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Note: How one defines Law and Gospel is key to keeping both teachings properly distinguished. This article provides a careful definition of these two terms, both in a narrow sense and in a wide sense. Strictly speaking, the Gospel is entirely and only about the good news of our salvation in Christ: what He has done for us through His life, death, and resurrection. When Law and Gospel are properly distinguished, it is the narrow definition of each that is being discussed. A person who claims, therefore, that the Gospel is about what we are to do, confuses both Law and Gospel.



1 Is the preaching of the Holy Gospel properly not just a preaching of grace (which announces the forgiveness of sins) but also a preaching of repentance and reproof (rebuking unbelief, which some people say is not rebuked in the Law but only through the Gospel)?

The Pure Doctrine of God’s Word

2 1. We believe, teach, and confess that the distinction between the Law and the Gospel is to be kept in the Church with great diligence as a particularly brilliant light. By this distinction, according to the admonition of St. Paul, God’s Word is rightly divided [2 Timothy 2:15].

3 2. We believe, teach, and confess that the Law is properly a divine doctrine [Romans 7:12]. It teaches what is right and pleasing to God, and it rebukes everything that is sin and contrary to God’s will.

4 3. For this reason, then, everything that rebukes sin is, and belongs to, the preaching of the Law.

5 4. But the Gospel is properly the kind of teaching that shows what a person who has not kept the Law (and therefore is condemned by it) is to believe. It teaches that Christ has paid for and made satisfaction for all sins [Romans 5:9]. Christ has gained and acquired for an individual—without any of his own merit—forgiveness of sins, righteousness that avails before God, and eternal life [Romans 5:10].

6 5. The term Gospel is not used in one and the same sense in the Holy Scriptures. That’s why this disagreement originally arose. Therefore, we believe, teach, and confess that if the term Gospel is understood to mean Christ’s entire teaching that He proposed in His ministry, as His apostles did also (this is how it is used in Mark 1:15; Acts 20:21), then it is correctly said and written that the Gospel is a preaching of repentance and of the forgiveness of sins.

7 6. The Law and the Gospel are also contrasted with each other. Likewise also, Moses himself as a teacher of the Law and Christ as a preacher of the Gospel are contrasted with each other [John 1:17]. In these cases we believe, teach, and confess that the Gospel is not a preaching of repentance or rebuke. But it is properly nothing other than a preaching of consolation and a joyful message that does not rebuke or terrify. The Gospel comforts consciences against the terrors of the Law, points only to Christ’s merit, and raises them up again by the lovely preaching of God’s grace and favor, gained through Christ’s merit.

8 7. Concerning the revelation of sin, Moses’ veil hangs [2 Corinthians 3:12–16] before the eyes of all people as long as they hear the bare preaching of the Law, and nothing about Christ. Therefore, they do not learn from the Law to see their sins correctly. They either become bold hypocrites ‹who swell with the opinion of their own righteousness› like the Pharisees [Matthew 23], or they despair like Judas [Matthew 27:3–5]. Therefore, Christ takes the Law into His hands and explains it spiritually (Matthew 5:21–48; Romans 7:14). In this way God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all sinners [Romans 1:18], so that they see how great it is. In this way they are directed back to the Law, and then they first learn from it to know their sins correctlyknowledge that Moses never could have forced out of them.

9 According to this, the preaching of the suffering and death of Christ, the Son of God, is a serious and terrifying proclamation and declaration of God’s wrath. By such preaching people are first led into the Law correctly—after Moses’ veil has been removed from them. Then they understand correctly for the first time what great things God requires of us in His Law, none of which we can keep. Therefore, they know we are to seek all our righteousness in Christ.

10 8. Yet as long as all this (namely, Christ’s suffering and death) proclaims God’s wrath and terrifies a person, it is still not properly the preaching of the Gospel. It remains the preaching of Moses and the Law, and it is, therefore, an alien work of Christ. Passing through this teaching, Christ arrives at His proper office, that is, to preach grace, console, and give life, which is properly the preaching of the Gospel.

Contrary Doctrine That Is Rejected

11 We reject and regard as incorrect and harmful the teaching that the Gospel, strictly speaking, is a preaching of repentance or rebuke and not just a preaching of grace. For by this misuse the Gospel is converted into a teaching of the Law. Christ’s merit and Holy Scripture are hidden, Christians are robbed of true consolation, and the door is opened again to ‹the errors and superstitions of› the papacy.

Note: God uses His Law in three ways: to maintain external discipline in society, to lead us to recognize our sin, and to guide Christians so that they will know what is pleasing to Him. These three functions, or uses, of the Law are often described as a curb, mirror, and a rule. Because the old sinful flesh clings to us until we die, we Christians need the Law as a guide for works that are pleasing to God and are appointed by God for us to do. Otherwise, we would simply dream up or imagine things pleasing to God. There are not three Laws, but one Law with three functions. God uses His Law among us in three distinct ways to accomplish His will.



1 The Law was given to people for three reasons: (1) that by the Law outward discipline might be maintained against wild, disobedient people; (2) that people may be led to the knowledge of their sins by the Law; and (3) that after they are regenerate and ‹much of› the flesh still cleaves to them, they might on this account have a fixed rule according to which they are to regulate and direct their whole life. A dissension has arisen between a few theologians about the third use of the Law, namely, whether it is to be taught to regenerate Christians. The one side has said Yes; the other, No.

The True Christian Teaching about This Controversy

2 1. We believe, teach, and confess that, even though people who are truly believing ‹in Christ› and truly converted to God have been freed and exempted from the curse and coercion of the Law, they are still not without the Law on this account. They have been redeemed by God’s Son in order that they may exercise themselves in the Law day and night ([Psalm 1:2;] Psalm 119). Even our first parents before the fall did not live without Law. They had God’s Law written into their hearts, because they were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26–27; 2:16–17; 3:3).

3 2. We believe, teach, and confess that the preaching of the Law is to be encouraged diligently. This applies not only for the unbelieving and impenitent, but also for true believers, who are truly converted, regenerate, and justified through faith.

4 3. Although believers are regenerate and renewed in the spirit of their mind, in the present life this regeneration and renewal is not complete. It is only begun. Believers are, by the spirit of their mind, in a constant struggle against the flesh. They struggle constantly against the corrupt nature and character, which cleaves to us until death. This old Adam still dwells in the understanding, the will, and all the powers of humanity. It is necessary that the Law of the Lord always shine before them, so that they may not start self-willed and self-created forms of serving God drawn from human devotion. The Law of the Lord is also necessary so that the old Adam [Romans 6:6] may not use his own will, but may be subdued against his will. This happens not only by the warning and threatening of the Law, but also by punishments and blows, so that a person may follow and surrender himself as a captive to the Spirit. (See 1 Corinthians 9:27; Romans 6:12; 7; 12; Galatians 5; 6:14; Psalm 119; Hebrews 13:21; 12:1.)

5 4. Now, consider the distinction between the works of the Law [Galatians 2:16] and the fruit of the Spirit [Galatians 5:22–23]. We believe, teach, and confess that the works of the Law are those that are done according to the Law. They are called works of the Law as long as they are only forced out of a person by teaching the punishment and threatening of God’s wrath.

6 5. Fruits of the Spirit, however, are the works wrought by God’s Spirit, who dwells in believers. The Spirit works through the regenerate. These works are done by believers because they are regenerate ‹spontaneously and freely›. They act as though they knew of no command, threat, or reward. In this way God’s children live in the Law and walk according to God’s Law. St. Paul calls this the “law of Christ” and the “Law of my mind” in his letters. (See Romans 7:23–25; 8:7; 8:2 [; Galatians 6:2].)

7 6. The Law is and remains—both to the penitent and impenitent, both to regenerate and unregenerate people—one and the same Law. It is God’s unchangeable will. The difference, as far as obedience is concerned, is only in the person. For one who is not yet regenerate follows the Law out of constraint and unwillingly does what it requires of him (as also the regenerate do according to the flesh). But the believer, so far as he is regenerate, acts without constraint and with a willing spirit to do what no threat of the Law ‹however severe› could ever force him to do.

False Contrary Doctrine

8 We reject the teaching that the Law must not be applied to Christians and true believers (in the way and degree mentioned above) but only to unbelievers, non-Christians, and the unrepentant. Such a teaching would be erroneous, which harms and conflicts with Christian discipline and true godliness.
Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, 484-487 (Formula of Concord: Epitome V & VI)

  1. Is there something wrong with me?

A Christian admits that we all share the stain and pain of sin.

Genesis 3:1-21

  1. How do we know that we are sinners?

Actual sins are individual instances of disobedience against God's Law, and they are visible symptoms of an invisible infection.

Matthew 7:17; 1 John 3:4; Romans 7:5

  1. In what ways do we disobey God's Law?

Sins of commission are offenses against God's Law – doing what we should not do – and sins of omission are obligations under God's Law – not doing what we should do; even the bad motivations, intentions, and attitudes behind our actions are sin.

James 1:15; Matthew 25:45; James 4:17; Romans 1:28

  1. How serious is the situation of our sinfulness?

Original sin is a genetic infection we are born with and die from; it affects everyone on earth – even when we're born or unconscious – and it affects everything we do – even our best efforts.

Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8; Psalm 51:5; Isaiah 64:6; 1 Samuel 16:7

  1. Why do we sin?

We don't do good because we can't, and we do bad things – and bad things only – because we are bad people; actual sins cannot cease until original sin is healed.

Romans 8:7-8; Matthew 13:34-35; John 8:34

  1. What are the consequences of sin?

Sin causes dysfunction, disaster, disease, discomfort, death, and damnation.

Genesis 3:16-19; Ephesians 2:1, 3; Romans 6:23

  1. How should we respond to this realization?

We must repent and turn away from ourselves and our sin to God and His grace.

Ezekiel 18:32; Acts 2:38; Luke 24:47

  1. What does this mean?

Repenting means acknowledging God is right, admitting I am wrong, accepting judgment and consequences, abandoning myself to God, apologizing to those affected, and amending my behavior.

Isaiah 55:7; Luke 15:21; Psalm 51:4; John 8:11

  1. What is the Tenth Commandment?

You shall not covet your neighbor's wife or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

  1. What does this mean?

We should fear and love God so that we do not entice or force away our neighbor's wife, workers, or animals, or turn them against him, but urge them to stay and do their duty.


Original Sin

Note: Sin is much more than thinking, saying, and doing things that are wrong. It is a terminal disease. We are all conceived and born in sin; we inherit it from our first parents, Adam and Eve. The disease of sin can be overcome, but only by one medicine: the cleansing, healing, and forgiving blood of God’s own Son. By rejecting Pelagian errors in Article II, the Augsburg Confession subtly refers to the Roman view of sin. The Roman Church taught and still teaches that concupiscence (the inborn inclination to sin) is not actually sin. By misdiagnosing our fatal illness, Rome leads people to believe they are able to cooperate with God’s grace for salvation. Lutheranism rejects all teachings that imply we are responsible for or contribute to our salvation.

1 Our churches teach that since the fall of Adam [Romans 5:12], all who are naturally born are born with sin [Psalm 51:5], that is, without the fear of God, without trust in God, and with the inclination to sin, called concupiscence. 2 Concupiscence is a disease and original vice that is truly sin. It damns and brings eternal death on those who are not born anew through Baptism and the Holy Spirit [John 3:5].

3 Our churches condemn the Pelagians and others who deny that original depravity is sin, thus obscuring the glory of Christ’s merit and benefits. Pelagians argue that a person can be justified before God by his own strength and reason.


Note: The Roman teaching about repentance was the spark that ignited the Lutheran Reformation. When Luther learned his congregational members were buying indulgences, hoping to avert God’s punishment for sins by paying money, he was incensed. Repentance is not about “paying off” God or making some satisfaction for our sin. Repentance is recognizing the reality of our sin and turning to God in faith for His mercy. God reveals our sin through His Law; He forgives our sin and restores us to a right relationship with Him through His Gospel. While we affirm there is fruit of repentance, the focus of the Gospel must be clear: our sins are forgiven only because of Christ. Our lives in Christ are lives of repentance, returning again and again to the fount and source of all mercy, our Savior. Notice that this article rejects any teaching that implies our works of satisfaction are part of true repentance. Article XII strikes a fatal blow at the very heart of the Roman sacramental system.

1 Our churches teach that there is forgiveness of sins for those who have fallen after Baptism whenever they are converted. 2 The Church ought to impart Absolution to those who return to repentance [Jeremiah 3:12]. 3 Now, strictly speaking, repentance consists of two parts. 4 One part is contrition, that is, terrors striking the conscience through the knowledge of sin. 5 The other part is faith, which is born of the Gospel [Romans 10:17] or the Absolution and believes that for Christ’s sake, sins are forgiven. It comforts the conscience and delivers it from terror. 6 Then good works are bound to follow, which are the fruit of repentance [Galatians 5:22–23].

7 Our churches condemn the Anabaptists, who deny that those who have once been justified can lose the Holy Spirit. 8 They also condemn those who argue that some may reach such a state of perfection in this life that they cannot sin.

9 The Novatians also are condemned, who would not absolve those who had fallen after Baptism, though they returned to repentance.

10 Our churches also reject those who do not teach that forgiveness of sins comes through faith, but command us to merit grace through satisfactions of our own.

They also reject those who teach that it is necessary to perform works of satisfaction, commanded by Church law, in order to remit eternal punishment or the punishment of purgatory.

Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, 31, 37 (Augsburg Confession II, XII)


Note: The major point of this article is to make sure that original sin is clearly seen as the root cause of all sin. Roman doctrine denied that even the very inclination to sin (concupiscence) is itself sin. By teaching that within a person there remains an ability to grasp and respond to grace, Rome effectively denies the absolute necessity and total sufficiency of Christ’s sacrificial death to merit our salvation. They, of course, vigorously deny this, but by making a person’s response to grace part of salvation, a denial of Christ’s sufficiency is precisely the result.

1 Here we must confess, as Paul says in Romans 5:12, that sin originated from one man, Adam. By his disobedience, all people were made sinners and became subject to death and the devil. This is called original or the chief sin.

2 The fruit of this sin are the evil deeds that are forbidden in the Ten Commandments [Galatians 5:19–21]. These include unbelief, false faith, idolatry, being without the fear of God, pride, despair, utter blindness, and, in short, not knowing or regarding God. Also lying, abusing God’s name, not praying, not calling on God, not regarding God’s Word, being disobedient to parents, murdering, being unchaste, stealing, deceiving, and such.

3 This hereditary sin is such a deep corruption of nature that no reason can understand it. Rather, it must be believed from the revelation of Scripture. (See Psalm 51:5; Romans 6:12–13; Exodus 33:3; Genesis 3:7–19.) Therefore, it is nothing but error and blindness that the scholastic doctors have taught in regard to this article:

4 Since Adam’s fall the natural powers of human beings have remained whole and uncorrupted, and by nature people have a right reason and a good will, as the philosophers teach.

5 A person has a free will to do good and not to do evil, and, on the other hand, to not do good and do evil.

6 By natural human powers a person can observe and keep all God’s commands.

7 By natural human powers, a person can love God above all things and love his neighbors as himself.

8 If a person does as much as is in him, God certainly grants him His grace.

9 If a person wishes to go to the Sacrament, there is no need of a good intention to do good. It is enough if a person does not have a wicked purpose to commit sin, so entirely good is human nature and so effective is the Sacrament.

10 Scripture does not teach that the Holy Spirit with His grace is necessary for a good work.

11 These and many similar ideas have arisen from lack of understanding and ignorance, both about sin and about Christ, our Savior. They are truly heathen teachings that we cannot endure. For if such teaching were true, then Christ has died in vain. A human being would have no defect or sin for which He would have died. Or He would have died only for the body, not for the soul, since the soul is sound, and only the body is subject to death.
Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, 270 (Smalcald Articles III.I)


Note: Is sin part of mankind’s very essence? No, for if it were, God could be accused of creating sin. However, sin is a very deep and thorough corruption of our human nature—a horrible and terrible corruption. No one except Christ Jesus, our Lord, can overcome this corruption for us and save us from it. Because of this sin, spiritually we are utterly and completely dead. But there is hope! As Christ raised Lazarus from the dead, so today He brings us to life again through His Gospel in Word and Sacraments. The biblical position on this issue is explained in Articles I and II.



1 Is original sin really, without any distinction, a person’s corrupt nature, substance, and essence? Is it the chief and greater part of his essence (i.e., the rational soul itself in its highest state and powers)? Or even after the fall, is there a distinction between original sin and a person’s substance, nature, essence, body, and soul, so that the nature itself is one thing and original sin is another, which belongs to the corrupt nature and corrupts the nature?

The Pure Teaching, Faith, and Confession according to the Standard and Summary Declaration Mentioned Before

2 1. We believe, teach, and confess that there is a distinction between man’s nature and original sin. This applied not only when he was originally created by God pure and holy and without sin [Genesis 1:31], but it also applies to the way we have that nature now after the fall. In other words, we distinguish between the nature itself (which even after the fall is and remains God’s creature) and original sin. This distinction is as great as the distinction between God’s work and the devil’s work.

3 2. We believe, teach, and confess that this distinction should be maintained with the greatest care. For this doctrine (that no distinction is to be made between our corrupt human nature and original sin) conflicts with the chief articles of our Christian faith about creation, redemption, sanctification, and the resurrection of our body. It cannot stand with them.

4 God created the body and soul of Adam and Eve before the fall. But He also created our bodies and souls after the fall. Even though they are corrupt, God still acknowledges them as His work, as it is written in Job 10:8, “Your hands fashioned and made me.” (See also Deuteronomy 32:18; Isaiah 45:9–10; 54:5; 64:8; Acts 17:28; Psalm 100:3; 139:14; Ecclesiastes 12:1.)

5 Furthermore, God’s Son has received this human nature [John 1:14], but without sin. Therefore, He did not receive a foreign nature, but our own flesh in the unity of His person. In this way He has become our true Brother. Hebrews 2:14 says, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise partook of the same things.” Again, “For surely it is not angels that He helps, but He helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore He had to be made like His brothers in every respect, … yet without sin” [2:16; 4:15]. 6 In the same way, Christ redeemed human nature as His work, sanctifies it, raises it from the dead, and gloriously adorns it as His work. But original sin He has not created, received, redeemed, or sanctified. He will not raise it, adorn it, or save it in the elect. In the ‹blessed› resurrection original sin will be entirely destroyed [1 Corinthians 15:51–57].

7 The distinction can easily be discerned between (a) the corrupt nature, (b) the corruption, which infects the nature, and (c) the corruption by which the nature became corrupt.

8 3. On the other hand, we believe, teach, and confess that original sin is not a minor corruption. It is so deep a corruption of human nature that nothing healthy or uncorrupt remains in man’s body or soul, in his inward or outward powers [Romans 3:10–12]. As the Church sings:

Through Adam’s fall is all corrupt, Nature and essence human.

9 This damage cannot be fully described [Psalm 19:12]. It cannot be understood by reason, but only from God’s Word. 10 We affirm that no one but God alone can separate human nature and this corruption of human nature from each other. This will fully come to pass through death, in the ‹blessed› resurrection. At that time our nature, which we now bear, will rise and live eternally without original sin and be separated and divided from it. As it is written in Job 19:26–27, “After my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold.”
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