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From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Since we do not speak of such faith as an idle thought, but that which liberates from death and produces a new life in hearts, and is the work of the Holy Spirit, it does not coexist with mortal sin. Rather, as long as it is present, it produces good fruit, as we will address later. What can be said more simply and more clearly about the conversion of the wicked, or concerning the mode of regeneration? Having so great an array of writers, let them produce a single commentary upon the Sentences that speaks of the mode of regeneration. When they speak of the habit of love, they imagine that men merit it through works, just as the Anabaptists now teach. They do not teach that it is received through the Word. But God cannot be dealt with, he cannot be apprehended, except through the Word. Accordingly, justification occurs through the Word, just as Paul says that the gospel is, “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes,” (Rom 1:16) and that, “faith comes from what is heard” (Rom 10:17). From this we confess that faith justifies because if justification occurs only through the Word, and the Word is apprehended only by faith, it follows that faith justifies. Yet there are other more important reasons. So far, we have said these things so that the nature of that faith we are talking about is understood and to explain how regeneration occurs.
Pulling It Together
Faith is not ineffectual—or as some insinuate, “pie in the sky.” Faith is a light, life, and force in a person that renews the heart, mind, and spirit (1 Thes 5:23). Faith makes new people of those who believe in Christ. Since it does these things, it does not coexist with willful sin, for how can light and darkness coexist (2 Cor 6:14)? Instead, faith produces good fruit. This kind of faith is received through the Word of God. This is why justification is received in the same way. Justification, the saving faith that reconciles God, comes by what is heard through the Word. One does not earn justifying faith; one receives it by the word of Christ.
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for the light of your Word that illuminates the path of faith. Amen.
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Hymns and Spiritual Songs from The North is a compliation of Nordic hymns. In the spirit of Martin Luther, such a hymn is usually a meditation or sermon on a Biblical text that grows out of the text for a Sunday. Sometimes it is long and slow, even mournful, giving singers the possibility of meditating on God's Word in their own context. Less often it is joyful, but it is always filled with longing and hope. We can imagine the grandma, during long dark winters, sitting by the fire, spinning or knitting as she sang stanza after stanza of an old favorite hymn or spiritual song, teaching her grandchildren to sing along with her. When they learned to lisp those words with her, they were learning how Scripture could be used to meet the deepest sorrows and the greatest joys of life.