I am preaching on Luke 7:36-50 this Sunday, a message entitled, “Only Sinners ‘Get’ Amazing Grace!” In preparing, I was struck again by the radical nature of grace and the very fact that what qualifies us for grace is sin (cf. 1 John 1:9). In fact, if you are not a sinner, you won’t “get” grace. Only sinners get it!
As Jesus said in Luke 7:34, He is a friend of sinners! Earlier in Luke, Jesus said “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” (5:31-32). The wonder of Jesus and the appeal of his ministry, was that he knew how to pierce hearts and heal them with the grace of God.
Oh what good news, that my sin does not have to drive me away from God (cf. Psalm 103:9-10). Rather, in this age, it is the very thing that qualifies me for grace. As Paul said, Paul who was a murderer of Christians, “Where sin has increased, grace has increased all the more” (Rom 5:21). Grace is truly amazing, but only for sinners!
Law-keepers do not get grace, because law-keepers do not need grace. Only law-breakers get grace, because only those who have stopped trying to justify themselves see their need for it. As the publican said, “Have mercy on me, THE sinner!” (Luke 18:13).
Meditating on God’s amazing grace reminded me of Martin Luther’s quote on the subject of man’s sin and the Messiah’s mercy. Consider his words, place your faith in God’s grace, if you are a preacher proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ this Sunday, and sin boldly! You have a sufficient savior, who is a friend of sinners!
If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong (sin boldly), but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides. We, however, says Peter (2. Peter 3:13) are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth where justice will reign.
It suffices that through God’s glory we have recognized the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day. Do you think such an exalted Lamb paid merely a small price with a meager sacrifice for our sins? Pray hard for you are quite a sinner. (“Let Your Sins Be Strong: A Letter From Luther to Melanchthon,” Letter 99, Paragraph 13. Erika Bullmann Flores, Tr. from: Dr. Martin Luther’s Saemmtliche Schriften, ed. Johann Georg Walch (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, N.D.), Vol. 15, cols. 2585-2590).
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Soli Deo Gloria, dss