Word for Word

by Rev. Ron Pederson

What is the main message of the church? There would be a variety answers to that question. Some would say the promotion of “social justice” should be the church’s main message. A growing number of people believe that the protection of the environment is very important - help prevent “global warming” or fix other environmental concerns. (With the political tension in our nation these days, many people, both conservatives and liberals, join a church to increase their alignment with a political party or movement.) Still others would say that the church’s main message should be about personal prosperity - keep God’s commandments and you will be guaranteed material wealth, good health and other earthly blessings.
What is the main message of the church? Good Friday gives us the correct answer to that question. It is a message of Law and Gospel.
When we see Jesus hanging on the cross we see the Law; we see the seriousness of sin, our sin. We see that God is a holy and just God who cannot overlook a single sin. Every sin must be punished. As the prophet Ezekiel said: “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezek 18:20). And the apostle Paul: “The wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23).
When we see Jesus hanging on the cross we see the Law but more importantly we see the gospel. Because of our sin, we deserved to be hanging on the cross. But Jesus took our place, became guilty of our sin and paid the penalty for it. As St. Paul said: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21).  And the prophet Isaiah: “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:5-6). By taking our place on the cross, Jesus won for you and me and all people the complete and full forgiveness of all our sins - forgiveness that we can claim as free gift by faith alone.
Those other messages can be a worthy cause in a different venue, but in the church the most important message is Law and Gospel, sin and grace. And this is made most clear on Good Friday.

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
When I survey the wondrous cross, On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss, And pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, Save in the death of Christ, my God;
All the vain things that harm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood.
See, from His head, His hands, His feet, Sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
 Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were a tribute far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.