From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Therefore, we reject these pharisaic opinions of the adversaries, namely, that we do not receive by faith the forgiveness of sins, but that it ought to be earned by our love and works, that our love and our works must oppose the wrath of God. This doctrine is not of the gospel, but of the law, which feigns that people are justified by the law before being reconciled through Christ to God. Christ says, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5); likewise, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” But the adversaries contrive that we are branches, not of Christ, but of Moses. For they wish to be justified by the law, and to offer their love and works to God before they are reconciled to God through Christ, before they are branches of Christ.
Pulling It Together
How can I keep the law without Christ’s help? I cannot, for I will either not do it at all, do it imperfectly, or as likely as not, do it with an impure devotion. This was the very thing that the Pharisees did when they put their law-keeping on display—if only by pointing out to others their improper practices. So, I must admit that, if justification depended upon my devotion and my deeds, I would be in at least as bad a place as the ancient Pharisees. I will not quarrel with him, as they did, pointing to some righteous deed when it is obvious I do not love God with my whole heart. Instead, I will simply keep following him, despite my sins. And what does following him mean, except that when I see my works and my devotion wanting, that I stay by his side, continuing to believe in him when I am all-too-aware of my lack. I must conclude that following him is an act of the faith God has given me. In the end, this is all that matters: that I abide in Christ, and he in me. This is following; this is faith in Christ; and in this is salvation.
Prayer: Jesus, keep me near. Amen.
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