God's kingdom is righteousness and life in hearts (Romans 14:17), perfection is growth in the fear of God, growth in confidence in the mercy promised in Christ, and growth in devotion to one's calling. Paul also describes perfection this way, "[We] are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3:18). He does not say, "We are continually receiving another hood or other sandals or other girdles." It is regrettable that such pharisaic, indeed, Muslim, expressions should be read and heard in the Church. For they say the perfection of the Gospel and Christ's kingdom (which is eternal life) should be wed along with these foolish observances about vestments and similar trifles. They say: It has been clearly declared in the Holy Scriptures that the monastic life merits eternal life if maintained by a due observance, which by the grace of God any monk can maintain. Where do the Holy Scriptures speak of a monastic life? Besides, they dishonor Christ when they say that men merit eternal life by monasticism…for Christ's sake, through mercy, eternal life is granted to those who through faith receive forgiveness and do not apply their own merits against God's judgment... (paragraphs 27-30, 32)
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.