2 Timothy 2:14–17a
From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law
But in just and sure cases, one or two explanations derived from the sources correct all things that seem to offend. This occurs in our current discourse. The rule that I have just expressed explains all the passages they have cited on law and works. We acknowledge that Scripture teaches in some places the law, and in other places the gospel, the free promise of the forgiveness of sins for Christ's sake. But our adversaries absolutely abolish the free promise when they deny that faith justifies, and teach that we receive forgiveness of sins and reconciliation because of our love and works. If the forgiveness of sins depends upon the condition of our works, it is totally uncertain and the promise would be abolished. Therefore, we refer godly minds to the consideration of the promises. We teach them about the free forgiveness of sins and about reconciliation, which occurs through faith in Christ. Then we add the doctrine of the law. It is necessary to handle these matters correctly, as Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:15. We must see what Scripture ascribes to the law and what it ascribes to the promises. For it praises works in such a way as not to remove the free promise.
Pulling It Together: “I promise you that we will go for ice cream after school.” That is a promise that is free of of conditions. The only thing you have to do, if one could call such a thing something that is done, is believe the promise—or not. However, if the parent picks up the child and goes home instead of to the ice cream parlor, the child might wonder aloud, “I thought we were going for ice cream.”
If the parent then stated that ice cream would only be given if homework and chores were done first, the child would be confused. The promise had been freely given; no conditions were attached. Worse, the child believed the parent, and that belief was dismantled because stipulations had been added to the unqualified promise.
God is no such Father. He has freely promised his merciful grace through Christ. The forgiveness of sins is certain because it depends upon the promise of God, not your deeds.
So, do your homework, take out the trash, and clean your room—or your adult versions of such duties. Do these things because you wish to please God. But do not depend upon them to make a promise sure when it is already certain. In this way, the Scriptures are rightly handled or divided, with law and gospel having their own function, and the promise of God remaining free in Christ Jesus.
Prayer: Lord, help me rightly handle the Scriptures, gently correct its opponents, yet avoid quarreling so that people around me are brought to a knowledge of the truth. Amen.
Dwell In My Love!, unit 3 in the Word of Life Series, is a resource for those looking to develop small groups built around the Word of God. This model of small-group ministry is an excellent tool for evangelism since it is rooted in prayer and Scripture. Its primary focus is to empower those who believe in Jesus Christ to be comfortable sharing their faith and inviting others to experience a transformed life in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Meant for use in Small Group gatherings, each of the six sessions is based on a primary Scripture text, with intentional time for reflection. There are questions, prayer, faith sharing, and mini evangelism case studies. The series would be helpful for those involved in starting a Bible study fellowship, house church, or mission congregation. It can also be used by established congregations to aid in establishing a small group ministry.