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From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Throughout the prophets and the psalms this worship, this latreia, is highly praised. Although the law does not teach the free forgiveness of sins, the Fathers knew the promise concerning the Messiah, that God would remit sins on account of the Christ. Therefore, since they understood that Christ would be the payment for our sins, they knew that our works are not a payment for so great a debt. Accordingly, they freely received mercy and forgiveness of sins by faith, just like the saints in the New Testament. Here belong those frequent repetitions about mercy and faith in the psalms and the prophets, such as, “If thou, O Lord, shouldst mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?” (Psa 130:3) Here David confesses his sins yet does not recount his merits. He adds, “But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.” (Psa 130:4) Here he comforts himself by trusting in God's mercy, and he cites the promise: “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope.” (Psa 130:5) In other words, “I am sustained by this your promise because you have promised the forgiveness of sins.”
Pulling It Together
Even the saints of old understood the kind of worship that expected blessings from God. It may not have seemed like they understood anything but a quid pro quo religion. Yet the patriarchs and prophets did know about the coming Messiah and that he would take away the sins of the world. Isaiah 53:3-7 is a good example of this ancient knowledge. Though they made offerings as prescribed by the law, they knew that these offerings in themselves were insufficient payment for their sin debt. They understood that God's mercy was his motivation for his forgiveness of their sins. So we see that the saints in the Old Testament, like those in the New Testament, had faith in God's merciful forgiveness. They trusted in his promise because he gave his word.
Prayer: I praise you, O Lord, for although my sin is great, your mercy is far greater. Amen.
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