From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law
See how Isaiah preaches penitence. He urges us to repentance, then adds the promise. “Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isa 1:16-18). It would be foolish to merely say, “Relieve the oppressed; defend the fatherless.” At the beginning, he says, “Cease to do evil,” reprimanding impiety of heart and requiring faith. Nor does the prophet say that they can merit the remission of sins ex opere operato, through the works of relieving the oppressed and defending the fatherless. Rather, he commands such works as are necessary in the new life. Concurrently, he wants us to understand that forgiveness of sins is received by faith, and accordingly, the promise is added.
Pulling It Together: God commands us through the prophets to do good. Yet, through those same prophets, he makes it clear that our righteousness does not come from the works worked, but from the Lord himself. Therefore, because it is not by anything we have done, but instead, because we believe the promise that God ascribes righteousness to us, what is left to us but trust in God? We are to repent and do good but our justification comes from God through faith.
Prayer: Lord, help me believe what you have promised. Amen.
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