For me, one of the most debilitating aspects of moralistic theology is the way works sneak in the back door of justification. One can see this open “back door” in the New Perspectives on Paul, the Federal Vision, and some Arminian evangelicalism.
In sharp contrast to this moralistic theology, I love this reformation statement on justification sola fide from the Formula of Concord (Solid Declaration) III (called “The Righteousness of Faith before God).
“Neither renewal, sanctification, virtues, nor good works are at all a form, part, or cause of justification, that is, our righteousness before God. They are not to stand or be set up as a part or cause of our righteousness. They are not to be mixed into the article of justification under any pretext, title, or name whatever, as though they are necessary and belong to justification. The righteousness of faith stands alone in the forgiveness of sins out of pure grace, for the sake of Christ’s merit alone. These blessings are brought to us in the gospel promise and are received, accepted, applied, and appropriated through faith alone.”
I think I’m going to memorize that. One thing I love about the Lutheran Confessions is that they are clear – not ambiguous. May God help us all be clear like that when it comes to the heart of the Christian faith – the work of Christ to save sinners.