FROM A CONFIRMATION SERMON
The Word of God that deserves special attention on this Confirmation Day is: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
In the early days of the Christian Church “Jesus is Lord” was a fundamental three-word confession of the Christian faith. Three words—that’s a little bit easier than reciting the entire Apostolic Creed, as our confirmand will be doing as part of his Confirmation vow. By saying with lips and heart “Jesus is Lord,” those early Christians were saying a mouthful—in effect, saying everything you and I say when we confess Luther’s Explanation to the Second Article: “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary, is MY LORD, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature….” Yes, to say “Jesus is Lord” is as much as saying “Jesus is my Redeemer,” who has won eternal life for me.
Now, consider carefully the crowning event of Jesus’ work as our Redeemer. “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved”! The resurrection from the dead is cited as the grand climax of the Lordship of Jesus Christ and His victory for us over sin, death, and the power of the devil! Earlier in this same letter St. Paul wrote that “Jesus our Lord…was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification” (4:25). There too Jesus’ resurrection is referred to as living proof that we sinners—who could never in a million years do enough good works to earn God’s favor—have been justified, declared righteous, and forgiven of all sins! Those who so believe “will be saved,” says the Lord’s apostle. There’s nothing left for us to DO; it’s all been DONE! Hallelujah!
Dear confirmand, this is what you have been taught and what you and we all believe—but it is nonsense to human thinking!
Let me explain. I recently read a book in defense of our Christian faith in which this is said: “…The stuff of God…doesn’t just sound strange, it is strange.” The author went on to say, “The centerpiece of Christian theology states that God became human in the person of Jesus. Listen to how crazy that sounds: God had a Son who came to Earth as a human. He was completely God and completely human at the same time. This means He could get hungry and tired, but also walk on water. Though He was beaten, He could raise people from the dead. As if this isn’t confusion enough, God died on a cross. Read it again—God died!…God sent Himself to pay Himself for the sins against Himself” (No Argument for God, John Wilkenson, p. 13).
Dear confirmand, this nonsense—these holy truths which don’t make sense to human reason—you and I and all Christians believe because the Holy Spirit “has called me by the gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith…” (Third Article). Paul put it like this to the Corinthians, “Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3).
Yes, to the unbelieving world this is all nonsense. By nature man looks to his own good works rather than to Jesus for his salvation. That’s what Paul is getting at in the rather strange words of the text which follow: “…The righteousness based on faith, says, ‘Do not say in your heart, Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down) or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim)….” Paul here is describing the absurd notion of sinners thinking they can be their own saviors—as though they have to go up to heaven and bring Christ down to Earth, or else go down to the underworld to bring Christ back from the dead…which is not only foolish, but impossible.
Dear confirmands of this and former years, what the Bible teaches and what we proclaim is not some “far out,” cryptic, hidden message that comes from a few disciples who have ascended to heaven or descended into hell to discover it. Rather, the gospel of Jesus Christ is as close as in our mouths and in our hearts!
How sad that so many people don’t know the gospel that you, dear confirmand, and we all are confessing this morning. How sad that, though the Bible is so readily available, many in our “advanced” society and culture fall for the lie—the devil’s nonsense—that sinners have to win or can win forgiveness and salvation with their own good works.
God be praised that you and I know the gospel of Jesus which, far from nonsense, is the only true wisdom there is!