Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Epistle, which was read earlier.
Say the word enemy and what image comes to mind? Secret agents, robbers, master criminals? We all know what an enemy is, but I’m sure there is one person whom we have not considered adding to that list. That person is… you! That person is… me. That person is all of creation, because we are enemies, enemies of God.
None of us would be considered an evil mastermind. None of us would be considered being put on the wanted posters that used to hang in post offices in the days of yesteryear. But for us to be considered God’s enemies, maybe that is a point that you would argue. However, arguing the point will not change the fact that we are indeed God’s enemies.
In today’s Epistle, Paul’s words follow on the previous chapters, where he laid the case that we were among the dead – the dead in our trespasses and sins. Twice, Paul states that apart from Jesus, we have no hope and can expect only death. In chapter 2, Paul announces: “For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.” And again, Paul teaches us that “there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The result of both of these verses is the same: death.
Now here in our text, Paul continues to describe how desperate we were: weak. There is never a good time to be weak. Weak in sin, weak in moral fortitude, weak in faith. In other words, an apt description of you and me. Paul goes on to say that “we were still sinners.” We know this to be true, don’t we? We know this to still be true, that we still sin daily. Turn on the news, read the newspaper, what will you find? You will find stories of man’s sin, over and over and over again. Yes, we know we are still weak, we know that we are still sinners.
But for us, it gets even worse, for we are called enemies of God. Surely that doesn’t mean all of us, especially not me. Surely there has to be someone who is good, right? Not according to Paul, for he writes, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Paul is very clear, that no one is righteous, not even a single soul, that is, aside from Jesus. And so if we do not stand before God as righteous, then we stand before him as enemies.
The entirety of creation has been turned into enemies of God because of sin and there isn’t a single thing that we can do about it except keep on sinning, keep on being enemies of God. But fortunately for us, it isn’t up to us to do something about it. It is up to God to do something about it, and He does. He sends the only One who is righteous. He sends the only One who is not His enemy. He sends His Son, Jesus Christ. His sole purpose is to restore what was destroyed due to sin. The only way to do that is to live a life that is perfect, that conforms to God’s Word and upholds every single iota of it. But that isn’t enough. After He has led a perfect life, then He has to die so that His blood may be poured out on creation in order to redeem it, to buy it back from Satan. And even then, that isn’t enough. After He has died, He needs to be raised from the dead, for by His life, death, and resurrection do we have life. Because of the actions of Jesus Christ do we go from being declared enemies of God to being righteous, for everything is done just as Paul declares: “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”
Christ died for the ungodly, for all people of all times. Jesus shed His holy Blood on the cross to pay the price for the sins of everyone from Adam to the last man standing at the end of the Day. Eternal freedom is not free. This is the Sacrifice and this Sacrifice is Love Incarnate. His eternal Life takes away our eternal death. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us and rose again for us. Those who have been given the gift of faith through this Good News of God are now recipients of the reconciliation.
Look at what the Incarnate Son of God accomplished. He saved not only for a day, but for all eternity. In order that no one might have to endure the wrath of God against sin in eternity, Jesus sacrificed Himself in time when He put Himself in harm’s way, placed Himself in the breech and mounted mankind’s leafless, lifeless, cursed cross. His Easter Resurrection is unto all eternity and His Ascension is for all time. Those who are His, that is, those who believe, teach and confess that He has died for them will be with Him both at the end of the Day and forever.
Listen again to what St. Paul says: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” You’ve been justified by faith. Rather than declare you guilty and punish you for your sin, God has declared Jesus guilty and punished Him on the cross for your sin. Because the judgment has already been carried out, God will not judge you for your sin. His wrath is gone, and all He has left for you is peace for Jesus’ sake. All He has left for you is forgiveness and comfort and help. Being justified by Jesus means the Law has been completely fulfilled by Him for you. Peace with God means the Lord Jesus Christ has taken away the discord of our sin.
God demonstrates His own love toward you in this: that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. God didn’t wait for us to make an effort before He gave His Son to redeem us. In your case, He gave His Son to die for you long before you were born, long before you even existed. He gave His Son to die for you long before you became His child through Holy Baptism—while you were still His enemy. And if God loved you so much then, how will He not love you now? Or, as the text goes on to say: if God loved you so much that He would save you by His only Son’s death, how much more will He love you now that His only Son lives again and intercedes for you?
The season of Lent presses on toward the cross of Jesus, where we see His death take place. There, His reconciliation of the world, of you and me, between the Father and you, takes place through the Son, with the result of justification, rejoicing, suffering, endurance, character, and hope. Through Jesus’ rest in a borrowed grace, you can find comfort in knowing that Jesus rested in perfect peace for you. As we confess, there is “the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.” These words are an ever gentle reminder of what Jesus has done for us. You have been justified by the blood of Christ. You are no longer an enemy, but His beloved child. You’re no longer unholy and impure, but cleansed and holy in His sight for Jesus’ sake. The cross is your assurance that your hope will not fail: for if you have been redeemed at the price of the Son’s blood, the Father will not forsake you now. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.