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The Small Catechism, Part IV: The Sacrament of Holy Baptism

 

First Reading: Acts 2:36-39

36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” 37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” 38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 “For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”” (NKJ)

Second Reading: Matthew 28:18-20

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.” (NKJ)

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

From Parts 1-3 of Luther’s Small Catechism, Part 1 being the Ten Commandments, Part 2 being the Creed, and Part 3 being The Lord’s Prayer, we come to Part 4, God’s Means of Grace through water and Word.

In the Ten Commandments, God gives words for how we are to live before him and with our neighbors. On account of our not keeping them, we stand condemned before God, except for Jesus Christ, the 2nd Person of the Holy Trinity, confessed in The Creed, the 2nd Chief Part of the Catechism.

Here, we confess God’s work to and for us sinners in providing all that is temporary for the body and all this is eternal for the soul.

Here, we confess God’s goodness, our salvation from sin, death, and hell through the Redeemer Christ, and God’s work of preserving us in the truth faith through the Holy Spirit, whose work it is to create, sustain, and nourish faith through Word preached, sins absolved, water poured, and the body and blood of Christ given to eat and drink in the Holy Supper of our Lord.

In the Third Part of The Catechism, having to do with the Lord’s Prayer, our Lord instructs self-centered sinners how to pray and what to pray for.

He turns us away from ourselves in submission to the Lord’s Holy Will—in everything, excluding nothing, giving the very word to pray, that we would learn that all comes from Him.

The Commandments, The Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer (The Our Father), the first three parts of The Small Catechism, all Christians should readily be familiar with.  They cannot be exhausted, known, or contemplated enough.

Baptism, ShellThe same applies to the next chief Part, Part 4, The Sacrament of Holy Baptism, and the chief parts that follow.

Concerning Holy Baptism, Luther outlines the topics therein in four sections, and then also gives Biblical references in support of each.

Each section consists of a question:

1 What is Baptism?

2 What benefits does Baptism give?

3 How can water do such great things?

And, 4 What does such baptizing indicate?

In beginning to address these questions, it is necessary, at the first, to speak about the word “baptize” itself, as any number of people have been mislead to believe that “to baptize” means something that it does not, or that it only should be used one way and no other, lest it be invalid or not a true baptism.

Some teach and believe that “to baptize” means “to immerse in water only,” or “to dunk only,” and that baptism is truly a baptism if only immersed, or that a greater amount of water must be used, because baptism is only a symbol, not a work of God and a Means of Grace.

In truth, “to baptize” with water can mean to immerse or dunk in water.

It can also mean “to dip,” “to sprinkle,” or “to pour.”

Biblically speaking, “to baptize with water” includes all of these.

While many want to give emphasis to the washing of water only, and to the amount of water used/applied, as do all who deny infant Baptism and God’s grace given in Baptism, “Baptism is not just plain water, but it is the water included in God’s command and combined with God’s Word” (SC, Baptism, First).

We do not deny, therefore, God’s work in water due to the amount used or to the mode applied.

Instead, as Christians, we look to the Word and promise of God.

The identification of Baptism as God’s work is determined according to the Lord’s revelation and not according to our definition, disposition, or symbolic attribution to the Sacrament.

Writes Luther,

17 …Baptism is a very different thing from all other water, not by virtue of the natural substance but because here something nobler is added. God himself stakes his honor, his power, and his might on it. Therefore it is not simply a natural water, but a divine, heavenly, holy, and blessed water—praise it in any other terms you can—all by virtue of the Word, which is a heavenly, holy Word which no one can sufficiently extol, for it contains and conveys all the fullness of God.

18 From the Word it derives its nature as a sacrament…When the Word is added to the element or the natural substance, it becomes a sacrament, that is, a holy, divine thing and sign.

19 Therefore, we constantly teach that the sacraments and all the external things ordained and instituted by God should be regarded not according to the gross, external mask (as we see the shell of a nut) but as that in which God’s Word is enclosed.”

Luther continues,

22 I therefore admonish you again that these two, the Word and the water, must by no means be separated from each other. For where the Word is separated from the water, the water is no different from that which the maid cooks with and could indeed be called a bathkeeper’s baptism. But when the Word is present according to God’s ordinance, Baptism is a sacrament, and it is called Christ’s Baptism.” (The Book of Concord, LC, Baptism ¶17-19, 22)

In Matthew 28, verse 19, Jesus is recorded to have said to His disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19 NKJ).

Likewise, St. Mark records Jesus to have said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mk. 16:16 NKJ).

Concerning these verses from Matthew 28 and Mark 16, Luther observes that,

6 …these words contain God’s commandment and ordinance. You should not doubt, then, that Baptism is of divine origin, not something devised or invented by men. As truly as I can say that the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer are not spun out of any man’s imagination but revealed and given by God himself, so I can also boast that Baptism is no human plaything but is instituted by God himself. Moreover, it is solemnly and strictly commanded that we must be baptized or we shall not be saved. We are not to regard it as an indifferent matter, then, like putting on a new red coat.

7 It is of the greatest importance that we regard Baptism as excellent, glorious, and exalted. It is the chief cause of our contentions and battles because the world now is full of sects who proclaim that Baptism is an external thing and that external things are of no use.

8 But no matter how external it may be, here stand God’s Word and command which have been instituted, established, and confirmed in Baptism. What God instituted and commands cannot be useless. It is a most precious thing, even though to all appearances it may not be worth a straw. (The Book of Concord, LC, Baptism ¶6-8)

As what God has instituted and commands cannot be useless, neither can Holy Baptism.

Not at all apart from faith, Holy Baptism “works forgiveness of sins, preserves from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation” (SC, Baptism, Second).

Unlike those who posit Baptism to be only an “outward sign of an inward grace,” that you have to be old enough in order to make a decision to be baptized, or that Lutherans believe Baptism to save without faith in God’s promise (because babies can’t believe), the Bible declares distinctly and definitively that Holy Baptism in the Name of the Triune God—in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit—is in His Name, done by Him.

Baptism into God’s Name can be none other than God’s work, independent of what we think, what reason has to say, or what the fallen sinner defines baptism to be.

Can infants, can babies, believe?

Christians say and affirmative, “Yes,” because such faith does not come from within.

The faith which believes God’s Word and promise comes from the God who gives it—through His very Word and promise given, the means by which the Holy Spirit creates and nourishes faith.

When Peter rightly confesses Jesus to be Christ, Jesus did not then say to Peter, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah,” for you have come to this conclusion on your own and have decided the truth by yourself. Good for you!

Not at all.

What does Jesus say?

Jesus says, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 16:17 NKJ).

St. Paul writes, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17 NASB).

In another place, St. Paul reveals that, “No one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3 NKJ).

As the child, so also the adult does not come to saving by self, but by the gifted revelation of God, His Holy Word, even that Holy Word attached to water.

Through the very Means God has instituted to bring about new birth unto eternal life, God raises to life that which was dead in trespasses and sins.

St. Peter, therefore, connects “the remission of sins” and “the gift of the Holy Spirit” to the water and word of Holy Baptism, extending that promise also to children (Acts 2:38).

Such blessings are attached to Holy Baptism.

To be baptized into God’s Holy Name is to be born anew, born from above, born of water and the Spirit, born of God, having His Name upon You, His blessing–yours (John 3:3, 7, 13).

Scriptural baptism is not at all man’s work.

It is God’s.

If Baptism was man’s work, all who claim baptism to be merely an outward sign to God (as if God needs to be shown) or a testimony/sign to man, in union denying God’s great gifts, would then be correct and the Bible in error.

If Baptism was man’s work, there would not be attached to Baptism the blessings of forgiveness, life, and salvation.

Man’s work cannot do these things.

Yet, St. Peter writes, “Baptism saves” (1 Peter 3:21).

God’s Word is too clear to deny not only what Holy Baptism is and its blessing to sinners, but also its continual comfort to the Christian.

As we believe in God and Christ, so also we believe His Word and work.

With St. Paul the apostle, we confess with Him “That as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death…Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3-4 NKJ).

Thus does Baptism indicate, “that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever” (SC, Fourth).

“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Eph. 4:4-6 NKJ).

God’s one-time act of baptizing you was sufficient.

Into His Name you remain, as you believe His promises.

In what God has done, here is where you have your identity.

What defines you is not how you live, what you do, or who you are as a sinner.

What defines you is what God says of you: washed, forgiven, Mine. Amen.

 

Luther’s Small Catechism

IV. The Sacrament of Holy Baptism

First.

What is Baptism?–Answer. Baptism is not simple water only, but it is the water comprehended in God’s command and connected with God’s Word.

Which is that word of God?–Answer. Christ, our Lord, says in the last chapter of Matthew: Go ye into all the world and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

Secondly.

What does Baptism give or profit?–Answer. It works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.

Which are such words and promises of God? Answer. Christ, our Lord, says in the last chapter of Mark: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

Thirdly.

How can water do such great things?–Answer. It is not the water indeed that does them, but the word of God which is in and with the water, and faith, which trusts such word of God in the water. For without the word of God the water is simple water and no baptism. But with the word of God it is a baptism, that is, a gracious water of life and a washing of regeneration in the Holy Ghost, as St. Paul says, Titus, chapter three: By the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ, our Savior, that, being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying.

Fourthly.

What does such baptizing with water signify?–Answer. It signifies that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts, and, again, a new man daily come forth and arise; who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

Where is this written?–Answer.St. Paul says Romans, chapter 6: We are buried with Christ by Baptism into death, that, like as He was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

 

Praying-Hands-Stretched-CanvasGracious God, through the water of Holy Baptism you washed me clean of my sin. Strengthen my confidence in Your Word and work, that through the challenges of this life, I live by faith as Your beloved child, certain that my identity is in You, in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Luther’s Small Catechism: The Lord’s Prayer

 

First Reading–James 5:15-18

15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.” (NKJ)

 

Second Reading–Matthew 6:9-13

9 “In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. 13 And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” (NKJ)

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen

PrayingHands&Cross1Tonight, we come to the Third Chief Part of the Small Catechism.

Luther’s Small Catechism, along with the hymnal, and the Holy Bible, are and have been the primary devotional resources of Lutherans through the years.

They should remain so.

The Holy Bible is God’s Word “Written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4 NKJ), and given “That you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (Jn. 20:31 NKJ).

The hymnal, the book containing hymns, prayers, and liturgies of our church, confess Christ.

The words therein give expression of and direction to Christ our Savior, and life lived by faith in God’s Son.

The Small Catechism of Luther is sometimes referred to as “the layman’s Bible,” as the text clearly states what is necessary for the Christian faith and life.

For review, the First Chief Part of the Catechism concerns the 10 Commandments, how God’s people are to live, how we are to be, to God and neighbor.

The Second Chief Part concerns the Creed, who God is, what He has done, and what He continues to do for His creation, temporally, and eternally.

While the Commandments serve as curb, show us our sins, and serve as rule/guide, the Creed testifies of God’s Word in Christ, His doing, Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection, for our preservation in the faith and for our salvation.

The Third Chief Part directs our attention to the response of faith to having God as God, Jesus as Savior, and the Holy Spirit as Creator and sustainer of that which saves unto eternal life and delivers from eternal death.

In the words of Luther:

1 We have now heard what we must do (i.e. The Commandments) and believe (i.e. The Creed), in what things the best and happiest life consists. Now follows the third part, how we ought to pray. 2 For we are in a situation where no person can perfectly keep the Ten Commandments, even though he has begun to believe. The devil with all his power, together with the world and our own flesh, resists our efforts. Therefore, nothing is more necessary than that we should continually turn towards God’s ear, call upon Him, and pray to Him. We must pray that He would give, preserve, and increase faith in us and the fulfillment of the Ten Commandments [2 Thessalonians 1:3]. We pray that He would remove everything that is in our way and that opposes us in these matters. 3 So that we might know what and how to pray, our Lord Christ has Himself taught us both the way and the words [Luke 11:1–4]. (The Lutheran Confessions, 1-3)

In the second reading, we hear the words of Jesus according to St. Matthew.

Directly, Jesus to His disciples says, “In this manner, therefore, pray…”

Jesus gives the very words to pray.

In St. Luke’s account, the disciples of Jesus themselves inquire about prayer.

St. Luke tells it this way, “Now it came to pass, as He (Jesus) was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” 2 So He said to them, “When you pray, say,” and then the words of the Lord’s Prayer (Lk. 11:1-2 NKJ).

In both accounts, that of Jesus directly giving the words to pray, according to St. Matthew, or according to St. Luke, where the disciples first ask the “how” of prayer, Jesus in both instructs his disciples with the very words of praying, beginning with, “Our Father…”

Such words of Jesus are not to be taken lightly.

When Jesus says, “In this way pray,” or “When you pray, say,” He means what He says.

To say that we cannot or should not pray the very words that Jesus gives to say is hypocrisy if one claims to be Christian, for Christians believe Jesus and His Word.

In our circles, this is not an issue, but it has been in others, simply because they do not take God at His Word.

Yet, taking God at His Word is just what Christians do, because Christians are of Christ.

As the Lord Jesus gives the very words of prayer to pray, no better prayer can be prayed than that which the Lord Himself has given to pray.

Again, Luther writes,

22 …We should be moved and drawn to prayer. In addition to this commandment (to pray) and promise (that God will hear and answer), God expects us and He Himself arranges the words and form of prayer for us. He places them on our lips for how and what we should pray [Psalm 51:15], so that we may see how heartily He pities us in our distress [Psalm 4:1], and we may never doubt that such prayer is pleasing to Him and shall certainly be answered. 23 This ‹the Lord’s Prayer› is a great advantage indeed over all other prayers that we might compose ourselves. For in our own prayers the conscience would ever be in doubt and say, “I have prayed, but who knows if it pleases Him or whether I have hit upon the right proportions and form?” Therefore, there is no nobler prayer to be found upon earth than the Lord’s Prayer. We pray it daily [Matthew 6:11], because it has this excellent testimony, that God loves to hear it. We ought not to surrender this for all the riches of the world. (The Lutheran confessions ¶ 22-23)

God both commands prayer and He promises to hear the petitions directed to Him through His Son.

In His Word is our confidence, both in praying and for God’s response.

We commend ourselves into God’s keeping.

The answer is His.

Into God’s hands we commend ourselves.

In this, too, is our confidence.

Not only does God place on our lips the very words to pray.

He gives the faith that says, “Amen” to His Word and will.

Briefly, the Lord’s Prayer is set into seven petitions, beginning with an Introduction and ending with a Conclusion.

Throughout the seven petitions, we pray the very petitions that our Lord would have us pray.

We request from God the very things for which He would have us request.

We pray that His Name be hallowed among us and by us, by our word and deed.

We pray that His kingdom come, that He give His Holy Spirit, that “we believe His Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.”

We pray that His will be done, that “the plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature” be thwarted and that God “keep us firm in His Word and faith until we die.”

We pray that God give us what we need—daily—that “God would lead us to realize” that God is the Giver of our daily bread, all that we need for this body and life, “even to all evil people,” and that we “receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.”

We pray for forgiveness, also our continual prayer, “That our Father in heaven would not look at our sins, or deny our prayer because of them.  We are neither worthy of the things for which we pray, nor have we deserved them, but we ask that He would give all to us by grace, for we daily sin much and surely deserve nothing by punishment.”

We pray “That God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice,” but “that we may finally overcome them and win the victory.”

We also pray that “Our Father in heaven would rescue us from every evil of body and soul, possessions and reputation, and finally, when our last hour comes, give us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven.”

To these seven petitions we give an unapologetic and sure “Amen,” certain that these petitions are pleasing to our Father in heaven, and are therefore, heard by Him, for Christ’s sake.

As Jesus gives the very words to pray, and as the Father gives the very faith to pray such petitions as the Lord Jesus gives, so God’s people pray as the Lord teaches.

In the Lord’s Prayer is all that the Lord would have you pray and petition.

All genuine prayer and petitions given to the Lord can thus be said to reflect the Prayer that our Lord teaches us so to pray.

Confidently, therefore, do we “draw near…to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16 ESV), certain of God’s Word, confident of His promise.

The One Who gives the Words of the Lord’s Prayer is the Lord Jesus Himself, Who alone pleases the Father. His resurrection confirms this truth, and through Jesus alone, the Father is also pleased with you, and hears your prayers prayed in faith through the One Whom the Father sent.  Amen.

Praying-Hands-Stretched-CanvasDearest Jesus, teach me continually to pray according to Your Holy Word. Give me confidence in Your command and promises, that I petition You in certainty. Amen.

 

 

Sermon for Ash Wednesday–Luther’s Small Catechism, Part 1: The Ten Commandments

 

The Ten Commandments

You shall have no other gods.

You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.

Honor your father and your mother.

You shall not murder.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.

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

 

Readings–Joel 2:12–19; 2 Corinthians 5:20b—6:10; Matthew 6:1–6, 16–21

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

As we begin this penitential season called Lent, this year we reflect on the six chief parts of LutherTwoTablets’s Small Catechism.  These six chief parts, learned by heart by catechumens, those being instructed in the Christian faith, include all a Christian should know and believe to be and to remain Christian.

These six chief parts are: The Ten Commandments, The (Apostles’) Creed, The Lord’s Prayer, Holy Baptism, Confession, and The Sacrament of the Altar.

Tonight, we reflect on the first chief part, The Ten Commandments.

By way of introduction, hear the Word of the Lord according to St. Matthew, Chapter 22.

34 When the Pharisees heard that He (Jesus) had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” 37 Jesus said to him, “`You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 “This is the first and great commandment. 39 “And the second is like it: `You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”” (Matthew 22:34-40, NKJ)

Quoting from the Old Testament Scriptures, Jesus reveals the summary of God’s Holy Law, the Ten Commandments.

The word Jesus uses to summarize the Law of God, the Ten Commandments, is Love: 1 Love God, 2 Love neighbor.

As Jesus expresses it, “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:40).

If we go by our own judgment, love to God and love for neighbor is determined, not by what God says and means, but by what we deem as acceptable to ourselves.

In other words, instead of God setting the bar for the meaning of love, we ourselves set the bar—higher or lower—dependent on our agreement with it.

The problem with , our doing, is just this—It puts us in the leading role and gives the backseat to God.

Altering God’s commands to make them acceptable to us is what it means to play God.

This is idolatry, first commandment stuff.

Yet, even we are not immune from the temptation to make God and His Word more comfortable where we find it to be of discomfort.

We may even see ourselves as better, more righteous, and holier than our neighbor, who does all those things that we would never do.

But reflecting on these words of Dr. Luther from his Large Catechism in the section entitled, “Conclusion of the Ten Commandments,” we find that we, too, are in the same boat as others when it comes to making up ways to please God.

311 Now we have the Ten Commandments, a summary of divine teaching about what we are to do in order that our whole life may be pleasing to God. Everything that is to be a good work must arise and flow from and in this true fountain and channel. So apart from the Ten Commandments no work or thing can be good or pleasing to God, no matter how great or precious it is in the world’s eyes. 312 Let us see now what our great saints can boast of their spiritual orders and their great and mighty works. They have invented and set these things up, while they let these commandments go, as though they were far too insignificant or had long ago been perfectly fulfilled.

313 I am of the opinion, indeed, that here one will find his hands full ‹and will have enough› to do to keep these commandments: meekness, patience, love towards enemies, chastity, kindness, and other such virtues and their implications [Galatians 5:22–23]. But such works are not of value and make no display in the world’s eyes. For these are not peculiar and proud works. They are not restricted to particular times, places, rites, and customs. They are common, everyday, household works that one neighbor can do for another. Therefore, they are not highly regarded.

314 But the other works cause people to open their eyes and ears wide. Men aid this effect by the great display, expense, and magnificent buildings with which they adorn such works, so that everything shines and glitters. There they waft incense, they sing and ring bells, they light tapers and candles, so that nothing else can be seen or heard. For when a priest stands there in a surplice garment embroidered with gold thread, or a layman continues all day upon his knees in Church, that is regarded as a most precious work, which no one can praise enough. But when a poor girl tends a little child and faithfully does what she is told, that is considered nothing. For what else should monks and nuns seek in their cloisters?

315 Look, is not this a cursed overconfidence of those desperate saints who dare to invent a higher and better life and estate than the Ten Commandments teach? To pretend (as we have said) that this is an ordinary life for the common man, but theirs is for saints and perfect ones? 316 The miserable blind people do not see that no person can go far enough to keep one of the Ten Commandments as it should be kept. Both the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer must come to our aid (as we shall hear). By them ‹power and strength to keep the commandments› is sought and prayed for and received continually. Therefore, all their boasting amounts to as much as if I boasted and said, “To be sure, I don’t have a penny to make payment with, but I confidently will try to pay ten florins.”

317 All this I say and teach so that people might get rid of the sad misuse that has taken such deep root and still clings to everybody. In all estates upon earth they must get used to looking at these commandments only and to be concerned about these matters. For it will be a long time before they will produce a teaching or estate equal to the Ten Commandments, because they are so high that no one can reach them by human power.” (Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, 395–396.)

In summary, we can readily note two key things.

The first is this, that the 10 Commandments, given by the Holy and Just God, summarize how His people are to live.

Secondly, we note that man-made/invented works, as good and holy as they might appear before others, are not so before God.

Jesus speaks of this latter thing in the Gospel reading from Matthew 6 about practicing righteousness (ESV), giving to the needy, praying, and fasting.

These things are not to be done before men in order to be seen by them.

God knows the heart.  He sees and knows all.

Before God, not other people, is what matters.

Whether your neighbor sees or knows is not the thing to be concerned about.

“Your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:18).

True and lasting treasure is not found on earth, with praise and recognition by men, or in the things of this side of heaven.

True and lasting treasure is found in the Giver of all that is good, whose very Son is your Treasure, your riches, your “righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30).

It is not what we think about a thing that ultimately matters.

What God says is what does.

God Himself lays out the summary of His holy will (and purpose) in the Ten Commandments: Love God. Love neighbor.

His first three commandments have just to do with Love to God, namely, having Him alone as God (and no other), using His Name rightly, and holding His Word sacred and gladly hearing and learning it.

These could be considered the positive side of the first three commandments, that which we are to do, in distinction from what we are not to do, as in having another god or gods before the one true God, using God’s Name carelessly and in vain, and despising His Word and its preaching.

Similarly, by Commandments 4-10, “Love neighbor,” God reveals what we are to do and not do in love to neighbor.

Honor Father and mother. “Serve and obey, love and cherish them.” Do not despise or anger them. (4th Commandment)

Be content with what you’re given.  Don’t be discontent with what you don’t have. (Commandments 7, 9, 10)

Speak well of your neighbor, not only of those you like and get along with, but also with those you don’t. Don’t gossip and defame another, “but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way” (8th Commandment)

Help your neighbor.  Help and don’t hurt. (5th Commandment)

Have clean, pure, and holy thoughts, words, and actions.  Do not lust or fantasize about another. (6th Commandment) –

The Commandments of the Lord are all encompassing.

They exclude nothing that God would have us do, how we are to live, and how we are to be.

They reveal God’s will.

They also reveal your sin.

So, St. Paul says, “I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet” (Rom. 7:7 NKJ.

Again, he says, “We know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:19-20 NKJ).

Also does St. James reveal, “Whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law” (Jas. 2:10 NKJ).

The truth of God about His Law and our inability to keep it would certainly mean His righteousness condemnation and His abiding wrath upon us.

But for Christ’s sake alone, this is not so.

God’s wrath and condemnation are not on you because of how good you are or because of how good you try to be, not because of any holiness in you, and not because of any desire of yours to be better.

God’s righteous wrath and just condemnation against sin was met on Another, on Him whose fulfilment of the Law in your stead (Active obedience) and whose receiving God’s judgment for your sin (passive obedience) is Your life and salvation.

The very Law of God expounded and revealed by Jesus, Jesus has fulfilled.

The penalty for your sin Jesus suffered on the cross.

Because of Jesus, through faith in Him, God sees His doing of the Law as your own.

Because of Jesus, through faith in Him, God sees the punishment for your sin met.

Because of Christ, through faith in Him, you seek to abide in Christ and to do according to the Lord’s will, according to His Word.

You do this, not because by doing so you have God’s good pleasure, but becase you already have God’s good pleasure, His favor, His grace, mercy, forgiveness, and salvation, in Christ Jesus the Lord.

You continue to repent of your sin, throughout this Lenten season and beyond.

According to the Law of God, you know that you are not as God would have you be.

According to the grace of God in Jesus Christ, you know and believe that Jesus alone is your help, Savior, and salvation. Amen.

 

Praying-Hands-Stretched-CanvasAlmighty and everlasting God, You despise nothing You have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent. Create in us new and contrite hearts that lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness we may receive from You full pardon and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen. (Collect for Ash Wednesday)

 

Series on Luther’s Small Catechism for midweek Lenten Services.

 

True Greatness

30[The disciples] went on from there and passed through Galilee. And [Jesus] did not want anyone to know, 31for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” 32But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.

      33And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 35And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” 36And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”  (Mark 9:30–37)

“The hearts and the heads of the disciples were yet filled with false Messianic hopes; the idea of a temporal kingdom would not down. And this matter they had discussed on the way, among themselves, disputing about rank, quarreling about who should be considered the greatest in their midst…While He had gone before them, busy with the thoughts pertaining to the way of redemption, they had been engrossed with their vain thoughts, how they might enhance their own glory. They must learn, above all, the lesson of the great paradox in the kingdom of God…The general rule in the world is that he is leader and acknowledged as being first that has others working for him, doing work in his service. In the Church of Jesus the reverse is true. There the rank is in proportion to the service offered. The humbler a person is and the more willing he is to serve his fellow-men, the higher he will stand in the economy of God. Instead of urging ambition for high position and power, Christ knows of only one valid reason for fame before Him and His Father, humble, unpretentious service, without a thought of reward.” (Kretzmann, Popular Commentary)

LUTHER’S SMALL CATECHISM

The Second Petition of the Lord’s Prayer

Thy kingdom come.

What does this mean? The kingdom of God certainly comes by itself without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may come to us also.

How does God’s kingdom come? God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.

 

God’s Grace is Sufficient

 

 

The Apology to the Augsburg Confession, Apology XII. Penitence

(Tappert Edition)

[Paragraphs 158-160] 158 Scripture explains that Job’s afflictions were not imposed on him because of his past misdeeds. So afflictions are not always punishments or signs of wrath. When in the midst of troubles terrified consciences see only God’s punishment and wrath, they should not feel that God has rejected them but they should be taught that troubles have other and more important purposes. They should look at these other and more important purposes, that God is doing his alien work in order to do his proper work, as Isaiah teaches in a long sermon in his twenty-eighth chapter.1 159 When the disciples asked who had sinned in the case of the blind man, Christ replied that the reason for his blindness was not sin but “that the works of God might be made manifest in him” (John 9:3). In Jeremiah (49:12) it is said, “Those who did not deserve to drink the cup must drink it.” Thus the prophets were killed, and John the Baptist, and other saints. 160 Therefore troubles are not always penalties for certain past deeds, but works of God, intended for our profit, that the power of God might be made more manifest in our weakness.

Luther’s Large Catechism

(Tappert Edition)

3rd Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy will be done, O Lord”

65  Therefore we who would be Christians must surely count on having the devil with all his angels5 and the world as our enemies and must count on their inflicting every possible misfortune and grief upon us. For where God’s Word is preached, accepted or believed, and bears fruit, there the blessed holy cross will not be far away. Let nobody think that he will have peace; he must sacrifice all (tr-717) he has on earth — possessions, honor, house and home, wife and children, body and life. 66 Now, this grieves our flesh and the old Adam, for it means that we must remain steadfast, suffer patiently whatever befalls us, and let go whatever is taken from us.

67 Therefore, there is just as much need in this case as in every other case to pray without ceasing: “Thy will be done, dear Father, and not the will of the devil or of our enemies, nor of those who would persecute and suppress thy holy Word or prevent thy kingdom from coming; and grant that whatever we must suffer on its account, we may patiently bear and overcome, so that our poor flesh may not yield or fall away through weakness or indolence.”

6th Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Lead us not into temptation”

As  long as we remain in this vile life in which we are attacked, hunted, and harried on all sides, we are constrained to cry out and pray every hour that God may not allow us to become faint and weary and to fall back into sin, shame, and unbelief. Otherwise it is impossible to overcome even the least temptation.

106 This, then, is “leading us not into temptation” when God gives us power and strength to resist, even though the tribulation is not removed or ended. For no one can escape temptations and allurements as long as we live in the flesh and have the devil prowling about us.  We cannot help but suffer tribulations, and even be entangled in them, but we pray here that we may not fall into them and be overwhelmed by them.

Luther

“We should not fear harsh treatment (Gewalt), but prosperity and good days we should fear.  These may harm us more than fear and persecution.  Nor should we fear the wisdom of the world, for it can do us no harm.  In fact, the more the wisdom of the world rises up against the truth, the purer and clearer the truth becomes.  Therefore nothing better can come to the Gospel than the opposition of the world with its might and wisdom.  The more my conscience, sin, and the devil assail me, the stronger my righteousness becomes.  For the sins that oppress me cause me anguish.  So I persist more and more earnestly in prayer and crying to God; and in this way faith and righteousness become constantly stronger and stronger.  This is what St. Paul means when he says (2 Cor. 12:9): Strength becomes stronger in weakness.  Since, then, we have a treasure which becomes stronger through temptation and adversity, we should not fear but be of good courage and rejoice at tribulation, as St. Paul says to the Romans (5:3), and as the apostles did who left the courthouse with great joy and thanked God for having been worthy to suffer shame for the sake of Christ’s name (Acts 5:41).  If the devil were wise enough to be silent and let the Gospel be preached, he would sustain less harm.  For when the Gospel is not attacked, it rusts and has no opportunity to reveal its power and might.”  (W 10 I, 2, 422 – E 14, 300f – SL 11, 1807f)(Plass, What Luther Says, #3304 Ease Is a Greater Danger, Persecution, p1039)

 

 

Do we know our theology?

Recently, I came across the following statement, “We in the LCMS, frankly, were always taught it’s ‘all about theology,’ and theology is one of the bases which hold us together, for sure.  But most of us know our theology inside/out.  We are ‘experts’ in that area!  But what can often be improved in the LCMS is ‘relationships.’”

The writer of such words was commenting about a past LFL National Conference held in Dallas earlier this year.  Though it is certainly true that we in the LCMS can always seek to improve with concern to ‘relationships’ (Love towards neighbor, 2nd table of the Law, Commandments 4-10), I would beg to differ with the belief that “most of us know our theology inside/out.” (Love towards God, 1st Table of the Law, Commandments 1-3)

If knowing means simply to use certain words and say that one understands the theology (generally), I would partially agree.  Many in the LCMS are indeed able to use LCMS theological words and phrases.  Some have even coined the phrase, “Christianese.”  You might even be able to speak of “Lutheranese” as well.

We can talk the talk.  Even nominal Lutherans “know” their theology.  I was recently told of a “Lutheran” who knew her catechism “inside and out,” with the ability to recite the various parts, yet rarely attended church, has not had her out of wedlock baby baptized, and has not repented of her sins.  If this is “knowing” our theology inside/out, then this is not knowing.

Nor is it “knowing” the theology when pastors confuse Law and Gospel in their preaching; when laypeople fail to hear the Word preached by the pastor because they do not like how he preaches or because of how he says.  It is not knowing theology when we hear the bitterness of the Law and seek to avoid and excuse ourselves from confessing our sins and seeking the Good News of the sweet Gospel; when we give lip service to the Christian faith and judge others, yet fail to see the plank in our own eye (Matthew 7:1-5); when we put our own desires and opinions, feelings and experiences, above God and His Word.  When we seek, not what God says, but what would make us feel better about ourselves, our church, our whatever, this is not truly knowing our theology.

If we in the LCMS truly knew our theology, there would be unceasing repentance, bold confession of Jesus Christ, unwavering confidence of God’s mercy, and fixation on only the true doctrine for faith and life.  The life would then truly follow.

Where there is the assumption that we know our theology “inside/out,” there is nothing but danger of losing that which is true, even losing Christ.

In the past, and even today (i.e. Rick Warren), there is the declaration, “Deeds, not Creeds,” as if deeds (what we do, our action) supersede creeds (the faith).  Such emphasis endangers the true doctrine, for it places the foundation on man, not on God and His Word (upon which the Christian faith is founded and based).

Such presumption that “We in the LCMS know our theology inside/out” and “are ‘experts’ in that area” implies that now we can move on to “other things,” (like relationships), as if we have mastered the teachings of our faith.

However much we “know” of our theology, we will never outgrow the need for doctrine to continually be at the forefront of all that we do, for the doctrine of which we speak is not man’s, but God’s.  Of this we must be vigilant, otherwise, the temptation to complacency will soon overtake us, as it has already for so many in our beloved church body, for many call themselves members of LCMS and LCMS congregations (even pastors), even using the theological words, but grievously are not.  They honor God with their lips, but their hearts (and their theology) are far from the Lord (Matthew 15:8).

From the preface of Luther’s Large Catechism

(para. 5-13)

5 Besides, a shameful and insidious plague of security and boredom has overtaken us. Many regard the Catechism as a simple, silly teaching which they can absorb and master at one reading. After reading it once they toss the book into a corner as if they are ashamed to read it again.  6 Indeed, even among the nobility there are some louts and skinflints who declare that we can do without pastors and preachers from now on because they have everything in books and can learn it all by ourselves. So they blithely let parishes fall into decay, and brazenly allow both pastors and preachers to suffer distress and hunger. This is what one can expect of crazy Germans. We Germans have such disgraceful people among us and must put up with them.

7 As for myself, let me say that I, too, am a doctor and a preacher — yes, and as learned and experienced as any of those who act so high and mighty. Yet I do as a child who is being taught the Catechism. Every morning, and whenever else I have time, I read and recite word for word the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Psalms, etc. 8 I must still read and study the Catechism daily, yet I cannot master it as I wish, but must remain a child and pupil of the Catechism, and I do it gladly. These dainty, fastidious fellows would like quickly, with one reading, to become doctors above all doctors, to know all there is to be known. Well, this, too, is a sure sign that they despise both their office and the people’s souls, yes, even God and his Word. They need not fear a fall, for they have already fallen all too horribly. What they need is to become children and begin learning their ABC’s, which they think they have outgrown long ago.

9 Therefore, I beg these lazy-bellies and presumptuous saints, for God’s sake, to get it into their heads that they are not really and truly such learned and great doctors as they think. I implore them not to imagine that they have learned these parts of the Catechism perfectly, or at least sufficiently, even though they think they know them ever so well. Even if their knowledge of Catechism were perfect (though that is impossible in this life), yet it is highly profitable and fruitful daily to read it and make it the subject of meditation and conversation. In such reading, conversation, and meditation the Holy Spirit is present and bestows ever new and greater light and fervor, so that day by day we relish and appreciate the Catechism more greatly. This is according to Christ’s promise in Matt. 18:20, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

10 Nothing is so effectual against the devil, the world, the flesh, and all evil thoughts as to occupy oneself with the Word of God, talk about it, and meditate on it. Psalm 1 calls those blessed who “meditate on God’s law day and night.”6 You will never offer up any incense or other savor more potent against the devil than to occupy yourself with God’s commandments and words and to speak, sing, and meditate on them. This, indeed, is the true holy water, the sign which routs the devil and puts him to flight.7

11 For this reason alone you should eagerly read, recite, ponder, and practice the Catechism, even if the only blessing and benefit you obtain from it is to rout the devil and evil thoughts. For he cannot bear to hear God’s Word. God’s Word is not like some empty tale, such as the one about Dietrich of Bern,8 but as St. Paul says in Rom. 1:16, it is “the power of God,” indeed, the power of God which burns the devil and gives us immeasurable strength, comfort, and help.

12 Why should I waste words? Time and paper would fail me if I were to recount all the blessings that flow from God’s Word. The devil is called the master of a thousand arts. What, then, shall we call God’s Word, which routs and destroys this master of a thousand arts with all his wiles and might? It must, indeed, be master of more than a hundred thousand arts. 13 Shall we frivolously despise this might, blessing, power, and fruit — especially we who would be pastors and preachers? If so, we deserve not only to be refused food but also to be chased out by dogs and pelted with dung. Not only do we need God’s Word daily as we need our daily bread; we also must use it daily against the daily, incessant attacks and ambushes of the devil with his thousand arts.

Confession & Absolution

Large Catechism (Tappert Edition)

A Brief Exhortation to Confession (20-27)

20 Further, no one dare oppress you with requirements. Rather, whoever is a Christian, or would like to be one, has here the faithful advice to go and obtain this precious treasure. If you are no Christian, and desire no such comfort, we shall leave you to another’s power. 21 Hereby we abolish the pope’s tyranny, commandments, and coercion since we have no need of them. For our teaching, as I have said, is this: If anybody does not go to confession willingly and for the sake of absolution, let him just forget about it. Yes, and if anybody goes about relying on the purity of his confession, let him just stay away from it. 22 We urge you, however, to confess and express your needs, not for the purpose of performing a work but to hear what God wishes to say to you. The Word or absolution, I say, is what you should concentrate on, magnifying and cherishing it as a great and wonderful treasure to be accepted with all praise and gratitude.

23 If all this were clearly explained, and meanwhile if the needs which ought to move and induce us to confession were clearly indicated, there would be no need of coercion and force. A man’s own conscience would impel him and make him so anxious that he would rejoice and act like a poor miserable beggar who hears that a rich gift, of money or clothes, is to be given out at a certain place; he would need no bailiff to drive and beat him but would run there as fast as he could so as not to miss the gift. 24 Suppose, now, that the invitation were changed into a command that all beggars should run to the place, no reason being given and no mention of what they were to look for or receive. How else would the beggar go but with repugnance, not expecting to receive anything but just letting everyone see how poor and miserable he is? Not much joy or comfort would come from this, but only a greater hostility to the command.

25 In the same way the pope’s preachers have in the past kept silence about this wonderful, rich alms and this indescribable treasure; they have simply driven men together in hordes just to show what impure and filthy people they were. Who could thus go to confession willingly? 26 We, on the contrary, do not say that men should look to see how full of filthiness you are, making of you a mirror for contemplating themselves. Rather we advise: If you are poor and miserable, then go and make use of the healing medicine. 27 He who feels his misery and need will develop such a desire for confession that he will run toward it with joy. But those who ignore it and do not come of their own accord, we let go their way. However, they ought to know that we do not regard them as Christians.

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