From the Confessions: The Smalcald Articles
Here comes the fiery angel, St. John, the true preacher of repentance. With a single thunderbolt he hurls both on one heap. He says, “Repent!” (Matt 3:2). Now, the former think, Why? We have repented. The latter say, We need no repentance. John says, Both of you, repent, for you are false penitents and false saints. All of you on either side need the forgiveness of sins, because neither knows what sin truly is, to say nothing of your duty to repent of and shun sin. None of you is good. All of you are filled with unbelief, stupidity, and ignorance of God and his will.
Yet, God is present here, and from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace (John 1:16). Without him no one can be just before God. So, if you wish to repent, do so properly, for your penance will accomplish nothing. And you hypocrites, who do not need repentance, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Matt 3:7; Luke 3:7).
Pulling It Together: Ask God to forgive you for the sake of Christ. Do not ask God to forgive you for the sake of the good or religious things you have done or will do. Nor should you expect to be forgiven because of the supposed goodness of others. Their so-called holiness cannot negate your sin. Simply be sorry for your sin, and ask God’s forgiveness. He forgives you because of Jesus. Indeed, he is the only reason you will be forgiven, and God is faithful and right to do so (1 John 1:9).
Prayer: Thank you, God, for your justice, that which depends upon Christ instead of me. Amen.
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The purpose of Epistles, A Guide to Reading the Scriptures is twofold: to encourage Christians to read God’s Word on a regular basis, and to help the reader slow down and concentrate on each chapter of the epistles before moving on to the next.