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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law – part 42

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John 13:34–35

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

If there be no need of Christ, if by our love we can overcome death, if by our love, without Christ as propitiator, we have access to God, then let our adversaries remove the promise concerning Christ; let them abolish the gospel. The adversaries corrupt very many passages because they bring to them their own opinions. They do not derive the meaning from the passages themselves. What difficulty is there in this passage when we remove the imagined interpretation that the adversaries attach to it because they do not understand what justification is or how it occurs? Already being justified, the Corinthians had received many excellent gifts. In the beginning they glowed with zeal, as is generally the case. Then dissensions began to arise among them, and as Paul indicates, they began to dislike good teachers. Accordingly, Paul reproves them, recalling them to responsibilities of love. Although these are necessary, it would be foolish to imagine that works of the Second Table justify us, for they deal with people, not expressly with God. Justification is a transaction by God through which his wrath is appeased and our conscience is pacified before God. None of this comes about through works of the Second Table.

Pulling It Together

Yes! We should obey God by loving one another and doing acts of charity and other good works. Yet these actions will never conquer sin and death or provide access to God. Claiming that they accomplish such great effects is to call the good news of Jesus Christ ineffective. However, when we read the Scripture in context, we understand that God’s reconciling work is wholly sufficient. Basing a doctrine on a verse can mislead, as in the case in question. When we consider the entire unit of thought, we see that the Corinthians had already been justified by Christ and, as a result, had been eager to obey God. In time however, they listened to teachers who told them what they wanted to hear by tickling their ears with false doctrines (2 Tim 4:3, NASB) instead of teaching the whole counsel of Scripture. This is when good teachers must use the law to demonstrate that we cannot keep God’s commands. For, “the Law is a word of death, a doctrine of wrath, a light of sadness, which reveals sin and demands righteousness from us, which we cannot produce” (“Epistle for the Day of the Three Holy Kings,” Luther’s Works). Only then will people be driven back to the gospel, to the righteousness of Christ alone. When we comprehend that he first loved us, then we may rightly respond to his command to love one another.

Prayer: Thank you, God, for your law that accuses me, causing me to rely upon your Son instead of myself. Amen.

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Katherine Harms

Posted August 22, 2015 at 10:03am

Very important statements: "Yes! We should obey God by loving one another and doing acts of charity and other good works. Yet these actions will never conquer sin and death or provide access to God." The secular thinkers of the world think they have made a big point when they tell Christians to feed more people and shut up about sin, because they think that Jesus was loving, charitable and non-judgmental. The secular Christians gobble up this same drivel and pretend they can build the kingdom by taking federal money along with federal prohibition of "proselytizing." They hand out goods and services while never mentioning the gospel or sin. Jesus confronted this very mentality after feeding the five thousand. People chased him around the Sea of Galilee in the hope that he would start a regular feeding program for the hungry in Galilee. Jesus answered by saying, "whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever" (John 6:57-58 ESV). He was saying that while charity grows out of the gospel, it does not replace the gospel. As churches, we must not spend our energy on programs that prevent us from sharing the gospel as we share the love.

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