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From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law
Although these absurdities do not deserve a refutation, nevertheless we will reply to them in a few words. The antistrophe is defective. First, the adversaries are deceived in regard to the term “faith.” If it means a knowledge of history that the wicked and devils also have, our opponents would be correct in arguing that faith is unprofitable when they say, "When we have believed all things, say, ‘We are unworthy servants.’" But we are not speaking of knowledge of history. We are talking about confidence in the promise and mercy of God. This confidence in his promise confesses that we are unworthy servants. Indeed, the confession that our works are unprofitable is the very voice of faith, as demonstrated in the example of Daniel that we already cited above. “We do not present our supplications before thee on the ground of our righteousness, but on the ground of thy great mercy” (Dan 9:18).
Pulling It Together: God forgives us for the sake of his name. His reputation is at stake, so he will keep his promise. This is easy to understand. God does not require our works of righteousness, for that would mean that he forgives for our sake, because of the things we have done, because we have a righteous name to honor. Our works are unprofitable and unnecessary for salvation, forgiveness, and justification because God’s word is sufficient. He has promised to forgive for his own sake, because of his name.
A person might know that this is what Christians believe, but that knowledge does not merit justification. A person might not feel forgiven, and so, do an abundance of good works, hoping that God will forgive them because of their deeds. Yet those deeds will not earn forgiveness. Knowledge and deeds are both useless for salvation, since they cannot earn God’s grace. God’s word of promise is all that matters; you either believe him or you do not. Faith takes hold of God’s promise, believing that we are freely forgiven and justified for his name’s sake, for Christ’s sake. Faith adds nothing to the promise; it takes God at his word.
Prayer: When my iniquities prevail against me, Lord, help me to trust your promise of atonement. Amen.
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