From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law
Lastly, readers are reminded that the adversaries give the worst advice to godly consciences when they teach that forgiveness of sins is earned by works, because the conscience that seeks the forgiveness of sins through works cannot be confident that the work will satisfy God. It is always tormented and continually devises other works and other acts of worship until it finally despairs. This course is described by Paul in Romans 4:5 where he proves that the promise of righteousness is not obtained by our works since we could never affirm that we had a reconciled God. For the law always accuses. Therefore the promise would be in vain and uncertain. He concludes that the promise of the forgiveness of sins and righteousness is received by faith, not through works. This is the true, simple, and genuine meaning of Paul. It offers the greatest consolation to godly consciences, and shows the glory of Christ, who was surely given to us so that we may have grace, righteousness, and peace through him.
Pulling It Together: How may we know that we are forgiven of our sins, reborn, and are now children of God? Can this be determined because one has always lived correctly? Who has accomplished such a great feat but Christ alone? The conscience that depends upon morality and religious ceremony will always be troubled. For as soon as it imagines that it is right with God, it does some wrong or thinks an evil thought. It then begins to seek some other work to make itself right with God again. Works are an uncertain and false avenue to righteousness before God. Yet there is an altogether sure way to know that one has been made righteous with God, since God himself has provided that one way. All who receive Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, are given the right to be the children of God. This is not accomplished through the will and industry of human nature. It is apprehended solely through faith in the Christ of God.
Prayer: O Word of God incarnate, I praise you for the radiance of the Living Word, and long to see you face to face. 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.