169  But it is easy for a Christian to judge about both of these ways [of justification] because both exclude Christ. They are, therefore, to be rejected. In the former, which teaches that our works are an atoning sacrifice for sin, the impiety is clear. The latter way contains much that is harmful. It does not teach that, when we are born again, we make use of Christ. It does not teach that justification is the forgiveness of sins. It does not teach that we attain the forgiveness of sins before we love, but falsely represents that we rouse in ourselves the act of love, through which we merit the forgiveness of sins. Nor does it teach that we overcome the terrors of sin and death through faith in Christ. It falsely claims that, by their own fulfilling of the Law, without Christ as the Atoning Sacrifice, people come to God. Finally, it claims that this very fulfilling of the Law, without Christ as the Atoning Sacrifice, is righteousness worthy of grace and eternal life. . . . 170  Truly, if anyone will think about it, . . . He will most easily understand that we are justified not by reason or by the Law. . . . For the Gospel shows another way. The Gospel compels us to make use of Christ in justification. The Gospel teaches that through Christ we have access to God through faith. It teaches that we ought to set Him as Mediator and Atoning Sacrifice against God's anger. The Gospel teaches that through faith in Christ the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation are received, and the terrors of sin and of death are overcome. 171  Paul also says that righteousness is not of the Law, but of the promise. The Father has promised that He wants to forgive, that for Christ's sake He wants to be reconciled. This promise, however, is received through faith alone, as Paul testifies in Romans 4:13. This faith alone receives the forgiveness of sins, justifies, and regenerates. Then love and other good fruit follow. Therefore, we teach that a person is justified (as we have said above) when conscience, terrified by the preaching of repentance, is cheered and believes that for Christ's sake it has a reconciled God. "Faith is counted as righteousness [before God]" (Romans 4:3, 5). 172  When the heart is cheered and quickened through faith in this way, it receives the Holy Spirit. He renews us, so that we are able to keep the Law, to love God and God's Word, to be submissive to God in afflictions, to be chaste, to love our neighbor, and so on. Even though these works are far from the perfection of the Law, on account of faith they please God. Through faith we are accounted righteous, because we believe that for Christ's sake we have a reconciled God.
Condensed from CONCORDIA: THE LUTHERAN CONFESSIONS, copyright 2005,2006 by Concordia Publishing House. Used by permission. All rights reserved. To purchase a copy of CONCORDIA, call 800-325-3040.
Lord grant you faith in His grace alone for your salvation unto eternal life. Amen