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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
Concerning Justification, part 47

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2 Corinthians 12:7b–10

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

Augustine writes many things to the same effect against the Pelagians. In Of the Spirit and Letter he says: “The righteousness of the law, namely that the one who practices the righteousness which is based on the law shall live by it,’ is established so that when any one has recognized his weakness he may attain and keep and live in it, conciliating the Justifier not by his own strength nor by the letter of the law itself, but by faith. Now in a justified person, there is no right work by which the one who does it may live. Rather, justification is obtained by faith.” Here he clearly says that the Justifier is reconciled by faith, and that justification is obtained by faith. A little after: “By the law we fear God; by faith we hope in God. But grace is hidden from those fearing punishment. The soul laboring under this fear resorts to faith in God's mercy, so that God may give what he commands.” Here Augustine teaches that hearts are terrified by the law, but by faith they receive consolation. He also teaches us to receive mercy by faith before we attempt to fulfill the law. We will quote certain other passages shortly.

Pulling It Together

We often think of Paul’s mysterious “thorn” as a physical affliction. However, if we consider it a spiritual thorn, we may find some profit. Besides any physical difficulties, we all have another chronic problem. We are sinners. This is such an acute and debilitating disease that we have all found ourselves in the same position as Paul. Have you ever prayed three or more times, “Lord, help me stop sinning”? Perhaps you have even asked God to make you quit a particular sin. And did you stop? Generally, these thorns are not removed immediately. These thorny, little gifts from God—whether spiritual or physical—are given to keep us humble and reliant upon his grace. Otherwise, we Pauls of the Church would be unbearable. We cannot fulfill the law’s demands, so we either try to make people believe we are better than we know ourselves to be, or we avail ourselves of God’s mercy and grace. Since we cannot keep the law by our deeds, we rely upon the grace of God by faith, and then, content in our weakness, allow God to remove our thorns. This is the only real strength in our lives: the power of Christ resting upon us despite our great failings.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, weak as I am to keep your law, work the power of your salvation in me. Amen.

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Winning, Losing, Loving: The Gospel in the Old Testament is an overview of Old Testament Scripture, tracing themes of chosenness, sin, and grace throughout the early books of the Bible. These cycles of sin and redemption point forward toward God's ultimate act of Redemption in Jesus Christ.

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