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From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law
Therefore, Jesus praises her entire worship by that by one statement, as often happens in the Scripture, so that we comprehend many things. Later we will speak at greater length regarding similar passages, such as Luke 11:41: “But give for alms those things which are within; and behold, everything is clean for you.” He requires not only alms, but first the righteousness of faith. In the same way, he says here, “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much,” that is, because she has truly worshiped me with faith and the deeds and signs of faith. He considers her entire worship but teaches that the forgiveness of sins is rightly received by faith, although love, confession, and other good fruits ought to follow. Therefore, he does not mean that these fruits are the cost or the necessary sacrifice that earns the forgiveness of sins that reconciles us to God.
Pulling It Together: What good is it to go to church on Sundays, bring an offering, be an usher, and serve on a committee, if the doing of these things is the whole of one’s religion? All of these things and more can be done without any faith in God. Jesus does not condemn such religious acts but teaches that, if they do not come from the heart, they are like plastic flowers covering a grave (Matt 23:27). The one whose religion is devoid of faith, is dead. Indeed, if worship and service do not spring from faith, all else that is done in the name of religion is superficial spiritualism. Consider this in light of the Pharisee and the sinful woman (Luke 7:36-50). The Pharisee was strictly religious in his deeds, even offering to God a percentage of his garden herbs. He thought that he kept the commandments but he neglected the first table. You could say that he loved his religious practice more than he loved God. The woman, however, did not keep the law very strictly at all, for she was considered a sinner for being ceremonially unclean. Yet for all of her lack of religious pretense, she was forgiven and reconciled to God. Why? Her faith made her clean. The result was that she worshiped Christ, the very thing that the Pharisee refused to do. In the same way, if we go to church and perform acts of service without faith, we do not worship at all—we merely serve self.
Prayer: Lord, increase my faith. Amen.
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