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From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning Monastic Vows
Our opponents pretend that Paul abolishes the Law of Moses, and that Christ takes its place in such a way that he does not grant the forgiveness of sins freely, but because of keeping new laws that are devised. By this godless and fanatical illusion they conceal the benefit of Christ. Then they pretend that among those who observe this Law of Christ, the monks observe it more closely than others, on account of their poverty, obedience, and chastity—all of which are hypocrisies since indeed all these things are full of lies. They boast of poverty while enjoying an abundance of everything. They brag of their obedience, though no class of men has greater license than the monks. We do not like to speak about celibacy. Gerson indicates how pure this is in most of those who try to be chaste. But how many of them try?
Pulling It Together
Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matt 5:17). Paul then said, “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Rom 10:4). So, we see that Jesus perfectly kept the law, fulfilling all righteousness not only for himself, but for we who believe. Being God and man, his death accomplished new life for all who believe on him (Rom 8:3). This new life in Christ is a life of righteousness—not a righteousness of our own but the righteousness of Christ within us (Rom 8:4). Righteousness is not through the keeping of the law but because we keep the Name: because we have faith in Christ.
But does this mean that we no longer keep the commandments? After all, Luther urges us to meditate on them daily. “I am also a doctor and preacher, indeed, as learned and experienced as all those who have such presumption and security. Yet I do as a child who is being taught the Catechism. Every morning, and whenever I have time, I read and say, word for word, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Psalms, etc.” (The Large Catechism). He even teaches in The Large Catechism that children should be withheld food and drink until they can recite the commandments. That is a serious exhortation, and he exhorts adults along the same lines. Why? Does he do so because we need to have the knowledge, or because we need to know what God expects of us?
We are still required to keep the law—but not so that we will be saved. Christ has already saved us. So, he has given us a new law, “the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2). What is this law except a distillation of the whole law, or simply that first commandment that sums up all others? Jesus said as much when saying this is the most important commandment of all: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30–31). Love God and love your neighbor. In the ever popular parlance, “’Nuff said.”
Prayer: Help me to have faith in you, Lord, and to love those who irritate me. Amen.
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Personalities of Faith is a ten-session Bible study for youth. The goal of the series is to encourage young people to commit themselves to follow Jesus in discipleship by becoming "personalities of faith." By showing biblical examples of people who have followed—or failed to follow—God's call, participants will be prepared to better follow the Lord in their own lives.