Walther: “if Christ did no more with sin but forgive it, He would not be a perfect Savior.”

From a sermon by C. F. W. Walther on Mark 7:31-37:

[W]e dare not think that God’s Son became a man only to fulfill the Law for us by His holy life. He did not suffer for our sins and die on the cross only to win for us the forgiveness of our sins, to deliver us from the punishment we deserve, to reconcile us with God, and despite our sins unlock heaven and salvation to us. This is how many see Christ. They, therefore, seek nothing in Christ but comfort for their restless conscience. That they should actually again become holy is of no concern to them at all. However, they are caught in a great most dangerous error.


In our text Christ not only mercifully received the deaf and dumb man and assured him of His grace, He also treated him, actually healed him from all his infirmities, restored hearing and speech to him and made him a healthy man. Exactly thus Christ not only wants to forgive all men their sins, but also to free them from their sins. He not only wants to declare them righteous by grace, but He also wants to make them truly righteous. He not only came to comfort and soothe their hearts, but also to cleanse and sanctify them. He came not only to reconcile them with God, but also to reunite them with God, not only to make them acceptable to God, but to make them like God. In short, He came to restore the entire lost image of God in them. He came to lead them back into the state of innocence, to make them perfectly healthy in body and soul, and thus finally to bring them to the blessed goal for which God destined them from eternity and called them into existence.


Of course, the first thing which Christ must do in the sinner is to forgive him his sins. For no one can atone for his sins himself and make them right. However, if Christ did no more with sin but forgive it, He would not be a perfect Savior. If He would leave men in sin, He would also leave them then in unhappiness. True blessedness of necessity means that sin actually is abolished, wiped out, crushed and destroyed in us.


The moment, therefore, a person believes in Christ with his whole heart, Christ not only forgives him all his sins, but He also gives him the Holy Spirit who battles against sin in the flesh and cleanses the heart more and more from it. The moment, therefore, a person accepts Christ’s grace, sin also loses dominion in him. Hatred against sin is, as it were, the first impulse of the divine image which Christ restores in man. But this hatred of sin reveals itself also in that the person regrets, deplores and abhors his sins daily, and humbles himself before God and men because of them. He also prays against continuing in sin, is on guard against temptation to sin, notices the gentlest stirrings of sin in his heart, arms and strengthens himself against sin from God’s Word. Thus he unceasingly strives against sin, including his dearest pet sins. He tries to be rid of every sin with all his might.


Everyone whose sins are truly forgiven through Christ does this. And he who does not thus yearn and strive to be completely freed from his sins certainly does not stand in Christ’s grace. For to whom Christ gives grace, to him He also gives power. To whom He grants forgiveness of sins, to him He also gives hatred of sin and zeal to fight against it. Whom Christ graciously receives, as He did the deaf and dumb, his infirmities of soul He also begins to heal. However, he who wants only forgiveness of sins from Christ, yet wants to cling to many sins, not wanting to be completely healed of sin by Christ, makes Christ a servant of sin. He does not believe in the true Christ at all. He has a false Christ, and will perish with his self-made ‘sin-Christ.’ Oh, how many thousands who live carelessly without daily struggle against sin will, therefore, some day discover that they have deceived themselves.


Not only is the abolition of sin in man part of the restoration of the divine image, but also man’s renewal and sanctification. It is indeed true that no man can work any righteousness which avails before God. Therefore Christ fulfilled the Law for us, so that, believing in Him, we might be declared righteous by grace for His sake. But we dare not think that Christ by His grace abolished the Law, and that now we need not fulfill it. Definitely not! The Law is the declared, eternally unchangeable will of God. It is, therefore, not in the least revoked by the Gospel. It must, therefore, be fulfilled to the very smallest letter not only by Christ but also by every individual person. Just this – to bring man again to this ultimate, completely perfect fulfillment of God’s Law – is the final purpose of the whole redemption of Jesus Christ. Clearly He says, ‘Think not that I am come to destroy the Law, or the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the Law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.’ (Matthew 5:17-19). Therefore St. Paul also says, ‘Do we then make void the Law through faith? God forbid; yea, we establish the Law.’ (Romans 3:31).