From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law
But the adversaries urge that it is the prerogative of good works to merit eternal life, because Paul says, “He will render to every man according to his works” (Rom 2:6). Likewise, “Glory and honor and peace for every one who does good” (Rom 2:10). “Those who have done good shall come to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment” (John 5:29). “I was hungry and you gave me food,” and so forth (Matt 25:35). In these and all similar passages in which works are praised in the Scriptures, it is necessary to understand faith of the heart along with the outward works, for Scripture does not speak hypocrisy, but of the righteousness of the heart along with its fruits.
Pulling It Together: Works must always flow from a heart of faith. Abraham did not make an offering of his only son, Isaac, as a mere work. Nor did he expect that God would honor the work itself. Notice how his offering was given in faith. Without faith, his deed would have been unacceptable. Faith comes first and is then completed by works (James 2:22). Without faith, works are incomplete, for God first requires a righteousness of the heart. Only then are works received. Indeed, in the example of Abraham, the work was not required. Faith by itself, yet willing to do the work, was sufficient. God honored Abraham’s faith, and without it, even if the deed had been added, his offering would have been unacceptable.
Prayer: Accept my faith in you, Lord, even when my works are wanting. Amen.
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