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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
Concerning Justification, part 48

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Romans 5:1–5

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

It is truly amazing that the adversaries are in no way moved by so many passages of Scripture that clearly ascribe justification to faith, and indeed, deny it by ascribing it to works. Do they think this is repeated so often for no purpose? Do they think that these words fell inconsiderately from the Holy Spirit? But they have also devised sophistry so that they might elude them. They say that these passages of Scripture ought to be received as referring to a fides formata. That is, they do not ascribe justification to faith except on account of love. Indeed, they do not in any way ascribe justification to faith, but only to love, because they dream that faith can coexist with mortal sin. Where does this lead but to the abolition of the promise and a return to the law? If faith receives the forgiveness of sins on account of love, the forgiveness of sins will always be uncertain, because we never love as much as we should. We do not love unless our hearts are firmly convinced that the forgiveness of sins has been granted us. Therefore, as long as the adversaries require confidence in one's own love for the forgiveness of sins and justification, they altogether abolish the gospel concerning the free forgiveness of sins. Yet, at the same time, they neither render this love nor understand it, unless they believe that the forgiveness of sins is freely received.

Pulling It Together

The idea that faith only comes into existence when it is formed by love is contrary to Scripture. Faith comes first, as a free gift of God. Only then do virtues like love begin to develop. Therefore, love cannot form faith since love develops in the Christian life because of faith. We are not considering that easy kind of love that one feels, as a man has for a woman or parent has for a child. The love that faith develops exists when feelings lead the unjustified away from spiritual love. Faith then begins to give us an assurance and peace about our standing with God. This peace gives the Christian a spiritual endurance that perseveres through sufferings. Endurance leads to character development, a spiritual and Christian property. Hope is the result of this enduring character, despite any suffering that might produce negative feelings. The Christian hopes because of faith, not because of positive and loving emotions. This kind of love cannot produce faith. On the contrary, true spiritual love is formed by faith because it is after one has faith that the Holy Spirit pours God’s love into our hearts.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for dying for weak and ungodly me, and reconciling me by giving me your righteousness. Amen.

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