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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
Concerning Justification, part 42

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Acts 13:38–39

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

“Let it be known to you therefore, brethren, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him every one that believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:38-39). How could the office of Christ and justification be declared more clearly? The law, he says, did not justify. Consequently, Christ was given so that we may believe that we are justified for his sake. He plainly denies that the law justifies. Therefore, for Christ's sake we are accounted righteous when we believe that God, for his sake, has been reconciled to us.

Pulling It Together

Verse 39 of today’s Scripture reads in the English as either justified” or “freed.” The older the translation, the more chance there is that it will read “justified.” It is a legal term that is, evidently, beyond the understanding of the typical modern reader. The 1611 and even the 1900 versions of the King James read “justified,” as does the 1901 American Standard Version. By the time we reach the middle of the 20th Century, we already need the word “freed,” as in the 1952 Revised Standard Version. The 1995 New American Standard Bible and the 2001 English Standard Version mirror this translation.

The word translated as either justified” or “freed” means to declare someone righteous or free. This declaration or verdict does not depend upon the person’s deeds or merits; it depends upon the judge. The judge, in this case, God, states that the offense is forgiven; the person is legally declared righteous in the eyes of the court, or in the eyes of God. When one hears what Christ has done and believes in his merit and the worth of what he did to reconcile us to the Father, that person is justified or freed from sin and death. This happens because of Christ, for his sake, not for the sake of anything we do or have done.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord Jesus, for setting me free from sin and death. Amen. 

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