Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law, part 67
Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
Scripture Text: Ezekiel 18:21-22
From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Daniel knew that the forgiveness of sins in Christ was promised not only to the Israelites but to all nations. Otherwise he could not have promised to the king the forgiveness of sins. For it is not in the power of man, especially amid the terrors of sin, to assert that he ceases to be angry without having a sure word of God concerning God's will. The words of Daniel speak in his own language even more clearly of repentance, and clearly bring out the promise: “Redeem your sins by righteousness and your iniquities by favors toward the poor.” These words teach about the whole of repentance. They direct him to become righteous, then to do good works, defending the poor against injustice, as was the duty of a king.
Righteousness is faith in the heart. Sins are redeemed by repentance, that is, the obligation or guilt is removed because God forgives those who repent, as it is written in Ezekiel 18:21-22. We should not infer from this that he forgives because of works that follow faith or because of alms. Rather, he forgives because he promised; he forgives those who apprehend his promise. No one takes hold of his promise except those who truly believe, and by faith overcome sin and death. Being reborn, they ought to bear fruit corresponding to repentance, as John says in Matthew 3:8. The promise, therefore, was added: “There will be healing for your offenses.”
Pulling It Together: Daniel does not simply demand certain kingly works such as alms giving. He demands faith by saying, “Break off your sins by righteousness.” In Scripture, righteousness does not mean only external works, but includes faith (Hebrews 10:38). So, Daniel was not telling Nebuchadnezzar to sanctify himself by doing good deeds. Indeed, the king could not do those works because he did not believe the words of the prophet. Though Daniel told the king the will of God and added God’s promise too, the king would not believe — and therefore, he would not do the things required of a king. But God was not finished with Nebuchadnezzar. He drove him away from people, to live with wild beasts so that eventually, the king might come to his senses and believe.
The Spirit works the same way in our lives. He demands both faith and those works befitting faith in Christ, empowering us to both believe and practice righteousness. If we neglect his commands — or even one to the exclusion of the other — we too will suffer our madness because we have come to trust in ourselves instead of Christ. Yet, when we come to our senses and trust in God through Christ, our sins will be forgiven and forgotten. There will be healing for our offenses.
Prayer: Father, help me repent of my sins, through faith in your Son Jesus Christ. Amen
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