From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law
Two things should be understood in the preaching of the law. First, the law cannot be observed unless we have been regenerated by faith in Christ. He teaches this, saying, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Second, though some external works can certainly be done, this general view of the entire law must be retained: “Without faith it is impossible to please him” (Heb 11:6). We must, therefore, always remember the promise of the gospel, that we have access to the Father through Christ (Rom 5:2; Heb 10:19). For it is evident that we are not justified by the law. Why would there be need of Christ or the gospel if the preaching of the law alone would be sufficient? In preaching about repentance, it is insufficient to only preach the law, the Word that convicts of sin, because the law brings wrath, only accusing and terrifying consciences. Consciences are never at peace unless they hear the voice of God in which the forgiveness of sins is clearly promised. Accordingly, the gospel must be added, that sins are forgiven for Christ's sake, and that we obtain remission of sins through faith in Christ. If our opponents exclude the Gospel of Christ from the preaching of penitence, they are judged correctly to be blasphemers against Christ.
Pulling It Together: The law must be preached. Yet, it must also be taught that the keeping of the law does not bring new birth. Only God can regenerate the dead, which we most certainly were (Rom 5:6). No amount of works or keeping of the law or acts of charity will ever cause the dead to be born again. So, the gospel must also be preached so that people may receive God’s forgiveness and be regenerated.
Though regenerate people are to do acts of charity and other good works, they will never do so to any degree of perfection. So, the law continues to convict everyone of sin, even if they have been reborn, as it is meant to do. Convicted, guilty consciences can only be afforded peace through faith in the promise of Christ’s gospel. So why is there any need to offer our works for the remission of sins? As the writer of Hebrews says, where there is forgiveness of sins, there is no more need of offering for sin (Heb 10:18).
Prayer: Merciful Father, forgive me of my sins for Christ’s sake, and empower me to do your will through your indwelling Spirit. Amen.
Combining the message of salvation in Christ with personal witness, The Gospel in Miniature is a Lutheran guide for evangelism.