Third Disputation Concerning Justification, 1536

[LW 34:151-153]
Theses about Rom. 3:38 - For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.

1.It is clear enough from this passage that the method of justifying man before God must be distinguished from the method of justifying him before men.
2.For Paul expressly contrasts faith and works, for he takes justification in Godís sight away from works and attributes it to faith.
3.If a man is truly justified by works, he has glory before men, but not before God.
4.A man is truly justified by faith in the sight of God, even if he finds only disgrace before man and in his own self.
5.This is a mystery of God, who exalts his saints, because it is not only impossible to comprehend for the godless, but marvelous and hard to believe even for the pious themselves.
6.For human nature, corrupt and blinded by the blemish of original sin, is not able to imagine or conceive of any justification above and beyond works.
7.Hence that battle of the hypocrites against the believers about justification which must be decided by the judgment of no one but God alone.
8.For that reason we concede to the hypocrites or wise ones works and the justification of the law, if only we may hold fast that this is a righteousness of men, not of God.
9.In fact, the righteousness of man, no matter how much God honors it here in time with the best gifts of this life, nevertheless is a mask and impious hypocrisy before God.
10.The riddle is astonishing, because God rewards the very righteousness, which he himself regards as iniquity and wickedness.
11.For in the prophets he openly calls the most excellent works according to the law and our reason the evil of our hands.
12.It seems to be similar to a prince who tolerates a bad servant whom he cannot kill without considerable peril to the kingdom.
13.Therefore, one need not look either to the person of the godless man who works out his own righteousness or to the excellence of such work;
14.But to the incomprehensible forbearance and wisdom of God who bears lesser evil so all is not destroyed by greater evil.
15.It is just as an ulcer, limping, or some other incurable illness in the body is tolerated out of necessity for supporting bodily life.
16.For the righteousness of the law is very ill and so weak that it often not only does not fulfil its own highest law but even loses sight of it entirely at the slightest movement.
17.But since one can have no other kind, it must be tolerated and supported with the highest goods of this world.
18.For God in accordance with the greatness of his goodness calculates too little and so gives as many great gifts to the unworthy and wicked as to the righteous or saints.
19.Just as the wise magistrate winks at the bad and mischievous citizen for a while and allows him to enjoy citizenship for the good of the public peace.
20.For God is looking at something else, namely at the glory of the future kingdom, into which the uncircumcised and the unclean will not come, as the Scripture declare, etc. [Isa. 52:1].
21.Yes, he acts with similar forbearance and goodness also toward the church and his saints on earth.
22.He sustains and supports them on account of the first fruit of his creation in us, and he thereupon decrees that they are righteous and sons of the kingdom.
23.For we perceive that a man who is justified is not yet a righteous man, but is in the very movement or journey toward righteousness.
24.Therefore, whoever is justified is still a sinner; and yet he is considered fully and perfectly righteous by God who pardons and is merciful.
25.Moreover, God forgives and is merciful to us because Christ, our advocate and priest, intercedes and sanctifies our beginning in righteousness.
26.His righteousness, since it is without defect and serves us like an umbrella against the heat of Godís wrath, does not allow our beginning righteousness to be condemned.
27.Now it is certain that Christ or the righteousness of Christ, since it is outside of us and foreign to us, cannot be laid hold of by our works;
28.But faith itself, which is poured into us from hearing about Christ by the Holy Spirit, comprehends Christ.
29.Therefore, faith alone justifies without our works, for I cannot say, "I produce Christ or the righteousness of Christ."
30.Just as I can say, for all that, "I do works either of heavenly righteousness through the Spirit or earthly righteousness by nature."
31.But I must speak thus, "I believe in Christ and afterward I do truly good works in Christ."
32.Therefore, one speaks correctly thus, "We are justified by faith without the works of the law."
33.To be justified includes that idea, namely that we are considered righteous on account of Christ.
34.Nor is any sin, either past or a remainder that is left in the flesh, imputed to us, but as if it were nothing, removed in the meantime by remission.
35.The start of a new creature accompanies this faith and the battle against the sin of the flesh, which this same faith in Christ both pardons and conquers.