daily biblical sermons


WHY CHRISTIAN MISSION IS SO IMPORTANT
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Monday, Third Week of Lent, March 05, 2018
2 Kings 5:1-15, Psalm 41-42, Luke 4:24-30


Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

 

"And he said, ‘Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his own country. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when there came a great famine over all the land; and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow'" (Luke 4:24-26).


Today's gospel reading shows us the lack of faith in Jesus among his fellow townsmen in Nazareth, his hometown, and so they receive no benefit from him. In his account of this incident, St. Matthew says, "He did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief" (Matthew 13:58).


To benefit from Jesus one must have faith in him. That is why Jesus told them that during a very low period of faith in Israel, when there was a famine in the land and there were many poor and needy widows, none of them was helped by their prophet Elijah except a pagan widow outside of Israel in Sidon, who had faith in him. Nor did any of the many lepers in Israel receive help from their prophet Elisha. The only leper he cured was the foreigner Naaman the Syrian. Similarly the people of Nazareth will also not receive any benefit from Jesus, because of their lack of faith in him. And so he worked no miraculous cures there.


Faith is essential to benefit from the salvation that Jesus brings to the world. Faith is both belief in certain revealed truths and a confident trusting in Jesus to justify and save us by his atoning death on the cross. Through his resurrection he then communicates to those who believe in him new life and the righteousness of God, whereby we become truly righteous.


Christian faith is therefore trusting belief in the apostolic preaching or kerygma about Jesus. Hence to be justified and saved by Christ it is necessary that we have heard about him and have heard and believed in the basic kerygma (the preached message about him), which is that Jesus is Lord and Savior.


That Jesus is Lord means two things: 1) that he is God, and 2) that he is our Lord or master whom we promise to obey and follow.


That Jesus is Savior means that he was sent by the Father to take our sins upon himself and vicariously suffer their just punishment for us and instead of us, as the Jewish lamb of sacrifice took the place of the sinner and vicariously suffered for him the punishment that the sinner's sins deserved, being slain for his sins so that the sinner could go free, released from his sins and forgiven.


This is the basic apostolic kerygma or preached message about Jesus that it is necessary to believe and trust in to be justified and saved by him.


Trusting faith in Christ and in the kerygma or apostolic preaching about him will save anyone anywhere of any nation. It is for the whole world. As long as one has faith in Christ and in his kerygma and genuinely repents of his sins, he will be justified and saved.


St. Paul tells us, "‘No one who believes in him will be put to shame.' For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and bestows his riches upon all who call upon him. For, ‘every one who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved'" (Romans 10:11-13).


But it is necessary that one believe in Christ in order to receive benefit from Christ. That is why Christian mission is so important, for mission makes Christ's name and the apostolic kerygma or preaching about him known to those who have never heard of him. For "how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent?" (Romans 10:14-15 NRSV).


It is of the utmost importance therefore that Christ and the kerygma about him be clearly preached everywhere in the world so that all might have the opportunity to know this gospel message or kerygma and put their trusting faith in it to be made righteous and saved from their sins.


Our righteousness comes from our faith, not from our good works. It is a gift of God to all who put their faith in Christ. It comes to us because of the atonement that Christ's death on the cross made for our sins, which is communicated to us and credited to us by God when we put our faith in Christ and genuinely repent of our sins and abandon them. It is our faith, not our good works, that gives us access to Christ's justifying death on the cross that enables God to declare and hence make us truly righteous, as St. Basil the Great says in today's office of readings: "‘A man who boasts must boast of the Lord.' Boasting of God is perfect and complete when we take no pride in our own righteousness but acknowledge that we are utterly lacking in true righteousness and have been made righteous only by faith in Christ. Paul boasts of the fact that he holds his own righteousness in contempt and seeks the righteousness in faith that comes through Christ and is from God."


This, of course, is the great New Testament doctrine of justification by faith, not by good works:


God "saved us and called us with a holy calling, not in virtue of our works but in virtue of his own purpose and the grace which he gave us in Christ Jesus ages ago" (2 Timothy 1:9). "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" (Titus 3:5). "For 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).

 

"For no human being will be justified in his sight by works of the law" (Romans 3:20). "For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law" (Romans 3:28). We "know that a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law, because by works of the law shall no one be justified" (Galatians 2:16).


Once justified and saved from our sins by faith, not by our good works, we must then immediately embark on a process of sanctification, whereby we carefully observe God's moral law, which the grace of our justification now enables us keep.


So we see how important it is to preach the apostolic kerygma today so that all who call upon Christ with faith might be saved.


"God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who has not the Son of God has not life" (1 John 5:11-12). "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God" (John 3:16-18). "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God rests upon him" (John 3:36). "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:15-16).


We must make this kerygma clearly heard by all we can reach. We must tell people everywhere that "to one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness" (Romans 4:5). And we must tell them that "the words, ‘it was reckoned to him,' were written not for his [Abraham's] sake alone, but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him that raised from the dead Jesus our Lord" (Romans 4:23-24).


In short: Jesus Christ our Lord "was put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification" (Romans 4:25).


Therefore "if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved" (Romans 10:9-10 NRSV).


God has made it quite clear to us that he has given us a way to be saved and it is through faith in Jesus Christ, a faith that trusts in him and in the kerygma about him.


The obvious conclusion that we will come to from hearing all this is that Christian mission is extremely important, for that is how we make this salvation available to the whole world, which is God's will. Therefore the risen Jesus said to his apostles, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:19-20). This is the way by which God wants everyone everywhere to be saved. Our part in this is to make this way known and available to as many as we can reach.

 

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