From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
It is also false that reason, by its own strength, is able to love God above all things and fulfill God's law. It cannot truly fear God, be truly confident that God hears prayer, be willing to obey God in death and other trials, or to not covet what belongs to others, etc. However, reason can produce civil works.
Pulling It Together: The first use of the law is social in nature, for it creates boundaries and consequences for those who do wrong. This is as far as reason or earthly righteousness goes. By itself, it can never create true love for God. It can create in a person the observance of religious duties that are often confused with true love of God. For example, the righteousness of reason can make a person mumble the Lord's Prayer without ever actually expecting a loving Father to be actively listening and desiring to answer that person's other prayers during the course of a day. Earthly righteousness might cause a person to take their children to church—because it is “the right thing to do.” But when tragedy or trial comes their way, does reason alone sustain them? As often as not, people will then turn away from the church to some other activity.
God's grace is required in order to really love him and keep his law. This is always the case but it is obvious when life gets difficult. If a person has been depending on their own external works of righteousness, their religion will begin to suffer under stress. When people rely upon their own strength, they will turn away from the Lord. But the person of faith will continue to place their confidence in God. When their own social and religious activities do not bring about anticipated results and life becomes difficult, the person of faith still loves God and walks in his ways.
Prayer: Thank you, Holy Spirit, for sustaining me with your grace. Amen.
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Family Matters is a nine-session Bible study that focuses on the first generations of God's people—Abraham and his descendants. It looks at how God's covenant promise sustained them as they navigated family relationships.