I must confess: what follows does not heed the given instructions. It is supposed to be different from the hundreds I’ve delivered in the past but Lutheran pastors are taught to preach every sermon as if it is his last. Perhaps the question should be, “what sermon would you preach if it is the last one the reader will hear?” Now we’re talking about serious stuff, your death. What will happen to your soul when you die? As a Christian you answer it will go to heaven. Why? You answer, “because I am saved.” Why do you need to be saved?
So many pastors talk about being saved but rarely explain why you need to be saved. Every sermon should tell you clearly that you are a sinner, a wicked being marked for eternal damnation, yet you seldom hear this critical proclamation.
This omission is incomprehensible. It is like having a disease and the physician avoiding all talk about that disease and its lethality. This kind of omission is more harmful in theology than in medicine. You are being saved through faith alone and understanding is part of faith. Therefore, being fully convinced that you are a sinner is absolutely crucial to being saved. But repeatedly hearing about sinfulness and eternal damnation that results from sin are so offensive that most preachers rarely mention it. Most sadly, because you don’t hear why you need to be saved, you end up not hearing the full Gospel and risk straying from saving faith.
Sin is the disease and forgiveness is the cure. Forgiveness results from what Christ endured on Good Friday: His suffering, bleeding and dying for mankind. Salvation flows from forgiveness. And He suffered this purely out of love for you.
Christ’s resurrection does not save. His resurrection was absolutely necessary because, by raising Christ back to life, God the Father declared that the Son’s sacrifice satisfied mankind’s sin debt. The Bible repeatedly demonstrates the crucifixion’s importance over the resurrection. The limited space here does not allow for more than one example. (Contact me for more references.) In 1 Corinthians 1:23 and 2:2, St. Paul wrote that he preached Christ crucified and not knowing anything among them except Christ crucified. He omitted any mention of the resurrection. Most certainly Paul believed in and preached Christ’s resurrection, but because the forgiveness of our sins results from crucifixion, he omitted resurrection here.
The soul-saving Gospel is that we are all sinners who need to be saved from the wickedness resulting from what we are and do. Since it is impossible for us to save ourselves, Jesus Christ, God the Son, died for us and purchased our forgiveness through His sacrifice. But this gift can be received only by faith. What is faith? It is more than believing. The part that most forget is trust or reliance. “Saving faith” means placing your whole reliance upon Christ’s bleeding death, and upon absolutely nothing else.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you.