1 John 4:15–19
From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Article 5: Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law
Again, we teach not only how the law can be observed, but also how God is pleased if anything is done, not because we render satisfaction to the law, but because we are in Christ, as we shall say a little later. It is obvious, therefore, that we require good works. We even add that it is impossible to separate love for God from faith, even though it be a small work. For it is through Christ that we come to the Father, and because we have received the forgiveness of sins we are now truly certain that we have a God—a God who cares for us. So we call upon him, give him thanks, fear him, and love him. “We love, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19), that is to say, because he gave his Son for us and forgave us our sins. As a result, he confirms that faith precedes and love follows. Likewise, the faith of which we speak exists in repentance, that is, it is conceived in the terrors of conscience that senses the wrath of God against our sins, and seeks the forgiveness of sins and to be freed from sin. In such terrors and other afflictions, this faith ought to grow and be strengthened. Therefore, it cannot exist in those who live according to the flesh, those who are delighted by their own lusts and obey them. Accordingly, Paul says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus...who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Rom 8:1, 4). So too, “We are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—for if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live” (Rom 8:12-13). Thus, the faith that receives forgiveness of sins for a heart that is terrified and fleeing from sin, does not remain in those who obey their desires, nor does it coexist with mortal sin.
Pulling It Together: The law is kept in this way: first, God loves us. Then, while we are still ignorant of his love, our disobedience to God begins to unsettle and even frighten the conscience. Third, we hear of God’s great love for us. The gospel teaches us that God has redeemed sinners by sending his Son to save them by satisfying the demands of the law. Fourth, we confess that Jesus Christ is this saving Son of God. At this point, faith in a loving God confronts our fear of a wrathful God. Knowing that we are no longer condemned by the law, we have peace with God despite the weakness of our nature. Fifth, we begin to live in God and God begins to live in us. His love not only begins to grow in us, it is perfected in us—not because of anything we have done or do, but because this love is something he has done and is doing. Last, our love with its subsequent acts of obedience, however modest, is a response to his love. “We love because he first loved us” (1John 4:19).
Prayer: Loving Father, help me cling to Christ through faith and the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Spiritual Realms is a nine-session Bible Study series on Heaven and Hell and places beyond this world. Specifically, the study looks at the many “place names” that are found throughout Scripture, referring to spiritual realms of existence that underlie and comprise the universe God created. This Bible Study series is a challenging one, in that it explores realities of existence beyond what we know and experience everyday.
The study not only addresses matters of life, death, heaven and hell, it steadfastly affirms that Jesus Christ is at the center of all these things. Our ultimate faith and hope rest in Christ’s death and resurrection for our sake. We live in faith by the biblical promise that: “God raised the Lord, and will also raise us up by his power” (1 Cor 6:14).