From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law
This godless opinion concerning works has always existed in the world. The Gentiles had sacrifices derived from the fathers. They imitated their works but did not keep their faith. Instead, they thought that the works were a propitiation and price by which God would be reconciled to them. The people in the law imitated sacrifices with the opinion that these works would appease God, so to say, ex opere operato. We see how earnestly the prophets rebuke the people about this opinion. “I do not reprove you for your sacrifices” (Psa 50:8). “I did not speak to your fathers or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices” (Jer 7:22). Such passages do not condemn works, which God had certainly commanded as outward functions in the government, but they condemn the godless opinion that by these works people appeased the wrath of God, and thereby eliminated faith.
Pulling It Together: The working of the work does nothing to temper the Almighty. You could sacrifice a thousand burnt offerings and it would not pacify him. You could serve on every committee in your church and it would not justify you to God. What else could you try? Well, you could give every dollar that you earn this year to missions. But you have already surmised the correct answer. That, also, would not reconcile God.
Is God displeased with sacrifice, service, and offerings? Not necessarily. These works must be done in faith that God is reconciled by faith in the sacrifice of his Son instead of your works. We ought not serve, sacrifice, and give because we imagine that we can earn God’s favor through the things we do, even if done for him. Instead, we know that we are favored by him because of Christ. We do these other things because they are expressions of his kingdom, not because we suppose he is appeased by the work that we have done (ex opere operato).
Prayer: Direct my steps in wisdom, Lord, and help me walk in your counsels. Amen.
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