From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law
The subject is well known and has a great many clear testimonies in Scripture and in the Church Fathers, all declaring with one voice that, even though we have good works, yet in these very works, we need mercy. Depending upon God’s mercy, faith cheers and consoles us. Therefore, the adversaries teach erroneously when they exalt merits, adding nothing about this faith that apprehends mercy. As we have said before, the promise and faith must cooperate since the promise is not apprehended unless by faith. So we say again that the promised mercy requires faith, and cannot be apprehended without faith. Therefore we justly find fault with the doctrine of meritum condigni since it teaches nothing about justifying faith. Furthermore, it obscures the glory and office of Christ as mediator. We should not be regarded as teaching anything new in this matter, since the Church Fathers have so clearly handed down the doctrine that even in good works we need mercy.
Pulling It Together: We cannot make any offering for sin that produces mercy and forgiveness. Our virtue will not do it, nor will religious works, the right disposition, or remorse. Yet there is still hope in the mercy of God, since our great High Priest has made the one offering that makes the difference. No other sacrifice affords God’s grace. Because his grace is only taken hold of through faith, we are able to confess with the Scripture that we may confidently draw near to the cross and receive the promised grace of God. If grace was to be apprehended through our own means, we could never have such bold confidence. It is faith in Christ that transports us to the cross, that blessed place of hope where our sins were carried and buried by Jesus Christ our Savior.
Prayer: I give you the honor and glory, Lord, and place all my hope in you. Amen.
Three Keys to What Lutherans Believe is a three-session introduction to themes in Lutheran theology. By focusing on key biblical concepts, it demonstrates the primary themes that Lutherans emphasize in thinking about the Christian faith and the teachings of Scripture. The study may be particularly suited to new member classes, adult baptismal or confirmation instruction, or for use with young adults. For use in shorter sessions, leaders may choose to divide each lesson into two parts to create a six-week study.