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From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning Confession and Satisfaction
The authors of the Confutation write that the abolition of satisfactions contrary to the plain gospel is not to be permitted. But as we have shown, the gospel does not command these canonical satisfactions, that is, these optional works to be done in order to compensate for punishment. The subject itself shows this. If works of satisfaction are not mandatory works, why do they cite the plain gospel? For if the gospel commands that punishments be compensated for by such works, those works would not be optional.
They speak this way in order to deceive the inexperienced, citing testimonies about required works, though in their own satisfactions they prescribe non-obligatory works. Indeed, they concede in their schools that satisfactions can be refused without that refusal being a sin. Obviously, they write falsely when they say that we are compelled by the plain gospel to undertake these canonical satisfactions.
Pulling It Together
Does God say to do something? Then it must be done. You shall love the Lord your God, and your neighbor as yourself. These are not options; they are express commands. If God has commanded us to do certain works in order to compensate for our punishments from sinning, then we must do those works. They are not options. We are obliged to do them, if there are such works commanded by God.
Now, there are certainly commands of God—things we are obliged to do. However, these requirements are not connected with earning God’s forgiveness, being relieved of guilt, or lessening punishments for sin. They are simply things we are obliged to do—or stand in need of a Savior’s forgiveness because we have broken God’s commandments. These works—obligatory or not—should not to be prescribed to people as being necessary for obtaining God’s mercy, for that is freely given to those who have faith in the atoning work of Jesus Christ.
Does this mean that we do not need to concern ourselves with being merciful? Of course not, for Jesus commands us to be merciful. This is not optional. It is also not required as a work to be done in order to satisfy God, be forgiven, or to lessen punishments.
Prayer: Help me to be merciful like you are, Father God. Amen.
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