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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
Concerning Original Sin part 14

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Matthew 5:27–30

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Original Sin 

But they contend that concupiscence is a punishment, and not a sin, while Luther maintains that it is sin. It has been cited above that Augustine defines original sin in connection with concupiscence. If there is anything wrong with this explanation, let them quarrel with Augustine. Besides Paul says, “I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet” (Rom 7:7). He also says, “I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members” (Rom 7:23). These testimonies cannot be overthrown by sophistry. For they clearly call concupiscence sin, which nevertheless, is not imputed to those who are in Christ, even though by nature it is a matter worthy of death if it is not forgiven. This, beyond all controversy, is what the Fathers believed. For in a long discussion, Augustine refutes the opinion of those who thought that concupiscence in people is not a fault, but an adiaphoron, such as the color of the body or ill health is said to be an adiaphoron.

Pulling It Together

It was not only those who penned the confutation who did not consider concupiscence, lust or the inclination and desire to sin, an actual sin in and of itself. Other Reformers thought the same thing. They used the word sin only with regards to a thing done. The Lutherans spoke in those terms too, but they were careful to note that original sin deals not only with what people do, but with the human nature that causes them to sin. Jesus also cut to the point, calling human nature itself sinful. One need not transgress by physical action to have committed a sin. Just thinking about the sin is itself a sin (Matt 5:28). Jesus sees the sin but the Lutherans' adversaries did not see lust as sin or a flaw in nature that is deserving of death and condemnation. They called it adiaphoron, something that is neutral, that one could be indifferent about, that made no more difference than the color of ones' skin. However, this was clearly not the position of Scripture, Jesus, or of the Church Fathers. Nor was it the view of the Lutherans, who along with Scripture, Jesus, and the Fathers, were not neutral toward concupiscence. They called it a sin that deserved death and damnation—unless it is forgiven by God for Christ's sake.

Prayer: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Amen.

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