|10 - TO BE JUSTIFIED BY FAITH, Nov 6 2022|
Galatians 2.16 – 20
Luke 8.41 – 56
St Paul writes in this morning’s epistle: ‘A man is not justified [made righteous] by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified [made righteous].’
It is clear to me that Paul’s argument with his Jewish brethren on this point was that justification by grace through faith is not a distinctively NT doctrine at all. It is at the heart of Moses and the prophets. For Abraham was justified by his faith, before the Law had been given. And it was wholly by God’s Grace that Israel was given the Land of Canaan. In Deuteronomy, for example, Moses says to Israel at the edge of the wilderness, as they are preparing to go into Canaan: ‘It is not for thy righteousness that the LORD thy God gives thee this good land to inherit, but to establish the covenant the LORD swore to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, for you are a stiff-necked people. From the day that ye came forth out of Egypt even till ye came to this place, ye continued to be disobedient toward the LORD.’ (Dt 8.4-5).
It struck me when I read this that to be justified, or to be made righteous, in the OT was to be given the Land of Israel’s Inheritance; and the Land is given wholly by God’s grace. But, the first Christians understood that Canaan was not the land that God showed Abraham (Gen 12.1). Following the Epistle to the Hebrews, the Land God showed Abraham was the Heavenly Country He had prepared for all the righteous of the OT who had died in faith. They saw it and greeted it from afar (Heb 11.13&16). It was the Heavenly City that Ezekiel saw (Eze 40) and, if the City Ezekiel saw was the same city St John saw (Rev 20), and we believe it was, then it was the City whose builder is God and whose foundation is Christ (Heb 11.10, 1 Pt 2.6; cf. Isa 28.16). That is, it was the Garden of Eden, because God planted that Garden; and, it was the Land of Christ’s Resurrection, because God built the Garden of Eden to the East, the Land of the Sun, and it was ‘in the sun’ that the LORD Jesus ‘placed’ the tabernacle of His Body when He came forth from the Tomb as a Bridegroom’ (Ps 18/19.6) To be justified or to be made righteous in the NT, then, is to be placed in the Land of Christ’s Resurrection; and this, obviously, is wholly by God’s grace because no corpse can raise itself to life. The resurrection of Christ, that is, is the reality that Israel inheriting the Land of Canaan was the shadow of (Heb 10.1).
Our Gospel this morning sets before us two women who are dying, not just Jairus’ daughter. For the blood is the life. If the hemorrhaging woman is losing her blood, and can’t get it to stop, she’s dying. In raising these women to life, Jesus is justifying them; He is making them righteous. To be justified by grace is not a ‘forensic’ thing; it has to do with our soul (and body), dead in sins and trespasses, being cleansed of death and all its miseries, and being raised to life. Justification, then, is not a ‘doctrine,’ It is a reality of the ‘inner man of the heart,’ and it is concrete just like Jesus raising Jairus’ daughter physically by His touch and by His WORD, and stopping the woman’s bodily flow of blood by His touch.
The women in this morning’s Gospel are an image of Israel that was raised to existence as a nation when God raised Isaac from the barren loins of Abraham and Sarah. They were past the age of child-bearing, as good as dead (Rom 4.19; Heb 11.12). But Israel became a nation sick unto death because of her idolatry. Jesus raising these women to life is a ‘sign’ that the Man, Jesus, is the LORD God who has come, as Ezekiel foresaw in the vision of the dry bones. Ezekiel saw the LORD breathing His Spirit into the dry bones of Israel and raising them to life, and He heard the LORD saying: ‘Behold, I will open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people; And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land.’ [Eze 37:12-14]
Clearly, the land the LORD will place them in is not Canaan; for this land is beyond the grave, on the other side of the grave. It is the Land God showed Abraham, the Land of Eden, the Land of the Resurrection, the City whose builder is God.
Our women in this morning’s Gospel, then, are an image also of the New Israel, those who receive Christ and become the dry bones of Ezekiel’s vision raised to life in the mystery of the Church’s baptismal font. In your baptism, you were justified by faith, you were raised from death to the life of Christ’s resurrection not because of your own righteousness but because of the Covenant God made with Abraham and sealed with His own blood, the Blood of the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world (Rev 13.8). And when you were raised from the Font, you were led onto the Path of the Gospel’s ‘inner Exodus’ to the Land God showed Abraham. To be in the Church, to follow Christ, is to follow Him now into Galilee, into our everyday life, to the Land of His Resurrection.
When you were raised from death to life in the baptismal Font, there was a ‘power’ that went into your mortal body, as it did this morning into the body of the hemorrhaging woman. It is the power of the LORD’s Holy Spirit that was breathed into your mortal body as it was breathed into Adam, and as it was breathed into the House of Israel in the valley of dry bones.
Life now lives in your mortal body, not the life of this world that comes from the earth and returns to the earth, but the life of the Holy Spirit that proceeds from the Father and returns to the Father. Yes, our mortal bodies will die. But we are not rooted in the death of Adam anymore; we are rooted in the death of Christ, the New Adam, the ‘heavenly man who is a life-giving spirit. Our life now is rooted in the death of God in the flesh, in our flesh; and so we are rooted in the death of God that has destroyed death and given life to those who were dead in the sins and trespasses of their idolatry. We have received into our mortal bodies the Seed of Christ’s Resurrection. It is the leaven of the Spirit, and it is working in us to put to death all that is earthly in us. The hemorrhaging of our life has been stopped. We are now free to rise up and go in Peace, to live in the Resurrection of Christ.
The LORD commands the girls parents, after He has raised her to life: ‘Give her something to eat.’ Dear ones, when we are raised from the Font, our parents – God our Father and the Church our Mother – immediately give us something to eat. They give us the Body and Blood of Christ. Our food and drink is the Resurrection and the Life. The spiritual and imperishable body of the New Man is being built in us not by us but by God; not because of our righteousness, but because of the LORD’s covenant with Abraham. For, we are children of Abraham if we are children of faith in Jesus Christ.
To the woman, the LORD says after He stops her hemorrhaging: Your faith has saved you. Go in peace. Your love for God, your love for true life, your love for beauty and goodness, has saved you. For it led you to Him Who is Himself the Resurrection and the Life. Now, go in Peace. Live your daily life in love for Christ. Don’t give your love anymore to idols. Don’t live in the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life. Live in the way of Christ, the way of His Church. Walk in the spiritual strength given you in the Church’s food and drink, the Body and Blood of Christ, He Who Is the Resurrection and the Life.
This points to what I mean when I say that the healing of our two women this morning shows that to be justified by faith, to be raised from death to life and to be led to the Land of Christ’s Resurrection, is not a forensic principle or an abstract idea but a concrete, living reality. For we experience the concreteness of Christ’s death living in our mortal bodies when we live for Christ and strive to do His holy will. A real transformation begins to happen in us. One feels the deadness of one’s soul dying; one feels the resurrection of Christ revealing itself to us. It is manifested in the joy that begins to illumine our mind and soul, and in the peace of Christ that begins to ‘overshadow’ us, as it did the temple of the OT, as it did the Holy Virgin. It is discovered in us as a concrete, living reality that we don’t just think about or talk about. We begin to live in it; it begins to live in us. Amen!