Harsh Preaching

Sermon for the Third Sunday of Easter based on Acts 3:11-21, I Jn. 3:1-7

Dear children of God: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen

Many of those who heard Peter’s sermon undoubtedly thought he was rude, harsh, and unloving. People gathered upon seeing that a miracle had been performed and a lame man was leaping and praising God. And Peter starts berating them. Peter rips into them as they gather to see what has happened. To paraphrase him a bit, he essentially says to them, “What are you looking at? We didn’t heal this man and make him walk. You know who healed him? Jesus. Yes, Jesus whom you delivered to Pilate. Yes, Jesus whom you denied. Yes, Jesus whom you murdered. You killed the Author of Life and instead asked for a murder to be released.” Peter points the finger directly at them, blaming them for the death of Jesus. He bluntly calls them murderers! Many undoubtedly though he was rude, harsh, and unloving.

Why does Peter come out with guns blazing? Why does he blast away with such powerful, stinging Law? He does it so that the Law would make them recognize their sin. He does it so that they would turn away from their sin. Thus he also says, “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out.” (Acts 3:19) Turn away from your sins so that they may be forgiven.

This is right in line with what John writes in his first epistle as we heard: “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness… No one who abides in [Christ] keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him…” (I Jn. 3:4, 6) A Christian does not live for the sake of sin. He doesn’t remain in lawlessness, which is rebellion against God and His Word. A Christian does not reject God’s Word or its established standards. Those who practice sin do not care what God has to say about sin, but prefer to remain in their sin instead of receiving forgiveness.

Our epistle reading ended at verse seven, but if we would have gone on and read the next verse also, we would have heard, “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.” (I Jn. 3:8) There’s no third option. There’s no neutral position. Either we are in Christ or we are of the devil. Either we make a practice of sinning or we make a practice of opposing sin.

Sin is no small matter. Sin is deadly. Sin is of the devil. There is no room to be indifferent about sin or to allow ourselves to hold onto sinful habits. A Christian cannot give up, give in, tolerate, condone, or ignore sin.

Unfortunately, we have become complacent. We don’t really take God’s warnings all that seriously. We allow the formation of sinful habits and believe the devil’s deception that they are not so serious.

Thus we need to hear Peter’s sermon pointed at us. We need to hear that we are murderers. Our sins killed Jesus. Our sins that we have thought are no big deal were big enough to end the life of the Son of God on the cross. The sins that we have been indifferent about killed the Author of Life.

But as Peter preached in his sermon, so I preach also to you: Despite what the people had done in delivering Jesus to Pilate, denying Him, and murdering Him, even though they didn’t know it, killing Jesus was actually God’s plan. God had planned already beforehand that this would happen. God had foretold it by the mouth of all the prophets. It had to happen to restore all things. It had to happen for the forgiveness of sins. It had to happen to pay for the sins of every single person.

Thus, Peter preaches repentance to the people. They had to turn from their sin. He had to warn them that whoever continues in sin is of the devil. If he didn’t warn them, then he would truly be the rude, harsh, and unloving person some thought he was. If Peter didn’t preach God’s harsh Law, then not only would he be unloving, but a faithless, false preacher. He would then be opposing God. If he didn’t warn those whom he had been sent to warn, then he would himself have been practicing lawlessness. Thus Peter preached the message of repentance.

This message is also for you. Despite what you have done to deny Jesus by your sinful habits and despite what indifference you have shown towards sin, yet you also are given the opportunity to repent and turn again that your sins may be blotted out. You also are given God’s harsh Law so that you would recognize your sin and turn away from it.

Because we are sinful, we will always struggle with sin. We will fall into sin. We will do the very sins that we hate (Rom. 7:15). But we cannot become indifferent about sin or allow ourselves to hold onto sinful habits. We cannot give up, give in, tolerate, condone, or ignore sin. We cannot make a practice of sinning.

We cannot make a practice of sinning because we are children of God (I Jn. 3:1). We put our hope in Jesus who is pure, and thus we are pure (I Jn. 3:3). We are in Him, and He appeared to take away sins, and Him there is no sin (I Jn. 3:5).

God gives us the strength to oppose sin by continually giving us forgiveness. Every time we fall, He lifts us up again. He reminds us that through Baptism we are His children. He absolves us of our sins through His Word of forgiveness. He nourishes us with the very body and blood of Jesus that forgives us our sins and strengthens us in our fight.

God’s Word of Law is not rude, harsh, or unloving. It shows us our sin so that we would know that we need a Saviour. And God provided a Saviour. He sent His only Son to take all our sins on Himself and take our punishment by dying in our place. Now we are adopted as His children. He has forgiven us and He will continue to forgive us until Christ appears and we shall be like Him (I Jn. 3:2). “Everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” (I Jn. 3:3).

Christ is pure and in Him there is no sin. When we receive His pure, sinless body and blood again today from this altar, His pure body and blood make us pure. His sinless body and blood make us sinless. What God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets has been fulfilled. Christ came and suffered for us and blots out our sin. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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