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From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law
When Paul says, “He will render to every one according to his works,” we are to understand not only the outward work, but all righteousness or unrighteousness. So, “Glory...for every one who does good,” namely, for the righteous. “You gave me food,” is cited as the fruit and evidence of the righteousness of the heart and of faith. Therefore, eternal life is given to righteousness. In this way Scripture embraces both the righteousness of the heart and its fruits. It often names the fruits, so that the inexperienced may better understand, and to signify that a new life and rebirth are required instead of hypocrisy. This rebirth happens by faith with repentance.
Pulling It Together
Yes, God wants our good works, but he earnestly desires our hearts. Works that are done with an unbelieving, faithless heart are not good works; they are hypocritical. It is not those who do some good deeds in their own power who are given eternal life. Rather, those who put their faith in Christ will do good deeds because of the power of his Spirit within them. Only when works flow from faith in him are they good and righteous deeds. Because the believing heart is deemed righteous, the deeds that stem from that believing, righteous heart are also considered righteous. This is why Jesus says that the righteous will go into everlasting life (Matt 25:46).
Prayer: Holy Spirit, move me to do good that glorifies God and helps my neighbor, for the sake of Christ. Amen.
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