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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
Concerning Justification, part 49

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1 For freedom Christ set us free. Hold your ground therefore, and do not be subjected again to a yoke of slavery. 2 Understand; I Paul say to you, that if you allow circumcision, Christ will be no benefit to you. 3 So, I testify again to every man who agrees to circumcision, that he is obligated to carry out the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law. You are fallen out of grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision amounts to anything, but faith working through love (Galatians 5:1–6)

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

We confess that love ought to follow faith, as Paul also says, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love” (Gal 5:6). Yet we must not think on that account, that by confidence in this love or on account of this love, we receive the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation, just as we do not receive the forgiveness of sins because of other works that follow. The forgiveness of sins is received by faith alone because the promise cannot be received except by faith, in the right sense of the word. But true faith is that which assents to the promise. Scripture speaks of this faith. And because it receives the forgiveness of sins, and reconciles us to God, by this faith we are accounted righteous for Christ's sake before we love and do the works of the law, although love necessarily follows. This faith is not an idle knowledge, nor can it coexist with mortal sin, but it is a work of the Holy Spirit, whereby we are freed from death, and terrified minds are encouraged and given life. Because this faith alone receives the forgiveness of sins, and renders us acceptable to God, and brings the Holy Spirit, it could be more correctly called gratia gratum faciens, grace rendering one pleasing to God, than an effect that follows, that is, love.

Pulling It Together Faith happens when the heart is prompted by the Holy Spirit to believe that the promise of God is true. By faith, we take hold of the gospel with confident hope, becoming certain that Jesus died for the sin of the world. Because of faith, we are certain that it is Christ alone who makes a person acceptable to God. We do not take into account of any good deeds except the gracious work of Christ on the cross. As a result of his work, our sins are forgiven.

Faith is so certain of forgiveness that it liberates us from the law. We stop looking over our shoulders, worrying that our sins have put us in bad standing with God. The law is no longer a burden; instead, we are delighted to keep the spirit of the law for Christ’s sake. We practice love, patience, self-control, faithfulness, meekness, and mercy—not because we are saved by doing so but because we want to please God. Again, pleasing God does not mean that we expect him to forgive us because of our deeds. Rather, because we believe that he has already forgiven us, we are now free to live the Christ life with a confidence that is no longer in ourselves, but in Christ alone.

Prayer: Thank you, God, for setting me free from the fear of sin and death, for Christ’s sake. Amen.

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