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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
Concerning Justification, part 16

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1 Samuel 16:6–7

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

The flesh certainly does not love God if the carnal mind is belligerent toward him. If it cannot be subject to the law of God, it cannot love him. If the carnal mind is hostile toward God, the flesh sins, even when we do external civil works. If it cannot be subject to the law of God, it certainly sins even when, according to human judgment, it possesses deeds that are excellent and worthy of praise. The adversaries consider only the precepts of the Second Table which contain civil righteousness that reason understands. Content with this, they imagine that they satisfy the law of God. In the meanwhile, they do not see the First Table that commands that we love God, that we declare as true that God is angry with sin, that we truly fear God, and that we declare as certain that God hears prayer. But the human heart without the Holy Spirit either in security despises God's judgment, or in punishment flees from and hates God when he judges. So, it does not obey the First Table. Since contempt of God, and doubt concerning the Word of God, and about the threats and promises, are inherent to human nature, people truly sin even when they do virtuous works without the Holy Spirit because they do them with a wicked heart. According to Romans 14:23, “whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” Such persons perform their works with contempt of God, just as Epicurus does not believe that God cares for him, or that he is regarded or heard by God. This contempt corrupts works that are seemingly virtuous because God judges the heart.

Pulling It Together

God is concerned, though not primarily so, with the things that we do. The external matters such as are found in the second table of the law are there—in second place—for a reason. Keeping the Sabbath or the Lord's Day should not be your focus, as it is not God's primary interest in you. Honoring parents, murder, adultery, theft, lying, and coveting are all external matters that are of secondary importance. For if you keep the first table—that which is internal or of the heart—you will surely keep the second table, which is an external work. Since God looks at the heart, we ought to concern ourselves primarily with loving him with our whole self. Then the other eight commandments will be kept as well. This is why Jesus could say, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) Though some people can keep the second table, they are still in sin if they do not keep the first. For only the person who has received God's grace by being filled with his Spirit is able to keep the first table. That person is absolved of sin for Christ's sake.

Prayer: Lord, help me love you with my whole self today. Amen. 

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