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From the Confessions: The Chief Articles of Faith in the Augsburg Confession
Concerning Good Works
Therefore, it may be readily seen that this doctrine ought not to be rejected for prohibiting good works, but should be commended because it shows how we are enabled to do good works. For without faith, human nature can not do the works of the First or of the Second Commandment. Without faith, we do not call upon God, expect anything from God, or bear the cross, but instead we seek and trust our own labors. Consequently, as there is no faith and trust in God, lusts and human inclinations rule the heart. This is the reason Christ said, “Apart from me you can do nothing,” (John 15:5) and the Church sings:
Lacking Thy divine favor,
There is nothing found in man,
Naught in him is harmless.
Pulling It Together
The doctrine of justification by faith does not rule out doing good works. Rather, it shows us how we are able to do good works. Left to our own devices, we would not even do the beginning of the commandments. We would not love God with our whole hearts, nor our neighbors as ourselves. We might try to be religious, but after enough failing in this endeavor, we would give up—or worse, become self-righteous in our devout behavior. We would either despair of our inability or become conceited by our aptitude for the task. Either way, we would do so without God's help, neither caring for, nor expecting God's assistance. Without faith, works become a trap. With the Spirit's help, we abide in the Vine who is Christ and little by little bear more and more fruit for him. This happens without our exertions but instead, because we are connected to the source of life. Though we fail often, we continue to abide because we trust in him, not in our produce.
Prayer: Live through me, Lord, so that I may be productive in your kingdom. Amen.
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A Reading and Discussion of the Augsburg Confession is written in easy-to-understand language but is a challenging study series based on assigned readings from the Book of Concord and related Scripture texts. Each study is comprised of eight sessions, plus an optional introductory session, each presented in a question and discussion format. Click here to see the Table of Contents and a sample session.