Words of Encouragement
for the week of Nov. 9, 2011
Meditations in Psalm 119
153 Look on my affliction and deliver me; for I do not forget Your law. 154 Contend for my cause and redeem me; give me life according to Your word. 155 Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek Your statutes. 156 O Jehovah, Your tender mercies are great; give me life according to Your judgments. 157 My persecutors and enemies are many; I do not turn from Your testimonies. 158 I saw the traitors and was grieved, because they did not keep Your word. 159 See how I love Your precepts, O Jehovah; give me life according to Your mercy. 160 The sum of Your word is true; every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.
“Look on my affliction and deliver me; for I do not forget Your law. Contend for my cause and redeem me; give me life according to Your word.” Psalm 119:153-154
Even though we do not forget the teaching of God’s Word – though we, by the grace and mercy of God, believe His Word and hold fast to its teaching – yet we are afflicted and suffer in this life.
All of us suffer affliction in this world as the result of the sin which infects us. We are under the curse. We must work hard and we suffer disease, death and decay (Gen. 3:16-19; Psalm 90). As believers who trust in Christ and continue in God’s Word, we also suffer affliction and persecution from those around us who reject God’s Word and His rule over them. They hate us and afflict us because we are a reminder to them of the truth and of their sin and their ultimate judgment and condemnation (2 Tim. 3:12; Matt. 5:10-12).
Thus we pray to our gracious and merciful God to look upon our affliction and deliver us. We pray to Jehovah God to take note of our affliction and suffering and to contend for our cause. We ask Him to redeem us and give us life in accord with the promises of His Word.
As believers in the Messiah and Savior Jesus, we suffer affliction and persecution in this world, sometimes even from those we counted as our own brethren. Yet, instead of forgetting God’s Word and His commands, we remember His Word and hold fast to it for it reveals to us and leads us in the way everlasting. It shows our sin and reveals to us our Savior, Christ Jesus, who suffered and died for the sins of the world and rose again from the dead. It reveals to us that through faith alone in the Lord Jesus we have forgiveness for all our sins and the promise of everlasting life. It also teaches us of our gracious God and how He would have us live as His redeemed and forgiven children.
We long for the day when God sets us free from the affliction of sin and from the affliction of our enemies who oppose Christ and His Word. We look forward to that day when God will graciously redeem our bodies from sin and this sin-cursed world and grant us life everlasting as He has promised us in His Word for the sake of Messiah Jesus and His sacrifice for our sins.
O Lord Jesus, look upon our affliction and suffering in this world and deliver us. Redeem our bodies from sin and its curse and grant to us the eternal joys of heaven You have promised us in Your Word. For the sake of Your shed blood, we pray. Amen.
“Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek Your statutes.” Psalm 119:155
The salvation God provided for mankind is revealed in His Word. His Word teaches us of His perfect will for man but of our utter sinfulness and failings in regard to God’s commandments and of His judgment upon sin. But God’s Word also tells us of God’s gift of salvation, of the coming of God the Son in human flesh, of His holy and sinless life in the stead of all mankind, of His sufferings and death upon the cross for the sins of the world, and of His glorious resurrection and ascension. It reveals to us that salvation is by faith in Jesus, God’s Son, and not by the works of the law.
By the gracious operation of the Holy Spirit, we have been brought to see and believe that Jesus is our redeemer and savior from all sin. We have received the assurance that, for Jesus’ sake, God is merciful toward us and forgives us all our sins. We have been brought to believe that God accepts us as His own dear children and grants us life everlasting.
But God’s salvation is far from the wicked because they do not hear and heed the message of God’s Word. Though God warns them of their sinful ways and calls upon them to repent and receive His mercy and forgiveness in Messiah Jesus, they neglect to hear God’s pleadings and continue in their own corrupt ways. Though salvation is near, it remains far from the wicked because they neglect it and reject it.
Thank You, O God, for having mercy upon me and causing me to hear Your Word and trust in the salvation You have so graciously provided for all people in the Son, Christ Jesus, our Savior. Bless the faithful proclamation of Your Word and grant that Your Spirit would turn the hearts of the wicked to repentance and faith in the salvation You have provided in the Jesus. In His name I pray. Amen.
“O Jehovah, Your tender mercies are great; give me life according to Your judgments. My persecutors and enemies are many; I do not turn from Your testimonies. I saw the traitors and was grieved, because they did not keep Your word. See how I love Your precepts, O Jehovah; give me life according to Your mercy.” Psalm 119:156-159
The tender mercies of our God are indeed great. Though we, on account of our sins, deserve nothing but His wrath and punishment, yet He has had mercy upon us and been gracious to us, forgiving all our sins and giving us life for the sake of Messiah Jesus. Because Jesus suffered and died upon the cross for the sins of the world, God has judged us pardoned and forgiven and righteous in His eyes. Thus, with the psalmist, we pray that God, because of His great mercy, would grant us life in accord with His judgments.
As a result of our faith in God’s mercy and forgiveness in Christ Jesus, we have many persecutors and enemies who would seek to turn us away from Christ and back into the sinful ways of this world. Yet, instead of accepting the doctrines and philosophies of the unbelieving world, we hold fast to Christ and His Word. We do not turn from the testimonies of God which are recorded for us in the pages of His book, the Bible.
As a result of our faith in Christ Jesus, our dislike and hatred for the testimonies of God’s Word have been changed. We hold fast to the Word of God because it reveals to us the truth – about our sinfulness and about the salvation God graciously provided in the Son. It may make us uncomfortable as it reveals the sinfulness of our hearts and lives, but it comforts us with the assurance of God’s grace and mercy in Messiah Jesus. Thus, it troubles us when people, even those who claim to be Christian, turn from God’s Word and the truth it proclaims. It grieves us when former brethren compromise the Word and refuse to hear it in its truth and purity.
We pray that God would see and reward us for loving His Word and holding fast to it, but we place our hope and confidence entirely in the mercy of God which He offers and gives us for the sake of Jesus, our Savior. We pray that God would forgive all our sins and give us life, not in accord with our works or our own righteousness, but according to His mercy which is ours for the sake of the shed blood of Jesus.
Have mercy upon me O God, for the sake of Jesus and His holy life and bitter sufferings and death in my stead. Grant me life everlasting for Christ’s sake and give me a love for Your Word. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
“The sum of Your word is true; every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.” Psalm 119:160
What is the psalmist saying? What is the Spirit of God teaching us with the words: “The sum of Your word is true; every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever”?
The entirety of God’s Word – not just parts of it, but each and every word of Scripture – is true.
Of course, since all Scripture is given by inspiration of God – “Every Scripture is God-breathed….” (2 Tim. 3:16); “Which things we also speak, not in words taught in human wisdom, but in words taught of the Holy Spirit, comparing spiritual things with spiritual things” 1 Cor. 2:13) – it follows, then, that God, who cannot lie, would speak the truth in all things.
It also follows that all that the Bible says and teaches is true. Each article of doctrine – every teaching, whether we may like it or not – is true and right. Rather than looking for loopholes or seeking excuses, we know and believe God and His Word are always right and true.
The verse also says that every one of God’s righteous judgments endures forever. God’s judgments, which are true and right, do not change; they endure forever.
This means that what God calls sin is always sin. What God condemns is always condemned. His judgments do not change with the times or according to the whims of men.
However, it also means that God’s judgment regarding the atoning sacrifice of the Son, Christ Jesus, stands forever. When God declared the sins of the world atoned for and forgiven, He doesn’t go back on His word; it remains true forever.
The Bible tells us: “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not charging their trespasses to them” (2 Cor. 5:19). When Jesus suffered and died upon the cross, when He declared that it was finished, the world was reconciled to God and God no longer held our sins against us but reached out to us with mercy and forgiveness.
That judgment of God still stands. We continue to proclaim, not only the law of God and His judgment against sin, but the grace of God and His judgment upon all sin in the sufferings and death of Christ Jesus. We still proclaim today God’s pardon and forgiveness for the sake of Jesus and His blood, shed upon the cross for the sins of the world.
In the Office of the Keys, we do not proclaim our judgment but God’s. We proclaim to the penitent sinner God’s mercy and complete pardon for Jesus’ sake. To the impenitent, we proclaim God’s judgment and wrath upon all who turn from the Son and the salvation He won for all when He shed His blood and redeemed us to be His own.
Your Word is true, O Lord. I am a sinner and deserving of Your wrath and punishment. But Your Word assures me that Christ Jesus died for my sins and rose again and that, for Jesus’ sake, You forgive me, accept me and judge me worthy of life everlasting. Keep me in Your Word and in the true faith in Jesus my Savior. In His name, I pray. Amen.
From the Lutheran Confessions
Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration
III. The Righteousness of Faith
1] The third controversy which has arisen among some theologians of the Augsburg Confession is concerning the righteousness of Christ or of faith, which God imputes by grace, through faith, to poor sinners for righteousness.
2] For one side has contended that the righteousness of faith, which the apostle calls the righteousness of God, is God’s essential righteousness, which is Christ Himself as the true, natural, and essential Son of God, who dwells in the elect by faith and impels them to do right, and thus is their righteousness, compared with which righteousness the sins of all men are as a drop of water compared with the great ocean.
3] Over against this, others have held and taught that Christ is our righteousness according to His human nature alone.
4] In opposition to both these parties it has been unanimously taught by the other teachers of the Augsburg Confession that Christ is our righteousness not according to His divine nature alone, nor according to His human nature alone, but according to both natures; for He has redeemed, justified, and saved us from our sins as God and man, through His complete obedience; that therefore the righteousness of faith is the forgiveness of sins, reconciliation with God, and our adoption as God’s children only on account of the obedience of Christ, which through faith alone, out of pure grace, is imputed for righteousness to all true believers, and on account of it they are absolved from all their unrighteousness.
5] Besides this [controversy] there have been still other disputes caused and excited on account of the Interim [on occasion of the formula of the Interim or of Interreligion], and otherwise, concerning the article of justification, which will hereafter be explained in antithesi, that is, in the enumeration of those errors which are contrary to the pure doctrine in this article.
6] This article concerning justification by faith (as the Apology says) is the chief article in the entire Christian doctrine, without which no poor conscience can have any firm consolation, or can truly know the riches of the grace of Christ, as Dr. Luther also has written: If this only article remains pure on the battlefield, the Christian Church also remains pure, and in goodly harmony and without any sects; but if it does not remain pure, it is not possible that any error or fanatical spirit can be resisted. (Tom. 5, Jena, p. 159.) 7] And concerning this article especially Paul says that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. Therefore, in this article he urges with so much zeal and earnestness the particulas exclusivas, that is, the words whereby the works of men are excluded (namely, without Law, without works, by grace [freely], Rom. 3:28; 4:5; Eph. 2:8-9), in order to indicate how highly necessary it is that in this article, aside from [the presentation of] the pure doctrine, the antithesis, that is, all contrary dogmas, be stated separately, exposed, and rejected by this means.
8] Therefore, in order to explain this controversy in a Christian way by means of God’s Word, and, by His grace, to settle it, our doctrine, faith, and confession are as follows:
9] Concerning the righteousness of faith before God we believe, teach, and confess unanimously, in accordance with the comprehensive summary of our faith and confession presented above, that poor sinful man is justified before God, that is, absolved and declared free and exempt from all his sins, and from the sentence of well-deserved condemnation, and adopted into sonship and heirship of eternal life, without any merit or worth of our own, also without any preceding, present, or any subsequent works, out of pure grace, because of the sole merit, complete obedience, bitter suffering, death, and resurrection of our Lord Christ alone, whose obedience is reckoned to us for righteousness.
10] These treasures are offered us by the Holy Ghost in the promise of the holy Gospel; and faith alone is the only means by which we lay hold upon, accept, and apply, and appropriate them to ourselves. 11] This faith is a gift of God, by which we truly learn to know Christ, our Redeemer, in the Word of the Gospel, and trust in Him, that for the sake of His obedience alone we have the forgiveness of sins by grace, are regarded as godly and righteous by God the father, and are eternally saved. 12] Therefore it is considered and understood to be the same thing when Paul says that we are justified by faith, Rom. 3:28, or that faith is counted to us for righteousness, Rom. 4:5, and when he says that we are made righteous by the obedience of One, Rom. 5:19, or that by the righteousness of One justification of faith came to all men, Rom. 5:18. 13] For faith justifies, not for this cause and reason that it is so good a work and so fair a virtue, but because it lays hold of and accepts the merit of Christ in the promise of the holy Gospel; for this must be applied and appropriated to us by faith, if we are to be justified thereby. 14] Therefore the righteousness which is imputed to faith or to the believer out of pure grace is the obedience, suffering, and resurrection of Christ, since He has made satisfaction for us to the Law, and paid for [expiated] our sins. 15] For since Christ is not man alone, but God and man in one undivided person, He was as little subject to the Law, because He is the Lord of the Law, as He had to suffer and die as far as His person is concerned. For this reason, then, His obedience, not only in suffering and dying, but also in this, that He in our stead was voluntarily made under the Law, and fulfilled it by this obedience, is imputed to us for righteousness, so that, on account of this complete obedience, which He rendered His heavenly Father for us, by doing and suffering, in living and dying, God forgives our sins, regards us as godly and righteous, and eternally saves us. 16] This righteousness is offered us by the Holy Ghost through the Gospel and in the Sacraments, and is applied, appropriated, and received through faith, whence believers have reconciliation with God, forgiveness of sins, the grace of God, sonship, and heirship of eternal life.
17] Accordingly, the word justify here means to declare righteous and free from sins, and to absolve one from eternal punishment for the sake of Christ’s righteousness, which is imputed by God to faith, Phil. 3:9. For this use and understanding of this word is common in the Holy Scriptures of the Old and the New Testament. Prov. 17:15: He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the Lord. Is. 5:23: Woe unto them which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him! Rom. 8:33: Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth, that is, absolves from sins and acquits.
18] However, since the word regeneratio, regeneration, is sometimes employed for the word iustificatio, justification, it is necessary that this word be properly explained, in order that the renewal which follows justification of faith may not be confounded with the justification of faith, but that they may be properly distinguished from one another.
19] For, in the first place, the word regeneratio, that is, regeneration, is used so as to comprise at the same time the forgiveness of sins for Christ’s sake alone, and the succeeding renewal which the Holy Ghost works in those who are justified by faith. Then, again, it is [sometimes] used pro remissione peccatorum et adoptione in filios Dei, that is, so as to mean only the remission of sins, and that we are adopted as sons of God. And in this latter sense the word is much and often used in the Apology, where it is written: Iustificatio est regeneratio, that is, Justification before God is regeneration. St. Paul, too, has employed these words as distinct from one another, Titus 3:5: He saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Ghost. 20] As also the word vivificatio, that is, making alive, has sometimes been used in a like sense. For when man is justified through faith (which the Holy Ghost alone works), this is truly a regeneration, because from a child of wrath he becomes a child of God, and thus is transferred from death to life, as it is written: When we were dead in sins, He hath quickened us together with Christ, Eph. 2:5. Likewise: The just shall live by faith, Rom. 1:17; Hab. 2:4. In this sense the word is much and often used in the Apology.
21] But again, it is often taken also for sanctification and renewal, which succeeds the righteousness of faith, as Dr. Luther has thus used it in his book concerning the Church and the Councils, and elsewhere.
22] But when we teach that through the operation of the Holy Ghost we are born anew and justified, the sense is not that after regeneration no unrighteousness clings any more to the justified and regenerate in their being and life, but that Christ covers all their sins which nevertheless in this life still inhere in nature with His complete obedience. But irrespective of this they are declared and regarded godly and righteous by faith and for the sake of Christ’s obedience (which Christ rendered the Father for us from His birth to His most ignominious death upon the cross), although, on account of their corrupt nature, they still are and remain sinners to the grave [while they bear about this mortal body]. Nor, on the other hand, is this the meaning, that without repentance, conversion, and renewal we might or should yield to sins, and remain and continue in them.
23] For true [and not feigned] contrition must precede; and to those who, in the manner stated, out of pure grace, for the sake of the only Mediator, Christ, without any works and merit, are righteous before God, that is, are received into grace, the Holy Ghost is also given, who renews and sanctifies them, and works in them love to God and to their neighbor. But since the incipient renewal is imperfect in this life, and sin still dwells in the flesh, even in the regenerate, the righteousness of faith before God consists in the gracious imputation of the righteousness of Christ, without the addition of our works, so that our sins are forgiven us and covered, and are not imputed, Rom. 4:6ff
24] But here very good attention must be given with especial diligence, if the article of justification is to remain pure, lest that which precedes faith, and that which follows after it, be mingled together or inserted into the article of justification as necessary and belonging to it, because it is not one or the same thing to speak of conversion and of justification.
25] For not everything that belongs to conversion belongs likewise to the article of justification, in and to which belong and are necessary only the grace of God, the merit of Christ, and faith, which receives this in the promise of the Gospel, whereby the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us, whence we receive and have forgiveness of sins, reconciliation with God, sonship, and heirship of eternal life.
26] Therefore true, saving faith is not in those who are without contrition and sorrow, and have a wicked purpose to remain and persevere in sins; but true contrition precedes, and genuine faith is in or with true repentance [justifying faith is in those who repent truly, not feignedly].
27] Love is also a fruit which surely and necessarily follows true faith. For the fact that one does not love is a sure indication that he is not justified, but is still in death, or has lost the righteousness of faith again, as John says, 1 John 3:14. But when Paul says, Rom. 3:28: We are justified by faith without works, he indicates thereby that neither the contrition that precedes, nor the works that follow, belong in the article or transaction of justification by faith. For good works do not precede justification, but follow it, and the person must first be justified before he can do good works.
28] In like manner also renewal and sanctification, although it is also a benefit of the Mediator, Christ, and a work of the Holy Ghost, does not belong in the article or affair of justification before God, but follows the same since, on account of our corrupt flesh, it is not entirely perfect and complete in this life, as Dr. Luther writes well concerning this in his beautiful and large exposition of the Epistle to the Galatians, in which he says as follows: 29] We concede indeed that instruction should be given also concerning love and good works, yet in such a way that this be done when and where it is necessary, namely, when otherwise and outside of this matter of justification we have to do with works. But here the chief matter dealt with is the question, not whether we should also do good works and exercise love, but by what means we can be justified before God, and saved. And here we answer thus with St. Paul: that we are justified by faith in Christ alone, and not by the deeds of the Law or by love. Not that we hereby entirely reject works and love, as the adversaries falsely slander and accuse us, but that we do not allow ourselves to be led away, as Satan desires, from the chief matter with which we have to do here to another and foreign affair which does not at all belong to this matter. Therefore, whereas, and as long as we are occupied with this article of justification, we reject and condemn works, since this article is so constituted that it can admit of no disputation or treatment whatever regarding works; therefore in this matter we cut short all Law and works of the Law. So far Luther.
30] In order, therefore, that troubled hearts may have a firm, sure consolation, also, that due honor be given to the merit of Christ and the grace of God, the Scriptures teach that the righteousness of faith before God consists alone in the gracious [gratuitous] reconciliation or the forgiveness of sins, which is presented to us out of pure grace, for the sake of the only merit of the Mediator, Christ, and is received through faith alone in the promise of the Gospel. In like manner, too, in justification before God faith relies neither upon contrition nor upon love or other virtues, but upon Christ alone, and in Him upon His complete obedience by which He has fulfilled the Law for us, which [obedience] is imputed to believers for righteousness.
31] Moreover, neither contrition nor love or any other virtue, but faith alone is the sole means and instrument by which and through which we can receive and accept the grace of God, the merit of Christ, and the forgiveness of sins, which are offered us in the promise of the Gospel.
32] It is also correctly said that believers who in Christ through faith have been justified, have in this life first the imputed righteousness of faith, and then also the incipient righteousness of the new obedience or of good works. But these two must not be mingled with one another or be both injected at the same time into the article of justification by faith before God. For since this incipient righteousness or renewal in us is incomplete and impure in this life because of the flesh, the person cannot stand with and by it [on the ground of this righteousness] before God’s tribunal, but before God’s tribunal only the righteousness of the obedience, suffering, and death of Christ, which is imputed to faith, can stand, so that only for the sake of this obedience is the person (even after his renewal, when he has already many good works and lives the best [upright and blameless] life) pleasing and acceptable to God, and is received into adoption and heirship of eternal life.
33] Here belongs also what St. Paul writes Rom. 4:3, that Abraham was justified before God by faith alone, for the sake of the Mediator, without the cooperation of his works, not only when he was first converted from idolatry and had no good works, but also afterwards, when he had been renewed by the Holy Ghost, and adorned with many excellent good works, Gen. 15:6; Heb. 11:8. And Paul puts the following question, Rom. 4:1ff : On what did Abraham’s righteousness before God for everlasting life, by which he had a gracious God, and was pleasing and acceptable to Him, rest at that time?
34] This he answers: To him who worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness; as David also, Ps. 32:1, speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness without works. 35] Hence, even though the converted and believing [in Christ] have incipient renewal, sanctification, love, virtue, and good works, yet these neither can nor should be drawn into, or mingled with, the article of justification before God, in order that the honor due Him may remain with Christ the Redeemer, and tempted consciences may have a sure consolation, since our new obedience is incomplete and impure.
36] And this is the meaning of the Apostle Paul when in this article he urges so diligently and zealously the particulas exclusivas, that is, the words by which works are excluded from the article of justification: absque operibus, sine lege, gratis, non ex operibus, that is, by grace, without merit, without works, not of works. These exclusivae are all comprised in the expression: By faith alone in Christ we are justified before God and saved. For thereby works are excluded, not in the sense that a true faith can exist without contrition, or that good works should, must, and dare not follow true faith as sure and indubitable fruits, or that believers dare not nor must do anything good; but good works are excluded from the article of justification before God, so that they must not be drawn into, woven into, or mingled with the transaction of the justification of the poor sinner before God as necessary or belonging thereto. And the true sense of the particulae exclusivae in articulo iustificationis, that is, of the aforementioned terms, in the article of justification, consists in the following, and they should also be urged in this article with all diligence and earnestness [on account of these reasons]:
37] 1. That thereby [through these particles] all our own works, merit, worthiness, glory, and confidence in all our works are entirely excluded in the article of justification so that our works shall not be constituted or regarded as either the cause or the merit of justification, neither entirely, nor half, nor in the least part, upon which God could or ought to look, or we to rely in this article and action.
38] 2. That this remain the office and property of faith alone, that it alone, and nothing else whatever, is the means or instrument by and through which God’s grace and the merit of Christ in the promise of the Gospel are received, apprehended, accepted, applied to us, and appropriated; and that from this office and property of such application or appropriation love and all other virtues or works are excluded.
39] 3. That neither renewal, sanctification, virtues nor good works are tamquam forma aut pars aut causa iustificationis, that is, our righteousness before God, nor are they to be constituted and set up as a part or cause of our righteousness, or otherwise under any pretext, title, or name whatever to be mingled in the article of justification as necessary and belonging thereto; but that the righteousness of faith consists alone in the forgiveness of sins out of pure grace, for the sake of Christ’s merit alone; which blessings are offered us in the promise of the Gospel, and are received, accepted, applied, and appropriated by faith alone.
40] In the same manner the order also between faith and good works must abide and be maintained, and likewise between justification and renewal, or sanctification.
41] For good works do not precede faith, neither does sanctification precede justification. But first faith is kindled in us in conversion by the Holy Ghost from the hearing of the Gospel. This lays hold of God’s grace in Christ, by which the person is justified. Then, when the person is justified, he is also renewed and sanctified by the Holy Ghost, from which renewal and sanctification the fruits of good works then follow. Et haec non ita divelluntur, quasi vera fides aliquando et aliquamdiu stare possit cum malo proposito, sed ordine causarum et effectuum, antecedentium et consequentium, ita distribuuntur. Manet enim, quod Lutherus recte dicit: Bene conveniunt et sunt connexa inseparabiliter fides et opera; sed sola fides est, quae apprehendit benedictionem sine operibus, et tamen nunquam est sola. That is: This should not be understood as though justification and renewal were sundered from one another in such a manner that a genuine faith sometimes could exist and continue for a time together with a wicked intention, but hereby only the order [of causes and effects, of antecedents and consequents] is indicated, how one precedes or succeeds the other. For what Luther has correctly said remains true nevertheless: Faith and good works well agree and fit together [are inseparably connected]; but it is faith alone, without works, which lays hold of the blessing; and yet it is never and at no time alone. This has been set forth above.
42] Many disputations also are usefully and well explained by means of this true distinction, of which the Apology treats in reference to the passage James 2:20. For when we speak of faith, how it justifies, the doctrine of St. Paul is that faith alone, without works, justifies, Rom. 3:28, inasmuch as it applies and appropriates to us the merit of Christ, as has been said. But if the question is, wherein and whereby a Christian can perceive and distinguish, either in himself or in others, a true living faith from a feigned and dead faith, (since many idle, secure Christians imagine for themselves a delusion in place of faith, while they nevertheless have no true faith,) the Apology gives this answer: James calls that dead faith where good works and fruits of the Spirit of every kind do not follow. And to this effect the Latin edition of the Apology says: Iacobus recte negat, nos tali fide iustificari, quae est sine operibus, hoc est, quae mortua est. That is: St. James teaches correctly when he denies that we are justified by such a faith as is without works, which is dead faith.
43] But James speaks, as the Apology says, concerning the works of those who have already been justified through Christ, reconciled with God, and obtained forgiveness of sins through Christ. But if the question is, whereby and whence faith has this, and what appertains to this that it justifies and saves, it is false and incorrect to say: Fidem non posse iustificare sine operibus; vel fidem, quatenus caritatem, qua formatur, coniunctam habet, iustificare; vel fidei, ut iustificet, necessariam esse praesentiam bonorum operum; vel bona opera esse causam sine qua non, quae per particulas exclusivas ex articulo iustificationis non excludantur. That is: That faith cannot justify without works; or that faith justifies or makes righteous, inasmuch as it has love with it, for the sake of which love this is ascribed to faith [it has love with it, by which it is formed]; or that the presence of works with faith is necessary if otherwise man is to be justified thereby before God; or that the presence of good works in the article of justification, or for justification, is needful, so that good works are a cause without which man cannot be justified, and that they are not excluded from the article of justification by the particulae exclusivae: absque operibus etc., that is, when St. Paul says: without works. For faith makes righteous only inasmuch as and because, as a means and instrument, it lays hold of, and accepts, the grace of God and the merit of Christ in the promise of the Gospel.
44] Let this suffice, according to the plan of this document, as a summary explanation of the doctrine of justification by faith, which is treated more at length in the above-mentioned writings. From these, the antithesis also, that is, the false contrary dogmas, are manifest, namely, that in addition to the errors recounted above also the following and similar ones, which conflict with the explanation now published, must be censured, exposed, and rejected, as when it is taught:
45] 1. That our love or good works are a merit or cause of justification before God, either entirely or at least in part.
46] 2. Or that by good works man must render himself worthy and fit that the merit of Christ may be imparted to him.
47] 3. Vel formalem nostram iustitiam coram Deo esse inhaerentem nostram novitatem seu caritatem; that is, that our real righteousness before God is the love or renewal which the Holy Ghost works in us, and which is in us.
48] 4. Or that two things or parts belong to the righteousness of faith before God in which it consists, namely, the gracious forgiveness of sins, and then, secondly, also renewal or sanctification.
49] 5. Item, fidem iustificare tantum initialiter, vel partialiter, vel principaliter; et novitatem vel caritatem nostram iustificare etiam coram Deo vel completive, vel minus principaliter (that is, that faith justifies only initially, either in part or primarily, and that our newness or love justifies even before God, either completively or secondarily).
50] 6. Item, credentes coram Deo iustificari vel coram Deo iustos esse simul et imputatione et inchoatione, vel partim imputatione, partim inchoatione novae obedientiae (that is, also that believers are justified before God, or are righteous before God, both by imputation and by inchoation at the same time, or partly by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and partly by the beginning of new obedience).
51] 7. Item, applicationem promissionis gratiae fieri et fide cordis et confessione oris ac reliquis virtutibus (that is, also that the application of the promise of grace occurs both by faith of the heart and confession of the mouth, and by other virtues). That is: Faith makes righteous for this reason alone, that righteousness is begun in us by faith, or in this way, that faith takes the precedence in justification; nevertheless, renewal and love also belong to our righteousness before God, however, in such a way that it is not the chief cause of our righteousness, but that our righteousness before God is not entire and complete without such love and renewal. Likewise, that believers are justified and righteous before God at the same time by the imputed righteousness of Christ and the incipient new obedience, or in part by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and in part by the incipient new obedience. Likewise, that the promise of grace is appropriated to us by faith in the heart, and confession which is made with the mouth, and by other virtues.
52] Also this is incorrect, when it is taught that man must be saved in some other way or through something else than as he is justified before God, so that we are indeed justified before God by faith alone, without works, but that it is impossible to be saved without works or obtain salvation without works.
53] This is false, for the reason that it is directly opposed to the declaration of Paul, Rom. 4:6: The blessedness is of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works. And Paul’s reason [the basis of Paul’s argument] is that we obtain both, salvation as well as righteousness, in one and the same way; yea, that by: this very means, when we are justified by faith, we receive at the same time adoption and heirship of eternal life and salvation; and on this account Paul employs and emphasizes the particulas exclusivas, that is, those words by which works and our own merits are entirely excluded, namely, by grace, without works, as forcibly in the article concerning salvation as in the article concerning righteousness.
54] Likewise also the disputation concerning the indwelling in us of the essential righteousness of God must be correctly explained. For although in the elect, who are justified by Christ and reconciled with God, God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, who is the eternal and essential righteousness, dwells by faith (for all Christians are temples of God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, who also impels them to do right), yet this indwelling of God is not the righteousness of faith of which St. Paul treats and which he calls iustitiam Dei, that is, the righteousness of God, for the sake of which we are declared righteous before God; but it follows the preceding righteousness of faith, which is nothing else than the forgiveness of sins and the gracious adoption of the poor sinner, for the sake of Christ’s obedience and merit alone.
55] Accordingly, since in our churches it is acknowledged [established beyond controversy] among the theologians of the Augsburg Confession that all our righteousness is to be sought outside the merits, works, virtues, and worthiness of ourselves and of all men, and rests alone upon Christ the Lord, it must be carefully considered in what respect Christ is called our Righteousness in this affair of justification, namely, that our righteousness rests not upon one or the other nature, but upon the entire person of Christ, who as God and man is our Righteousness in His only, entire, and complete obedience.
56] For even though Christ had been conceived and born without sin by the Holy Ghost, and had fulfilled all righteousness in His human nature alone, and yet had not been true and eternal God, this obedience and suffering of His human nature could not be imputed to us for righteousness. As also, if the Son of God had not become man, the divine nature alone could not be our righteousness. Therefore we believe, teach, and confess that the entire obedience of the entire person of Christ, which He has rendered the Father for us even to His most ignominious death upon the cross, is imputed to us for righteousness. For the human nature alone, without the divine, could neither by obedience nor suffering render satisfaction to eternal almighty God for the sins of all the world; however, the divinity alone, without the humanity, could not mediate between God and us.
57] But, since it is the obedience as above mentioned [not only of one nature, but] of the entire person, it is a complete satisfaction and expiation for the human race, by which the eternal, immutable righteousness of God, revealed in the Law, has been satisfied, and is thus our righteousness, which avails before God and is revealed in the Gospel, and upon which faith relies before God, which God imputes to faith, as it is written, Rom. 5:19: For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of One shall many be made righteous; and 1 John 1:7: The blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, cleanseth us from all sin. Likewise: The just shall live by his faith, Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:17.
58] Thus neither the divine nor the human nature of Christ by itself is imputed to us for righteousness, but only the obedience of the person who is at the same time God and man. And faith thus regards the person of Christ as it was made under the Law for us, bore our sins, and in His going to the Father offered to His heavenly Father for us poor sinners His entire, complete obedience, from His holy birth even unto death, and has thereby covered all our disobedience which inheres in our nature, and its thoughts, words, and works, so that it is not imputed to us for condemnation, but is pardoned and forgiven out of pure grace, alone for Christ’s sake.
59] Therefore we unanimously reject and condemn, besides the above-mentioned, also the following and all similar errors, as contrary to God’s Word, the doctrine of the prophets and apostles, and our Christian faith:
60] 1. When it is taught that Christ is our righteousness before God according to His divine nature alone.
61] 2. That Christ is our righteousness according to His human nature alone.
62] 3. That in the passages from the prophets and apostles, when the righteousness of faith is spoken of, the words justify and to be justified are not to signify to declare free from sins and to obtain the forgiveness of sins, but to be made actually and really righteous because of love infused by the Holy Ghost, virtues, and the works following from it.
63] 4. That faith looks not only to the obedience of Christ, but to His divine nature as it dwells and works in us, and that by this indwelling our sins are covered before God.
64] 5. That faith is such a trust in the obedience of Christ as can be and remain in a person notwithstanding he has no genuine repentance, in whom also no love follows, but who persists in sins against his conscience.
65] 6. That not God dwells in the believers, but only the gifts of God.
66] These and like errors, one and all, we unanimously reject as contrary to the clear Word of God, and by God’s grace abide firmly and constantly in the doctrine of the righteousness of faith before God, as it is embodied, expounded, and proved from God’s Word in the Augsburg Confession, and the Apology issued after it.
67] Concerning what is needful furthermore for the proper explanation of this profound and chief article of justification before God, upon which depends the salvation of our souls, we direct, and for the sake of brevity herewith refer, every one to Dr. Luther’s beautiful and glorious exposition of the Epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians.
Bible Study in Preparation for Sunday
Scripture Readings for Sunday are: Psalm 119:153-160; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-28; and Matthew 25:14-30. Please read them in their context as you prepare for worship on Sunday.
The Adult Bible Class is studying St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians, at chapter 5, verse 3ff.
Remember to Pray
Remember to pray for our church and for all our members, that none be lost to Christ’s kingdom but that all continue in repentance and be strengthened and built up in the true and saving faith in Christ Jesus through the hearing and study of His Word. We pray for God’s healing and strengthening of our congregation, as well as for God’s help with our church’s financial needs. We continue to pray for all who have been sick or who are suffering among us – for Sam Rusch who was hospitalized; for Bonnie Hawes, who is recovering from heart surgery; for those who have been absent from us, for our extended families and for believers who are alone and have no congregation. Continue to pray for Lutheran congregations and believers around the world who are persecuted or suffering for their faith in Christ Jesus.
Events and Announcements
Our next evening congregational Bible Study, reviewing the Bible on Trial, will be held at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 16.
On-line video of worship services can be found at: http://goodshepherdrogers.org/blog/worship-service-video.
Information for bulletins or newsletters may be sent to Pastor Moll by calling him at 479-233-0081 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
To the chief musician, on eight. A Psalm of David.
1 Help, O Jehovah, for the saint ceases to be; for the faithful fail from among the sons of men. 2 They speak vanity, each man with his neighbor; with flattering lips and a double heart they speak. 3 Jehovah shall cut off all with flattering lips and the tongue that speaks great things; 4 Who say, We shall be strong by our tongue; our lips are our own; who is lord over us? 5 For the pain of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, I will now rise up, says Jehovah; I will set in safety; he pants for it. 6 The words of Jehovah are pure words, like silver refined in an earthen furnace, purified seven times. 7 You shall keep them, O Jehovah; You shall preserve them from this generation forever. 8 The wicked walk around on every side, when vileness is exalted by the sons of men.
[Scripture taken from Green’s Literal Translation (LITV), Copyright 1993 by Jay P. Green Sr., All rights reserved.]