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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
The Smalcald Articles – part 21

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Romans 3:23–25a

From the Confessions: The Smalcald Articles 

3. Likewise, “all have sinned” and “are justified” without merit “by his grace,” “through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” “in his blood” (Rom 3:23-25a).

Pulling It Together: The justification of sinners is received as God’s gift, not because of religious or moral activity. Justification is a legal term, appropriated by the Apostle Paul to express God’s great gift. It means that a person is vindicated of a crime. So, let us imagine what that looks like. You are served an arrest warrant, brought to the courthouse, and appear before the judge. The judge reads the charge: you have committed crimes against the state—and there is substantial evidence to prove the veracity of the charge. You are indeed this criminal, and the penalty is death. As your life flashes before your eyes, you try to make sense of the words you now hear coming from the judge’s mouth. You have been forgiven your crime. No fee need be paid—not even court costs. No jail time or community service will be required. It is only the good grace of the judge, freely offered to you, that now makes you a just person. Now, the judge is not being impulsive or unjust. Your punishment has been paid by another; the court is satisfied.

This is what happens through the grace of God by the blood of Christ. You are guilty as charged but the Judge absolves you because Christ has satisfied the righteous requirement of the law. You have been justified “by faith” in the Son of God. Christ earned your salvation. Not you. Christ alone.

Prayer: Thank you, Father, for the great gift of your redeeming love. Amen.

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Hymns and Spiritual Songs from The North is a compilation of Nordic hymns. In the spirit of Martin Luther, such a hymn is usually a meditation or sermon on a Biblical text that grows out of the text for a Sunday. Sometimes it is long and slow, even mournful, giving singers the possibility of meditating on God's Word in their own context. Less often it is joyful, but it is always filled with longing and hope. We can imagine the grandma, during long dark winters, sitting by the fire, spinning or knitting as she sang stanza after stanza of an old favorite hymn or spiritual song, teaching her grandchildren to sing along with her. When they learned to lisp those words with her, they were learning how Scripture could be used to meet the deepest sorrows and the greatest joys of life.

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