The word “reconciliation” is a word that goes to the very heart and core of our preaching. The preaching of reconciliation goes to the very heart of what the church is to be about in this world. The thrust of the reconciliation preaching in the church is not political, social or cultural. Within the context of preaching the word addresses the relationship of God and man. To understand the necessity of the preaching of reconciliation we need to remember certain things about God. First of all, God is! God is holy, perfect! He is not satisfied with anything less. Anything less than absolute perfection is sin. Concerning the consequence of sin, we read, ” But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you” (Isaiah 59:2). There is no greater loss or no greater judgment than to be separated from God, or to have God hide His face from us.
Man’s solution to his problem is to deny sin. He prefers to deny that he is a sinner. He tries to forget it, in a horribly misguided idea that if he does not think about sin he either does not have any or at least it won’t affect him. Yet no one can escape the consequence of sin which is death! Everyone dies. Man cannot make himself right with God. Man cannot seek out God, because he is afraid of God. After sin entered the world, Adam and Eve did not go loing for God. When He came into the Garden of Eden they hid, and made the lame excuse that they hid because they were naked.
The Gospel is that God did for man what man could not do in this regard. God in His grace sought out the fallen, and gave the promise of the Savior, Jesus Christ. Jesus should be all that man could not be – holy, perfect. Jesus should do all that man could not do. He should keep the Law in man’s place. Jesus should pay what man could not pay, namely the debt owed because of sin. Our sin was laid upon Him. Jesus would knock down the wall of partition that separated God and man. Jesus would reveal the gracious face of God. Jesus would reconcile God and man. Scripture tells us, “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing (not holding) their trespasses unto (against) them” (2 Corinthians 5:19). Jesus changed the relationship of two parties to one another, two parties who were at odds with one another through the divisive actions of one party, man.
Reconciliation between God and man did not come by compromise. It was accomplished at a price. Jesus who led the perfect life nevertheless died for and in the place of the guilty. This was the price of reconciliation!
God reconciled the world unto Himself. That is everybody. But the blessing of that reconciliation through Christ belongs to those who by the power of the Spirit believe in Jesus Christ. It is the tragedy of tragedies that they who reject Christ have no peace with God. They are still at odds with God the Father. They can con themselves into thinking all is right through their own efforts, their own works, and negotiations with God. Woe to those, and double woe to those who deceive people into thinking “peace, peace, when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 8:11). They die in their lie and self-deception.
Peace with God and confidence of heaven comes through Jesus Christ. To those who believe in Christ the Scripture says, “Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
Surely this reconciliation, the ultimate fruit of which is eternal life in heaven, has its fruits here while we wait. The reconciled unto God will manifest their secure relationship to God through the exercise of a life of reconciliation with others within the church, the family, and the work place. What a wonderful Lord to have made us right with Himself and thus also to have given us will and ability to live peaceably with our neighbor!
It all stems from the Gospel. Where the Gospel is there is new life and new living. We implore with the Apostle, “Be ye reconciled unto God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). In other words, we implore you to hear and believe. In Christ, peace to all who believe. This is our message, and in our church our invitation!
Jesus instructed His disciples, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). He also declared the blessing of the Gospel saying, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved. . .” (16:16). Paul carried the Gospel into Asia and Europe. He who had persecuted the Church in its infancy had himself been won by the Gospel. Paul declared, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). We understand the reason for his appreciation of the Gospel. He said, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. . .”(1 Timothy 1:15). He further declared by the power of the Spirit, “By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8). This message of the precious Gospel of our Lord Jesus we believe and preach!.
Though the Word of God has not changed, unfortunately through the centuries after the establishment of the Church at Pentecost, the Gospel message became diluted, diminished, and rejected. By the time of Luther the emphasis was no longer on the authority of the Word and an unadulterated Gospel. The authority of the Word was replaced by papal authority. The question was no longer, “What does the Word say?” but “What does the church say?” Further the message of the Gospel of salvation in Christ without works was replaced by indulgences, penance, meritorious works, pilgrimages, and relics, and purgatory. Masses were purchased for a price. The result was indifference on the part of some, slavish fear on the part of others, and an empty exercise of religiousness on the part of most. Certainty of the salvation through faith in the finished work of Jesus was replaced by an uncertainty of whether one had done enough to merit salvation.
We have Luther to thank. Under God Luther unwittingly spawned the rebellion against spiritual tyranny that returned the Gospel to its rightful place in the life of the Church. The Reformation put the Gospel in its rightful place as the focus of Christian teaching and preaching. The Gospel was, ” The sermon that Christ gave Himself for us that He might save us from sin, that all who believe this might certainly be saved . . . and that thus sinners, despairing of their own efforts might cling to Christ alone and rely on Him” (What Luther Says [WLS], Vol. II, page 562).
The Law does not save. It condemns. We preach the Law, but the Gospel is at the center of our preaching! Sadly much of Lutheranism has come full circle, as it has turned from a Gospel focus. The Law for its own sake, universalism, political correctness, mere religiosity, compromise, self-aggrandizement, indifference, together with the inherent fleshly emphasis on salvation by works, and charismatic pursuits–these all have fleshed out Luther’s lament when he said: ” But this is what happened to the Gospel before, and it will happen again. The children of Israel were badly plagued in Egypt . . . But after they got out and were redeemed from the Egyptians, they soon completely forget their former plight and remembered only the onions and fleshpots. This is what is happening to this day” (WLS, Vol. II, page 564). The repository of the pure Gospel after the Reformation was the Lutheran Church. Today the Lutheran Church for the most part is in need of another Reformation lest what Luther said also come true. “Very well, all sorts of plagues will follow upon this attitude” of indifference and lack of unadulterated Gospel preaching manifested by a failure to hold Christ and His cross at the center of things.
Purity of doctrine, sanctification, a fervent spirit of religiousness, a social conscience is important. But unless they are born of the Gospel and are in the service of the Gospel the exercise and pursuit of the same is a replay of the self-deception that enveloped the church before the Reformation.
For our part, we say with Luther that the Gospel of eternal salvation by grace through faith in Christ shall, “be diligently presented in my sermons, for I see well enough what it does where it is present and what harm is caused where it is absent” (WLS, Vol. II, page 564). God help us!
As we are committed in our church to proclaim the Gospel of Christ without shame or apology, we invite “All who are in distress of mind and heart because of their guilt and condemnation in the sight of Almighty God and seek the pardon and comfort which only the Gospel of Jesus Christ can confer” (CLC Statement of Faith and Purpose).