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The Purpose and Fulfillment of the Law
Romans 3:19-28


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Midweek Vespers—November 19, 2008

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

This evening we are completing our series of Midweek Vespers sermons on the Ten Commandments.  Like the old rock song “Stairway to Heaven,” some people think that the Ten Commandments are a stairway or ladder on which you can climb your way into heaven.  Each commandment is a rung; the more commandments you keep, the closer to heaven you get; and, if you keep all ten, you will reach the top, heaven itself.  But, in this evening’s reading from Romans, Paul declares, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. . .   Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law.”

When I was a child I had a pet gerbil.  He lived in an aquarium with a cover of wire mesh.  He had several toys to play with, including a little ladder he could climb, and an exercise wheel that would spin around and around.  No matter how hard he tried, he could never get out of the aquarium on that little ladder.  For, even when he climbed it all the way to the top, he fell short of getting out.  And, besides, there was always the wire mesh firmly blocking his way.

Trying to climb the commandments like a ladder or “Stairway to Heaven” is just as futile.  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  No matter how hard you try, your own efforts to get yourself into heaven will always fall short.  And, like the wire mesh top on my gerbil’s cage, your sin will always block your way to eternal life.

“Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law.”  Trying to earn your own way into heaven is really like my gerbil running on his exercise wheel.  You can put in the most stupendous effort trying to work your own way into heaven, but all that effort is not really going to get you anywhere. 

“Rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.”  It was never the purpose of the Ten Commandments to serve as a “Stairway to Heaven.”  Christians do still look to the Ten Commandments as a guide for living a God-pleasing life, as the Psalm says, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”  But, the primary purpose of the Ten Commandments is to make us conscious of sin, to show us how we have fallen short of God’s perfect will, to convince us that we are sinners in need of a Savior.

“But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known . . .  This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. . . God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.”  Jesus climbed the “Stairway to Heaven” for you.  He lived a perfect life as your substitute, in your place.  His perfect obedience to all God’s commandments is credited to you. 

And he died a sacrificial death, to atone, to make up for, your sins.  With his life, death, and resurrection, he earned for you admission to heaven.  “I am going there to prepare a place for you,” he promised.  “I will take you to be with me.”  You don’t have to climb your way into heaven.  Jesus will carry you there.  “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.”

Amen.

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