From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law
The teaching of Christ also applies here. “So you also, when you have done all that is commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty’” (Luke 17:10). These words clearly declare that God saves because of mercy and his promise, not that it is due because of the value of our works. At this point our opponents wonderfully play with the words of Christ, making an antistrophe and turning it against us. Daring to speak over the words of Christ, they declare that if we have believed all things, we are unworthy servants. Then they add that works are of no profit to God, but are profitable to us. See how the adolescent study of sophistry delights the adversaries.
Pulling It Together: Behold, what importance some people place in their works. They value deeds so thoroughly that they distort the words of Christ. When he downplays works, they exalt them. While he promotes the Father’s mercy, they degrade it by adding as a requirement of grace what Christ says is mere duty. The keeping of the commandments, including Christ’s command to love one another (John 15:12), is simply living out Christian discipleship. This is what it looks like to be a Christian. It shows that one is rightly related to Christ, that one is his friend, chosen by him to live a life of faith instead of mere servanthood.
Beware of anything that comes between you and faith in Christ. If you find yourself thinking how fine a Christian you are because of your great love, you are exalting your works over Christ. If you discover that your conscience is dependent upon keeping the law, you are not availing yourself of a greater peace of mind—that peace of God that surpasses all understanding (Phil 4:7).
Prayer: Thank you, Jesus, for choosing me to be your friend. Amen.
John is the fourth book in the "Old Places, New Faces" series. Twelve studies explore the profound metaphors of the Gospel of John. This study guide will make the story of Christ alive and relevant for today's readers.