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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
Concerning Justification, part 31


Romans 4:1–5

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

The particle “alone” offends some, although even Paul says, “For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law” (Rom 3:28). Again, “It is the gift of God — not because of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph 2:8b-9). Again, “They are justified by his grace as a gift” (Rom 3:24). If the exclusive “alone” displeases, let them remove from Paul also the exclusives “freely,” “apart from works,” “as a gift,” etc. For these also are exclusives. We do exclude the idea of merit. We do not, however, exclude the Word or Sacraments, as the adversaries falsely charge us. For we have said above that faith is conceived from the Word, and we honor the ministry of the Word in the highest degree. Love also and works must follow faith. Therefore, they are not excluded as things that follow faith. But confidence in the merit of love or in works is excluded in justification. And this we will clearly show.

Pulling It Together: Imagine a man condemned to spend the rest of his life in prison. One day, the word comes from the jailer that the president has pardoned his offense. It is too good to be true. Decades later, he dies, still sitting in prison. He never could believe the guard's report that a criminal like himself had been set free. After all, there had been no conditions, only the promise of the president. So, the man spent his remaining years in prison, working off his sentence and trying to become a good man. He was only freed from prison by his own death.

It seems incredible that one could be delivered from their eternal fate because they simply believe. Surely there must be more to Christianity than that. There must be rules and regulations, things to do and observe. If people are such wretched sinners, they must have to do something to become righteous and escape the consequences. Nevertheless, Lutherans confess that we are saved by God's grace alone, this happening through faith and not works of the law. 

Prayer: Help me believe your good word alone, Lord, instead of the religion that I would add. Amen. 

The kind of church we see in the New Testament is different from what most modern people imagine when they think of “going to church.” Experience Life Together: A 15-Week House-Church Model Resource & Session Book, by Rev. Tom Hilpert, is a 15-week house-church curriculum designed for pastors, lay leaders, and churches interested in getting a taste for what church in the home is really like. Whether referred to as a house-church, organic church, alternative church, or cell church, this material applies well to any group that wants to experience Christian worship in the context of a small group meeting within the homes of the participants.

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Norine Kerstein

Posted June 22, 2015 at 7:08am

Your devotions continue to be a blessing in my life. Thank you. Have you discontinued the audio? Hearing you speak the meditations brought them to vibrant life. I also miss the added blessing at the end of the audio. God bless you in your mission and ministry.

Andrew McKusick

Posted June 22, 2015 at 8:31am

Mark - is Christianity unique among world religions in providing justification by faith?

Mark Ryman

Posted June 22, 2015 at 1:21pm

Norine, I am on vacation with the grandchildren. It's been a little noisy, so not conducive to recording. However, they have all just gone back home and I will be back to recording tomorrow. Probably will have up the audio for Sunday and Monday too.

Mark Ryman

Posted June 23, 2015 at 6:31pm

Andy, most religions teach justification of some sort. It is either justification with a god, nature, or even, in a manner, self. However, I don't know of any other religion that calls it justification. The big difference is that the justification taught in other religions requires the efforts of people. In Christianity, God justifies us. We don't do the justifying; he made and makes all the effort for Christ's sake. However, I would argue ( that even in ancient Judaism, God justified people by his grace through faith. Paul said the same in Romans 4 and elsewhere.

Mark Ryman

Posted June 22, 2020 at 6:07am

Sometime, along the way, that link changed. It is now

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