At our January chapter meeting, the brothers feasted on biscuits and sausage gravy as we discussed Article IV of the Augsburg Confession and its Apology. We had a new individual attend from Holy Cross, Moline, Illinois. We look forward to seeing some of you in Naperville next month. There will be two or three from our chapter in attendance, God willing.
We discussed the importance of Article IV–the chief article of our Christian faith, and how a wrong understanding of justification by grace can lead to all sorts of error. The Quad City Brothers rejoice that our justification is all God’s doing because it removes all doubt about our salvation. We discussed various churches who sadly believe (and teach others to believe) that the individual plays a role in their salvation. When the focus is wrong, God is not honored. The result of a focus on the individual and not of Christ was seen in the teaching of lots of popular preachers today (We spent lots of time talking about Joel Osteen!).
Look how clearly our Lutheran Fathers taught this truth in the Apology of the Augsburg Confession:
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. 41 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. 42 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.
43 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. 44 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.
(Source: Concordia : The Lutheran Confessions. Edited by Paul Timothy McCain. St. Louis, MO : Concordia Publishing House, 2005, S. 87)