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From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law
What need is there of a long discussion? All Scripture, all the Church cries out that the law cannot be satisfied. Therefore this rudimentary fulfillment of the law does not please on its own account, but on account of faith in Christ. Otherwise the law always accuses us. For who loves or fears God sufficiently? Who bears with sufficient patience the afflictions imposed by God? Who does not frequently doubt whether human affairs are ruled by God's counsel or by chance? Who does not frequently doubt whether he is heard by God? Who is not frequently enraged because the wicked enjoy a better lot than the godly, because the wicked oppress the godly? Who satisfies his own calling? Who loves his neighbor as himself? Who is not tempted by lust? Accordingly, Paul says, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do” (Rom 7:19). Likewise, “I of myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin” (Rom 7:25). Here he openly declares that he serves the law of sin. And David says, “Enter not into judgment with thy servant; for no man living is righteous before thee” (Psa 143:2). Here even a servant of God prays that judgment would be averted. Also, “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity” (Psa 32:2). Therefore, in our current weakness, there is always sin present that could be imputed. He says a little while later, “Therefore let every one who is godly offer prayer to thee” (Psa 32:6). Here he shows that even saints ought to seek forgiveness of sins.
Pulling It Together: Imagine the poor apostle, wanting to be godly but failing at the task. The things he set out to do, he was not able to perform. Conversely, the very things he wished to avoid were what he kept on doing. It is not hard to imagine, for this is the description of each and every one of us. Though we know this about ourselves, some of us would nonetheless imagine ourselves co-propitiators, a sort of tag team with Jesus. There is a style of wrestling where it is two against two, instead of one on one. Only two people wrestle at a time (at least that is the rule). When one of them gets in a tough spot and seems unlikely to prevail, he taps the hand of his partner, who then jumps into the ring and takes over the battle.
Jesus has won the battle. He does not need our help. We need his help. We cannot do what we determine to do, let alone what God commands. But Jesus has accomplished his mission. He has redeemed us. Our incompetent obedience and weak efforts add nothing to what Christ has done. Even if we were better at life than the Apostle Paul, our endeavors would still add nothing to our justification since Christ has already assigned his righteousness to us. It is finished. We may make the effort at doing some good because we wish to please and honor God. But be sure of this: it will never reconcile you to God. If you are like Paul, you probably will not accomplish what you planned at any rate.
Prayer: Though I fail and cannot trust myself, help me trust in you until that day. Amen.
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Advent Adventures takes a “novel” approach to the season by offering serialized fiction stories to be used by a congregation over the weeks of Advent. Written by Pastor Paul Koch, these books are intended as a resource for midweek Advent services, but they could also be used on Sunday mornings, with stories and reflections serving as the sermon for the day.
Each chapter in the larger story has a suggested psalm and scripture lesson along with a sermon reflection for the week, tying the fictional story to God’s story, proclaiming the gospel to the congregation. A suggested order for an evening vespers service is also included.