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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law part 142

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Genesis 4:3–5

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

Whenever the law and works are mentioned, we must know that Christ is not to be excluded as mediator. For he is the end of the law, just as Jesus himself says, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). As we have said above, all passages concerning works can be judged by this rule. Therefore, when eternal life is granted to works, it is granted to those who have been justified, since no one can do good works except those who are justified, who are led by the Spirit of Christ. Good works do not please God without faith in Christ as mediator. “Without faith it is impossible to please him.” (Heb 11:6).

Pulling It Together

Be careful that you do not expect God to favor you on the merits of your offerings or works or religious activity. God only has regard for such things when they are done with faith in him. Our instinct, however, is to trust in our works. At harvest time, Cain brought an offering of grain. There is nothing wrong with offerings of grain; we see God accepting them throughout the Old Testament. There was, however, a problem with the one making the offering. That is why God did not accept either Cain’s offering or even Cain himself (Gen 4:5). This disregard for Cain suggests that God did not answer the prayers that accompanied Cain’s offering.

Abel is remembered differently. He is not noted for bringing a superior kind of offering, his being animal instead of grain. The writer of Hebrews tells us that Abel’s offering was accepted by God because it was given with faith in God (Heb 11:4). Abel had faith in God. Cain trusted his offering.

Prayer: O Lord, I trust in you. Amen.

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