From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning Human Traditions in the Church
Lastly, how are we assured of justification through rites that have been instituted by people but which do not have God’s command, since nothing can be affirmed about God’s will without God’s Word? What if God does not approve of these services? How, then, do the adversaries assert that they justify, since this cannot be verified without God’s Word and testimony. Paul says, “Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Rom 14:23). Since these services have no testimony from God’s Word, consciences will surely doubt whether they please God.
Pulling It Together: The Brief Order for Confession and Forgiveness (Lutheran Book of Worship, 56) asserts that, “we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves.” There is nothing we can do that will serve to extricate us from our slavery to sin. Nor can we be certain that God will honor fabricated rituals or other acts of worship meant to earn God’s favor, however well-intentioned. Indeed, while we cannot help but doubt whether God is pleased with such human institutions, we should actually not believe they could ever merit God’s favor.
God has already revealed through the testimony of his Word how we are given his grace—forgiven, justified, and granted eternal life—and it is not through the observance of religious ceremonies. Our robes are washed and whitened—that is to say, we are cleansed from sin—through the blood of the Lamb (Rev 7:14). This is not done at the neighborhood laundromat; it must be believed. No extra bleaching is necessary for Christ has fully cleansed those who have faith in him. Therefore, we do not need to add our works or other observances in order to be forgiven and saved, for the water of life is given without cost because Jesus paid that price (Gal 3:13–15.
Prayer: Father, help me to never doubt your grace. Amen.
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The Spiritual Realms is a nine-session Bible Study series on Heaven and Hell and places beyond this world. Specifically, the study looks at the many “place names” that are found throughout Scripture, referring to spiritual realms of existence that underlie and comprise the universe God created. This Bible Study series is a challenging one, in that it explores realities of existence beyond what we know and experience everyday.
The study not only addresses matters of life, death, heaven and hell, it steadfastly affirms that Jesus Christ is at the center of all these things. Our ultimate faith and hope rest in Christ’s death and resurrection for our sake. We live in faith by the biblical promise that: “God raised the Lord, and will also raise us up by his power” (1 Cor 6:14).