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From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law
But Christ was given for this purpose: that for his sake the forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit may be given to us to bring forth in us new and eternal life, and eternal righteousness. Therefore the law cannot be truly kept unless the Holy Spirit is received through faith. Accordingly, Paul says that the law is established by faith, not abolished, because the law can only then be thus kept when the Holy Spirit is given. Paul also teaches that the veil that covered the face of Moses cannot be removed except by faith in Christ (2Cor 3:15-16), by which the Holy Spirit is received. He says, “Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their minds; but when a man turns to the Lord the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” By “the veil,” Paul means the human opinion concerning the entire law, the Decalogue, and the ceremonies. In other words, hypocrites think that external and civil works satisfy the law of God, and that sacrifices and observances justify before God ex opere operato. But when this veil is removed from us, when we are freed from this error, God reveals to our hearts our unrighteousness and the heinousness of sin. Then, for the first time, we see that we are far from fulfilling the law. Only then do we understand how flesh, dwelling in security and indifference, does not fear God, and is not fully certain that we are favored by God, but imagines that men are born and die by chance. Then we see that we do not believe that God forgives and hears us. But when we hear the gospel and the forgiveness of sins, we are consoled by faith and receive the Holy Spirit so that now we are able to think correctly about God, and to fear and believe God, and so forth. It is plain from these facts that the law cannot be kept without Christ and the Holy Spirit.
Pulling It Together: Why did the Father send his Son to earth? He did this so that humanity would be redeemed. In other words, Jesus, the long-awaited Savior, came to save us from sin and death by justly forgiving our sins and giving us rebirth and his own eternal righteousness. This is something we could never do for ourselves through keeping the law. So, Jesus fulfilled the law and gave us his Spirit so that we could practice even the spirit of the law—the first table that commands us to love God. His Spirit produces true love for God in us so that we no longer seek to satisfy God through mere performance of good deeds. Rather, we live for God because we love him. We love him because his Son satisfied the law for us. All of this happens when we hear the gospel and believe what God has done for us through Christ. Only then does the Holy Spirit indwell us and produce the kind of love in us that desires to keep the whole law. We do not love him first and then receive his forgiveness as a reward. Rather, while we were still sinners, God first loved us, and sent his Son to die for us and for our sins (Rom 5:8). It is clear that the love of God for us is what produces love for God within us.
Prayer: Thank you, Jesus, for putting to death my old nature and giving me rebirth, a new nature, so that I may fear and love you in the power of your Spirit. Amen.
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Sola’s Word of Life series is a resource for those looking to develop small groups built around the Word of God. This model of small-group ministry is an excellent tool for evangelism since it is rooted in prayer and Scripture. Its primary focus is to empower those who believe in Jesus Christ to be comfortable sharing their faith and inviting others to experience a transformed life in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Meant for use in small group gatherings, each of the six sessions in Dwell in My Love is based on a primary Scripture text, with intentional time for reflection. There are questions, prayer, faith sharing, and mini evangelism case-studies. The series would be helpful for those involved in starting a Bible study fellowship, house church, or mission congregation. It can also be used by established congregations to aid in establishing a small group ministry.