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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law – part 86

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From the Word: 1 Do not allow your heart to be distressed. Believe in God; trust in me also. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, I would have told you, for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and will take you to myself, so that where I am, you may be also. 4 And you know the way where I am going. 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How are we to know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.” (John 14:1-6)

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

The first mode of justification that they teach is that people merit grace by good works both de congruo and de condigno. This mode is a doctrine of reason, because reason, not seeing the uncleanness of the heart, thinks that it pleases God if it performs good works. For this reason, people in great peril constantly devise other works and other acts of worship to counter the terrors of conscience. The heathen and the Israelites sacrificed human victims, and undertook many other painful works in order to appease God's wrath. Later, orders of monks were devised, and these vied with each other in the severity of their observances to cancel the terrors of conscience and God's wrath. This mode of justification can be understood because it is reasonable, and can be performed to a certain extent because it is occupied with outward works. So the canonists have distorted the Church ordinances that were enacted by the Fathers for a far different purpose: social tranquility and a certain order in the Church—not that by these works we should seek righteousness. They have also distorted the Sacraments in the same way, especially the Mass, through which they seek righteousness, grace, and salvation ex opere operato.

Pulling It Together: It is not the severity of our religious observances or the long list of our good works over a lifetime that makes us fit and worthy for the kingdom of God. Rather, it is the measure of God’s regard for us and therefore, the one great work he accomplished in a few days that make all the difference. Indeed, he has made the only difference. We can add nothing to his finished work (John 19:30). He is the way—not us. He is the truth—not our imagined theories of grace and salvation through works performed. He is the life. And the one who would live forever in his Father’s house does so through Christ alone.

Prayer: I long for the home you have prepared for me, Lord Jesus, so that I may live with you always. Amen. 

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Why Did Jesus Have to Die? examines the most profound event of salvation history—the crucifixion of Jesus Christ—exploring from a biblical perspective what is known as the doctrine of the Atonement. This six-week Bible Study would be particularly appropriate during the season of Lent.

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