From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning the Marriage of Priests
The second argument of our opponents is that priests should be pure, according to this sentence: “Be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord” (Isa 52:11, KJV). They cite many things to this effect. We have already shown this argument to be especially false. For we have said that virginity without faith is not purity before God, while marriage is pure because of faith. “To the pure all things are pure” (Titus 1:15). We have also said that outward purity and the ceremonies of the law are not applicable here because the gospel requires purity of heart, not ceremonies of the law. It may be that the heart of a husband such as Abraham or Jacob, who were polygamists, is purer and burns less with lust than that of many virgins who are actually celibate.
Pulling It Together: What makes a sinner pure? Flagellations? Fastings? Offerings? Are these the things that King David did in order to be clean after his sin with Bathsheba? David well understood who did the cleansing. If God did not purify him and absolve him of his transgressions then he would never be clean, no matter the austerity of his religious practices. It is God alone who creates clean hearts and right spirits within us, who washes away our iniquities and cleanses us of sin. Those who imagine that they do these things have a basic misunderstanding of faith. They misconstrue in whom they are to have that faith. Perhaps without even realizing what they have done, they have placed their faith in themselves, in their religious acts. This is the dividing line of the Reformation, for, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Psa 127:1).
Prayer: Create a clean heart within me, O God. Amen.
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