From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law
When this passage is considered in context, it shows that faith is required. Christ rebukes the Pharisees for thinking that they are cleansed before God and justified by frequent ablutions. Just so, some Pope or another said that water sprinkled with salt sanctifies and cleanses people, and the gloss says that it cleanses from minor sins. These were also the opinions of the Pharisees. Christ reproved this counterfeit cleansing, teaching instead a double cleanness: one internal, the other external. He admonished them to be cleansed inwardly, and added concerning outward cleanness, “Give for alms those things which are within; and behold, everything is clean for you.”
Pulling It Together: If you are not clean on the inside, your outside will never be clean, despite regular religious washings. These outward ceremonies do not cleanse the person who is unclean within. How does one cleanse the inside? One cannot. Instead, you must call out to God for cleansing. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psa 51:10). This happens when one has faith in God instead of in ceremonies and other works. He is the only one who can cleanse the inside. “I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me” (Jer 33:8). When the inside is clean, your works will spring from faith instead of a desire to be cleansed by your actions. Then, everything is clean for you.
Prayer: Wash me, O Lord, and I will be whiter than snow. Amen.
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