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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law part 68

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Romans 5:15-16

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

Jerome added a particle to his translation of Daniel 4:24 that expresses doubt, and unwisely claims in his commentaries that the remission of sins is uncertain. Let us remember that the gospel gives a sure promise of the forgiveness of sins. Denying that there is certainty of the promise of forgiveness of sins is to abolish the gospel. So, let us dismiss Jerome concerning this passage, although the promise is evidenced even in the word “redeem.” For it signifies that the forgiveness of sins is possible, that sins can be redeemed, that the obligation or debt can be removed, that the wrath of God appeased. But our opponents always overlook the promises, considering only the commands, and attach the false, human opinion that forgiveness happens because of works. The text does not say this, but requires faith instead. For wherever there is a promise, faith is required, since a promise cannot be received unless with faith.

Pulling It Together

There is not only a different numbering of the verses in Jerome’s Latin translation of Daniel 4:24, but also a joining of verses 24 and 27 into one verse. Add to that the poor translation of a few words, and you end up with confusion. In English, we sometimes use the word “perhaps” when saying that something “may” happen. Yet, we also use the word “may” when there is certainty because of a promise of God, as in, “May it be so.” We state as much when we confidently add, “Amen,” to the end of the Lord’s Prayer. In our text, the word “may” ought to be understood this way: “...that he may forgive your sins.” In so doing, uncertainty is removed. At any rate, the Hebrew text is not speaking of redemption but of the lengthening of the king’s days.

So let us reject the entire squabble as not only a misunderstanding of the text, but a bad translation as well. May we comprehend the gospel instead, for there is nothing uncertain in Christ. Nowhere does the gospel require works or the earning of God’s grace. How could it be considered grace if it had to be earned? Rather, we confess that the grace of God is his freely given gift through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Prayer: Lord, give me unsurpassed peace through confidence in your free gift of redemption. Amen. 

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The Letters of Paul looks at all but one of Paul's thirteen epistles and seeks to get at the heart of each one so that his message can inspire new hope, faith, and love in us today.


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