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Article 4: Concerning Justification, part 11
Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions

• Index

Psalm 51:1–10

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

It is also false that people are accounted righteous before God because of the righteousness of reason.

Pulling It Together: Just as people are not forgiven of their sins because of civil deeds and religious works, these works also will never make them righteous before the holy God. Their works and their external piety, no matter how fine, will never make them holy on the inside. This is why David asked God to do it; David could not. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me” (Psa 51:10). God must do for us what we can never do for ourselves. Only the holy God can make us clean, pure, holy, righteous. We will never stand before God, or be righteous, unless he does it for us. This certainly makes the admonition of Jesus more bearable: “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:20). For all of our effort to keep the commandments and the Sermon on the Mount, we will only discover that we cannot. We may come close or match their external righteousness, but the only way our righteousness will exceed that of the religious crowd is if God makes us righteous within. The righteousness of reason (external, earthly righteousness) will not change us on the inside and therefore, make us righteous before God (Matt 23:27). God does this for us “through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” (Rom 3:22).

Prayer: Thank you, Father, for sending your Son, Jesus Christ, the salvation of the world. Amen. 

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