Sermon Notes – September 17, 2017

Reserving Judgment

Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother?  For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. – Romans 14:10

   It has finally happened. The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod has, after years of planning, preparing, writing, rewriting and editing finally printed a new Lutheran Christian dogmatics.   The project was started by Synod President Ralph A. Bohlmann in 1983.  Dr. Bohlmann died last July and was not able to see the publication of this long awaited work, but “the title given to this systematics—Confessing the Gospel: A Lutheran Approach to Systematic Theology—captures the insight, the humility, and the spirit of Professor Bohlmann, who taught us that evangelical, orthodox Lutheran theology must always be a faithful confession of the gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Holy Scriptures.”[1]

   This faithful confession of the gospel is relevant and apparent in the discussion of the final judgment Paul raises in our text.  “The final judgment is the divine act by which Christ publicly separates the just from the unjust and pronounces his verdict before all the world (Matt 13:40-43; 25:31-46)… Judgment will be administered on the basis of their deeds.  The wicked will be condemned on the basis of the law, which they have not kept (Rev 20:12)…For the faithful people of God, however, it will be a day of redemption.  Having been declared righteous through faith, they will be pronounced blessed by the Father and will inherit his everlasting kingdom (Matt 25:34).”[2]    

   The gospel of Jesus Christ (His death and resurrection for the forgiveness of our sins and the assurance of eternal life in heaven) is the key when you give an account of yourself to God.  Jesus paid for every sin you and I have committed.  You and I are redeemed.  That glorious, saving truth is not only relevant on the day of judgment.  It should also be relevant to your life right now.  That glorious, saving gospel should not only be apparent when you stand before Christ.  It should also be apparent now.  That is what Paul is getting at in our Epistle (Romans 14:1-12).  Since you are redeemed through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ you should not be standing in judgment over one another in regards to things that God has neither commanded nor forbidden.

   Paul uses the example of dietary issues.  Meat that was sold in the markets of Roman cities was often thought of as ritually impure.  In Christ, however, all meat could now be thought of as a gift from God.  Whether or not a person ate such meat had now become a matter of personal preference.  “Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.” (v. 3)  Dietary preferences still remain the subject of controversy among Christian siblings who seemingly haven’t learned anything. [e.g., fasting before taking communion]

   With Pharisaic zeal we can elevate our own opinions to the status of God’s Word and demote God’s Word to the status of an opinion.  Paul, a former Pharisee, knew all too well how easily one can slip into that topsy turvy realm of false security and arrogant self-righteousness.    Let me be clear:  the teachings of the Scriptures and faith are not opinions that you may or may not uphold (2 Tim 1:13-14); the Law of God (as given, for example, in the Ten Commandments, Ex 20:1-17) is not optional for the child of God; the people of God are to be accountable to one another and should discipline one another based on God’s Word (Matt 18:15-20).  Why would Christ offer Himself as a sacrifice for sin if, in the end, there was no sin because everyone can do whatever they want without any judgment against them? 

   But when we have plenty to think about and to do based on what God has actually prescribed as His Law, let’s not waste time or energy or good will by judging each other on things that God has neither commanded nor forbidden.  Don’t be an obnoxious Pharisee!  Jesus condemned their double standards and their self-righteousness: “You are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.  So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matt 23:27-28)

   When we break God’s Law we are condemned.  God will not simply look the other way, and that includes when we judge others inappropriately (Matt 7:1-5)  Our only opportunity to stand before the judgment seat and be declared righteous is through our Lord Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for our sin.  Confessing the gospel of Jesus Christ we are counted as righteous and redeemed.



[1] Confessing the Gospel, Volume 1, Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, ©2017, page xxviii (preface by Dr. Samuel Nafzger)

[2] Confessing the Gospel, Volume 2, pages 1159-1160.

 
 

 

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