The Law Says

Trust God!
Love Your Neighbor

The First Table of the Law requires faith in God! That's why no one's going to be saved by believing. No one is saved by keeping the Law. Read Romans 3:20, 28. We are saved by Christ and HIS perfect keeping of the Law and His dying in the place of those who break it. Now, in Christ, the Law is fully kept. Read Romans 8:1-4. Baptized in Jesus, we now turn to our neighbor in love, sure that God has kept His promises, and we are completely free to love our neighbor. We aren't under the Law anymore. We are in Christ. In Him, we are free to keep the Law in love, to the glory of God and for the benefit of others.

I. You shall have no other gods.

God requires us to believe. We should fear, love and trust in God only - above all things. We will not, therefore, be saved because of our believing. No one can be saved by doing what the Law demands. Christ, however, looked to His Father perfectly for all things, keeping the First Commandment and so all others. In Jesus, we receive the Spirit, whereby we begin our life - as dear children - looking to God our Father for all good things.

II. You shall not misuse the Name of the Lord Your God.

The Name of God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We receive the Name of the Holy Trinity in Baptism. By that Name, God guards us against all false speaking - against cursing, swearing, lying and deceiving which pretends to be Christian. That is, God wants us safe from all false teaching. Instead of lending our mouths to falsehood, He wants us calling on Him in every trouble, praying, praising, and giving Him thanks.

III. Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy.

We are not bound by the Old Testament Sabbath restrictions. Instead, through Christ, we have entered into the Sabbath-rest of God, by which we are now at peace from our labors and enjoy the freedom of those who have been rescued and released. Like Adam and Eve in the Garden, we devote ourselves to pursuing His Word, holding it sacred, and gladly hearing and learning it.

IV. Honor your father and your mother.

We respect authority, because God has placed people over us to serve in His stead. Through parents, God creates, nurtures and sustains our life when we are young. Through parents, He intends to bring us to the Font of Holy Baptism and into a life of living from God's Promises in Jesus. In the Church, God gives us a spiritual father whom we call our pastor. In the world, He gives us teachers, employers, and government officals. Through legitimate agents of the State, God provides for protection in times of war, civil order and even the restraint and punishment of the lawless. Since these agents wield the sword which God has given them, we show them respect as the authorities of God.

V. You shall not murder.

We honor life, because it is created by God, and so we refrain from murder, abortion and other forms of indiscriminate taking of human life. In the beginning, God made Man in His own image. The Second Person of the Trinity took human flesh upon Himself, born of a Virgin. He suffered our cruelty and died our death. Now that He is risen, He gives us His Body and Blood to eat and drink in bread and wine. With His life in us through the Holy Sacrament, He turns us to our neighbor in love, not to hurt or harm, but to help and befriend each other in every bodily need.

VI. You shall not commit adultery.

We were not created for promiscuity, nor have we been redeemed for sexual immorality. We therefore reject the sin of homosexuality and all other manner of infidelity to God's Holy Word. God has bound Himself to His Church as a Faithful Husband devoted to One Wife. In Holy Matrimony, God gives us a picture of this Mystery - that the Church is now one flesh with God in Christ Jesus. As Christ lived a pure and virginal life, we who are unmarried are to retain our virginity until holy wedlock. As Christ is devoted to His Bride and His Bride to Him, husband and wife are to love one another. Divorce is a sin, and Christian spouses are to seek God's help in the Gospel to reconcile.

VII. You shall not steal.

We do not take what is not ours, but use what God gives us in support of our neighbor. We give our tithes to the Lord. We help our neighbor in need, providing alms for the poor, even protecting the earth. As God blessed Adam and Eve, telling them to be fruitful, to multiply and to subdue the earth and rule it, as His image, so we are not to be ruled by our desires, passions, or lusts, but, in Christ, we are to help our neighbor improve and protect his possessions and income.

VIII. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

God does not speak unjusty about us, but addresses us kindly with His forgiveness. Christ did not accuses His accusers, but prayed for them, saying, "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they are doing." In Christ, then, we use our mouths to bless and not to curse. We refrain from gossip, slander and unkind speech. We defend our neighbor and explain all things in the kindest way, even as our dear Lord did while dying for us on the cross.

IX. You shall not covet your neighbor's house.

God gives and we receive. We are not to covet and sinfully desire what He has not chosen to provide us. Therefore, instead of desiring the earthly possessions of another, we learn contentment with whatever God gives.

X. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife . . .

The ninth and tenth commandments could easily be combined. The Western tradition combines the word of God that instructs us to have no other gods with the command against making idols and graven images. To worship a graven image IS to have another god. Some Christians choose to divide God's prohibition against other gods and graven images into two separate commandments. The West has historically kept those two proscriptions together while dividing God's prohibition against coveting property on the one hand and living possessions, such as a person's spouse, workers or livestock, on the other. However we choose to enumerate what God once wrote in stone, His Ten Words prohibit our making and worshiping false gods and idols as well as covetously desiring property or any living thing which God has not expressly given us.

We Are Sinners

OK, so what's the big deal? EVERYONE says they're sinners, right? Sure. But Lutherans really mean it!

We take God at His Word that we are all born sinful and in need of God's Salvation. If God does not rescue us in Christ Jesus, we can't be saved.

Read Psalm 51:5. We are conceived and born sinful.

If Psalm 51 doesn't convince you, consider Romans 6:23. The wages of sin is death, right? And everybody dies; even little babies! All you need to do is pinch yourself to see if you're still capable of feeling pain, of getting old, sick, and finally, laying down your head one final time to wait until somebody puts you in the ground. No matter what your age, if you're still breathing, that will stop one day. What does that tell you? You're a sinner. We all are.

Lutherans aren't afraid of this diagnosis. We don't hide from it - although we don't like it or believe it any better than others. Scripture clearly says that we "were made sinners" by Adam's act of disobedience (Romans 5:19). We Lutherans readily confess that.

Most people will admit that they're not perfect, but even many Christians don't like to admit that our chief sin is that we break God's First Commandment. Simply put, we do not fear, love and trust in Him above ALL things - not as we should.

Some Christians say they are sinners, but then claim they have the strength of will to DO what sinners need to do in order to be saved. They say they aren't SUCH sinners that they don't still have the will, the capacity - with God's help, of course - to accept Jesus. In fact, they say that sinners HAVE to do that in order to be saved.

We Lutherans are on a different page completely! We don't think we're only partly sinners. We believe - on the basis of God's Word - that we are, by nature, just what the Scriptures say. We are . . .

By nature dead in our tresspasses and sins and objects of God's wrath. (Ephesians 2:1-3)

The Church Fathers have also spoken this way . . .

“But when the Lord Jesus came, He forgave all men that sin which none could escape, and blotted out the handwriting against us by the shedding of His own Blood. This then is the Apostle's meaning; sin abounded by the Law, but grace abounded by Jesus; for after that the whole world became guilty, He took away the sin of the whole world, as John bore witness, saying: Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. Wherefore let no man glory in works, for by his works no man shall be justified, for he that is just hath a free gift, for he is justified by the Bath. It is faith then which delivers by the blood of Christ, for Blessed is the man to whom sin is remitted, and, pardon granted.” (Ambrose, Letter 73, to Irenaeus, a layman)

"Look how it is. All human nature was taken in the foulest evils. 'All have sinned,' says Paul. They were locked, as it were, in a prison by the curse of their transgression of the Law. The sentence of the judge was going to be passed against them. A letter from the King came down from heaven. Rather, the King himself came. Without examination, without exacting an account, he set all men free from the chains of their sins." (Chrysostom - Discourses Against Judaizing Christians. Discourse I:6-II:1)

“The psalmist does not suppose that he is living this life, for he had said, See, I was conceived in iniquities and my mother bore me in sins. He knows that he was born from a sinful origin and under the law of sin.” - St. Hilary (Commentary on Psalm 118, 22)

"We then say, that in many things we all of us offend, and that no man is pure from uncleanness, even though his life upon earth be but one day. Let us ask then of God mercy; which if we do, Christ will justify us; by Whom and with Whom, to God the Father, be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, unto ages of ages. Amen." - Homily 120 on Luke 18 - St. Cyril of Alexandria

"For the whole nature of man became guilty in the person of him who was first formed; but now it is wholly justified again in Christ." -- St. Cyril of Alexandria, Homily 42 on St. Luke

Discouraged by the bad news that we are truly sinners? Don't be! God diagnoses what HE can heal! And He provides that healing for us in Christ Jesus. No one needs the Medicine of Immortality that God provides us in His Son unless he is sick. No one needs a Savior unless he's really a sinner in real danger of God's wrath! To hear that we ALL are sinners is to hear that Christ has provided the Cure for us ALL!

Click here to see "By Faith Alone" - the 2nd in these explanations of what Lutherans believe.

Want the comfort God provides for all sinners? Give Pastor Sawyer a call at (601) 992-4752, or email him. He's got some good news for you!