesus plus something.’  Keep in mind that many churches in America do not dismiss Christ. They like Jesus and trust Jesus a lot for salvation; however, they do not trust Him alone. And that is the key. Any time that we attempt to add to Jesus -even if it is just a little something - we are not improving the Gospel Promise of God but destroying the Gospel.

Dear friends, pay attention: anytime that you and I add to Jesus, we end up subtracting from His work on the cross.

And so, salvation before God is not Jesus plus our decision, or Jesus plus our obedience, or Jesus plus being Missouri Synod, or Jesus plus praying a lot. Salvation is Jesus alone, not Jesus plus or minus something else.

Please hear me very clearly. Right now, in America, we have a whole list of virtue signals that we are expected to follow in order to be accepted according to a certain segment of our population. For the left-leaning part of our country, you need to drive an electric car, have a rainbow flag in front of your house, wear a mask, vote for Democrats, and be pro-choice – to name a few. For the right-leaning part of our country, you need to be big oil, pro-life, anti-Target, anti-Bud Light, and vote Republican – to name a few. Now, please hear me very carefully: if we view Christianity as Jesus plus any of these things, we have allowed the Promise of the Gospel to be blended with something else – we have destroyed the Gospel.

So, are we saying that these things don’t matter? For salvation, they don’t. The only thing that matters for salvation is Jesus. Period. Driving an electric car, supporting big oil, not drinking Bud Light, having a rainbow flag, wearing a mask, not shopping at Target, being prochoice, voting Democrat or Republican do not contribute to your salvation whatsoever. If they did, then Christ died for nothing. They do not get you one inch closer to the kingdom, for they did not bleed and die for you.

Right about now, I would imagine that you may be getting a bit agitated. Just so you know, I am a bit agitated in preaching this as well. The reason being, you and I may be saying,

“What’s the point of the Law then? Don’t standards, laws, and policies matter for the Christian? Don’t they matter for this world that is going to hell in a handbasket?” 

Dear friends, the Law of God – those good and great 10 Commandments – are intended to not only show everyone the good will of God but also to show every single person that we are all out of a right relationship with God because of our sin. In other words, the Law of God certainly works to curb sin in this life – to keep us from doing stupid stuff to ourselves and each other; however, at the same time, the Law of God shows us the foolishness of our attempts to devise some religious system for getting by on our own efforts. And so, the Law of God is not against the Promised Gospel, but instead, the Law of God levels you and me in repentance so that we can know what we are before God and acknowledge that we are lost. The Law prepares us to receive grace – to receive Jesus. Both the Law and Promised Gospel have the intended aim of mankind’s salvation; however, only the Promised Gospel is that which gives forgiveness, life, and salvation.

And so, in our culture, we may find ourselves not shopping at a particular store, and we may find ourselves voting for a particular candidate over another candidate, and we may find ourselves not waving a flag; however, we do these things not to contribute to our salvation or even somehow codify our salvation, but rather we do these things to discipline our sinful nature and to serve our neighbors in need. We do these things because God prepared good works for His children to walk in.

Baptized Saints, you contribute nothing to the Gospel Promise because nothing is needed. Jesus did it all for you. He finished it for you you.

And regarding the Law of God? We do not reject the Law but uphold it, as the Law curbs sin, shows us God’s good will, and continually reveals sin so that we may be humbled in repentance and receive the Gospel Promise again and again and again. 

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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