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Concerning Confession and Satisfaction - part 39
Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions

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Isaiah 1:12–17

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Confession and Satisfaction 

True prayer, charity, and fasting have God’s command, and where they have God’s command, they cannot be neglected without sin. But when these works have not been commanded by God’s law, but instead have a fixed form derived from human regulation, they are works of human traditions of which Christ says, “In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men” (Matt 15:9). For example, certain fasts have been appointed, not to restrain the flesh, but so that honor may be given to God by this work, as Scotus says, and satisfaction made for eternal death. Likewise, a prescribed number of prayers or works of charity, when performed as acts of devotion, are said to give honor to God and make up for eternal death ex opere operato. They ascribe satisfaction to these works for the sake of the works, teaching that they benefit even those who are in mortal sin.

Pulling It Together: God commands good works but he does not require them as satisfactions for sin. Any command to do fixed numbers of prayers, fasts, acts of charity, or other religious deeds are vain and human ordinances that not only do not satisfy God, they weary him. He would have us do good and seek justice because he commands these righteous acts. However, the works themselves do not make us righteous. God makes us righteous for Christ’s sake—not because of our works. 

Prayer: Thank you, Jesus, for your perfect, saving work of the cross. Amen. 

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