From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law
These things cannot occur until we have been justified by faith, born again, and receive the Holy Spirit. This is because first, the law cannot be kept without Christ, and second, the law cannot be kept without the Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit is received by faith, according to the testimony of Paul, “That we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Gal 3:14). Then too, how can the human heart love God while it thinks that he is terribly angry, and is oppressing us with temporal and perpetual calamities? But the law always accuses us, always shows that God is angry. God therefore, is not loved until we understand his mercy by faith. Not until then does he become someone we can love.
Pulling It Together: “Let me know how that works out for you,” some friends of mine remark whenever people say they are going to do something considered unlikely or even impossible. It is a sarcastic reply, meaning that they do not even have to mention later that they were unable to do what they said they were going to do. We might say the same to those who intend to keep the law by their own strength. Good luck with that; “let me know how that works out for you.” Soon enough, it will be discovered that the law was unable to be kept, while it constantly accused them of their inability.
Even if one is able to keep the law with some degree of perfection, the law is still not kept, because it has been undertaken as an effort of human will. It is not kept for the right reasons, since that person is relying on works of the law to be reconciled to God. Therefore, as Luther said, “In “keeping” the Law he does not keep it” (Luther’s Works, vol 26, 268). These people “remain under the curse.” (ibid)
Because redemption is through his blood, not our sweat, Christ saved us from this curse and from the accusations of the law. It is only by the grace of God, not our efforts, that we discover his mercy and love. We also find that we keep the law because Christ has fulfilled for us. When we believe in Christ, we receive his Holy Spirit, who helps us rely upon God despite our failings. The result is that we persevere at living godly lives but do not depend upon ourselves to be godly. Instead, we have faith in God’s rich grace, love, and mercy toward us.
Prayer: Holy Spirit, help me live a godly life today, through faith in the Son of God. Amen.
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A Reading and Discussion of the Augsburg Confession is a more challenging study series based on assigned readings from the Book of Concord and related Scripture texts. Each study is comprised of eight sessions, plus an optional introductory session, presented in a question and discussion format. The Leader's Guide that accompanies this study is a resource for those facilitating group discussion, or may serve as a reader's commentary for those who are studying the Book of Concord on their own.