Sermon for Reformation Sunday 2021

Dates: October 28th and 31st, 2021

Preacher: Scott Anderson

First Reading: Jeremiah 31:31-34

Psalm: Psalm 46

Second Reading: Romans 3:19-28

Gospel: John 8:31-36


Reformation Day is October 31st. Since the end of the 17th century, many Lutheran churches
have celebrated this festival, usually on the last Sunday in October, commemorating Martin
Luther’s posting of the Ninety-Five Theses, a summary of abuses in the church of his time.
It is a day that many congregations will reflect on our Lutheran heritage. Many congregations
will sing great hymns like we did starting our service with A Mighty Fortress. This hymn, as you
may know, was written by Martin Luther and is based on today’s psalmody, Psalm 46, which
was also our Call to Worship. Four years ago today, 10/31/2017, on the 500th anniversary of
the reformation, Rick Schantz and I began our Lay Preaching journeys.
There will be a little history and heritage in today’s message; but it is in our scripture readings
where we will find the good news that we need to hear... it is by grace through faith that we are
justified and set free.
Let us pray: Holy Spirit, take my words and speak to each of us according to our need. Amen.
It is by grace through faith that we are justified and set free.
Let’s first take a look at justified. It’s a word we hear often, but why is it important and what
does it mean? God rescued the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and promised to make them
his own people. He gave them the Ten Commandments and made a conditional covenant with
them. If the people followed his commands, then God promised blessings. However, if they
disobeyed his commands then there would be curses including being exiled from the promised
land. (Deut 28). In Jeremiah, the Lord references that Mosaic covenant and says, it’s a
covenant the people broke.

To be justified is to be made right with God. In Greek, to be “righteous” and to be “justified” are
from the same word family. “Justify” is language from courts of law. The prisoner stands before
the judge and is guilty. But the judge declares the prisoner innocent - or “justifies” the prisoner.
(Lutheran Study Bible Notes - Romans 3:20). Continuing in Jeremiah, the Lord says the days
are surely coming when I will make a new covenant with my people. I will forgive their iniquity,
and remember their sin no more.
OK, so we know that God has promised a new covenant and we will be forgiven. So, what do
we need to do to be justified or made right with God? Oh, I know, how about IF I strictly obey at
least two of the Ten Commandments, THEN is that enough for all my other sins to be forgiven?
Maybe, IF I read my Bible everyday and pray at least as many times as I brush my teeth each
day, THEN will I be made right with God? Or maybe, IF I get involved as much as possible,
near-perfect attendance at church and Sunday school, sing in the choir, play bells, attend a
Bible study each month, join the dartball team, THEN will God forgive me? Do you hear these
examples? IF I do this, THEN God will forgive me. This sounds like another conditional
God does not declare us righteous and free from guilt in a vacuum, as if He just ignores our sin.
No, we have a great debt we owe God due to our sin, a debt that must be paid. God demands
justice. Yet this is a debt none of us can pay. ( - Sola Gratia)
We, you, me, all of human-kind. We are all sinners. Nobody is perfect, so how can we be made
right with God? In today’s reading from Romans we hear “since all have sinned and fall short of
the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through …Christ Jesus whom God
put forward as a sacrifice…” (Romans 3:23-25).

Grace is a gift from God. God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ
died for us. (Romans 5:8). The new covenant came from God through the death and
resurrection of Jesus. God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who
believes in him may not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
We are reminded of this new covenant, God’s unconditional sacrifice for our justification, each
time we partake in communion. As Pastor Ashley consecrates the bread and the wine, and it is
distributed, we hear, “Take and eat, this is the body of Christ given for you; and “This cup is the
new covenant, the blood of Christ, shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sin....”
Jesus Christ paid for the sin of the world “with His holy precious blood and with His innocent
suffering and death.” Through God’s grace alone we sinners are forgiven and justified because
of grace. ( - Sola Gratia)
It is by grace alone through faith that we are justified and set free
Faith. A dictionary definition of faith is having a complete trust or confidence in someone or
something. A strong belief… (Definitions from Oxford Languages) The problem with faith is that
it’s only as good as its object. Let’s say you need to climb a ladder to change one of the light
bulbs here in the sanctuary. You are putting your trust, your faith, in the ladder getting you
safely up to the light and back down again. The first step or two might seem OK, but as you
climb toward the top, it becomes very wobbly. Who has enough faith, complete confidence that
you’re going to get that light bulb changed without falling?

Our reading from Romans (3:21-22) says, “the righteousness of God has been disclosed
…attested by the law and the prophets, ...through faith in Jesus Christ.” Faith in Christ is bold
only because of its object. When the One that you believe in is the crucified and risen One,
Jesus Christ our Lord, the very Son of God, enthroned at the right hand of the Father, then your
faith will be bold. ( - Sola Fide) Martin Luther writes: “Faith is a living,
bold trust in God’s grace, so certain of God’s favor that it would risk death a thousand times
trusting in it.” (
It is by grace alone through faith alone that we are justified and set free
Set free. In Psalm 46 we hear “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble”
and “Be still and know that I am God!” This psalm expresses confidence in God’s protecting
care in the middle of whatever trouble comes. (Harper Collins Study Bible Notes Psalm
Our Gospel reading from John says “you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
(John 8:32) In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes
to the Father except through me.” Jesus Christ is the truth that makes us free. Christ alone!
What does it mean to be free? The freedom Jesus describes is not simply freedom FROM
something, from sin; it is also freedom FOR something; for service and a life oriented toward
God. Luther said a believer in Christ is both “perfectly free” and “a perfectly dutiful servant,”
freed both from guilt and shame and for loving and helping the neighbor.. (Sundays and
Seasons - Preaching)

Our Men’s Bible Study group has been studying Max Lucado’s Life Lessons from Galatians. A
portion of the summary from our study coming up on November 13th reads, “Christian freedom
doesn’t mean permission to do whatever we want... We are (set free) to turn our focus and
attention to the needs of others. We serve them by letting God’s divine love flow through us!”
(Max Lucado, Life Lessons from Galatians) This is what it means to be set free!
As we wrap up, there’s something very important to understand. Notice in the reading from
Jeremiah that it is God who makes the covenant with the people. God initiates the covenant,
God fulfills the covenant, God will keep the covenant, even in the face of our unfaithfulness. In
the gospel reading, we hear that it is Jesus who frees enslaved sinners, and Paul reminds us in
Romans that we are “justified by [God’s] grace as a gift” (Rom. 3:24). Together these texts all
point to the most foundational truth recovered by the Reformation: that the work of our salvation
is accomplished entirely by God. We cannot so much as maintain the faith on our own; the Holy
Spirit provides even that. From Luther’s Small Catechism, “I believe that by my own
understanding or strength that I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him, but
instead the Holy Spirit has called me” (Luther’s Small Catechism, Evangelical Lutheran Worship,
p. 1162). What a glorious freedom this is! ( - Day Resources)
Our Hymn of the Day is Salvation Unto Us Has Come, #590 in our red ELW hymnal. I invite you
to open your hymnals now. The hymn was written by Paul Speratus, who was an associate of
Martin Luther. Speratus was a Catholic priest who became a Protestant preacher, reformer and
hymn-writer. In 1524, he helped Martin Luther publish his first Lutheran hymnal, a group of only
8 songs; four of which were by Luther, and three by Speratus, including this hymn.
These types of hymns became ways to teach congregations about the reformation.

We are going to sing verses 1, 4 and 5 in just a moment, but first I invite you to look at the words
of these 3 verses with me
Salvation unto Us Has Come - ELW 590 (v 1, 4, 5)
Salvation unto us has come by God’s free grace and favor; good works cannot avert our doom,
they help and save us never. Faith looks to Jesus Christ alone, who did for all the world atone,
our only mediator.
Faith clings to Jesus’ cross alone and rests in him unceasing; and by its fruits true faith is
known, with love and hope increasing. For faith alone can justify; works serve our neighbor and
supply the proof that faith is living.
All blessing, honor, thanks, and praise to Father, Son, and Spirit! Lord, you have saved us by
your grace; all glory to your merit! O triune God in heaven above, you have revealed your
saving love; your blessed name we hallow.
Salvation by God’s free grace
good works save us never.
Faith looks to Jesus Christ alone.
Faith clings to Jesus’ cross alone
For faith alone can justify;
works serve our neighbor and supply the proof that faith is living.
Lord, you have saved us by your grace
O triune God in heaven above, you have revealed your saving love
I hope as we join together singing this hymn, you will be reminded of the good news we get from
scripture alone… it is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone that we are justified and
set free.