“No Monthly Payments”
Pentecost 9 (Proper 19), August 10, 2014
No Monthly Payments
Text: Romans 10:5–17
Today we are going to do something a little different, we are going to compare Law and Gospel to car shopping. Picture yourself, for a moment, walking into your local car dealer’s showroom. They have only got two cars—only two. The larger of the two is a four-wheel drive high performance mean machine, or if you prefer, the ultimate minivan, or if you prefer, the latest sports car. It’s not just any car, it’s the one the experts are raving about and people all over the country want one. It has power windows, power door locks, power moon roof, power seats and power cup holders. It doesn’t just have DVD, but it has DirecTV. Everything about this driving machine is awesome: profile, performance, and, of course, price.
Parked next to that metal awesomeness is the only other car on the lot—a beat-up and battered clunker—with a sign on the windshield that reads “Nothing Down, No Interest, and No Monthly Payments!” You know this kind of car, not much to look at and the joke around town. As you look it over, words like “Pinto,” “Yugo,” and “Gremlin” come to mind, sending a chill up and down your spine. You’d rather die than be caught behind the wheel of that thing. Just imagine what your friends would say if they even saw you looking at it! Quickly, you look away and your gaze again goes to the mighty marvel that dominates the showroom floor. You can see yourself behind the wheel—the envy of all!
That brings us to the Epistle for the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost. Paul begins by telling us that there are basically two ways to heaven: by the Law, which most people think is the best way, or by Faith, which many people scoff at. One Way to Go—and Only One—Is Available for Nothing Down, No Interest, and No Monthly Payments!
Now for many Americans, car payments are a fact of life. And that is one thing that makes buying a car so fun! So looking at that gleaming dream machine, the salesman interrupts your dreams of grandeur. He wants to know what you can afford, how much you’re willing to put down, and what you want for monthly payments. That’s usually the problem with buying the biggest, baddest, bestest car.
When it comes to our text, the Law is a mighty machine! The Law is fully loaded! It is perfect in every way. But perfect is always pricey! Just as the dream car costs big, saving yourself by obeying costs big. Will we give up every unkind word—forever? Will we give up every covetous thought for the next guy’s house, car, clothes, jewelry, TV, sound system golf clubs, forever? Will we give up looking too long at our neighbor’s spouse—always? Will we avoid every big and small thing that muscles out God—without slipup? Always? Forever?
That price is too high, right? It’s like when you look at the sticker on that loaded, beautiful machine, and it’s Holy Socks! What is known as Sticker Shock. You can’t afford that car, no matter how badly you want it! You know you need some kind of transportation. But if you want your dream machine, you’d be making payments for the rest of your life—and you wouldn’t be able to afford much else.
Another thing car dealers like to tell us about is the warranty. You know, 3 year, 36,000 mile or 100,000 mile on the drive train stuff. In our text, The Law is backed by a lifetime warranty! The Law promises a righteousness for those who live by it and a relationship with the Lord for all who remain faithful to it. It really does (v 5b). “Do this,” Jesus says, “and you will live” (Lk 10:28). If you do everything the Bible says to do, heaven is yours! It seems like the logical way to go. You want something, you pay for it. Nothing free can be any good.
However, the problem with buying extended warranties and such is sometimes they put in the fine print that a lot of everyday common things aren’t covered. Same thing with the Law, exclusions apply! It demands perfection. Remember what I just said before, if you do everything the Bible says and do it all the time, then heaven is yours. But if your score is 99.99%…YOU FAIL. Count out those Commandments, one through ten. Have no other Gods, never misuse God’s name, remember EVERY Sabbath, honor parents and authorities, no murdering, hurting, hating, lusting, stealing, coveting. Have we kept them perfectly? No, we have not. If there is anyone is this room who thinks they have, please come see me after church, for as the Bible says, all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
When it comes to the Law, we fail and failures result in penalties, interest, and more payments—on a no-time plan. It is not for 36 months or 72 months, hell is forever.
As good as it looks, as appealing as it may be, The Law is not the way to go! No one is perfect; therefore, no one is made righteous by observing the Law. The Law is like that fancy car here, it looks good. It looks like it is the way to go, but it is not. The Law is quite the impressive driving machine that to this day mesmerizes people everywhere. But those who would try to live by it discover, sooner or later, that it’s more machine than they can manage. The demands of the Law pinpoint human inconsistencies, weaknesses, and failures, leaving those behind the wheel frustrated, uncertain, and ultimately stranded out in the middle of nowhere.
Now think about that other car here, the one that looks like a piece of junk. In our analogy here, that is faith. Faith is the only reliable form of transportation! The other “vehicle” on the showroom floor has always been despised and rejected out there, considered by many to be good for little more than a laugh. You would be amazed at how many theologians and spiritual writers say that our way of salvation, what we believe the Bible teaches that we are saved by grace, through faith, on account of Christ, His death and resurrection, that this way is a joke. But what most don’t know or refuse to hear is that the “tin can on wheels” is the only thing that can get us where we want to go: heaven!
Here is the thing about faith. Faith requires nothing down (vv 6–7)! It comes free by hearing the Word of God (v 17). No gold or silver are required up front, no down payment. Jesus already paid for it, with His blood on the cross and His rising again.
Additionally, faith charges no interest (vv 8–9)! Jesus did all the borrowing, including a boat from which to teach, a donkey on which to ride, a cross on which to die, and a grave in which to lie for us and for our salvation! Everything the Law required of us, He fulfilled!
Faith demands no monthly payments (vv 10–13)! Our Lord paid it all, principal and interest, to declare us free by His grace through faith.
Faith is being sure that Jesus is the only way to go! Everything the Law promised but couldn’t fulfill because of our fallen nature, Jesus provided by His grace through faith in Him: a righteousness and a relationship fully-loaded and with a life-everlasting bumper-to-bumper warranty!
It may seem unlikely, this battered clunker, being given away absolutely free, but Jesus, beaten up and battered, and faith in Him, which does nothing but trust in Him, is the way to go!
What we do as a result is no payment at all. Tell the world about Christ, not as a required repayment, but simply because saving faith is never silent. It is personal, but it’s never private. It’s always active, confessing “Jesus is Lord!” All the blessings Paul recites in this text are for everyone.
We who are sent have been commissioned to communicate the Good News that the costs were laid on Jesus Christ: rod and timber, nail and crown, spear and grave—the debt fully paid! Saving faith, the gift of God that fuels all hope and confidence, is ours, full and overflowing through God’s Word and Sacraments!
So enjoy this car. Let people mock you for driving something so not fancy. Trust me. Trust Jesus. This will get you where you want to go. Congratulations…Here are the keys (pointing to the bread, wine, and baptismal font.)