Make sure you click on the Title above to see the full content of the page.
To listen to the sermon, click on the audio file below:
“Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:31-32
How can we know the truth? Of course, many choose not to know the truth. The Democrats might not want the truth revealed about emails found on a laptop. The Republicans, too, might have truths they would rather not be known at election time.
Where can we find the truth? People look for truth in many places but, as we’ve seen, especially in recent times, even sources that should be trustworthy have become dishonest and slanted, often hiding the truth.
But “Jesus said to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
What truth does Jesus reveal in His Word? To His Jewish hearers, His Word revealed their sinfulness and their guilt and condemnation under the Law. Jesus told His hearers: “Ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24). He told them, “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son, therefore, shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:34-36).
The truth Jesus revealed to His hearers is that it wasn’t enough to be children of Abraham and entrusted with God’s law. Their heritage did not make them true children of Abraham because they were guilty under the law of God and were servants of sin. Unless they repented of their sinful ways and looked in faith to Jesus as their Messiah and Savior, they would die in their sins and be lost forever!
Our epistle lesson today reveals the same truth. After Paul cited the Scriptures to show that “there is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Rom. 3:10-12; cf. 9-18), he writes: “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (3:19-20).
But then he speaks of another righteousness, a righteousness which avails before God, a righteousness which is imputed by God to those who place their faith in the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ and His innocent sufferings and death in their stead: “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Rom. 3:21-26).
This is the righteousness of which Martin Luther learned as he studied the Scriptures. He discovered this truth in the words of Romans 1:16-17, where St. Paul writes: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”
This truth freed Luther from the condemnation of God’s law and gave him the assurance that through faith in Christ Jesus, his sins were all forgiven, that God accepted him as His own dear child and that he had a place in heaven.
This is the everlasting Gospel proclaimed by the angel in Revelation 14:6-7, where it says: “And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.”
The message for us is the same. It will do us no good to claim Luther as our father or to pride ourselves in our Lutheran heritage if we do not share in the faith of Luther and of the Lutheran reformers. Like the Jews who believed in Jesus, like Luther who despaired of his own righteousness before God and placed his faith in the perfect righteousness of Christ Jesus (Christ’s active and passive obedience), Jesus invites us to continue in His word that we might learn the truth and that the truth might set us free.
“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17).
And what is that truth? What does God’s Word reveal to us as it shines its bright light upon us?
Again, I think of the words of the Apostle John in his first epistle (1 John 1:8 — 2:2): “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. … And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”
What truth do we learn from the Scriptures? As we read and study God’s law, we see our utter sinfulness before God. We see our failures to measure up to God’s standards. We stand guilty and condemned before God. But we also see in the Gospel that God sent His only-begotten Son into this world a true man to fulfill the demands of God’s law for us and then to bear upon the cross the just punishment for our sins and the sins of all that we might look to Him in faith and be justified, forgiven and counted righteous and acceptable in God’s eyes. We see that through faith in Jesus we have been made “accepted in the beloved,” that “we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:6,7).
And this truth sets us free from the guilt and condemnation of God’s law. It gives us the assurance that through faith in the Son, we have forgiveness for all our sins and life everlasting!
As Jesus says, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
Grant, O Lord Jesus, that we might continue in Your life-giving Word, learn the truth and be made free through faith in You as our God and Savior. We ask this for the sake of Your blood, shed upon the cross for our sins. Amen.
[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]