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Walther on Trinity 6 – Matthew 5:20-26

by pastorjuhl ~ July 14th, 2009

If you can get your hands on Walther’s sermon for Trinity 6, I highly recommend reading it. Here are some quotes.

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The Law forbids all sins and says: “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). If the Law can accuse a person of being guilty of only one sin, he is not righteous before God.

The world says, “One word won’t kill you.” But the Law says: “Every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment” (Matthew 12:36). If the Law can accuse one of being guilty of merely an idle word, he is not righteous before God.

The world says, “Thoughts are tax free.” But the Law says: “The Lord will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts” (1 Cor 4:5). Whom the Law can accuse of evil counsel, i.e., evil thoughts, or of having sinful desires, lusts, and incitements, he is also not righteous before God.

The Law says: “You shall love God above all things and your neighbor as yourself.” “If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed. O Lord, come” (1 Cor. 16:22)! “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15). If the Law can accuse one of having loved something more than God and himself more than his neighbor or even hated him, he is also not righteous before God.

The Law says: “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17). If the Law can accuse one of omitting something which he could have done, he also is not righteous before God.

Finally, the Law says: “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:2). “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). If the Law can accuse one of not being holy and pure, of not being completely perfect, he is also not righteous before God.

There you see the righteousness which Christ means, when He says, “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).

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How can a poor weak sinful man acquire a righteousness which avails before God? Our Gospel shows us the way: Faith in Jesus Christ. Yes, whoever despairs of his own righteousness, all his works, all his volition, ability, running, and chasing, and believes in Christ, who perfectly fulfilled the Law for all men, and by His innocent suffering and death bore and atoned for their sins, him God graciously absolves from all his sins. God acts as though He had fulfilled the Law as perfectly as Christ Himself. Whoever believes on Christ, though he may be head over heels in debt to God, has in the Gospel a receipt in full which God Himself has given. Whoever believes in Christ though he may have no good work which he can present to God, has in the life, suffering, and death of his Savior, a merit of such value, that God Himself will not condemn him; before all angels and creatures He must declare him completely righteous. In short, whoever believes in Christ has that righteousness which exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees without which no one can enter heaven.

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Luther very beautifully describes the nature of faith thus: “Faith is a divine work in us, which changes us and brings us forth new from God and kills the Old Adam, makes us completely different persons in respect to heart, state of mind, disposition, and powers, and brings the Holy Ghost with it. Oh, faith is such a living, creative, active, mighty thing, that it cannot possibly cease doing good. It does not ask whether there are good works to be done, but before one asks, it has done it; faith is ever busy.” (Source of Luther quote is LW 35:370)

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