• Introduction: To tame a wild horse, it must first be penned in.  If left to roam when attempting to train, the wild horse will quickly run away from any human.  The reason is any wild animal could be killed by threats it doesn’t understand, and humans are one of many possible perceived threats. ☹
    • Once a horse is penned in, trainers demonstrate to the horse they can be trusted.  A source[1] I used for how to train wild mustangs noted that a wild horse needs to get acclimated to humans and learn that humans do not bring harm or danger.
    • The horse eventually becomes at leisure around people and will let humans touch them and even restrain them.
      • They won’t mind being saddled up to go outside their pen and into freedom.  That freedom could be a long ride on a trail, or out in wide open range.
    • By now, you are probably wondering what these fun facts about horse training have to do with God’s word? The title of today’s message is “Reasons for Silence”.  There is double inspiration behind reasons for silence from our Bible readings for today.
      • The first reason is found in Rom 3:19 - 19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God[2].  Basically, the Law portion of God’s word pens us in like the wild mustang must first be penned in before training can begin.
      • The last reason is found in the Psalmody - 10 Be at leisure and know that I am God. I will be lifted up in the nations. I will be lifted up on the earth[3]. The Gospel puts us at leisure, because God is in charge, and He reassures us constantly of His grace, mercy, and peace.
    • These two concepts of Law and Gospel found throughout God’s word were missing from 16th century theology up until the Reformation started by Martin Luther in 1517.  We will spend time today looking into these doctrines in a practical sense, and what they can mean to us.
  • Let Us Pray: O God, our Lord, Your holy word was long a hidden treasure.  Until to its place, it was by grace restored in full measure.  For this today, we give thanks and praise, and gladly glorify You. Send the Holy Spirit to work in our heart the true faith to be at leisure whenever Satan attempts to pen us in with his accusations under the law.  We pray this, Father, through Your Son Christ, and through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.
  • Background: Today is the 504th celebration of Reformation Day.  The picture on the front cover of your bulletin has a seriously humorous depiction of Martin Luther nailing to a church door his 95 complaints against the Roman church.  The bulk of the complaints were about the church’s practice of selling indulgences that were presented by the clergy to help souls of loved ones out of purgatory. Additionally, complaints challenged the notion of the existence of an intermediate place between this Age and heaven. 
    • Martin Luther questioned the Church when he came to realize the Gospel from the Word of God, particularly after his lectures from the Book of Romans.  Selling salvation was so against the true Gospel of grace alone by faith alone.  Moreover, the scriptures alone were the sole authority in the church, not what some council of church leaders or the Pope would rule on. 
      • The corrupt church at the time kept the Word from the people.  Church hierarchy believed the Word of God was too complex for mere peasants to read on their own.  They missed the little detail in Rom 10:17 - 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ[4].  This verse is why when you read the outline on the back cover of your bulletin, there is a scriptural reference for just about everything said from this pulpit.
      • Luther would later write about the lacking of scriptural familiarity of the clergy.  The priests at the time did not have the Word in their heart & soul!
        • That left them open to preaching empty philosophies. They missed out on the advice the Apostle Paul exhorted his son in the faith Timothy to be aware of - 23 …refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels[5].  These empty philosophies and ignorant speculations about a holding place called purgatory wouldn’t be so bad if the congregants could hear and understand them. They would be able to then argue against them. The problem was the people spoke German, but the entire church service, including the sermon, was in Latin.
      • The Law could not do its job of making us speechless (φραγῇ) without reason or excuse, if it was neither preached because the priests had no idea of the scriptures, or they were speaking in a different language than the parishioners.
        • Ironically, I’d like to digress for a moment to explore a Greek word in Rom 3:19 that the ESV in your bulletin rendered as “every mouth may be stopped”. On the back of your bulletin, you will find the first of two Greek words.  It is pronounced φράσσω  (fras'-soe), and means to fence or enclose; figuratively, to silence. 
        • I’ll give an example of what this word would mean in 2021, but let’s look at another Greek word.  The word is σχολάζω (skhol-ad'-zoe) and means to take a holiday, i.e. be at leisure.
        • A form of σχολάζω is the Greek word rendered into English as “Be still” at the beginning of Ps 46:10 in the ESV.  I think all of us when we were  kids were told to “be still!”  However, that’s not really what the Lord had in mind in Ps 46:10.  The Lord meant to be at leisure with the knowledge that He is God, and He is above everything in all the nations and the earth itself. Because He is God, nothing should disturb us.
      • This is a pure Gospel message despite the Greek being a verb in the imperative.  It is comforting to know that no matter what is happening in the world around us, God’s got this.  He is in control and above anything and everything that is troubling you.  This one example of the sweet Gospel could not do its job of comforting troubled souls, if people either never heard the Gospel or couldn’t understand it because it was in another language.
    • Let me provide a real-life example of a scenario where both being fenced in and being at leisure occurred.  The scenario took place in 2013 leaving Grand Forks, ND and its twin city East Grand Forks, MN.  A driver thought they were leaving a 35MPH zone into a 55MPH zone and therefore sped up. About the time it was realized, no, it was still 35, the cherries lit up on a patrol car.  Oops!  The car was doing between 50-55MPH and was blatantly speeding past the patrol car.
      • I will pretend for a moment I was driving the car whizzing past a cop 1700 miles from home.  The law said I was doing 50 in a 35 zone.  What am I going to say to the patrolman?  The sun was in my eyes?  I didn’t see all the speed limit signs up to that point?   I was speechless; I had nothing to say relative to the law.  The law was obviously broken.
      • Continuing with our hypothetical scenario, after some discussion between some obvious Norskie’s (judging by the accents of both the driver and the patrolman), the driver was allowed to continue the trip free of the law. And continuing to put myself into this scenario, there was freedom to resume the trip without a ticket, thereby putting me at leisure.  I had no worries because I was redeemed from a certain penalty.
  • Analysis: In a larger way, Apostle Paul wrote about us being penned in by the demands of the Law, similarly to what was spoken of by the prophet Hosea (Hos 2:6).  Hosea was a prophet in the 8th century BC.  Out of great love, God sent him to the Northern Kingdom which had gone far astray from God’s word.  He came after the prophet Amos, and the language used to call the Israelites to repentance was very strong.  God sent prophets to warn these wild people of permanent doom if they didn’t turn from their sinful ways. 
    • Hosea ch#2 was read earlier this morning and I’ll bet it made some people uncomfortable with references to Israel acting like a whore. In Hos 2:6, the same word appears as in Rom 3:19 we’ve correctly interpreted as fence off or pen in.  God said through Hosea that He would fence off the whoring Israel with thorns to stop her from finding ways to continue in whoredom. Talk about wild living!  God was a husband to Israel, but she was a wayward wife and needed to be penned in from continuing in her evil ways.
    • The problem is Israel didn’t get it that they needed to stop and turn from their sinful ways.  When we become aware of sin, what is there to say except stop? (Rom 3:19)
      • Alternatively, I suppose we could try to talk our way out of the Law. That usually looks like rationalizing our bad conduct.  Rationalization can come in forms like this – “I’m not as bad as other people”, or “This was just a little sin; I’m not a murderer.”  These sorts of statements are self-justification, and they don’t work in the sight of the Lord.  That kind of thinking doesn’t fool Him one bit as we see in Rom 3:20 - 20 …by the works of the Law none of mankind will be justified in His sight; for through the Law [only comes] knowledge of sin[6].
      • If rationalization of your sins is something you are used to doing, it’s time to stop.  It’s time instead to yield to the justification from sins provided through Christ.  Here’s why: listen as Paul continued addressing justification in Rom ch#3 - 22 but it is the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus[7].  Justification through Christ as a gift from God is what Martin Luther correctly concluded five (5) centuries ago and is still part of orthodox Lutheranism.  Justification comes at no cost to you, period!  The 95 complaints against the Roman church pretty much boiled down to justification through Christ and not buying something.  This was in direct opposition to the Church’s position of selling indulgences in order to fund constructing St Peter’s Basilica. An incredibly corrupt Church then decided to go after Martin Luther because they believed they had higher authority than God’s own word.
  • Conclusion: Our Romans text makes it clear there is nothing we can do about our sins and we cannot justify our sins.  God has no use for our excuses.  He already knows you & I will come up with just about any imaginative explanation under the sun for our evil behavior.  He’s heard them all for the past 72 centuries. ☹
    • The good news is that we don’t have to come up with any excuses. God knows there’s nothing we can do to redeem ourselves from our own sins.  That’s exactly why the Father sent His one and only Son to redeem everyone from the heavy burden of sin.  God in His own righteousness, provided the payment for the sins He demanded from us. We can be at leisure and hold our mouth from telling some whopper of a tale to the Lord for why we sinned against Him. Listen to Rom 3:25-26 - 25 [Jesus was] displayed [by God] publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in God’s merciful restraint He let the sins previously committed go unpunished; 26 for the demonstration, that is, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus[8].
      • In other words, God is both the judge and the justifier of sinners, not because of anything we’ve done for Him, but His own righteousness.  We are therefore justified by faith and not of what we do (Rom 3:28).
      • Just like a penned in wild horse, as it learns trust, it is at leisure (σχολάσατε, Ps 46:10) despite people around.  We too should be at leisure, trusting in our Lord, who went through a lot of trouble to save our hides from eternity in hell.  If that sounds a bit ugly, remember sin looks even uglier to our Lord.  He is personally offended by our sin – apart from Christ.  However, in Christ, we are not only cleansed from our sins; we are also adopted sons & daughters of the King of kings and Lord of lords!  Like the formerly wild mustangs which were penned in and trained and then being trusting and trustworthy, get to graze and follow paths in freedom.  We too at one time were penned in by the Law, but now have been trained in righteousness.  We are now living in the full freedom Christ has won for us.  God even provides the Holy Spirit to empower us to believe and trust in Him above all things, as we were reminded in last week’s message.
      • In review, these are reasons for silence:
        • Confronted by our sins, we are speechless before God;
        • Trusting in Him to have power over sin and death, we have full redemption from our sins.  We can therefore chill, and be at leisure.
        • And now let me propose a third reason for silence: sitting in awe of a God so full of love, that despite our screw ups and sometimes even sinning boldly, we worship a God who loves us.  He found a way to redeem us from our own rebellious acts, just so we would be able to spend eternity with Him.  What other god have you heard of does things like this?  All other religions are appeasing the anger of their god.  Not us in Christ.  We’re not only at leisure because He is God and has everything covered, we are also silent in awe of His great love!  This is most certainly true!

[1] Inspiration for the Introduction content from https://www.mustangcamp.org/how-to-train-a-wild-horse-or-burro

[2] Rom 3:19 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=rom+3&version=NASB

[3] Ps 46:10 from the Septuagint as published at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/psa/46/1/t_conc_524010

[4] Rom 10:17 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=rom+10&version=NASB

[5] 2Ti 2:23 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2%20Timothy%202&version=NASB

[6] Rom 3:20 slightly modified with emphasis from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=rom+3&version=NASB

[7] Rom 3:22-24 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=rom+3&version=NASB

[8] Rom 3:25-26 slightly modified for context from NASB20, IBID