Prayers & Readings for Reflection — Kingdomtide 15

Prayer #1 — Collect for the 15th Sunday in Kingdomtide (BCP 234):

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Prayer #2 — Prayer for Noonday (BCP 107):

Heavenly Father, send your Holy Spirit into our hearts, to direct and rule us according to your will, to comfort us in all our afflictions, to defend us from all error, and to lead us into all truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Prayer #3 — For the Mission of the Church (BCP 257):

O God of all the nations of the earth: Remember the multitudes who have been created in your image but have not known the redeeming work of our Savior Jesus Christ; and grant that, by the prayers and labors of your holy Church, they may be brought to know and worship you as you have been revealed in your Son; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Prayer# 4 — “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” (Charles Wesley):

1. Love divine, all loves excelling,
joy of heaven, to earth come down;
fix in us thy humble dwelling;
all thy faithful mercies crown!
Jesus thou art all compassion,
pure, unbounded love thou art;
visit us with thy salvation;
enter every trembling heart.

2. Breathe, O breathe thy loving Spirit
into every troubled breast!
Let us all in thee inherit;
let us find that second rest.
Take away our bent to sinning;
Alpha and Omega be;
end of faith, as its beginning,
set our hearts at liberty.

3. Come, Almighty to deliver,
let us all thy life receive;
suddenly return and never,
nevermore thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
serve thee as thy hosts above,
pray and praise thee without ceasing,
glory in thy perfect love.

4. Finish, then, thy new creation;
pure and spotless let us be.
Let us see thy great salvation
perfectly restored in thee;
changed from glory into glory,
till in heaven we take our place,
till we cast our crowns before thee,
lost in wonder, love, and praise.

Reading: John Wesley on “Justification by Faith”.

“To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Romans 4:5.

1. How a sinner may be justified before God, the Lord and Judge of all, is a question of no common importance to every child of man. It contains the foundation of all our hope, inasmuch as while we are at enmity with God, there can be no true peace, no solid joy, either in time or in eternity. What peace can there be, while our own heart condemns us; and much more, He that is “greater than our heart, and knoweth all things” What solid joy, either in this world or that to come, while “the wrath of God abideth on us”

I. I am, First, to show, what is the general ground of this whole doctrine of justification.

1. In the image of God was man made, holy as he that created him is holy; merciful as the Author of all is merciful; perfect as his Father in heaven is perfect. As God is love, so man, dwelling in love, dwelt in God, and God in him. God made him to be an “image of his own eternity,” an incorruptible picture of the God of glory. He was accordingly pure, as God is pure, from every spot of sin. He knew not evil in any kind or degree, but was inwardly and outwardly sinless and undefiled. He “loved the Lord his God with all his heart, and with all his mind, and soul, and strength.”

2. To man thus upright and perfect, God gave a perfect law, to which he required full and perfect obedience. He required full obedience in every point, and this to be performed without any intermission, from the moment man became a living soul, till the time of his trial should be ended. No allowance was made for any falling short: As, indeed, there was no need of any; man being altogether equal to the task assigned, and thoroughly furnished for every good word and work.

3. To the entire law of love which was written in his heart, (against which, perhaps, he could not sin directly,) it seemed good to the sovereign wisdom of God to superadd one positive law: “Thou shalt not eat of the fruit of the tree that groweth in the midst of the garden;” annexing that penalty thereto, “In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.”

4. Such, then, was the state of man in Paradise. By the free, unmerited love of God, he was holy and happy: He knew, loved, enjoyed God, which is, in substance, life everlasting. And in this life of love, he was to continue for ever, if he continued to obey God in all things; but, if he disobeyed him in any, he was to forfeit all. “In that day,” said God, “thou shalt surely die.”

5. Man did disobey God. He “ate of the tree, of which God commanded him, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it.” And in that day he was condemned by the righteous judgment of God. Then also the sentence whereof he was warned before, began to take place upon him. For the moment he tasted that fruit, he died. His soul died, was separated from God; separate from whom the soul has no more life than the body has when separate from the soul. His body, likewise, became corruptible and mortal; so that death then took hold on this also. And being already dead in spirit, dead to God, dead in sin, he hastened on to death everlasting; to the destruction both of body and soul, in the fire never to be quenched

6. Thus “by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin. And so death passed upon all men,” as being contained in him who was the common father and representative of us all. Thus, “through the offence of one,” all are dead, dead to God, dead in sin, dwelling in a corruptible, mortal body, shortly to be dissolved, and under the sentence of death eternal. For as, “by one man’s disobedience,” all “were made sinners;” so, by that offence of one, “judgment came upon all men to condemnation.” (Romans v. 12, &c.)

7. In this state we were, even all mankind, when “God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, to the end we might not perish, but have everlasting life.” In the fullness of time he was made Man, another common Head of mankind, a second general Parent and Representative of the whole human race. And as such it was that “he bore our griefs,” “the Lord laying upon him the iniquities of us all.” Then was he “wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities.” “He made his soul an offering for sin:” He poured out his blood for the transgressors: He “bare our sins in his own body on the tree,” that by his stripes we might be healed: And by that one oblation of himself, once offered, he hath redeemed me and all mankind; having thereby “made a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world.”

8. In consideration of this, that the Son of God hath “tasted death for every man,” God hath now “reconciled the world to himself, not imputing to them their” former “trespasses.” And thus, “as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation, even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification.” So that, for the sake of his well-beloved Son, of what he hath done and suffered for us, God now vouchsafes, on one only condition, (which himself also enables us to perform,) both to remit the punishment due to our sins, to reinstate us in his favour, and to restore our dead souls to spiritual life, as the earnest of life eternal.

II. 1. But what is it to be “justified” What is “justification” This was the Second thing which I proposed to show. And it is evident, from what has been already observed, that it is not the being made actually just and righteous. This is “sanctification;” which is, indeed, in some degree, the immediate fruit of justification, but, nevertheless, is a distinct gift of God, and of a totally different nature. The one implies what God does for us through his Son; the other, what he works in us by his Spirit. So that, although some rare instances may be found, wherein the term “justified” or “justification” is used in so wide a sense as to include “sanctification” also; yet, in general use, they are sufficiently distinguished from each other, both by St. Paul and the other inspired writers.

4. Least of all does justification imply, that God is deceived in those whom he justifies; that he thinks them to be what, in fact, they are not; that he accounts them to be otherwise than they are. It does by no means imply, that God judges concerning us contrary to the real nature of things; that he esteems us better than we really are, or believes us righteous when we are unrighteous. Surely no. The judgment of the all-wise God is always according to truth. Neither can it ever consist with his unerring wisdom, to think that I am innocent, to judge that I am righteous or holy, because another is so. He can no more, in this manner, confound me with Christ, than with David or Abraham. Let any man to whom God hath given understanding, weigh this without prejudice; and he cannot but perceive, that such a notion of justification is neither reconcilable to reason nor Scripture.

5. The plain scriptural notion of justification is pardon, the forgiveness of sins. It is that act of God the Father, hereby, for the sake of the propitiation made by the blood of his Son, he “showeth forth his righteousness (or mercy) by the remission of the sins that are past.” This is the easy, natural account of it given by St. Paul, throughout this whole epistle. So he explains it himself, more particularly in this and in the following chapter. Thus, in the next verses but one to the text, “Blessed are they,” saith he, “whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered: Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” To him that is justified or forgiven, God “will not impute sin” to his condemnation. He will not condemn him on that account, either in this world or in that which is to come. His sins, all his past sins, in thought, word, and deed, are covered, are blotted out, shall not be remembered or mentioned against him, any more than if they had not been. God will not inflict on that sinner what he deserved to suffer, because the Son of his love hath suffered for him. And from the time we are “accepted through the Beloved,” “reconciled to God through his blood,” he loves, and blesses, and watches over us for good, even as if we had never sinned.

III. 1. But this is the third thing which was to be considered, namely, Who are they that are justified And the Apostle tells us expressly, the ungodly: “He (that is, God) justifieth the ungodly;” the ungodly of every kind and degree; and none but the ungodly. As “they that are righteous need no repentance,” so they need no forgiveness. It is only sinners that have any occasion for pardon: It is sin alone which admits of being forgiven. Forgiveness, therefore, has an immediate reference to sin, and, in this respect, to nothing else. It is our “unrighteousness” to which the pardoning God is “merciful:” It is our “iniquity” which he “remembereth no more.”

IV. 1. But on what terms, then, is he justified who is altogether “ungodly,” and till that time “worketh not” On one alone; which is faith: He “believeth is Him that justifieth the ungodly.” And “he that believeth is not condemned;” yea, he is “passed from death unto life.” “For the righteousness (or mercy) of God is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: –Whom God hath set forth for a propitiation, through faith in his blood; that he might be just, and” (consistently with his justice) “the Justifier of him which believeth in Jesus:” “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law;” without previous obedience to the moral law, which, indeed, he could not, till now, perform. That it is the moral law, and that alone, which is here intended, appears evidently from the words that follow: “Do we then make void the law through faith God forbid: Yea, we establish the law. What law do we establish by faith Not the ritual law: Not the ceremonial law of Moses. In nowise; but the great, unchangeable law of love, the holy love of God and of our neighbour.”

9. Thou ungodly one, who hearest or readest these words! thou vile, helpless, miserable sinner! I charge thee before God, the Judge of all, go straight unto him, with all thy ungodliness. Take heed thou destroy not thy own soul by pleading thy righteousness, more or less. Go as altogether ungodly, guilty, lost, destroyed, deserving and dropping into hell; and thou shalt then find favour in his sight, and know that he justifieth the ungodly. As such thou shalt be brought unto the “blood of sprinkling,” as an undone, helpless, damned sinner. Thus “look unto Jesus!” There is “the Lamb of God,” who “taketh away thy sins!” Plead thou no works, no righteousness of thine own! no humility, contrition, sincerity! In nowise. That were, in very deed, to deny the Lord that bought thee. No: Plead thou, singly, the blood of the covenant, the ransom paid for thy proud, stubborn, sinful soul. Who art thou, that now seest and feelest both thine inward and outward ungodliness Thou art the man! I want thee for my Lord! I challenge “thee” for a child of God by faith! The Lord hath need of thee. Thou who feelest thou art just fit for hell, art just fit to advance his glory; the glory of his free grace, justifying the ungodly and him that worketh not. O come quickly! Believe in the Lord Jesus; and thou, even thou, art reconciled to God.”

(from John Wesley, “Justification by Faith” [Sermon 5], intro.1; I.1-8; II.1, 4-5a; III.1; and, IV.1, 9).

**- Edited by Rev. Weldon Shuman with minor corrections and other modifications by Ryan Danker and George Lyons of Northwest Nazarene University.

Copyright 1999 by the Wesley Center for Applied Theology. Text may be freely used for personal or scholarly purposes or mirrored on other web sites, provided this notice is left intact. Any use of this material for commercial purposes of any kind is strictly forbidden without the express permission of the Wesley Center at Northwest Nazarene University, Nampa, ID 83686. Contact the Webmaster for permission.

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