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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
Concerning Monastic Vows – part 6

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Galatians 5:4–6

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Monastic Vows 

First, it is certain that a vow is not lawful if by making it one thinks the forgiveness of sins before God, or satisfaction for sins before God are merited. This opinion is an obvious insult to the gospel, which teaches that the forgiveness of sins is freely given us for Christ’s sake, as has been said above at some length. Therefore, we have correctly quoted Paul’s declaration to the Galatians: “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace” (Gal 5:4). Those who seek the forgiveness of sins by monastic works, instead of through faith in Christ, steal the honor from Christ, and crucify him anew.

Pulling It Together: Instead of “circumcision” (Gal 5:6), one might as well say “vows” or any other legalism—the idea is the same. Neither vows nor a lack of vows counts for anything. Only faith matters. The condition of the body or one’s position in society have absolutely no bearing on God’s grace. He freely gives his grace to those who believe in Christ Jesus, not to those who perform religious deeds or make vows of religious service. One might enter religious service without faith. More importantly, the one who thinks he earns virtue with God because of a vow made or a vow kept, falls from any grace he once enjoyed. He has snubbed Christ by considering him unnecessary. If one may gain eternal life through vows or other deeds, of what use is Christ? “If righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose” (Gal 2:21). But righteousness is bestowed by God, not earned. It is freely given through faith in Christ alone, not by works, vows, or the keeping of rules.

Prayer: Thank you, God, for your free gift of salvation. Amen.

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