The Righteousness of Faith
1 The third controversy which has arisen among some theologians of the Augsburg Confession is concerning the righteousness of Christ or of faith, which God imputes by grace, through faith, to poor sinners for righteousness.
2 For one side has contended that the righteousness of faith, which the apostle calls the righteousness of God, is God's essential righteousness, which is Christ Himself as the true, natural, and essential Son of God, who dwells in the elect by faith and impels them to do right, and thus is their righteousness, compared with which righteousness the sins of all men are as a drop of water compared with the great ocean.
3 Over against this, others have held and taught that Christ is our righteousness according to His human nature alone.
4 In opposition to both these parties it has been unanimously taught by the other teachers of the Augsburg Confession that Christ is our righteousness not according to His divine nature alone, nor according to His human nature alone, but according to both natures; for He has redeemed, justified, and saved us from our sins as God and man, through His complete obedience; that therefore the righteousness of faith is the forgiveness of sins, reconciliation with God, and our adoption as God's children only on account of the obedience of Christ, which through faith alone, out of pure grace, is imputed for righteousness to all true believers, and on account of it they are absolved from all their unrighteousness.
5 Besides this a there have been still other disputes caused and excited on account of the Interim b, and otherwise, concerning the article of justification, which will hereafter be explained in antithesi, that is, in the enumeration of those errors which are contrary to the pure doctrine in this article.
6 This article concerning justification by faith (as the Apology says) is the chief article in the entire Christian doctrine, without which no poor conscience can have any firm consolation, or can truly know the riches of the grace of Christ, as Dr. Luther also has written: If this only article remains pure on the battlefield, the Christian Church also remains pure, and in goodly harmony and without any sects; but if it does not remain pure, it is not possible that any error or fanatical spirit can be resisted. (Tom. 5, Jena, p. 159.) 7 And concerning this article especially Paul says that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. Therefore, in this article he urges with so much zeal and earnestness the particulas exclusivas, that is, the words whereby the works of men are excluded (namely, without Law, without works, by grace c, Rom. 3, 28; 4, 5; Eph. 2, 8. 9 ), in order to indicate how highly necessary it is that in this article, aside from d the pure doctrine, the antithesis, that is, all contrary dogmas, be stated separately, exposed, and rejected by this means.
8 Therefore, in order to explain this controversy in a Christian way by means of God's Word, and, by His grace, to settle it, our doctrine, faith, and confession are as follows:
9 Concerning the righteousness of faith before God we believe, teach, and confess unanimously, in accordance with the comprehensive summary of our faith and confession presented above, that poor sinful man is justified before God, that is, absolved and declared free and exempt from all his sins, and from the sentence of well-deserved condemnation, and adopted into sonship and heirship of eternal life, without any merit or worth of our own, also without any preceding, present, or any subsequent works, out of pure grace, because of the sole merit, complete obedience, bitter suffering, death, and resurrection of our Lord Christ alone, whose obedience is reckoned to us for righteousness.
10 These treasures are offered us by the Holy Ghost in the promise of the holy Gospel; and faith alone is the only means by which we lay hold upon, accept, and apply, and appropriate them to ourselves. 11 This faith is a gift of God, by which we truly learn to know Christ, our Redeemer, in the Word of the Gospel, and trust in Him, that for the sake of His obedience alone we have the forgiveness of sins by grace, are regarded as godly and righteous by God the father, and are eternally saved. 12 Therefore it is considered and understood to be the same thing when Paul says that we are justified by faith, Rom. 3, 28, or that faith is counted to us for righteousness, Rom. 4, 5, and when he says that we are made righteous by the obedience of One, Rom. 5, 19, or that by the righteousness of One justification of faith came to all men, Rom. 5, 18. 13 For faith justifies, not for this cause and reason that it is so good a work and so fair a virtue, but because it lays hold of and accepts the merit of Christ in the promise of the holy Gospel; for this must be applied and appropriated to us by faith, if we are to be justified thereby. 14 Therefore the righteousness which is imputed to faith or to the believer out of pure grace is the obedience, suffering, and resurrection of Christ, since He has made satisfaction for us to the Law, and paid for e our sins. 15 For since Christ is not man alone, but God and man in one undivided person, He was as little subject to the Law, because He is the Lord of the Law, as He had to suffer and die as far as His person is concerned. For this reason, then, His obedience, not only in suffering and dying, but also in this, that He in our stead was voluntarily made under the Law, and fulfilled it by this obedience, is imputed to us for righteousness, so that, on account of this complete obedience, which He rendered His heavenly Father for us, by doing and suffering, in living and dying, God forgives our sins, regards us as godly and righteous, and eternally saves us. 16 This righteousness is offered us by the Holy Ghost through the Gospel and in the Sacraments, and is applied, appropriated, and received through faith, whence believers have reconciliation with God, forgiveness of sins, the grace of God sonship, and heirship of eternal life.
17 Accordingly, the word justify here means to declare righteous and free from sins, and to absolve one from eternal punishment for the sake of Christ's righteousness, which is imputed by God to faith, Phil. 3, 9. For this use and understanding of this word is common in the Holy Scriptures of the Old and the New Testament. Prov. 17, 15: He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the Lord. Is. 5, 23: Woe unto them which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him! Rom. 8, 33: Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth, that is, absolves from sins and acquits.
18 However, since the word regeneratio, regeneration, is sometimes employed for the word iustificatio, justification, it is necessary that this word be properly explained, in order that the renewal which follows justification of faith may not be confounded with the justification of faith, but that they may be properly distinguished from one another.
19 For, in the first place, the word regeneratio, that is, regeneration, is used so as to comprise at the same time the forgiveness of sins for Christ's sake alone, and the succeeding renewal which the Holy Ghost works in those who are justified by faith. Then, again, it is f used pro remissione peccatorum et adoptione in filios Dei, that is, so as to mean only the remission of sins, and that we are adopted as sons of God. And in this latter sense the word is much and often used in the Apology, where it is written: Iustificatio est regeneratio, that is, Justification before God is regeneration. St. Paul, too, has employed these words as distinct from one another, Titus 3, 5: He saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Ghost. 20 As also the word vivificatio, that is, making alive, has sometimes been used in a like sense. For when man is justified through faith (which the Holy Ghost alone works), this is truly a regeneration, because from a child of wrath he becomes a child of God, and thus is transferred from death to life, as it is written: When we were dead in sins, He hath quickened us together with Christ, Eph. 2, 5. Likewise: The just shall live by faith, Rom. 1, 17; Hab. 2, 4. In this sense the word is much and often used in the Apology.
21 But again, it is often taken also for sanctification and renewal, which succeeds the righteousness of faith, as Dr. Luther has thus used it in his book concerning the Church and the Councils, and elsewhere.
22 But when we teach that through the operation of the Holy Ghost we are born anew and justified, the sense is not that after regeneration no unrighteousness clings any more to the justified and regenerate in their being and life, but that Christ covers all their sins which nevertheless in this life still inhere in nature with His complete obedience. But irrespective of this they are declared and regarded godly and righteous by faith and for the sake of Christ's obedience (which Christ rendered the Father for us from His birth to His most ignominious death upon the cross), although, on account of their corrupt nature, they still are and remain sinners to the grave g. Nor, on the other hand, is this the meaning, that without repentance, conversion, and renewal we might or should yield to sins, and remain and continue in them.
23 For true h contrition must precede; and to those who, in the manner stated, out of pure grace, for the sake of the only Mediator, Christ, without any works and merit, are righteous before God, that is, are received into grace, the Holy Ghost is also given, who renews and sanctifies them, and works in them love to God and to their neighbor. But since the incipient renewal is imperfect in this life, and sin still dwells in the flesh, even in the regenerate, the righteousness of faith before God consists in the gracious imputation of the righteousness of Christ, without the addition of our works, so that our sins are forgiven us and covered, and are not imputed, Rom. 4, 6 ff.
24 But here very good attention must be given with especial diligence, if the article of justification is to remain pure, lest that which precedes faith, and that which follows after it, be mingled together or inserted into the article of justification as necessary and belonging to it, because it is not one or the same thing to speak of conversion and of justification.
25 For not everything that belongs to conversion belongs likewise to the article of justification, in and to which belong and are necessary only the grace of God, the merit of Christ, and faith, which receives this in the promise of the Gospel, whereby the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us, whence we receive and have forgiveness of sins, reconciliation with God, sonship, and heirship of eternal life.
26 Therefore true, saving faith is not in those who are without contrition and sorrow, and have a wicked purpose to remain and persevere in sins; but true contrition precedes, and genuine faith is in or with true repentance i.
27 Love is also a fruit which surely and necessarily follows true faith. For the fact that one does not love is a sure indication that he is not justified, but is still in death, or has lost the righteousness of faith again, as John says, 1 John 3, 14. But when Paul says, Rom. 3, 28: We are justified by faith without works, he indicates thereby that neither the contrition that precedes, nor the works that follow, belong in the article or transaction of justification by faith. For good works do not precede justification, but follow it, and the person must first be justified before he can do good works.
28 In like manner also renewal and sanctification, although it is also a benefit of the Mediator, Christ, and a work of the Holy Ghost, does not belong in the article or affair of justification before God, but follows the same since, on account of our corrupt flesh, it is not entirely perfect and complete in this life, as Dr. Luther writes well concerning this in his beautiful and large exposition of the Epistle to the Galatians, in which he says as follows: 29We concede indeed that instruction should be given also concerning love and good works, yet in such a way that this be done when and where it is necessary, namely, when otherwise and outside of this matter of justification we have to do with works. But here the chief matter dealt with is the question, not whether we should also do good works and exercise love, but by what means we can be justified before God, and saved. And here we answer thus with St. Paul: that we are justified by faith in Christ alone, and not by the deeds of the Law or by love. Not that we hereby entirely reject works and love, as the adversaries falsely slander and accuse us, but that we do not allow ourselves to be led away, as Satan desires, from the chief matter with which we have to do here to another and foreign affair which does not at all belong to this matter. Therefore, whereas, and as long as we are occupied with this article of justification, we reject and condemn works, since this article is so constituted that it can admit of no disputation or treatment whatever regarding works; therefore in this matter we cut short all Law and works of the Law. So far Luther.
30 In order, therefore, that troubled hearts may have a firm, sure consolation, also, that due honor be given to the merit of Christ and the grace of God, the Scriptures teach that the righteousness of faith before God consists alone in the gracious j reconciliation or the forgiveness of sins, which is presented to us out of pure grace, for the sake of the only merit of the Mediator, Christ, and is received through faith alone in the promise of the Gospel. In like manner, too, in justification before God faith relies neither upon contrition nor upon love or other virtues, but upon Christ alone, and in Him upon His complete obedience by which He has fulfilled the Law for us, which k is imputed to believers for righteousness.
31 Moreover, neither contrition nor love or any other virtue, but faith alone is the sole means and instrument by which and through which we can receive and accept the grace of God, the merit of Christ, and the forgiveness of sins, which are offered us in the promise of the Gospel.
32 It is also correctly said that believers who in Christ through faith have been justified, have in this life first the imputed righteousness of faith, and then also the incipient righteousness of the new obedience or of good works. But these two must not be mingled with one another or be both injected at the same time into the article of justification by faith before God. For since this incipient righteousness or renewal in us is incomplete and impure in this life because of the flesh, the person cannot stand with and by it l before God's tribunal, but before God's tribunal only the righteousness of the obedience, suffering, and death of Christ, which is imputed to faith, can stand, so that only for the sake of this obedience is the person (even after his renewal, when he has already many good works and lives the best m life) pleasing and acceptable to God, and is received into adoption and heirship of eternal life.
33 Here belongs also what St. Paul writes Rom. 4, 3, that Abraham was justified before God by faith alone, for the sake of the Mediator, without the cooperation of his works, not only when he was first converted from idolatry and had no good works, but also afterwards, when he had been renewed by the Holy Ghost, and adorned with many excellent good works, Gen. 15, 6; Heb. 11, 8. And Paul puts the following question, Rom. 4, 1 ff.: On what did Abraham's righteousness before God for everlasting life, by which he had a gracious God, and was pleasing and acceptable to Him, rest at that time?
34 This he answers: To him who worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness; as David also, Ps. 32, 1, speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness without works. 35 Hence, even though the converted and believing n have incipient renewal, sanctification, love, virtue, and good works, yet these neither can nor should be drawn into, or mingled with, the article of justification before God, in order that the honor due Him may remain with Christ the Redeemer, and tempted consciences may have a sure consolation, since our new obedience is incomplete and impure.
36 And this is the meaning of the Apostle Paul when in this article he urges so diligently and zealously the particulas exclusivas, that is, the words by which works are excluded from the article of justification: absque operibus, sine lege, gratis, non ex operibus, that is, by grace, without merit, without works, not of works. These exclusivae are all comprised in the expression: By faith alone in Christ we are justified before God and saved. For thereby works are excluded, not in the sense that a true faith can exist without contrition, or that good works should, must, and dare not follow true faith as sure and indubitable fruits, or that believers dare not nor must do anything good; but good works are excluded from the article of justification before God, so that they must not be drawn into, woven into, or mingled with the transaction of the justification of the poor sinner before God as necessary or belonging thereto. And the true sense of the particulae exclusivae in articulo iustificationis, that is, of the aforementioned terms, in the article of justification, consists in the following, and they should also be urged in this article with all diligence and earnestness o:
37 1. That thereby p all our own works, merit, worthiness, glory, and confidence in all our works are entirely excluded in the article of justification so that our works shall not be constituted or regarded as either the cause or the merit of justification, neither entirely, nor half, nor in the least part, upon which God could or ought to look, or we to rely in this article and action.
38 2. That this remain the office and property of faith alone, that it alone, and nothing else whatever, is the means or instrument by and through which God's grace and the merit of Christ in the promise of the Gospel are received, apprehended, accepted, applied to us, and appropriated; and that from this office and property of such application or appropriation love and all other virtues or works are excluded.