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From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Lastly, when will conscience be pacified if we receive forgiveness of sins on the ground that we love, or that we do the works of the law? For the law will always accuse us because we never satisfy God's law. It is just as Paul says: “For the law brings wrath” (Rom 4:15). Chrysostom asks concerning repentance, “When are we made sure that our sins are remitted us?” The adversaries also, in their Sentences, ask about the same subject. This cannot be explained nor consciences be stilled unless they know that it is God’s command and the very gospel that they should be firmly confident and not doubt that their sins are freely forgiven for Christs sake. If any one doubts, he charges the divine promise with falsehood, as John says (1 John 5:10). We teach that this certainty of faith is required in the gospel, but the adversaries leave consciences uncertain and wavering.
Pulling It Together
James is speaking to the topic of receiving wisdom from God in this passage of Scripture. However, the same exhortation may be applied to anything one asks of God. Ask in faith. Believe! Otherwise, one’s prayers, be they requests for wisdom or forgiveness, must fall on the ears of a deaf or faithless god. The Father is faithful to do as we ask within his will in his Son’s name (John 14:13). To disbelieve that he will forgive, which is most certainly within his will, is not only to doubt; it also calls God a liar, for whoever does not believe God, calls him a liar (1 John 5:10).
So, here is the answer to Chrysostom’s question: “When are we made sure that our sins are remitted us?” We are certain God will do as he promises when we ask with faith in Christ Jesus. If we ask with doubt, instead of faith, we should not expect that we will receive anything from the Lord, since we are double-minded, unstable in all our ways (James 1:7–8).
Prayer: Give me faith in you, Lord, in increasing supply. Amen.
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In Harmony with the Word is an eight-session Bible Study focusing on Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, from Matthew 5-7. It is written at an introductory level, to be led by a lay leader or pastor in a small-group question and discussion format. The study would serve as an excellent resource for monthly women's group meetings, or in an informal small-group setting.