From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law
They object that love is preferred to faith and hope since Paul says, “The greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:13). Now, it is reasonable that the greatest and chief virtue should justify. However, Paul speaks specifically in this passage of love towards one's neighbor, and indicates that love is the greatest, because it has most fruit. Faith and hope only deal with God; but love has infinite external duties toward people. Nevertheless, we grant to the adversaries that love towards God and our neighbor is the greatest virtue because the chief commandment is, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matt 22:37). But how do they infer from this that love justifies? The greatest virtue, they say, justifies. By no means. For as even the greatest or first law does not justify, so also the greatest virtue of the law does not justify. The virtue that justifies is the one that apprehends Christ, transmitting Christ's merits to us, by which we receive grace and peace from God. This virtue is faith. For as it has been often said, faith is not only knowledge, but rather a desire to receive or apprehend those things that are offered in the promise of Christ. This obedience towards God, this desire to receive the offered promise, is no less an act of worship than is love. God wants us to believe him and to receive blessings from him. This he declares to be true divine service.
Pulling It Together: God does not say, “Do this thing and you will be saved.” He could have said something like, “Do a cartwheel and you will be saved.” Of course, he said nothing so absurd, so let us think more civilly. He might have said, “Do 1,000 hours of community service and you will be saved.” He did not say anything like that either. So, let us consider the religious. He could have demanded perfect attendance at worship. But he did not command anything religious either. Instead, he wants us to believe that he has saved us without any works that we have done. For God saves sinners, not people who have proved that they are righteous without him. His only command for salvation is clearly stated in Acts 16:30-31: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
Prayer: Father, assure me of the plain gospel, that you love me in spite of myself. Amen.
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