Do you remember Morticia? If you are old enough, you just might. Morticia always dressed in black. Her appearance was depressed. She never smiled. She was morbid, gloomy, sullen, and constantly made references to death. Her full name was Morticia Addams and she appeared on the weekly television show “The Addams Family.” If we really think about it, Morticia reminds us of our sinful nature. For the natural man, the man without Christ, the man who is dead in his transgressions and sins, the only solution to suffering is death. Some have even said, the best man can do is to hope that he dies in his sleep. In 1977 musician Billy Joel even wrote a hit song entitled, “Only the Good Die Young.” As we look at the Holy Scriptures we are confronted with the story of Job. In the midst of his loss and suffering, his wife turned to him and said, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die” (Job 29). In response to his suffering, “…Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth … ‘Why did I not die at birth, come out from the womb and expire?’” (Job 3:1, 11). The apostle Paul understood the natural man’s fixation on death. In his epistle to the Romans he wrote: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:10-12). Paul continues, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12) and “…the wages of sin is death” (Romans 623a). Paul’s words should cause us to sit up and take notice. Our sin is a serious matter. It is serious to God and it should be serious to us. Sin leads to death. There is no other option. You see, our sin problem is really much more serious than we have ever imagined. It is deeper, darker, and bigger than we have ever dreamed. Sin separates us from God. Therefore, no matter how many times you go to church, no matter how many times you confess your sins, no matter how many times you receive Holy Communion, no matter how many times you hear the words of Absolution, in this life you are still a miserable sinner. That is why we struggle so with our feelings of guilt, despair, and unworthiness. We know, and the fact remains, we are sinners! Even as Christians, we continue to struggle with our sinful nature. Now, if we are Christians and we continue to sin, what makes us different from those who do not know Christ? Martin Luther struggled with this question 500 years ago. He asked, “How can a sinner become righteousness in the sight of God?” Nothing sums up our identity as Christians like the words of Luther, “simul justus et peccator.” Those Latin words are best translated “saint and sinner at the same time.” That is precisely what the Christian is in this life. We are saints and we are sinners at the very same time! Paul knew this to be the case long before Martin Luther. Paul wrote: “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me” (Romans 7:15-20). Paul did not stop there. He continued as he wrote, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2). Paul openly confessed that in his flesh, that is in his sinful nature, he was a slave to the law of sin and death, but at the very same time, through the Spirit he was also a slave to Christ Jesus his Saviour and his Lord. Martin Luther put it this way, “The saints in being righteous are at the same time sinners; they are righteous because they believe in Christ whose righteousness covers them and is imputed to them, but they are sinners because they do not fulfill the law and are not without sinful desires. They are like sick people in the care of a physician: they are really sick, but healthy in the hope, and insofar as they begin to be better, healed, i.e., they will become healthy. Nothing can harm them so much as the presumption that they are in fact healthy, for it will cause a bad relapse” (Luther, Romans Commentary). This is the hinge upon which all Lutheran theology turns. This is the foundational and most basic belief that the Christian is “simul justus et peccator.” He is both saint and sinner in this life at the very same time. Luther also wrote in 1535 in his Commentary on Galatians, “Whatever sins I, you, and all of us have committed or may commit in the future, they are as much Christ’s own as if He Himself had committed them.” That is strong language but it is also the clear teaching of Holy Scripture. Paul wrote, “For our sake he [God the Father] made him [Jesus Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him [Jesus Christ] we might become the righteousness of God” (II Corinthians 5:21). The very heart of the Gospel is the message of grace and what theologians call “the double imputation.” In this most basic doctrine of the Christian faith your sin and my sin, our transgressions, our iniquities, and our ungodliness is imputed to Jesus Christ and in return His holiness, His righteousness, and His sinlessness is imputed to us! This is the double imputation of the Gospel. As He paid the penalty for our sins on the cross at Calvary, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). As Peter wrote, “He [Jesus Christ] himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” (I Peter 2:24). As to our imputed righteousness that comes from Jesus Christ alone, Paul put it this way “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-26). In his Second letter to the Corinthian Christians, Paul wrote, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation” (II Corinthians 5:17-19). The “message of reconciliation” is the message of Law & Gospel. The Law of God exposes our sin and pronounces our condemnation but the Gospel of Jesus Christ has set us free! In Christ we are forgiven, accepted, born-again, renewed, and forever changed. We are His holy, righteous, and perfected people – redeemed by the blood of the Lamb! In this life we are simul justus et peccator, both saint and sinner, but in the life to come we will be free from all sin – “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Romans 6:5). Thanks be to God! Alleluia! Blessings, Pastor Jim

       Pastor’s Article – June 2017

The 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation:

Martin Luther & Simul Justus Et Peccator