From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law
Besides, synecdoche, the figure of speech by which we combine the cause and effects is well known. Christ used this sense, saying, “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much” (Luke 7:47). He interpreted himself by adding, “Your faith has saved you.” So he did not mean that the woman had merited the forgiveness of sins by that work of love. That is the reason he said, “Your faith has saved you.” But faith is that which freely perceives God's mercy on account of God's Word. Anyone who denies that this is faith, does not understand the meaning of faith. The narrative itself shows in this passage what it is that Jesus calls love. The woman came with belief in Christ that the forgiveness of sins should be sought in him. This is the highest worship of Christ. She could ascribe nothing greater to Christ. To seek the forgiveness of sins from him was to truly acknowledge him as the Messiah. Now, to think this way of Christ, to worship him, to embrace him, is truly to believe.
Furthermore, Christ used the word "love" not towards the woman, but against the Pharisee, because he was contrasting the entire worship of the Pharisee with the entire worship of the woman. He reproved the Pharisee because he did not acknowledge that he was the Messiah, although he rendered him the outward offices due to a guest and a great and holy man. He pointed to the woman and praised her worship, ointment, tears, and so forth, all of which were signs of faith and a confession, namely, that she sought the forgiveness of sins in Christ. It is not without reason that this was a great example indeed, that moved Christ to reprove the Pharisee, who was a wise and honorable man, but not a believer. He charged him with unrighteousness, and admonished him with the example of the woman. He demonstrated the Pharisee’s disgrace by contrasting with him an unlearned woman who believed God, while he, a doctor of the law, did not believe, nor did he acknowledge the Messiah or seek from him forgiveness of sins and salvation.
Pulling It Together: Faith in Christ freely obtains forgiveness of sins and delivers a person from sin and death. The result is love and worship. Faith in one’s religious works and moral excellence, however, is a deadly trap. It leads, not as one might expect, to death and condemnation. So, this story from the Gospel of Luke is a great example that contrasts the two types of people. One, it seems, is not a particularly religious person while the other is altogether religious. Yet, the nonreligious woman believes while the ultra-religious Pharisee does not believe. So, who is the one who would be forgiven—the one who thought that he had no sins to confess, or perhaps very few that he should bother to confess? Or would the one who sinned much but admitted her sins be the one who was forgiven? Of course, it is she who came to Jesus expecting it who received forgiveness, not the one who neither expected it nor even thought that he was a sinner who needed forgiveness.
This is a classic case of micromanagement. The Pharisee expended so much emotional energy on the woman and her sins, that he was distracted from his own. Perhaps, in his duplicity, he even hoped that Jesus would not notice his sins. The question for us is, which person in the story are we? Are we the micro-managers of sin who point out the sins of others, hoping our own sins might go unnoticed? Or are we those who confess our sins, expecting the forgiveness of a loving Savior?
Prayer: Thank you, Lord and Savior, for seeing my great sin and forgiving me nevertheless. Amen.
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