Since we will gather for worship and to partake of Christ’s body and blood given and shed for the remission of our sins, it is indeed good and right that we examine ourselves in accord with 1 Corinthians 11:28-29: “Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.”
We do so this week on the basis of Psalm 130, where we read: “Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O LORD. Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning. Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.”
And it is true: if the LORD God were to mark down our iniquities – all the ways and all the times in which we have transgressed His holy commandments – who could stand? The answer, of course, is not one of us. “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). We are all guilty and deserving of His eternal wrath and punishment on account of our sins.
Though God’s law condemns us all to eternal torment on account of our sins, the psalmist writes: “But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.” Though we cannot be acceptable to God on the basis of His law on account of our sins and our sinful hearts, there is another way to be acceptable in His eyes – to have our sins forgiven and washed away and to be accounted righteous and holy in God’s eyes – and that is through faith in Christ Jesus and His atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world. He fulfilled the righteous demands of the law in our stead, and He suffered our just punishment when He was crucified and died upon the cross. His resurrection on the third day is proof that God accepted His sacrifice as full payment for sin and that through faith in Him we are justified and counted righteous and holy in God’s judgment.
It is as the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 3:20-26: “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. 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.”
Instead of trusting in our own sin-tainted righteousness which comes far, far short in every way, we place our confidence in the LORD. Our soul waits upon Him, because with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. In Jesus Christ, the LORD God has redeemed us from all our sins and offers and gives to us, through the preaching of the Gospel and through the right administration of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, His mercy and forgiveness, and life everlasting!
I ask you before God: Do you acknowledge that you are a sinner and have sinned in thought, word and deed? Do you confess and agree with God that you are guilty and deserving of his wrath and punishment? Do you trust that Christ Jesus has truly redeemed you from the curse of God’s law? Do you also believe that Jesus, in the Sacrament, gives you to partake of His body and blood which were given and shed that your sins might be forgiven you? As a fruit of your faith, do you truly desire and seek God’s help to amend your life and live it in accord with God’s Word?
If you are truly sorry for your sins and look to Christ and His atoning sacrifice upon the cross for pardon and forgiveness, I announce unto you the grace of God and, in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]