From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
That Faith in Christ Justifies
So that no one thinks that we are talking about an idle knowledge of the history, we will first explain how faith is received. Then we will show both that it justifies and how this ought to be understood. Last, we will explain the objections of the adversaries.
In the last chapter of Luke, Christ commands that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name (Luke 24:47). The gospel declares that all people are under sin and are subject to eternal wrath and death, yet for Christ's sake offers the forgiveness of sin and justification. These are received by faith. The preaching of repentance accuses us and frightens consciences with true and severe terrors. Surrounded by these accusations and terrors, hearts must receive consolation. This happens if they believe the promise of Christ, that on account of him we receive the forgiveness of sins. This faith that encourages and comforts despite these fears, receives forgiveness of sins, justifies, and gives life. Indeed, this consolation is a new and spiritual life. These things are plain and clear, can be understood by God-fearing people, and have testimonies of the Church. Yet nowhere can our adversaries say how the Holy Spirit is given. They imagine that the sacraments confer the Holy Spirit ex opere operato, without an upright movement in the recipient, as though the gift of the Holy Spirit were an idle matter.
Pulling It Together: Saving faith does not happen because one performs the right deeds or recites the correct formula or prayer. Nor does it come about all at once. First, the word of God accuses the conscience that it is corrupt. It does not charge us with being a little bit bad, for we are not and that would do us no good. We must be convicted that we are wretched and miserable sinners, sold out to sin. This must seriously concern us; we must be terrified of the consequences of our sin. Next, God's word offers us the consolation of hope, that because Christ offered himself to God as payment for our sin debt, those who believe or have faith in his death and resurrection are forgiven. Last, this faith encourages and comforts people through Christ's gift of the Holy Spirit. So, faith is an active trust in God; it is not doing or reciting religious things by those who believe in the history of Christianity but do not believe in Christ.
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for suffering in my place that I too may be raised from the dead to live with and for you. Amen.
The Letters of Paul looks at all but one of Paul's thirteen epistles and seeks to get at the heart of each one so that his message can inspire new hope, faith and love in us today.
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