From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law
God is pleased by those alms that follow reconciliation or justification—not those that precede. Therefore, almsgiving does not free from sin and death ex opere operato. Rather, as we have said above concerning repentance—that we ought to embrace faith and its fruits—so here we must say concerning alms, that it is the entire newness of life saves. The giving of alms is an exercise of that faith which receives the forgivenesss of sins and overcomes death while it exercises itself more and more and becomes stronger through these exercises of faith. We also grant that alms earn many blessings from God, such as the lessening of punishments, and a defense against the dangers of sins and of death, as we have said a little before concerning repentance in general.
Pulling It Together: Our works are not good works—they do not please God—unless they are done in faith. They are not good works, no matter how fine they may seem to us, if they are done expecting some favor from God merely because of the deed that has been done. Works, such as giving to the needy, please God because they are done by believers. Yet, these acts cannot overcome death, hell, the devil, and sin, or provide peace for the troubled conscience. These only occur through faith in Christ.
Yet the exercise of faith, the doing of good works, will increase faith. Jesus teaches that those who obey his commands (John 15:14) and live in his word (John 8:31) are those friends of his who are set free from sin, death, and the devil. So, true faith motivates good works, and those good works make faith stronger while fortifying the peace we enjoy in Christ Jesus.
Prayer: Help me, O Lord, to continue in your word until my last breath. Amen.
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