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Concerning Original Sin – part 15
Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions

Colossians 3:5–10

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Original Sin 

But if the adversaries will contend that the fomes is an adiaphoron, not only many passages of Scripture but the entire Church will contradict them. Even though perfect agreement may not be reached, who ever dared to say that these matters were adiaphora, namely: to doubt God's wrath, God's grace, or God's Word, to be angry at the judgments of God, to be provoked because God does not immediately deliver one from afflictions, to murmur because the wicked enjoy a better fortune than the upright, to be urged on by wrath, lust, the desire for glory, wealth, and so forth? And yet godly men, as appear in the Psalms and the prophets, acknowledge these things in themselves. But in the schools they have borrowed notions from philosophy, that natural passions make us neither good nor evil, neither deserving of praise nor blame. They postulate that nothing is sin unless it is voluntary. These notions were expressed among philosophers with respect to civil righteousness, but not with respect to God's judgment. With no discretion they add the opinion that human nature is not evil. In its proper place we do not disagree with this but it is not right to twist it into an excuse of original sin. Nevertheless, these notions are read in the works of scholastics, who inappropriately mingle philosophy and social ethics with the gospel. Nor were these matters only disputed in the schools, but as usually occurs, were carried from the schools to the people. And these persuasions prevailed and suppressed the knowledge of Christ's grace by nourishing confidence in human strength. This is why Luther, wishing to declare the magnitude of original sin and of human infirmity, taught that these remnants of original sin in human nature are not in their substance adiaphora, but that they require the grace of Christ so that they will not be imputed against us, and, likewise, the Holy Spirit for their mortification.

Pulling It Together: As we have seen, part of the confutation or refutation of the Augsburg Confession was a disagreement with the Lutherans about what has been called, up until now, concupiscence. Today, Melancthon names it with the Latin word, fomes. This is just another way to say evil inclination. The Lutherans contended that this inclination is itself part of our nature. Furthermore, they insisted that this was not a matter of indifference, or adiaphoron. Not only do the Scriptures teach otherwise, so do the Church Fathers. Even if people do not act upon these fomes or lusts, even the inclination and desire being present both indicates and is a sinful nature. A sinful nature is not holy or righteous. It is sinful, no matter how we try to whitewash the tomb of this body of flesh (Rom 7:24). We sense the evils that are just under the skin, such as valuing money and all other securities more highly than God, so that trusting this fleshly security, we imagine that God's wrath against sin is not as serious as it truly is. We come to the point where we no longer call sin what it is: sin. And in doing so, we imagine we have beguiled God with our nonsensical notions, when we have only fooled ourselves.

If the people believe, as they were being (and still are being) taught, that their natural inclination toward evil is not in itself sin, that this is a matter of no concern, then why should they trust in God's grace? Or if it is thought that once baptized, this sinful disposition supposedly disappears or does not matter, then what chance is there of Christians putting to death their worldly impulses? So, Luther took a stand where people had begun to lose a sense of their need for God and his grace. He rightly taught that concupiscence or fomes is also sin. He only followed the teachings of the Fathers and the Apostles. For Paul, writing to Christians, said, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you... On account of these the wrath of God is coming” (Col 3:5-6).

Prayer: Lord, by your grace, help me mortify in myself that which is displeasing and sinful in your sight. Amen. 


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