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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law part 82

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John 13:4–10

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

The adversaries misuse the universal particle “all.” Christ adds this conclusion to both clauses. All things will be clean to you if you are clean within and outwardly give alms. He indicates that outward cleanness is to be referred to works commanded by God instead of to human traditions such as the washings were at that time, or in our own time, the daily sprinkling of water, the clothing of monks, the distinctions of food, and similar acts of ostentation. But the adversaries distort the meaning by sophistically transferring the universal particle to only one part: "All things will be clean to those having given alms."

Pulling It Together

All things are clean to you if you are clean within and without, bathed on the inside and the outside, washed in faith and in action. Indeed, if you have been cleansed within by God, then your outward works will spring from that cleanness. Those works do not cleanse since one is already clean. The person who is clean does not do things in order to become clean. This would be like a person who steps from the shower in order to wash the hands. That person’s hands are already clean, yet their fear of germs drives them to wash again and again, though they are already clean.

If you have been cleansed by the word of Christ (John 15:3), you are already clean. You do not need to do things to become clean. Instead, because you are clean, you do clean works. As we go through life doing good works in Christ’s name, we must remember that he has already cleansed us within. Our good works do not make us clean, so they should not be done with that intention. Daily repentance and dependence upon God through faith in Christ keeps us clean. 

Prayer: Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, Lord, and cleanse me from my sin. Amen. 

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