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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
Concerning the Number and Use of the Sacraments part 11

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Romans 4:7–11

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Number and Use of the Sacraments 

It is more necessary to understand how the sacraments are to be used. Here we condemn the whole crowd of scholastic doctors, who teach that the sacraments confer grace ex opere operato, without a good disposition on the part of the one using them, unless there is some hindrance in the way. Thinking that we are justified by a ceremony, without a good disposition of the heart, that is, without faith, is simply Judaism. Yet this godless and insidious view is taught with great authority throughout the entire realm of the Pope. Paul disagrees (Rom 4:9), denying that Abraham was justified by circumcision, but asserts that circumcision was a sign given to exercise faith. So we teach that faith should to be added when using the sacraments, that one should believe the promises, and receive the promised things offered in the sacrament.

Pulling It Together

Faith is absolutely necessary. Christianity is not a list of things to do; it is faith in the one who has done what we could never do. So, even when we do things—things like baptism and communion—it is not really we who do them. It is God baptizing. It is God giving his body and shedding his blood. This requires faith because it is not the doing of the thing that brings grace. It is God doing the thing that brings grace. We are not justified by doing the thing but by having faith, by believing that God is doing something—that he is forgiving, regenerating, and saving as he promises to do.

Prayer: Give me a heart of faith in you, Lord. Amen. 

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