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From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning Monastic Vows
Just look at the impudence of our opponents! They not only teach that these observances are services that justify, they add that these services are more perfect—that they merit the forgiveness of sins and justification more than other kinds of life. Here they add many false and harmful views. They imagine that they observe precepts and counsels. So, imagining that they have the merits of supererogation, these liberal men then sell them to others.
These things are full of pharisaical vanity. It is the height of impiety for them to believe they satisfy the Decalogue in such a way that there are leftover merits when these commandments accuse everyone. “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might (Deut 6:5). “You shall not covet” (Exod 20:17; Deut 5:21; Rom 7:7). “All men are liars” (Psa 116:11); that is, they do not think correctly about God, do not sufficiently fear God, and do not believe him enough. Therefore, the monks falsely boast that they fulfill the commandments, and do more than what is commanded, by living a monastic life.
Pulling It Together: The most important commandment is greater than people are capable of apprehending in thought, let alone action. It is the height of theology. Every other doctrine in Scripture comes from this commandment. In the light of this greatest commandment, all must confess their sin. Even the patriarchs, prophets, and apostles recognized themselves as imperfect sinners. So, it is indeed pharisaical for monks or any others to say that they have kept this great commandment so perfectly that they have earned an abundance of merit. It is heretical to teach that such merit is even possible, let alone the supposed leftover merits be made available to others for a fee.
Prayer: Help me love you, Lord. Amen.
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The Sola Confirmation Series, written by the Rev. Steven E. King, is basic work-book style Confirmation curriculum. It is designed to serve as a simple and practical resource for teaching the biblical Word of God according to the traditional pattern of Martin Luther’s Small Catechism. Each book in the series can be used as the basis for a “come as you are” small group Bible study, as a student book for home school or independent study programs, or as a classroom tool and homework resource as part of an existing confirmation program.
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