Saturday, March 08, 2008

Like Sacraments, Good Works Accept Forgiveness from God through Faith

An interesting passage from the Apology. Like sacraments, good works are means by which our faith accepts forgiveness from God. (Recall that the Apology does not necessarily limit the sacraments to two, when they are defined as means by which we receive grace.)

From the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Art. IV.275-278

"Christ frequently connects the promise of forgiveness of sins with good works. He does not mean that good works are a propitiation – for they follow reconciliation – but he does so for two reasons. One is that good fruits ought to follow of necessity, and so he warns that penitence is hypocritical and false if they do not follow. The other reason is that we need external signs of this exceedingly great promise, since a terrified conscience needs manifold consolations. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, for example, are signs that constantly admonish, cheer, and confirm terrified minds to believe more firmly that their sins are forgiven. This same promise is written and pictured in good works, which thus urge us to believe more firmly. Those who fail to do good, do not arouse themselves to believe, but despise these promises. But the faithful embrace them and are glad to have signs and testimonies of this great promise. Hence they exercise themselves in these signs and testimonies. Just as the Lord’s Supper does not justify ex opera operato without faith, so almsgiving does not justify ex opera operato without faith.
. . .
"[I]n penitence we must consider faith and fruits together, so we say in reference to almsgiving that it is the whole newness of life which saves. Almsgiving is an exercise of that faith which accepts forgiveness of sins and overcomes death as it becomes ever stronger through such exercise."


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