From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
So as not to appear to agree with the Pelagians, they make a distinction between due merit (meritum congrui) and complete merit (meritum condigni). For, if God necessarily gives grace for due merit, it is no longer due merit, but a true duty and complete merit. They do not understand what they are saying. Once this habit of love is present, they imagine that people are able to acquire merit (de condigno). Yet they tell us to doubt whether there is even a habit present. How then, do they know whether they acquire merit partially (de congruo) or fully (de condigno)? This whole matter was fabricated by idle men who did not know how the forgiveness of sins occurs or how, in the judgment of God and through terrors of conscience, trust in works is driven out of us. Secure hypocrites always judge that they fully acquire merit (de condigno), whether the habit is present or not, because men naturally trust in their own righteousness. But terrified consciences waver and hesitate. Then they seek and accumulate other works in order to find peace. Such consciences never think that they acquire enough merit (de condigno), and they rush into despair unless they hear, in addition to the doctrine of the law, the gospel about unmerited forgiveness of sins and the righteousness of faith.
Pulling It Together: Where do these ideas come from, except from the minds of those who have turned from the clear teaching of Scripture to their own speculations? Why would one wonder whether they had fully earned God's grace? If it must be earned, is it grace? Wondering about such things is an indication that one does not understand the ways of God at all. It is not necessary to navigate the fine line between heresies such as Pelgianism (that there is no original sin and therefore one is able to be good) and conjectures about preceding (or provenient) habits of grace. Lutherans teach that one is not saved through either half or full measures of merit that are calculated on religious and self-righteous works. Rather, we are altogether saved—not partially but completely—by God's doing, not ours. He did so because of his mercy, not because one has developed a habit that deserves God's further grace. He saved us through the regeneration and renewal of his Spirit who is poured out on us so richly through Christ that we need not wonder if we have enough grace. Grace is not accumulated by the person but extravagantly gifted by God. Of course there is meritum condigni. How could there be anything but complete merit since it is God who gives it so freely? How could there be anything but meritum congrui or partial grace if one were trying to earn God's favor? In that case, just to be clear, there would only be worthless religion (Matt 7:21-23) and no grace at all—since it cannot be earned.
Prayer: Thank you, God, for saving me so completely. Amen.
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