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Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law – part 76
Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions

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John 3:16-21

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

Yet Christ often connects the promise of the forgiveness of sins to good works. He does not mean that good works are a satisfaction, for they follow reconciliation, but he connects the promise and work for two other reasons. One is because good fruits must necessarily follow. Therefore he reminds us that if good fruits do not follow, the repentance is hypocritical and feigned. The other reason is because we have need of external signs of so great a promise. A fearful conscience needs manifold consolation. Baptism and the Lord's Supper are signs that continually admonish, cheer, and encourage despairing minds to believe the more firmly that their sins are forgiven. The same promise is written and portrayed in good works, so that these works may admonish us to believe more firmly. Those who do not produce good works are not aroused to believe but despise these promises. Yet, the faithful embrace them and rejoice that they have signs and testimonies of so great a promise. Accordingly, they exercise themselves in these signs and testimonies. Just as the Lord's Supper does not justify us ex opere operato, without faith, so alms do not justify us without faith, ex opere operato.

Pulling It Together: The Father sent his Son into the world to save sinners from the condemnation of sin and death. When people have faith in God’s sacrifice for their sin, they are saved, justified, and reborn. Having been born again, they become citizens of God’s kingdom (John 3:3). They now live in this world as though in the heavenly kingdom. They are to act differently than other people of this world. Though they will never keep the law and do good works perfectly in this life, they are to try since they are now citizens of the new kingdom. These efforts, however, do not save and justify, for God has already granted them rebirth through faith in Christ. These works—and the unflagging desire to please God—are a sign that he has begun something in us and will accomplish it on that great day (Phil 1:6).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, finish in me what you began, through the power of Christ’s Spirit. Amen. 

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