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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law part 5

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Matthew 15:17–20

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law

We confess that it is necessary for people to begin keeping the law and that it be continually observed more and more. At the same time we comprehend both spiritual movements and external good works. Therefore the adversaries falsely charge against us that our theologians do not teach good works. They not only require these, but also show how they can be done. The result convicts hypocrites, who by their own powers endeavor to fulfill the law, though they cannot accomplish what they attempt. For human nature is far too weak to be able in its own power to resist the devil, who holds as captives all who have not been freed through faith. There is need of the power of Christ to resist the devil. Since we know that because of Christ we are heard and have the promise, we may pray for the governance and defense of the Holy Spirit so that we may neither be deceived and then err, nor be impelled to undertake anything contrary to God's will. Just as Psalm 68:18 teaches, you have led captivity captive and have received gifts for man. For Christ has overcome the devil, and has given to us the promise and the Holy Spirit so that, by divine aid, we ourselves also may overcome. “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1John 3:8).

Pulling It Together

People cannot keep the law of God as long as they have bad hearts—while they operate in their original, sinful nature. They may undertake to practice the law but these will only be lifeless, cold actions. Therefore, we do not begin to do good works and then receive a good heart from God. We must first receive the good heart. We must be reborn with an empowered nature. When people have been born again, God sends his Holy Spirit to live in them. The Spirit defends them from the devil, and empowers them to live within God’s will. This does not mean that they will suddenly keep God’s law with perfection, for although the old nature has been drowned in baptism, it still threatens to undo us. It does mean, however, that those who are first forgiven, regenerated, and filled with the Holy Spirit will not only begin to keep God’s law, they will then persevere in the power of the Spirit, observing God’s word and will more and more.

Prayer: Defend and deliver me, Holy Spirit, from all temptations and trickery of the devil so that I may keep your will on earth as it is kept in heaven. Amen.

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Not My Will, But Yours is a six-week study that explores the topic of the “free will” from a biblical perspective, looking at what Scripture has to say about the bondage of the human will, and how Jesus Christ has come to deliver us from ourselves.


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