From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning Human Traditions in the Church
Now these men say that people merit the remission of sins by these human observances. What else is this than to appoint another justifier, a mediator in Christ’s place? Paul says to the Galatians: “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law” (Gal 5:4). In other words, if you contend that you deserve to be accounted righteous before God by the observance of the law, Christ will profit you nothing. Why do they need Christ if they believe they are righteous by their own observance of the law? God has appointed Christ as mediator, promising to be gracious to us on his account, not because of our righteousness. But these men hold that God is reconciled and favorable because of traditions, not because of Christ. Therefore they withhold the honor of mediator from Christ.
Pulling It Together: People are robbed of the only means of grace available to them, when they are taught to earn God’s favor. Our works do not reconcile God. The traditions of the Church, though often useful for devotional purposes, can not make us right with God. Pastors and priests are not mediators between God and sinners. But they can point the way. And that way—the only way—is Christ.
If people are taught otherwise, that they are the way, that their good works and the keeping of human traditions make the difference, then they are deprived of a life of grace and peace. They are left with never knowing if they have done enough good, confessed all of their sins, or if God truly loves them. For their sense of God’s love is based upon their own merits. This is the fault in their religion.
Because God does love us, he sent his Son as mediator, ending the age-old conflict between the holy God and sinful humanity. God offered himself as the sacrifice for our sins. So you see, God already loves us. Nevertheless, sinners still need forgiveness. Only Jesus, God in human flesh, promises that kind of pardon and peace. He loves us. Period. But he pardons us because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, not because of our worth or works or religious traditions. Christ alone has the honor of being the mediator between God and sinners.
Prayer: Jesus, keep me near your cross. Amen.
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This study on the book of Revelation is the latest addition to the Old Places, New Faces serires. The 12-part study bypasses the speculations of Revelation and seeks to identify and announce the great truths it contains for all people of all times: the serious consequences of humanity's sin, the destructive work of the evil one the hope for believers who suffer persectuion, and the amazing life Christians will experience after death.