Concord #22: Good Works (part 3)

"Concord" is a weekly study of the Lutheran Confessions, where we will take up a topic from the Book of Concord and reflect on what we believe, teach, and confess in the Lutheran Church. The purpose of this series is to deepen readers' knowledge and appreciation for the confessions of the Lutheran Church, and to unite them "with one heart" to confess the teachings of Holy Scripture.

Good Works (part 3)

Lutherans teach good works, but also that good works should not take the place of faith before God, or else Christ’s work is not necessary. But there is also a happy consequence of such a faith.

“But, although this doctrine is despised by the inexperienced, nevertheless God-fearing and anxious consciences find by experience that it brings the greatest consolation, because consciences cannot be set at rest through any works, but only by faith, when they take the sure ground that for Christ's sake they have a reconciled God. As Paul teaches Rom. 5:1: Being justified by faith, we have peace with God. This whole doctrine is to be referred to that conflict of the terrified conscience, neither can it be understood apart from that conflict. Therefore inexperienced and profane men judge ill concerning this matter, who dream that Christian righteousness is nothing but civil and philosophical righteousness” (Augsburg Confession XX.15-18).

Good works do indeed produce a kind of righteousness, but only in a civil or a philosophical sense. Good works do not produce Christian righteousness, or the righteousness that counts before God. Good works can always be better works. There can always be more good works. And a person who comes to this realization will become even more anxious. But faith finds comfort in the reconciliation with God that Christ has accomplished.

“Hence there was very great need to treat of, and renew, this doctrine of faith in Christ, to the end that anxious consciences should not be without consolation but that they might know that grace and forgiveness of sins and justification are apprehended by faith in Christ” (Augsburg Confession XX.22). This is as true today as it was at the time of the confession at Augsburg. We must always return to the doctrine of faith in Christ, and there find the great consolation of the Gospel.

You can read the Book of Concord at http://www.bookofconcord.org

Rev. Jacob Ehrhard is pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in New Haven, MO.

Created: June 14th, 2017