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From the Word: 15 We are Jews by nature, and not from Gentile sinners. 16 Yet, knowing that a person is not justified from works of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we believed on Christ Jesus that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law, for no flesh will be justified by works of the law. 17 But if, seeking to be justified in Christ, we too were revealed as sinners, is Christ a servant of sin? May it never be so! 18 For if I rebuild those things that I leveled, I prove myself an overstepper (Galatians 2:16-18).
From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law
What else is this than to transfer the glory of Christ to our works, when we seek to please God because of our works instead of because of Christ? This also robs Christ of the glory of being the mediator, who is mediator perpetually, and not merely in the beginning of justification. Paul also says that if one who is justified in Christ later seeks righteousness elsewhere, he calls Christ “an agent of sin” (Gal 2:17) because he does not fully justify. The adversaries are quite absurd when they teach that good works merit grace de condigno, as though when the conscience is terrified after justification, as is often the case, grace must be sought through a good work, and not by faith in Christ.
Pulling It Together: Those who consider themselves Christian would confess that Christ saves. But the later actions of some betray a different belief than what they confess. Because they still sin, as everyone does, they begin to seek their salvation and forgiveness by doing something that they hope will appease God, whom they imagine must be angry with them. Because their consciences are troubled, they seek peace and reassurance in their own virtue instead of in Christ. But there is never lasting peace of mind for those who trust in the need to add their own deeds to what Christ has already fully accomplished.
The holy, catholic, Christian Church teaches, preaches, and confesses that we are saved by God’s grace through Christ our propitiator. We cannot be redeemed by our efforts to appease him. We demonstrated earlier that even Jerome said, “We are righteous when we confess that we are sinners, and that our righteousness consists not in our own merit, but in God's mercy.” Either Christ has saved us or he has not.
Prayer: Increase my faith in you, Lord, so that I will not depend upon myself. Amen.
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.