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From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning Original Sin
The scholastics rationalize both sin and punishment when they teach that people can fulfill the commandments of God by their own strength. Yet in Genesis, the punishment that is imposed because of original sin is described otherwise. Human nature is subjected there, not only to death and other physical problems, but also to the kingdom of the devil. It is there that this fearful sentence is proclaimed: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed” (Gen 3:15). The defects and the concupiscence are both punishment and sin. In a correct understanding, death and other physical maladies, and the dominion of the devil are punishments. For human nature has been enslaved and held captive by the devil, who provokes it with evil opinions and errors, and instigates all manner of sins. Just as the devil cannot be conquered except by the aid of Christ, we cannot free ourselves from that slavery by our own strength. Even the history of the world shows the great power of the devil's kingdom. The world is full of blasphemies against God and of unrighteous teaching, and the devil keeps tethered in these bonds those who are wise and righteous in the sight of the world. In other persons, grosser vices manifest themselves. But since Christ was given to us to remove both these sins and punishments, and to destroy the kingdom of the devil, sin, and death, the benefits of Christ cannot be recognized unless we understand our evil. For this reason, our preachers have diligently taught about these subjects, having delivered nothing novel. Instead, they have set forth Holy Scripture and the judgments of the holy Fathers.
Pulling It Together
Sin is a far more serious problem than most people realize or want to admit. In our day (at least in much of European and American societies), many people seem to think that if they ignore sin or call it something other than evil that it will go away. With such rationalizations, they imagine that there will also be no consequence for their thoughts and actions. This is largely a cultural issue. In ever-increasing ways, it is culture that informs us about what is wrong. Whereas this misinformation has certainly bled over into today's church, the problem at the time of the Reformation was more obviously religious. There were two problems regarding sin that the Reformers addressed. One, as already mentioned, the church no longer regarded sinful nature, the defects and inclination toward evil, as sin. Two, the church taught that both these inclinations and the things that they did admit to be sin could be countered by their own actions.
The teaching of Scripture however, even in its opening chapters, shows that because of the original sin of Adam's and Eve's disobedience, humanity is enslaved to sin, death, and the dominion of Satan. There is nothing people can do to free themselves from these consequences of human nature. The Lutherans confessed that only Christ can set us free from the bonds of sin, death, and the devil. Furthermore, they insisted that Christ's benefits could not be comprehended without a proper understanding of human depravity. There was nothing new or different in their doctrines, for these were the instructions of both the Bible and the Church Fathers.
Prayer: Thank you, Lord Jesus, for delivering me from this bondage to sin and death. Amen.
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