daily biblical sermons


THERE CAN BE NO TRUE JUSTIFICATION AND FINAL SALVATION WITHOUT GENUINE REPENTANCE
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Monday, 28th Week of the Year, October 15, 2018
Galatians 4:22-24, 26-27, 31-5:1, Psalm 112, Luke 11:29-32


Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted

 

"The men of Nineveh will arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here" (Luke 11:32).


Jesus condemns his own generation for seeking a sign from him that his preaching really is from God. After all the signs he had already given in his healings, exorcisms, and feeding the multitudes with a few pieces of bread and a couple of fish, they still refuse to believe in him, and they ask for still another truly spectacular sign from heaven, perhaps a sign in the sun or moon, that would convince everyone of the divine origin of his teaching. Jesus interprets their request for a sign as an indication of their lack of faith in him, and so he calls them an "evil generation" for seeking a sign:


"This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of Jonah. For as Jonah became a sign to the men of Nineveh, so will the Son of man be to this generation" (Luke 11:29-30).


As Jonah with his preaching to the Ninevites was their sign, so Jesus is a sign to his generation. Jonah's preaching and Jesus' preaching is the sign that they will be given.


"The men of Nineveh will arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here" (Luke 11:32).


The people should have repented at Jesus' preaching, just as the Ninevites repented at Jonah's preaching. Jesus condemns his own generation, because they do not repent at his preaching, as Jonah's generation did repent at Jonah's preaching.


Repentance is of the greatest importance for Jesus. He came to call people to repentance and faith in himself. This is how St. Mark summarizes Jesus' preaching in Galilee:


"Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:14-15).


Jesus came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance:


"Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Luke 5:31-32).


We are to repent at Jesus' preaching in the same way that the Ninevites repented at Jonah's preaching.


The tax collector and the Pharisee who pray at the same time, where the sinful tax collector prays, "God be merciful to me a sinner" (Luke 18:13) is an example of repentance. And Jesus concludes:


"I tell you, this man [the sinful tax collector] went down to his house justified rather than the other [the Pharisee who is proud of all his good works]" (Luke 18:14). The one who is repentant is justified, not the other one.


Today there is a new false view among certain Church leaders that repentance is good but optional and not necessary for some people. This new teaching is totally contrary to biblical teaching. Many Church leaders are today falsely teaching that God's moral law is only an ideal that is too difficult for most people, so God does not expect them to keep it. Rather, they say, God treats them mercifully and meets them where they are and leads them by a lower and easier path to live in "irregular ways," in adultery, fornication, and in homosexual sexual relationships, because his biblically revealed moral law is too high and too hard for them in their real life situation.


This lower "irregular" way is good enough for them, these new Church leaders are saying, and God mercifully doesn't count this lower way as sinful for them, due to their complex life situation. So God's call to repent of their gravely sinful lifestyle, these new teachers say, is simply an ideal, too high for these people to reach. God therefore leads them by a lower way, and since it is God who is leading them to live in grave sin, when they do so, they are doing God's will, they are doing all that God is asking of them at this point in their life, and so they are, these new Church leaders are saying, growing in grace, virtue, and holiness by committing these grave sins.


These new leaders say that God does not count these grave sins as sinful in these people's case, because of their complex life situation that would make keeping his biblically revealed moral law too difficult for them.


So according to this new false moral theory, there is no need for repentance. Faith in Christ is enough to be justified and saved. The biblical insistence on repenting and leaving your sins behind and putting your faith in Christ in order to be justified is no longer relevant for today for many people.


Rather, these new false teachers are saying, God is communicating to us a new morality for today, and we discover it by accompanying real people today in real life situations and listening to them and helping them discern God's will for them today. And through accompaniment, listening, and discernment, these new false teachers say, we will discover that God now wants us to dispense with his old biblical moral rules as an ideal too high for the vast majority of people today to reach.


The conclusion of these new Church leaders is that yes, we need faith to be justified and ultimately saved, but we do not all need repentance.


This, of course, is manifestly false teaching, completely contrary to God's normative biblical revelation for all people of all times.


In today's gospel reading, Jesus clearly condemns both those who refuse to believe in him and those who refuse to repent of their sinful way of life. Their constant asking for new signs, Jesus condemns as a lack of faith; and his unfavorable comparing his generation to the Ninevites is his condemnation of their failure to repent and stop sinning.


"The men of Nineveh will arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here" (Luke 11:32).


Last week my sermons were about the fact that we are justified by faith, not by works, because faith in Christ connects us with his atoning death on the cross to make full reparation for our sins. Christ does all the work needed to make us righteous before God, where God reckons Christ's own perfect righteousness to us, making us holy and resplendent in God's sight.


But this faith of ours that justifies us must always contain genuine repentance for it to be valid justifying faith. This means that we must, as part of our act of justifying faith in Christ, also stop sinning. We cannot continue living an objectively gravely sinful life and be justified and declared righteous by God.


Furthermore, once justified, we must immediately live according to God's normative biblically revealed moral law, which the grace of our justification now enables and obliges us to keep. This enables us to grow in holiness (sanctification), which God will reward with a higher place in heaven. Jesus makes this point in his parable of the pounds, where he gave one pound to each of his ten servants to trade with until he returned.


When he returned, "the first came before him, saying, ‘Lord, your pound has made ten pounds more.' And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.' And the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your pound has made five pounds.' And he said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities'" (Luke 19:16-19).


The more virtuous and industrious servant was given a higher reward, when his master returned. So will we be given a higher reward in heaven for a more virtuous life.


If we don't live a good moral life in accord with God's normative biblically revealed moral law, then we only thought that we were justified, but we were not really justified. We had a false conversion. Or we were justified but quickly lost our justification by living a life of grave sin. In either case, our faith was defective, because it lacked a key and essential ingredient, namely genuine and sincere repentance. Unrepentant sinners will be condemned at the last judgment, for their lack of true repentance.


"The men of Nineveh will arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here" (Luke 11:32).

 

 

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