From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law
If there be no need of Christ, if by our love we can overcome death, if by our love, without Christ as propitiator, we have access to God, then let our adversaries remove the promise concerning Christ; let them abolish the gospel. The adversaries corrupt very many passages because they bring to them their own opinions. They do not derive the meaning from the passages themselves. What difficulty is there in this passage when we remove the imagined interpretation that the adversaries attach to it because they do not understand what justification is or how it occurs? Already being justified, the Corinthians had received many excellent gifts. In the beginning they glowed with zeal, as is generally the case. Then dissensions began to arise among them, and as Paul indicates, they began to dislike good teachers. Accordingly, Paul reproves them, recalling them to responsibilities of love. Although these are necessary, it would be foolish to imagine that works of the Second Table justify us, for they deal with people, not expressly with God. Justification is a transaction by God through which his wrath is appeased and our conscience is pacified before God. None of this comes about through works of the Second Table.
Pulling It Together
Yes! We should obey God by loving one another and doing acts of charity and other good works. Yet these actions will never conquer sin and death or provide access to God. Claiming that they accomplish such great effects is to call the good news of Jesus Christ ineffective. However, when we read the Scripture in context, we understand that God’s reconciling work is wholly sufficient. Basing a doctrine on a verse can mislead, as in the case in question. When we consider the entire unit of thought, we see that the Corinthians had already been justified by Christ and, as a result, had been eager to obey God. In time however, they listened to teachers who told them what they wanted to hear by tickling their ears with false doctrines (2 Tim 4:3, NASB) instead of teaching the whole counsel of Scripture. This is when good teachers must use the law to demonstrate that we cannot keep God’s commands. For, “the Law is a word of death, a doctrine of wrath, a light of sadness, which reveals sin and demands righteousness from us, which we cannot produce” (“Epistle for the Day of the Three Holy Kings,” Luther’s Works). Only then will people be driven back to the gospel, to the righteousness of Christ alone. When we comprehend that he first loved us, then we may rightly respond to his command to love one another.
Prayer: Thank you, God, for your law that accuses me, causing me to rely upon your Son instead of myself. Amen.
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Sola Publishing offers some free downloadable resources for congregations and leaders in developing a Stewardship Emphasis for 2015-2016. The theme for this year's Stewardship Emphasis is "Returning to God our First Fruit." The key Bible verse comes from Deuteronomy 26:10: “Behold, now I bring the first fruit of the ground, which you, O Lord, have given me.”