Bible Centered, Gospel Focused, Liturgical and Sacramental Worship in Loveland, Colorado

For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake (2 Cor. 4:5).

Jesus, Our Salvation

By Rev. Tom Corbin, October 31, 2021

Scriptures- Mark 12:28-45, Duet 6-19, Heb 7:23-28

Opening Prayer- Lord, open our hearts and minds to the glory of your word that we may believe with all our strength and soul of our need for Jesus and the Gospel He proclaimed. Lord, we pray you would meet us in your word and change us as we become the new creation that you have saved us to be. Thank you for your living word as we worship you in Spirit and in Truth. All this we pray in the name of Jesus Christ, our High Priest and Saviour. Amen

Introduction- Good morning to all of you this Reformation Day, the 504th Anniversary of Martin Luther nailing the 95 Theses on the door of All Saint’s Church in Wittenberg.  Though we regret the division that became necessary in the Church, we rejoice that the truth of God’s Word and the sufficiency of the work of Grace done by our Lord Jesus Christ was important to the Church.  Our scriptures today proclaim the very distinctions of the Reformation as proclaimed in the Sola’s: the infallible truth necessary for Salvation is found in Scripture alone, that Salvation is by Faith Alone, through Grace Alone, in Christ Alone, for the Glory of God Alone. This morning’s scriptures begin by proclaiming the summary of the law as found in the Shema in Duet 6, foundational to observant Jewish families.  From a young age, Jewish believers declared 3 times a day, “Shema Yisrael, Adhonai Elohenu, Adhonai Echad!”

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” The rest of the Shema was inferred, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.” Jesus then, in our Gospel in Mark adds “‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” This is the standard then we are given as a believer. All our heart, all or soul and all our strength and our neighbor as ourselves. That standard also creates a problem for us. The solution to that problem is clearly taught in our scriptures.  I’ve titled this message “Jesus, Our Salvation” and I have 2 points. The first point, The Standard, will look at our Gospel in Mark, our Psalm, and our Old Testament reading. The second point, The Solution, will examine our New Testament reading in Hebrews. I am blessed that, in examining these scriptures, that I have New Testament commentaries from William Lane, and I am indebted to his clear exposition of both Mark and Hebrews. May the Lord guide our hearts and minds as we examine His Word.

The Standard- When our children were young, I was concerned that they would eat a variety of foods. But I allowed them some flexibility and let them have a list of 3 things we would not put on their plates. My son started with mushrooms and olives, but I stopped him. “Are those green olives or black olives,” I asked. He got red in the face and blurted out, “Just Olives!” He wanted as much flexibility in the rules as he could get. Yet, we too like to look for flexibility in the law as much as we can.  Does anyone feel like 5 mph over the speed limit is basically “within the law?” That desire for flexibility in the law may have had something to do with our Gospel reading today. The scribe that approaches Jesus in our Gospel in Mark 12 is very different from the previous scribes in Mark 10-12.  Those scribes were often trying to trip Jesus up and create problems.  But this scribe seems genuine in his question.

“Which commandment is the most important of all?” You see the scribes knew there were 613 individual standards of law in the Old Testament. Distinguishing between great and smaller commandments became important in assessing the piety of human achievement.  Also, it was hard to remember all 613 laws, so a desire for summary was also a focus for the scribes and the people, along with a desire for some flexibility. Lane recounts a story of Hillel the Elder who lived in the period just before the ministry of Jesus.  Challenged for a summary of the law by a Gentile, Hillel replied with an early version of the Golden Rule.

“What you yourself hate, do not do to your neighbor: This is the whole Law, the rest is commentary.  Go and learn it.” Nicely done, but I think you can see that Jesus’ response is comprehensive and complete. The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” This law of love has brevity and completeness to it. The scribe responds in joy, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

This scribe sees the truth that all the legalism and sacrificial system that characterized Jewish culture did not count unless one loved God without reservation and loved one’s neighbor unselfishly. William Barclay says that the love that is conveyed in this command is a love that does three things. It is “a love,” says Barclay, “which dominates our emotions … which directs our thoughts, and … which is the dynamic of all our actions.” Alistair Begg, in quoting Barclay, says, “In other words, it is volitional. It is not simply a feeling in the tummy. It is not the registering of some kind of spiritual desire or design. But it actually involves total devotion to God. It isn’t possible to say, “Well, actually, I just obey the first and greatest commandment, but I don’t deal with any of the other eight or nine.” No, for a person to say, “I am totally committed to God, body, soul, and mind,” means that they are totally committed to what he says.”  

You might argue that this scribe understood more than all the rest of the scribes and Pharisees and excelled them in righteousness. Yet, what does Jesus say of him? “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” People of God, the scariest thing I can think of to hear at the judgment seat of God is “I never knew you, but You were not far from the kingdom of God.” Last week, we went to Cody, and my son, grandson, and I went to the Cody-Jackson HS football game.  Cody is #1 and Jackson was #2, but Jackson was leading the game from early on. Late in the 4th quarter, Jackson, still ahead, was driving for a touchdown that would seal the game. Unfortunately for them, they fumbled the ball on the Cody 1-yd line. Cody then scored an improbable touchdown and won the game. The point is that the 1-yd line was not enough to win the game and being not far from the kingdom of heaven is not the same as being in the kingdom of heaven, safe in the arms of our Lord Jesus. Our Psalm helps explain the problem we have with the Standard of the Law.

“Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, and seek him with their whole heart. Even those who do no wickedness and perfectly walk in his ways. (Ps 119:2-3)” As devout as we may be, can we really say we have sought the Lord with our whole heart and perfectly walked in his ways? Psalm 119 is a Love Poem to the law of God, and it calls us to a standard of study and belief that no one in history has been able to accomplish save one- Our Lord Jesus. The Psalm is consistent with the Shema from Duet 6 with its “all in” message of “loving God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our might.” It’s not “love as you can” or “love well” it is “love perfectly.”  Getting to the 1-yard line is not enough.  So the standard becomes our problem. Summarized simply and elegantly as it is done by our Lord in the Gospel, the law cannot be done perfectly, and we would not hear “well done, good and faithful servant” if judged by this standard.  We need a solution, and a Saviour, to deliver us from this body of sin and death. Which brings us to our second point.

The Solution- We are not the first to recognize we cannot live a perfect life. Whether the # of laws is 613 or 2, Israel quickly understood they had a problem following the commandments. The golden calf showed they could not follow even the first commandment.  So the sacrificial system was given as a grace by God. Yet, as our scribe relates in our Gospel, all the burnt offerings and sacrifices do not adequately match us to a genuine love relationship with our Lord.  The whole letter to the Hebrews is about how the reality of Jesus is far superior to all the other beings and sacrifices we see in the Old Testament. Jesus is proved superior to Moses, Angels, and the Levitical Priesthood and a perfect sacrifice compared to all other sacrifices. Here in our Old Testament reading in Hebrews 7, we see the summary statements about Jesus, as the Great High Priest and better than the Levitical Priesthood. This chapter introduces Jesus as a Priest in the “order of Melchizedek”, a reference from Psalm 110:4.

“The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” After establishing Melchizedek’s ministry as greater than even Abraham and the Levitical priests, the writer compares Jesus to Melchizedek and claims the prophecy of Ps 110 for Jesus. Jesus then, as the perfect fulfillment of Biblical priesthood stands alone as our perfect High Priest. From our reading in Hebrews 7, “The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” The great # of Levitical priests points out that none were sufficient to be the perfect priest, even the high priest.  They were just temporary placeholders, an imperfect type of priest that awaited the perfect high priest. Mortal and sinful, they could not fulfill the office.

“26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.” Not only is Jesus our perfect, sinless High Priest, but He is the perfect sacrifice, offered once for all. The sacrificial system no longer worked because it was inferior to the perfect sacrifice of our Lord. Once the perfect comes, the inferior passes away.  Today, the only sacrifice we have to offer is the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving we offer in our worship and our lives.  Jesus alone becomes our Intercessor at the right hand of the Father.

“For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.” Jesus is our perfect advocate, the only advocate we need and the only intercessor who, in his perfect obedience, has the standing to intercede for us with the Father. Jesus is the solution to our problem.  As our opening hymn, written by Martin Luther, sings, “Did we in our own strength confide, Our striving would be losing; Were not the right man on our side, The man of God’s own choosing: Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is he; Lord Sabaoth his Name, From age to age the same, And he must win the battle.”

Jesus has won the battle, and what should be our response? We come full circle and remember, “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength; and ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus, our Saviour, and our solution deserves all our love and devotion. Our hearts should overflow with love for our Saviour as we sing at our Offertory, “High King of heaven, my victory won. May I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heaven’s sun. Heart of my own heart, whatever befall. Still be my vision, O ruler of all.”

Conclusion- What you see in our scriptures today is that love is at the center of our relationship with the Lord and our Salvation.  Loving God without reservation or exception. Loving our neighbors.  Alistair Begg says, “We love our neighbors because they’re made in God’s image, not because they’re necessarily the loveliest neighbors. We’re not necessarily the loveliest neighbors either.” We love because God first loved us.  Hebrews helps us understand why Jesus Christ is our perfect High Priest, Sacrifice, and Intercessor.  It was important for the early Church to clarify this so that believers did not go back to inferior religious practices. As Alistair Begg says, “Unless our religion shows us our need of God, our religion will actually keep us from God.” 

The early Church was at risk of falling back into inferior habits that actually kept people from the Gospel. This is also why the Reformation was needed.  We could not have our religion teach us that we needed Jesus plus anything else and that was where the Church was going in 1517.  If you have questions about that, please come and see me. Like the Church in Galatia, we should not be fooled into thinking that we should have a different Gospel.  We need Christ Alone, by Faith Alone, through Grace Alone, for the Glory of God Alone, guided by the Authoritative truth of scripture Alone. We cannot allow ourselves to be relying on anything else, less we come close to the kingdom of God without actually being welcomed into the kingdom by our loving Savior Jesus Christ.  He calls to us. The Gospels, all of them, contain proof that Jesus is our Lord, our Light, and our Salvation.  He has established His Kingdom and made a way for us.  He is still calling us today.  Are we calling out to Him, or are we distracted on the periphery, interested in things that cannot save? Let us embrace the Love of our Lord Jesus, and sing, “The Spirit and the gifts are ours. Through him who with us sideth: Let goods and kindred go, This mortal life also; The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever.”  Let us Pray.

Closing Prayer- O God, our help in ages past, Our hope for years to come, Our shelter from the stormy blast, And our eternal home: come and make your home with us. Stir our hearts aflame with the love of our Saviour and keep us, today and always, under the shadow of your wing. We pray this in the Holy and Saving name of Christ our Lord. Amen.