From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning Confession and Satisfaction
Such is the following confession, “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in thy sight, so that thou art justified in thy sentence and blameless in thy judgment” (Psa 51:4). We might say: I confess that I am a sinner, and have merited eternal wrath. I cannot set my righteousness or merits against your wrath. So, I declare that you are just when you condemn and punish us. I declare that you are exonerated when hypocrites judge you to be unjust in punishing them or in condemning those who deserve condemnation. Yes, our merits cannot oppose your judgment. Nevertheless, we will be justified when you justify us, if through your mercy, you account us righteous.
Pulling It Together: Anyone who wants to achieve righteousness or justification with God through religious devotion, doing good deeds, or by other things they imagine gain them merit with God, will be dreadfully unsuccessful. They will find disappointment in this life and in the life to come. For in this life, all but the most arrogant will be tormented by doubt and guilt. The proud may rarely doubt themselves, and even get to the point that they do not listen to their troubled consciences anymore. Everyone else will doubt that their devotion and their works merit the desired results, since they know they are as sinful as ever. They know that God is just in condemning them, and even punishing them.
Yet there are people who have never pursued such righteousness but have attained it in spite of themselves. Their success, where so many others have failed, was due to faith. They believed that God forgave them—and this faith was accounted to them as righteousness. In God’s immeasurable mercy, they are lifted up by Christ to peace on earth and the promise of heaven. Those who pursue a righteousness based on works instead of faith, will always find Christ to be a stumbling block. He is in an obstacle to their works-righteousness on earth, and will be their dreaded disgrace at the gates of heaven.
Prayer: I have sinned against you, O God, and ask forgiveness for the sake of Christ Jesus, my Savior. Amen.
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