1 John 3:23-24
From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law
The righteousness of Christ is given to us through faith, so faith is righteousness in us by imputation. We are made acceptable to God because of the imputation and ordinance of God, as Paul says, “Faith is reckoned as righteousness” (Rom 4:3-5). Because of certain critics, we must speak technically: faith is truly righteousness because it is obedience to the gospel. Obviously, obedience to the command of a superior is plainly and truly a form of distributive justice. This obedience to the gospel is reckoned for righteousness, so that, only because we apprehend Christ as propitiator, are good works or obedience to the law pleasing. For we do not satisfy the law, but for Christ's sake this is forgiven us, as Paul says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1).
Pulling It Together
If you are looking for something that you must do, some righteous work that gains eternal life, there is only one thing necessary. Believe in Christ (John 6:29). That is God’s commandment: believe. The Apostle John teaches us that this is God’s greatest commandment, that belief in Christ is the same thing as loving “the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt 22:37). The next time you think that you surely do not love God with your whole heart, ponder this. Despite your sin, indeed, even if you consider yourself the worst of sinners (1 Tim 1:15), do you still believe in Christ? Do you still take hold of him as the means of forgiveness? Then you have kept God’s greatest commandment. There is nothing else to do but believe in Christ. Through this faith, God makes you truly righteous by instilling the righteousness of Christ in you. This is why you cannot be condemned (Rom 8:1): Christ with all of his righteousness now abides in you because you have kept God’s greatest commandment by believing in the name of his Son.
Prayer: Father, grow my faith in your Son and my love for all people. Amen.
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The Basics of the Christian Faith is an edition of the catechism that is aimed at seekers, visitors, and those that may not come from a Lutheran background. It is recommended for use in outreach, as a visitor welcome gift, or in new member packets.