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. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person-though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die- but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
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Wrapped in Sin
John Chrysostom, Pastor
27 January 2016
Christ was twice wrapped in linen clothes in the Gospels. Swaddling clothes wound him round at birth, tying upon Him the form of full humanity and its poverty. The Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all, and his nakedness, which needed no covering, was covered because he bore our shame. His humanity was enwrapped with the shame of sin, as Adam had once clothed himself with the fig leaf of shame for sin. Adam's fig leaf only showed his hopeless fall into the abyss of shame in the face of the Creator who called for him. Christ's linen swaddling covered not His shame, but embraced our sin and our shame, while He faithfully answered His Father's call.
At the cross now stripped naked, He who was without shame, shamelessly identifies with our sin and is mocked for His naked love of the world. He hangs dis-covering to the world its own costly sin in His necessary, unnecessary weakness. He is taken down, limp from the cross, and manhandled into a grave spiced to take away the odor of decay. Grave clothes are ready. His body is wrapped in the clothes of death, signs of His taking sin and death upon His immortal and incorruptible self.
But the winding sheet cannot enclose the Life. He slips through the clothes of sin and death that enwrapped Him and leaves them politely but uselessly empty upon the chill stone bed; forever entombed in the riven-rock grave. Faith still wraps him up in sin because He is the living Lord who remains alone able to take it away in His holy person. All the sins of the world can and do enwrap him. He takes them away from us, leaving our sins politely, but uselessly empty; forever entombed in a watery grave.
"It is our highest comfort to clothe and wrap Christ in my sins, your sins, and the sins of the entire world, and in this way to behold Him bearing all our sins. When He is beheld this way, He easily removes all the fanatical opinions of our opponents about justification by works. For the papists dream about a kind of faith 'formed by love.' Through this they want to remove sins and be justified. This is clearly to unwrap Christ and to unclothe Him from our sins, to make Him innocent, to burden and overwhelm ourselves with our own sins, and to behold them, not in Christ but in ourselves. This is to abolish Christ and make Him useless. For if it is true that we abolish sins by the works of the law and by love, then Christ does not take them away, but we do. But if He is truly the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, who became a curse for us, and who was wrapped in our sins, it necessarily follows that we cannot be justified and take away sins through love. For God has laid our sins, not upon us but upon Christ, His Son. If they are taken away by Him, then they cannot be taken away by us. All Scripture says this, and we confess and pray the same thing in the Creed when we say: 'I believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who suffered, was crucified, and died for us.'
"This is the most joyous of all doctrines and the one that contains the most comfort. It teaches that we have the indescribable and incalculable mercy and love of God. When the merciful Father saw that we were being oppressed through the law, that we were being held under a curse, and that we could not be liberated from it by anything, He sent His Son into the world, heaped all the sins of all men upon Him, and said to Him: 'Be Peter the denier; Paul the persecutor, blasphemer, and assaulter; David the adulterer; the sinner who ate the apple in Paradise; the thief on the cross. In short, be the person of all men, the one who has committed the sins of all men. And see to it that You pay and make satisfaction for them.'
Now the Law comes and says: 'I find Him a sinner, who takes upon Himself the sins of all men. I do not see any other sins than those in Him. Therefore let Him die on the cross!' And so it attacks Him and kills Him. By this deed the whole world is purged and expiated of all sins, and thus it is set free from death and from every evil. But when sin and death have been abolished by this one man, God does not want to see anything else in the whole world, especially if it were to believe, except sheer cleansing and righteousness. And if any remnants of sin were to remain, still for the sake of Christ, the shining Sun, God would not notice them."
O Lord, grant me the faith to wrap You in my sin that I might be liberated from sin and freed from death by Your victory. Amen.
For David Rakontonirina of the Lutheran Church of Madagascar, that Christ the bishop of all would be with him
For all those who travel, that they might be kept safe on their journeys and that they might have joyful homecomings
For all those suffering from leukemia, including Gil Lamberson, that they would know the peace that surpasses all human understanding
Art: SPEECKAERT, Hans Conversion of St. Paul on the Road to Damascus (1570-77)
© Scott R. Murray, 2016