Good works should be done because God has commanded them in order to exercise our faith, to give testimony, and to render thanks. For these reasons good works must necessarily be done . . . Because of faith they are nevertheless holy and divine works, sacrifices, and the reign of Christ, whereby he shows his rule before the world. For in these works he sanctifies hearts and suppresses the devil. And in order to keep the Gospel among men, he visibly pits the witness of the saints against the rule of the devil; in our weakness he displays his strength. The dangers, labors, and sermons of the apostle Paul, Athanasius, Augustine, and other teachers of the church are holy works, true sacrifices acceptable to God . . .
We feel the same way about every work done in the most humble occupation and in private life. Through these works Christ shows his victory over the devil, just as the distribution of alms by the Corinthians was a holy work (1 Cor. 16:1), a sacrifice, and a battle of Christ against the devil, who is determined that nothing happens to the praise of God. To disparage works like the confession of doctrine, afflictions, works of charity, and the mortifications of the flesh would be to disparage the outward administration of Christ's rule among men . . . We teach that good works are meritorious--not for the forgiveness of sins, grace, or justification (for we obtain these only by faith) but for other physical and spiritual rewards in this life and in that which is to come, as Paul says (1 Cor. 3:8), "Each shall receive his wages according to his labor." Therefore there will be different rewards for different labors.
But the forgiveness of sins is the same and equal to all, as Christ is one, and it is offered freely to all who believe that their sins are forgiven for Christ's sake. The forgiveness of sins and justification are received only by faith, not because of any works . . . Eternal life belongs to the justified, according to the saying, "Those whom he justified he also glorified" (Rom. 8:30).
- Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Art. IV, pars.189-196