From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning Human Traditions in the Church
This is also how human reason understands the discipline of the body and fasting. Their purpose is restraint of the flesh, but reason thinks of them as services which justify. Thomas [Aquinas] writes: “Fasting avails for the extinguishing and the prevention of guilt.” These are the words of Thomas. Thus people are deceived by the illusion of wisdom and righteousness in such works. Additionally, people try to imitate the lives of the saints, for the most part imitating the outward exercises without their faith.
Pulling It Together: Human righteousness tends to look down its nose at those not religious in the same way. It is always watching to see what others are not doing so that it can compare all it does. These are, of course, outward things like ceremonies, rites, fasting, and manner of dress. If such things are regulated, one may easily determine if they are being righteous. More important to the self-righteous, one may also easily determine if others are not being righteous.
We are so easily deceived. It is not the outward things that matter. We may justify ourselves to other people because of our religious practices. But God knows the heart (Luke 16:15). God’s ways are not like our ways (Is 55:8). So we should not be surprised that outward disciplines are not at all important without faith toward God in the heart. This requires enough humility to admit that one is a sinner in need of the Savior.
Prayer: I thank you, Lord, that I am a sinner whom you love. Amen.
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Saints and Sinners, Witnesses to the Faith, is the first in a three-volume series on saints and sinners in the New Testament who were powerful witnesses to faith in Christ. May this study of saints and sinners enrich your understanding of life with Christ and encourage you in discipleship.