Posted by: erinelizabeth1983 | February 8, 2010

Justification

My other Lutheran Confessions I paper. The assignment was to examine the Augsburg Confession, Apology, and Scripture and to then explain Justification. We were allowed to write no more than two pages. Dr. Masaki also really liked this one. 🙂

Justification is a controversial topic in the church and has been a controversial topic for a long time. The Augsburg Confession and its Apology strive to examine Scripture and to discover and speak the truth about justification. “…this controversy deals with the most important topic of Christian teaching which, rightly understood, illumines and magnifies the honor of Christ and brings the abundant consolation that devout consciences need…” (Ap IV, 2).

Any discussion on justification must center on the person and work of Christ. For it is only in and through Him that we are justified. Isaiah 53:6 says, All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” This text does not say that the Lord made this laying of our iniquities on Christ dependent upon our merits or works. On the contrary, it says that we have each turned away from God and have gone our own way.

Some might argue that we could justify ourselves by following the law. But this is not so. Paul tells us in Romans 4:15 “the law brings wrath.” “He does not say that through the law people merit the forgiveness of sins. For the law always accuses and terrifies consciences. Therefore it does not justify since the conscience that is terrified by the law flees the judgment of God (Ap IV, 38).” Galatians 2:16 also states “yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”

Furthermore, Ephesians 2:1 says that we are dead in our transgressions. How could we then hope to make satisfaction? We cannot. Paul tells us in Colossians 1:21-22 “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.” Note that all of the action being done in this passage is being done by Christ to and for us. We are passive recipients of the benefits of His work. This truth is summarized in the Apology to the Augsburg Confession:

What has been given us is the promise of the forgiveness of sins and justification on account of Christ, who was given for us in order to make satisfaction for the sins of the world, and who has been appointed as the mediator and propitiator. This promise is not conditional upon our merits; it freely offers the forgiveness of sins and justification…(Ap IV, 40-41, emphasis added)

Therefore Article IV of the Augsburg Confessions states:

Furthermore, it is taught that we cannot obtain forgiveness of sin and righteousness before God through our merit, work, or satisfactions, but that we receive forgiveness of sin and become righteous before God out of grace for Christ’s sake through faith when we believe that Christ has suffered for us and that for his sake our sin is forgiven and righteousness and eternal life are given to us. For God will regard and reckon this faith as righteousness in his sight, as St. Paul says in Romans 3[:21-26] and 4[:5] (AC IV German text)

Article XX of the Augsburg Confession states that, “…God’s grace is grasped by faith alone, without merit.” If so, then the question is: how do we obtain such faith? The answer is found in Romans 10:13-15, 17:

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? …Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.

God works faith in us through the hearing of His Word. Faith is not something we do; it is a gift that is given to us. “The authors of the ancient church teach the same. For Ambrose says: ‘It is established by God that whoever believes in Christ shall be saved without works, by faith alone, receiving the forgiveness of sins as a gift.’” (AC VI) As St. Paul writes in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” We are, once again, passive recipients. If our salvation depended upon our works instead of upon Christ, His work and His gift of faith, how could we ever know that we had done enough to earn our salvation?

“That is, if the promise depended upon our works, it would not be firm. If the forgiveness of sins were given on account of our works, when would we know that we had taken hold of it, when would a terrified conscience find a work that it could consider sufficient to conciliate the wrath of God?” (Ap XX)

The answer is that we wouldn’t find a work that would be sufficient. “For it is false that we merit the forgiveness of sins through our works (Ap IV, 25).” Rather, “since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1)

It also then follows, “The blasphemy of attributing the honor of Christ to our works must not be tolerated.” (Ap XX) The work of our salvation was completed by Christ in His sacrificial death on the cross. “It is finished,” he said before he died. He won salvation for us and gives it to us freely. There is nothing that we can contribute to our justification. He has done it all and continues to do so by working saving faith in the hearts of those who hear His Word. And so we can joyfully sing,

All blessing, honor, thanks, and praise

To Father, Son, and Spirit,

The God who saved us by His grace;

All glory to His merit.

O, triune God in heav’n above,

You have reveled Your saving love;

Your blessed name we hallow (LSB 555).

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