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Concerning Justification, part 17
Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions


Genesis 3:8–10

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

Lastly, it was very foolish for our adversaries to write that men who are under eternal wrath deserve the remission of sins by an act of love that springs from their mind since it is impossible to love God, unless the forgiveness of sins is first received by faith. For the heart that truly feels that God is angry cannot love God unless God's reconciliation is confirmed. As long as he terrifies us and seems to be casting us into eternal death, human nature is not able to take such courage so as to love a wrathful, judging, and punishing God. It is easy for idle people to imagine fantasies concerning love—such as a person guilty of mortal sin being able to love God above all things—because they do not understand what the wrath or judgment of God is. But in the agony and conflicts of conscience, the conscience experiences the emptiness of such philosophical speculations. Paul says, “For the law brings wrath” (Rom 4:15). He does not say that by the law men earn the remission of sins. For the law always accuses and terrifies consciences. Therefore it does not justify, because the conscience terrified by the law flees from the judgment of God. Those who trust that by the law, by their own works, they merit the remission of sins, are therefore mistaken. It is sufficient for now for us to have said these things that the adversaries teach about the righteousness of reason or of the law. For after a while, when we will declare our belief concerning the righteousness of faith, the subject itself will compel us to cite more testimonies that will also be of service in overthrowing the errors of the adversaries that we have critiqued so far.

Pulling It Together: The law is always accusing us of wrongdoing. That is the law's job. Furthermore, we know that the law is right. In ourselves, we have no leg to stand on. The law has us dead to rights. Knowing that we have sinned against God, like Adam and Eve, we hide behind trees. God's response about our sin has made us fearful from the beginning. Adam and Eve were no longer interested in walking with God in the garden. Instead, their sin caused them to want to get as far away from him as possible. This law that drives us away from God will not suddenly draw us toward him. So, how can this law, the doing of things, somehow make us right with God when it is always telling us the exact opposite? It cannot. It does not, no matter how much we may wish it otherwise.

Prayer: Thank you, Father, for covering my sin and helping me to walk with you again. Amen. 

The Ten Commandments book is a ten-week unit, Confirmation workbook which includes one session on each of the Commandments. The Scripture focus in the Ten Commandment series is on Moses and the Exodus Cycle, with Bible Study lessons taken primarily from the Pentateuch.

• Student Workbook   • Leader's Guide

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