From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law – part 111
Fourth, the entire Church confesses that eternal life is attained through mercy. Speaking of the works that saints do after being justified, Augustine says in On Grace and Free Will, “God leads us to eternal life not by our merits, but according to His mercy.” In book nine of his Confessions, he writes, “Woe to the life of man, however much it may be worthy of praise, if it be judged with mercy removed.” In his treatise On the Lord’s Prayer Cyprian says, “Lest any one should flatter himself that he is innocent, and by exalting himself, should perish the more deeply, he is instructed and taught that he sins daily, in that he is bidden to entreat daily for his sins.”
Pulling It Together
Everybody sins. Anyone who claims otherwise, is kidding himself (1 John 1:8) but God is not fooled. We were born into sin (Psa 51:5); it invades all of life. What can be done about this condition that pervades us? Nothing. There is nothing that you can do except hope in a merciful God. Without his mercy, there is only judgment and death (Heb 9:27).
We may hide our sin from others but we cannot hide from God, who is not only merciful but righteous and just. It is a foolish person who, having no fear of God, hardens his heart and does not forsake his sin. But the wise person trembles before the Almighty, and admits his sin. Because he believes that he may depend upon God’s mercy, he does not despair by taking matters into his own useless hands. He relies completely on the only one who is willing, able, and just to do something about his sinful life (1 John 1:9). He confesses his sin and obtains God’s mercy.
This is all we can do, though we really are not doing a thing. We are only admitting our sin and leaving it with God to handle. In this confession, we will have done everything needful for peace with our merciful God.
Prayer: Loving Father, help me to truly confess my sins—not in the length of the list but in the range of my trust in your mercy. Amen.
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Learning About Confession - Teacher's Guide guides leaders in teaching the meaning of Confession and Forgiveness according Luther's guidance in the Small Catechism. The student book, Learning About Confession is recommended for the Sixth Grade Level. Each week focuses on a specific Bible story that illustrates the theme, with additional references from Scripture and Luther's Small Catechism - Children's Version. With a healthy balance of Law and Gospel, lessons emphasize the connection between repentance and forgiveness, and how the promise of God’s forgiveness changes our lives.