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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
The Smalcald Articles part 22

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1 John 1:7–9

From the Confessions: The Smalcald Articles – part 22

Now, because this can not be acquired or apprehended by any work, law, or merit, but must be believed, it is clear and certain that only this faith justifies us. St. Paul says, “For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law” (Rom 3:28). A few verses earlier, Paul states that, God alone “is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus” (Rom 3:26). 

Pulling It Together

Divine justice owes humanity nothing. We do not deserve to be justified to God because of anything we do. Indeed, our sin and sinfulness deserve exactly the opposite. This is not a system of quid pro quo, as though one good deed makes up for one bad, or that a promise to do better, along with a little community service, gets one off the hook. We are on sin’s hook from the get-go. The only way we are gotten off that hook is through faith in God’s justice, his system of merit. We confess our sins and have faith that God will do as he promised: forgive us of our sins and purge us of all unrighteousness. He is not merely faithful to do so but also just, not because we have earned it but, for Christ’s sake. 

Prayer: Help me to walk in the light—not any dim ray from my own deeds, but in the full, glorious light of Christ alone. Amen.

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