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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
Concerning Justification, part 19

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2 Corinthians 3:4–5

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

Since justification happens through a free promise, it follows that we cannot justify ourselves. Otherwise, why would there be a need to promise? For since the promise cannot be received except by faith, the gospel—inherently the promise of the forgiveness of sins and of justification for Christ's sake—proclaims the righteousness of faith in Christ, which the law does not teach. Nor is this the righteousness of the law. For the law requires works and perfection from us. But for Christ's sake, the gospel freely offers reconciliation to we who have been defeated by sin and death. This reconciliation is received not by works, but by faith alone. Such faith does not bring confidence in one's own merits to God, but only trust in the promise, or the mercy promised in Christ.

Pulling It Together

How misleading—and even rude—it would be to invite people to a party and then demand that they serve the guests in order to stay. Imagine a boy asking a girl out on a date and then telling her that she had to pay for the movie in order to remain his friend. That is essentially the scene we paint of God when we add the requirement of works to justification and salvation. God is perfectly within his rights to demand anything of us. He might have required that we must perfectly recite the Athanasian Creed in order to get into heaven. He could have demanded perfect attendance at church. He could have made the performance of things obligatory as he did under the old covenant. Instead, he has given us a promise through a new covenant in Christ. This covenant only requires that we believe the promise, that we believe that it is God who makes us holy through the perfect, reconciling work of our Lord. It may be difficult to believe that we do not have to do anything to earn our salvation, but that is nonetheless, the one thing that is required. Believe.

Prayer: Lord, help me today to remember that you are my sufficiency and grace. Amen. 

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