Kolb, Robert. The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000.
Augsburg Confession IV, “Concerning Justification” p. 40.
Apology to the Augsburg Confession IV, “Justification” pp. 121-173.
Article 4 of the Augsburg Confession states that we are not forgiven or righteous by any of our own works but only by faith “when we believe that Christ has suffered for us and that for his sake our sin is forgiven and righteousness and eternal life are given to us” (Kolb 2000, 40).
The explanation of article IV of the Augsburg Confession is, according to Melanchthon, tied in with the fifth, sixth, and twentieth articles, rejected in the Confutation (Kolb 2000, 121. “Since the opponents understand neither the forgiveness of sins, nor faith, nor grace, nor righteousness, they miserably contaminate this article, obscure the glory and benefits of Christ, and tear away from devout consciences the consolation offered them in Christ” (Kolb 2000, 121). Therefore, he treats this article very carefully to make the whole doctrine clear. For the purpose of clarity, “law” will refer to God’s demands (Kolb 2000, 122). The Roman opponents consider obedience to the Law as something consisting of actions, while Melanchthon considers it to have a strong element of emotion or affection. The opponents think natural man can keep the Law while Melanchthon affirms this to be impossible (Kolb 2000, 122).
In fact God requires good works (Kolb 2000, 124), and people are capable of doing some sort of good deeds in society. The issue is whether we can love God wholeheartedly and purely. This is something Melanchthon maintains we cannot do (Kol 2000, 125). He goes on to give multiple Scriptural statements that assert humans need a savior and cannot keep the Law by themselves. Regardless of the civil quality of our works, without faith it is impossible to “love God above all things” (Kolb 2000, 127).
Rather than the Law to justify us, we need God’s promise of forgiveness in Christ (Kolb 2000, 127). It is faith which assures us of God’s love and encourages us to trust him (Kolb 2000, 128). Melanchthon observes that the opponents do not teach the faith that justifies. Therefore (Kolb 2000, 128), he sets out to describe it. “The faith that justifies is not only a knowledge of history; it is to assent to the promise of God in which forgiveness of sins and justification are bestowed freely on account of Christ” (Kolb 2000, 128). It is essential that we realize God’s promise in Christ is free and is for us (Kolb 2000, 129). Again, Melanchthon gives numerous biblical examples. Faith which justifies is a living faith which “brings forth good fruit (Kolb 2000, 131). This faith is only faith in Christ (Kolb 2000, 133). Melanchthon proceeds to give a syllogistic argument for this point of view. The objection may then be raised that the Bible also says to keep God’s law. Melanchthon’s response is that the forgiveness of God is what enables us to do good works before God (Kolb 2000, 140). It is not any characteristic except faith in the work of Christ which justifies (Kolb 2000, 143). The thrust of the Bible is that “Mercy preserves us; our own merits and our own efforts do not preserve us” (Kolb 2000, 147). Rather, those who expect works to be involved in justification obscure Christ’s glory, fail to find peace, and ruin their consciences (Kolb 2000, 151). The testimony of the Bible is consistent. Works, including love, flow from forgiveness (Kolb 200, 153). Melanchthon continues to work with commentary on specific Bible passages, then concludes that the arguments of the confutation are invalid.