Concerning Justification, part 15
Scripture Text: Isaiah 64:4–6
From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Jesus said, “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). He also said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” So, if it is necessary to be born again of the Holy Spirit, the righteousness of reason cannot justify us before God and does not fulfill the law. Paul writes, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23); that is, they are destitute of the wisdom and righteousness of God that acknowledges and glorifies God. Paul also writes, “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, indeed it cannot; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom 8:7-8). These testimonies are so plain that, to employ the words of Augustine that he used in this case, they do not need a sharp mind, but only an attentive hearer.
Pulling It Together: The words of Jesus are enough. If it is Jesus who makes us free, how dare we try to make ourselves free through works of the law? So some say, “Yes, he sets you free but you must add works to remain free.” This is the righteousness of reason, the fleshly, earthly righteousness that satisfies some parts of the law but cannot keep it all. Yet, even if all of the law could be kept perfectly, as has been written earlier, without the grace of God, these civil and religious works would be filthy rags (Isa 64:6) and rubbish (Phil 3:8). Who then could imagine the following two things? First, who could imagine that there is a God who loves sinners so much that he would send his Son to set them free from their bondage to sin and death? Second, who would want to imagine that people could do a better job of liberation than God?
Prayer: Oh, Son of God, thank you for setting us free from this sin that we have been in for so long. Amen.
Luther's Small Cat Discovers: The Seasons of the Church Year is written for 4th grade level students. This book takes students through the church year, accompanied by Luther’s Small Cat — a character who is just as inquisitive and precocious as the students. May your journey through the church year bring you closer to Christ, who walks through each moment of life alongside you.
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