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From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law – part 69
Human reason naturally admires works because they are impressive. Not considering, let alone understanding faith, all they see are works, and so they imagine that these works earn forgiveness of sins and justify. This opinion of the law is by nature stuck in people’s minds and cannot be displaced except by godly instruction. The mind must be recalled from such natural or fleshly opinions to the Word of God. We see that the gospel and the promise concerning Christ have been laid before us. So, when the law is preached, when works are ordered, we should not spurn the promise of Christ. We must first lay hold of the promise so that we may be able to produce good works that please God. For Christ says, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Therefore, if Daniel had said, "Redeem your sins by repentance," the adversaries would take no notice of this passage. But since he has expressed this thought in other words, the adversaries distort his words to the injury of the doctrine of grace and faith, even though Daniel decidedly means to include faith.
Pulling It Together
Consider this teaching from the Lord’s Prayer: Forgive, and you will be forgiven. The first part in this doctrine demands amendment of life and good works, while the second part adds the promise. We should not extrapolate from this that our forgiving of others earns for us forgiveness of sin. That is not what Christ said. Just as Christ has attached the promise to an external sign in the sacraments, so he attaches here the promise of the forgiveness of sin to an external work. We do not obtain forgiveness of sin in the Lord's Supper by faithlessly eating and drinking. We must have faith in the promise. So also, we do not receive forgiveness simply through the work of forgiving, merely by the work worked.
If Christianity was only a matter of the law, there would be no need of Christ. We could just work our way up to heaven—if such a thing were possible. If Christianity was merely a matter of faith, then the church would be filled with runaway sinners. To that, Paul exclaims, “God forbid” (Rom 6:1-2, KJV)! By understanding these passages in terms of both law and gospel, we always give Christ his due and thereby, gain considerable peace. Without faith in his satisfaction for our sin, and his appeasement of God, we would be forever uncertain if our pitiful works were of sufficient merit to satisfy an otherwise angry God.
Prayer: Deliver me, Lord, from the temptation that I might save myself through my religion. Amen.
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Learning the Lord's Prayer teaches the Lord's Prayer according to the pattern of Luther's Small Catechism, and is recommended for the Second Grade Level. Each week focuses on a specific Bible story which illustrates the theme, with additional references from Scripture and Luther's Small Catechism - Children's Version.