Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article IV Justification (paragraphs 38, 40-46)--Philip Melanchthon

"...For the Law always accuses and terrifies consciences. Therefore, it does not justify, because a conscience terrified by the Law runs from God's judgment...

By their own strength, people cannot fulfill God's Law. They are all under sin, subject to eternal wrath and death. Because of this, we cannot be freed by the Law from sin and be justified. But the promise of forgiveness of sins and of justification has been given us for Christ's sake, who was given for us in order that He might make satisfaction for the sins of the world. He has been appointed as the Mediator and Atoning Sacrifice. This promise does not depend on our merits, but freely offers forgiveness of sins and justification, as Paul says in Romans 11:6, 'But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.' And in another place, Romans 3:21, 'The righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law.' In other words, forgiveness of sins is freely offered. Nor does reconciliation depend on our merits. Because if forgiveness of sins were to depend on our merits, and reconciliation were from the Law, it would be useless. Since we do not fulfill the Law, it would also follow that we would never gain the promise of reconciliation. Paul reasons this way in Romans 4:14, 'For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void.' If the promise would depend on our merits and the Law, which we never fulfill, it would follow that the promise would be useless.

Since justification is gained through the free promise, it follows that we cannot justify ourselves. Otherwise, why would there be a need to promise? Since the promise can only be received by faith, the Gospel (which is properly the promise of forgiveness of sins and of justification for Christ's sake) proclaims the righteousness of faith in Christ. The Law does not teach this, nor is this the righteousness of the Law. For the Law demands our works and our perfection. But, for Christ's sake, the Gospel freely offers reconciliation to us, who have been vanquished by sin and death. This is received not by works, but by faith alone. This faith does not bring to God confidence in one's own merits, but only confidence in the promise, or the mercy promised in Christ. This special faith (by which an individual believes that for Christ's sake his sins are forgiven him, and that for Christ's sake God is reconciled and sees us favorably) gains forgiveness of sins and justifies us. In repentance, namely, in terrors, this faith comforts and encourages hearts. It regenerates us and brings the Holy Spirit so that we may be able to fulfill God's Law: to love God, truly fear God, truly be confident that God hears prayer, and obey God in all afflictions. This faith puts to death concupiscence and the like. So faith freely receives forgiveness of sins. It sets Christ, the Mediator and Atoning Sacrifice, against God's wrath. It does not present our merits or our love. This faith is the true knowledge of Christ and helps itself to the benefits of Christ. This faith regenerates hearts and comes before the fulfilling of the Law."

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