From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law – part 61
Certain other passages concerning works are also cited against us. “Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37). “Is it not to share your bread with the hungry...? ...Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer” (Isa. 58:7,9). “Break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed” (Dan 4:27). “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matt 5:7). These verses only speak against us when our opponents attach false ideas to them.
These passages contain two things. One is the preaching of either the law or repentance, which not only convicts those doing wrong, but also instructs them to do what is right. The other is a promise which is added to the command. However, it is not stated that sins are forgiven without faith, or that works themselves are a propitiation.
Pulling It Together: Those who have been justified through faith in Christ are expected to act righteously. They are not, however, forgiven of their sins because they act in accordance with God’s will. For example, in verse ten, those who are persecuted for righteousness are called blessed because, while suffering abuse, the promise of a joyful future is already taken hold of by trusting in the promise. Therefore, even while being mistreated, we may already enjoy a beatific peace because we hope in the promise of God. Yet the forgiveness of sins is not added to the beatitude, nor is justification to God. For those who have faith in Christ have already been both justified and blessed by him. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).
Prayer: Thank you, God, for the many blessings of your grace. Amen.
In Harmony with the Word is an eight-session Bible Study focusing on Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, from Matthew 5-7. It is written at an introductory level, to be led by a lay leader or pastor in a small-group question and discussion format. The study would serve as an excellent resource for monthly women's group meetings, or in an informal small-group setting.