From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
The particle “alone” offends some, although even Paul says, “For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law” (Rom 3:28). Again, “It is the gift of God — not because of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph 2:8b-9). Again, “They are justified by his grace as a gift” (Rom 3:24). If the exclusive “alone” displeases, let them remove from Paul also the exclusives “freely,” “apart from works,” “as a gift,” etc. For these also are exclusives. We do exclude the idea of merit. We do not, however, exclude the Word or Sacraments, as the adversaries falsely charge us. For we have said above that faith is conceived from the Word, and we honor the ministry of the Word in the highest degree. Love also and works must follow faith. Therefore, they are not excluded as things that follow faith. But confidence in the merit of love or in works is excluded in justification. And this we will clearly show.
Pulling It Together: Imagine a man condemned to spend the rest of his life in prison. One day, the word comes from the jailer that the president has pardoned his offense. It is too good to be true. Decades later, he dies, still sitting in prison. He never could believe the guard's report that a criminal like himself had been set free. After all, there had been no conditions, only the promise of the president. So, the man spent his remaining years in prison, working off his sentence and trying to become a good man. He was only freed from prison by his own death.
It seems incredible that one could be delivered from their eternal fate because they simply believe. Surely there must be more to Christianity than that. There must be rules and regulations, things to do and observe. If people are such wretched sinners, they must have to do something to become righteous and escape the consequences. Nevertheless, Lutherans confess that we are saved by God's grace alone, this happening through faith and not works of the law.
Prayer: Help me believe your good word alone, Lord, instead of the religion that I would add. Amen.
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