From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning Confession and Satisfaction
We also say that this is the meaning of John when he says, “Bear fruit that befits repentance” (Matt 3:8), and of Paul when he says, “Yield your members to righteousness for sanctification” (Rom 6:19). He likewise says, “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice” (Rom 12:1). When Christ says, “Repent” (Matt 4:17), he is certainly speaking of whole repentance, of the entire newness of life and its fruits. He does not speak of those hypocritical satisfactions which the scholastics imagine avail for paying off the punishment of purgatory or other punishments when those satisfactions are made by those who are in mortal sin.
Pulling It Together: We are either slaves to the devil, sin, and death, or to God, righteousness, and life. Whichever we are bonded to will determine the fruit we get. The fruit or the wages of sin is death. The fruit or wages of righteousness is life—eternal life. Be careful! This righteousness is not your own. We have observed many times in these writings that we have no righteousness of our own (Phil 3:9). That is why the apostle declares that eternal life is a free gift, given by the one who is righteous.
Because Christians have been given life, they can be fruit-bearing trees. But this fruit is nothing that they do. Quite the opposite, it is something that is done in them because they have been given life. Observe how a tree produces fruit. It happens because it is designed to bear fruit and because rain falls and sun shines. Just so, Christians are designed to bear good fruit through the life-giving agency of the Holy Spirit.
So we say that there is nothing to offer God for our sins, if we could, that would satisfy him. However, Christ the Righteous has offered himself for us and satisfied God. His righteousness and eternal life are bestowed on those who believe. Since they are now alive, they are able to bear good fruit. Clearly, this fruit is not an offering for sin, since an unforgiven, dead “tree” cannot bear fruit. Good fruit is the result of having been forgiven and made alive.
Prayer: Help me, Holy Spirit, to bear good fruit. Amen.
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