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Concerning Justification, part 14
Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions


Galatians 2:15–21

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

We have testimonies for our belief from the Fathers as well as the Scriptures. Augustine contends at great length against the Pelagians that grace is not given because of our merits. In On Nature and Grace he says, “If natural ability through the free will suffice both for learning to know how one ought to live and for living aright, then Christ has died in vain and then the offense of the Cross is made void. Why should I not cry out here too? Yes, I will cry out and with Christian grief will chide them: “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace” (Gal 5:4; cf. 2:21). “For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law, that every one who has faith may be justified” (Rom 10:3-4).

Pulling It Together: Lutherans teach that Christians should do good works. However, they also confess that these works do not earn God's grace and save them from sin and death. Even if they were able to choose righteousness instead of sin as the Pelagians claim, and to do so perfectly and completely (which is ludicrous in and of itself) this would be altogether insufficient. Our good works, however fine they may seem to us, amount to nothing in the balance of justification and salvation. People are not justified by works of the law—either civil or religious. The only way a person is considered righteous by God—the only way—is through faith in Jesus Christ. If there is any other way to be justified, then Christ died for no reason. Lutherans, along with Scripture and the Church Fathers, confess that Christ is the end and fulfillment of the law with its required acts of righteousness, so that those who believe in Christ, or have faith, may be numbered by God among the righteous. 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, give me a complete confidence in your Son so that I never rely upon myself. Amen. 

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