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From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning Ecclesiastical Power
We make the same reply to Matthew 23:3. “Practice and observe whatever they tell you,” is clearly not a universal command to observe all things since elsewhere, Scripture tells us to “obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Therefore, when they teach wicked things, they are not to be heard. But these are wicked things: that human traditions are worship of God, that they are necessary, and that they merit the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
Pulling It Together
The old saying, “Do as I say but not as I do,” is applicable to pharisaical instruction. Jesus is teaching that we ought to observe right teaching of the Scripture, though not necessarily imitate the actions of those teaching. However, if someone’s teaching is contrary to God’s Word and command, that person’s teaching is to be censured. In particular, if anyone’s teaching declares that a human regulation or ritual must be done before God will forgive, that doctrine should be rejected outright. It is easy to determine what is right doctrine in these matters, by applying the rule of faith. Does a doctrine require you to add anything to faith in God before you may be forgiven or know the assurance of eternal life? Does a teaching demand you do something before your faith in Christ is acceptable? If a doctrine of forgiveness and salvation calls for anything to be added to faith, do not observe such a wicked teaching. If you do, you are obeying people instead of God.
Prayer: Lord, give me a spirit that hears your holy Word. Amen.
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