From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning Confession and Satisfaction
Common calamities are not removed by these works of canonical satisfactions, that is, by performing these human traditions, which they say avail ex opere operato so that, even though they are performed in mortal sin, they redeem from punishments. A passage of Paul is cited against us: “But if we judged ourselves truly, we should not be judged” (1 Cor 11:31). The word “judge” should not be understood as referring to works one is not required to perform—but to the whole of repentance, including fruits that should follow. Our adversaries pay the penalty for despising grammar when they understand “judge” to refer to such things as making a pilgrimage clad in mail to the church of St. James, or similar works. To judge signifies entire repentance; it means to condemn sins. This condemnation really occurs in contrition and a change of life. The entire repentance—contrition, faith, and good fruits—obtains the mitigation of public and private punishments and calamities, as Isaiah teaches. “Cease to do evil; learn to do good... Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow... If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land” (Isa 1:16–19).
Pulling It Together: Works of repentance are required of us. They are not non-compulsory things that we can use to purchase our redemption or righteousness. Indeed, we should not expect that doing such works makes us righteous before God. The same prophet who demands these works of repentance, later claims that we are only made righteous in the Lord, in other words, not by our works. “Only in the LORD, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength” (Isa 45:24). One is saved through repentance, which means turning from sin, yes, but by turning to the Lord in faith. For he is our “righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor 1:30). He says, “Turn to me and be saved” (Isa 45:22).
Prayer: Help me to truly repent, O Holy Spirit of the Father, through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.
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