Sermon + Made for Good Works

Pastor Brian Campbell’s sermon for October 25, 2020, Reformation Sunday. His texts were the Gospel lesson, Matthew 22:34-46; the Epistle lesson, Ephesians 2:4-10 and the Hebrew Bible text, Leviticus 19:15-18, 33-34. Jesus tells us what the most important commandments are, while Paul and Martin Luther point out that the good work of loving our neighbor is literally what we were made for.

Pastor Brian Campbell’s October 25 sermon video from our Church At Home service.
Pastor Brian Campbell’s October 25 sermon audio from our Redeemer service.
Pastor Brian’s 90 Second Sermon Summary for October 25 2020

May we learn from God’s words & stories, working to bring the Kingdom here to Earth. AMEN.

  • Today, as a part of our worship services, we celebrate the 513th anniversary of the Reformation.
    • Martin Luther was angry that officials from the Vatican were selling forgiveness in the forms of documents called indulgences. He believed that if the Pope had the authority to forgive sins then he should do so freely, and not charge for it.
  • The Pope disagreed because he was using the proceeds from the sale of indulgences to rebuild St. Peter’s Basilica.
    • Luther had to defend himself because the Pope wanted this German monk from a little backwater town to shut up and go away.
    • As he read and studied Paul’s Epistles, Luther realized the forgiveness of our sins and the promise of life after death isn’t dependance upon confessing it to a priest or paying for it by buying an indulgence; our forgiveness has been given to us from God.
      • While Luther generally used what Paul wrote about in the letter to the Romans, I think Paul states it more clearly in the letter to the Ephesians.
      • God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ –by grace you have been saved — and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. [A]
      • While our sinful selves cause us to be dead in God’s eyes; we cannot be in God’s presence except that God has given us the grace for forgive us of all of our sins, which saves us, and will allow us to be raised from the dead when Jesus Christ comes again and brings us into heaven to be with God forever.
    • As Martin Luther was being tried for daring to challenge the authority of the Pope, he argued back because he believed that our understanding of God’s love and God’s commands must come from what the Scriptures say, and not what people dictate or claim what the Scriptures say.
  • As Jesus was being challenged for what he was teaching and doing and for daring to challenge the authority of the Jerusalem Temple leaders, various groups came to take their turn at testing him.
    • In our Gospel lessons from the past four weeks, Jesus was challenged by the chief priests, the elders, the scribes, the Pharisees and Herodians. We skip the questioning that came from the Sadducees, and the Pharisees have returned for another try.
      • The Pharisees believed that there are 613 mitzvot, or laws, in the Torah, which are the first five books of the Hebrew Bible.
        • Some of them are ethical laws, dealing with how we treat one another.
          • But many of them were ceremonial and purity laws, dealing with how to conduct worship, or what things would cause one to be ruled as unclean, and what you had to do to be determined to be clean again.
        • When you have that many laws, debates would arise over which of them were the most important.
        • The Pharisees decided allof the laws were equally important. None would have precedence over another because all of them came from God. That include all of ethical, ceremonial and purity laws.
      • When they ask Jesus, Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest? [B] they will argue that his answer is wrong, no matter what he would say.
      • Jesus answers with the Shema, the basic creedal statement of Judaism.
        • You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. [C]
        • This statement of faith is the main part of the prayers that every one of the Jewish faith should say in the morning and in the evening. As you begin your day and as you end your day, you should proclaim your love for God with all that you have and all that you are.
      • Jesus tells them there is another command, or mitzvot, that along with the Shema, are the source of all of the law and the prophets say. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. [D]
        • The part of Leviticus that Jesus quotes from, chapter 19, contains a restating of the Ten Commandments and expands on them to some degree. It focuses on how we treat each other, what we should and should not do to one another.
          • The chapter nears its ends with another command: The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself. [E]
        • Jesus simplifies the Pharisees’ debate for the common, ordinary people.
          • He rejects the Pharisees’ belief that laws about Temple practices were equal to the laws concerning daily inter-personal ethics.
  • The Apostle Paul echoes Jesus’ teaching in a passage from a bit later in that chapter in Ephesians.
    • For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God — not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. [F]
      • When we show love to our neighbor, when we do something good for someone in need, it isn’t contributing to our salvation. It is in response to our salvation, the gift of grace given by God.
      • But we have been created to do these good works, to love our neighbor as ourselves.
  • Martin Luther agreed, writing God does not need our good works, but our neighbor does.[G]
    • The Reformation movement wanted to recenter Scripture in the heart of the church.
    • By doing so, they drew attention to God’s plan for how we should treat one another.
      • Jesus taught that we are to love God and love our neighbor.
      • Paul and Martin Luther wrote that we need to show and share our love with our neighbor, not for our sake, but for the sake of our neighbor.
        • Sharing the gifts and blessings God has given us is what God has always wanted us to do.
        • It is literally the work we were made for.
        • I pray that we remember this and put these commands into practice.


[A]    Ephesians 2:4-6

[B]     Matthew 22.36.

[C]    Matthew 22.37.

[D]    Matthew 22.39.

[E]     Leviticus 19.34.

[F]     Ephesians 2.8-10.

[G]    Martin Luther in Gustaf Wingren, Luther on Vocation, 10

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