daily biblical sermons


WHAT YOU HEAR WHISPERED, PROCLAIM UPON THE HOUSETOPS
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Monday, 25th Week of the Year, September 25, 2017
Ezra 1:6-7, Psalm 125, Luke 8:16-18


Scripture quotations are from the RSV unless otherwise noted.

 

"No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a vessel, or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is hid that shall not be made manifest, nor anything secret that shall not be known and come to light" (Luke 8:16-17).


Christ is the light (John 8:12). He has given his light to his apostles in order to spread it to others. It has now come down to us. What are we supposed to do with it? We too are supposed to share it with others. No one lights a lamp and then covers it with a basket or puts it under a bed. Everyone puts it on a stand so that all who enter the house may see the light and be illuminated by it. That is what we are supposed to do with the light of Christ.


The light is more than just Christ. It is also the gospel, the good news of God's salvation of the world in Jesus Christ for all who believe in him. All who put their faith in him will be illuminated by him. They will receive "the power of God for salvation" (Romans 1:16), which is the gospel.


The gospel itself is this power. That is why St. Paul says, "I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith" (Romans 1:16). The gospel is good news, a saving message for all who receive it with faith. In the gospel God reveals his justifying righteousness that declares and makes us righteous through our faith in Christ, because of what Christ did for us on the cross, which was to atone for our sins by paying our debt for them to the Father. Our debt is what we owed God for our sins, namely suffering in punishment for them. Jesus paid this debt of ours on the cross. When we put our faith in him, God considers our debt paid and so considers us righteous. Christ's death enables God to justly declare us righteous, without sin or further need of punishment for our sins. All that has already been done for us on the cross.


So we now shine with the justification that God has worked for us by Christ's death, through our faith in him. This righteousness is our light, the light of Christ in us. It illuminates us from within, for God reckons our faith to us as righteousness (Romans 4:5), because of Christ's atoning, reparation-making work on the cross for our sins. We are therefore righteous through faith, for "he who through faith is righteous shall live" (Romans 1:17; Habakkuk 2:4). And we shall indeed live with God's own righteousness in us. This is the light that God has given us in Christ, through our faith in him. It is this light that we must let shine. This secret message of the gospel must now come to light through us for those around us.


"For nothing is hid that shall not be made manifest, nor anything secret that shall not be known and come to light" (Luke 8:17).


God has shined the light of the gospel on us for this purpose, to illuminate others with it, not to just keep it for ourselves by putting it under a bed or a basket. We must let this light of the gospel shine by preaching it to others, and as we write our sermons to share this light of the gospel with others, our own insight into and appreciation of it grows.


Jesus clearly told us what we are to do with the light of the gospel: "What I tell you in the dark, utter in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim upon the housetops" (Matthew 10:27).


Christ told his disciples the gospel in the dark, privately, because the crowds were not yet able to understand it. Even his inner circle of disciples did not yet understand it. But after Pentecost they did, and then they began to preach it openly and clearly for all to hear. That is our task now.


And what is the great message of the gospel? It is that we are saved by Christ's work on the cross, through our faith that connects us to that work, and not by our own works, for "when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life" (Titus 3:4-7).


God "saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness" (Titus 3:5), but because of Christ's atoning work on the cross; not through our works, but through our faith that connects us with Christ's work on the cross.


This is a truly revolutionary message that many Christians today still do not understand. Our salvation from sin and our being made righteous and a new creature in Christ is completely Christ's work, not ours. Our part is only to put out our empty hand of faith and receive it. God does the rest, cleansing us from sin, lifting our depressing guilt from us, and taking away our fear of further punishment, which has already been suffered for us on the cross by Christ.


So St. Paul gloriously tells us, "By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV).


St. Paul came to this marvelous and revolutionary insight by first noticing that Gentiles who didn't follow the Mosaic ceremonial law of circumcision and special diet were saved just like the Jewish converts to Christianity were, namely because of Christ's work on the cross, through their faith in him (Acts 15:9, 11). Further thought then led St. Paul to his great insight that no human work of any kind, not circumcision, not the Mosaic dietary laws, and not even the observance of God's moral law itself saves or justifies us, but only God's grace, because of the atonement made for our sins by Christ's death on the cross. So it is not our works, but our faith, which connects us with Christ's atoning work on the cross, that justifies and saves us.


Sanctification is then another matter. It immediately follows justification by faith, not by works, and sanctification requires a life of good works, a life of doing God's will, as revealed to us in his moral law. This is what St. Paul says, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10 NKJV). We as new creatures are re-created by God in Christ Jesus "for good works" (Ephesians 2:10 NKJV).


This is then to be our new life in Christ, justified and saved from our sins and declared righteous by grace, because of Christ's atoning work on the cross, through faith, not through our works of any kind. After and immediately following this begins our new life of good works by which we grow in sanctification.


This is the good news, the gospel, the light that we are to put on a stand to enlighten all we can reach. It is given to us to use to enlighten others with, not just to keep for ourselves by putting it under a basket or a bed.

 

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