From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law
But some one may ask: Since we also profess that love is a work of the Holy Spirit, and since it is righteousness because it is the fulfilling of the law, why do we not teach that it justifies? To this we must reply that in the first place, it is certain that we do not receive forgiveness of sins either through or because of our love, but on account of Christ's, by faith alone. Faith alone looks upon the promise that overcomes the terrors of sin and death, and knows with certainty that God forgives because Christ has not died in vain. If any one doubts whether sins are forgiven, that person dishonors Christ by judging that his sin is greater or more effective than the death and promise of Christ, although Paul says, “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom 5:20)—that is, mercy is more comprehensive than sin.
If any one thinks that he obtains the forgiveness of sins because he loves, he dishonors Christ and will discover in God's judgment that this confidence in his own righteousness is wicked and vain. Therefore it is essential that faith reconciles and justifies. And as we do not receive forgiveness of sins through other virtues of the law or on account of them—because of patience, chastity, obedience to magistrates, and so forth—nevertheless these virtues ought to follow. We do not receive forgiveness of sins because of love toward God, although it is necessary that this should follow faith.
Pulling It Together: The conscience is a restless thing. It is always busy trying to soothe itself. This never works since there is only one thing that brings peace. The absolute certainty that one’s sins are forgiven brings peace. This peace comes through the gracious work of Christ, not through our deeds, character, or virtue. “But what must I do?” the busy conscience demands. Nothing. Be still. Accept that God is in control. You cannot add anything but chaos with your virtuous busyness. Do you really think that you are able to do more than God? He has done it all at Calvary. Be still and know that God is God—and you are not.
Prayer: Lord and Reconciler, be a truly present help in times of trouble. Amen.
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