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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
Concerning Human Traditions in the Church – part 7

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Philippians 1:3–7

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Human Traditions in the Church 

Since we receive the remission of sins by faith, and since by faith we have a propitious God for Christ’s sake, it is an error and an impiety to declare that we deserve the remission of sins because of ceremonies. Some might say here that we do not merit the remission of sins, but that those who have already been justified merit grace by these practices. Paul again replies that Christ would be the “minister of sin” (Gal 2:17, KJV) if after justification, we believe that we are not accounted righteous for Christ’s sake, but that we must first merit righteousness with other observances. “No one annuls even a man’s will, or adds to it, once it has been ratified” (Gal 3:15). Therefore, we do not add to God’s covenant that we must first attain his acceptance and justification through these observances, when he promises that he will be gracious to us for Christ’s sake.

Pulling It Together: God did not start a process that we must then finish. The Father sent his Son to accomplish a mission, not to partially complete the task. That task was to save the world through faith in Christ (John 3:16–17). Jesus completed his work of salvation through the cross, there and then proclaiming, “It is finished” (John 19:30). If his saving work is finished, what must we add to our faith in what he accomplished? If we must continue earning God’s grace with ceremonies, Christ’s work is not finished. If we must add anything to what Christ did, he did not finish the job.

But he did finish his work of salvation. Therefore, “whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NIV). Furthermore, he will complete his redeeming work in our lives, as the Apostle Paul says: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” God will fulfill his good work of salvation—not us. He is doing so because of Christ, not because of us, our deeds, or our religious practices.

Have faith in the promiser. “It is finished.”

Prayer: Thank you, Father, for making me a partaker in grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. Amen. 

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