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Smalcald Articles, Part II, Article I–Christ and Faith

 Tappert1 The first and chief article is this, that Jesus Christ, our God and Lord, “was put to death for our trespasses and raised again for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). 2 He alone is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). “God has laid upon him the iniquities of us all” (Isa. 53:6). 3 Moreover, “all have sinned,” and “they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, by his blood” (Rom. 3:23-25).

4 Inasmuch as this must be believed and cannot be obtained or apprehended by any work, law, or merit, it is clear and certain that such faith alone justifies us, as St. Paul says in Romans 3, “For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law” (Rom. 3:28), and again, “that he [God] himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26).

5 Nothing in this article can be given up or compromised,6 even if heaven and earth and things temporal should be destroyed. For as St. Peter says, “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). “And with his stripes we are healed” (Isa. 53:5).

On this article rests all that we teach and practice against the pope, the devil, and the world. Therefore we must be quite certain and have no doubts about it. Otherwise all is lost, and the pope, the devil, and all our adversaries will gain the victory. (Tappert edition, The Book of Concord)

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Claims about the doctrine of Sola Scriptura originating with Martin Luther

Sola Scriptura

It is held by some that “The doctrine of Sola Scriptura originated with Martin Luther, the 16th-century German monk who broke away from the Roman Catholic Church and started the Protestant ‘Reformation.’[1]  Part of this is true.  Dr. Luther was a 16th-century German monk (of the Augustinian order).  However, the Roman Catholic Church excommunicated Luther for his teachings.

 

Claims about the doctrine of Sola Scriptura originating with Martin Luther

 

A brief examination of the New Testament will demonstrate that the teaching of Sola Scriptura did not originate with Martin Luther.  Though I’m not aware that the phrase Sola Scriptura was used before Luther’s time, the doctrine was in practice before Luther.

Jesus says, for example, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think that you eternal life, and these are they which testify of Me” (John 5:39).  Here, Jesus was speaking with Jews, the people of His day.  Note that He references the Scriptures, which are the Old Testament writings.  He says that these writings testify of Him.  He says the same elsewhere, too (i.e. Luke 24).

The angel Gabriel, who visited both Zechariah in the temple, concerning the birth of John the baptizer (the forerunner of Christ), through the womb of his wife Elizabeth, and who also visited the virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus the Lord, testified to them of what was to come using the Old Testament.

The preaching of the apostles after Christ’s ascension was the preaching of Christ’s death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins.  Significantly, they claimed that this proclamation, and their teaching, did not derive from tradition, but was founded on the Old Testament.  They were claiming, therefore, that Christ was not only the one prophesied in the Old Testament, but that He had fulfilled those prophecies (i.e. Acts 2ff).

These few examples draw attention to where Gabriel, Jesus, and the early church recognized the origination of true doctrine to come, not from tradition or a human figure (i.e. the pope), but from God alone, through Holy Scripture (the Bible).  This is especially noteworthy, because such a claim equates the Bible with God’s Word.  This means that the denial of the Bible as the only authority is also the denial of God’s Word, from which God makes Himself known to us through Jesus Christ.  And the denial of the Bible, God’s Word, as the only authority for faith and life, leads to the denial of salvation by God’s grace alone, through Christ alone, through faith alone, all three, for these teachings the Holy Scriptures clearly teach.


[1] Peters, 2.

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.

Large Catechism on Confession, 1-7

Large Catechism

A Brief Exhortation to Confession (1-7)

1 Concerning confession, we have always taught that it should be voluntary and purged of the pope’s tyranny. We have been set free from his coercion and from the intolerable burden he imposed upon the Christian church. Up to now, as we all know from experience, there has been no law quite so oppressive as that which forced everyone to make confession on pain of the gravest mortal sin. 2 Moreover, it so greatly burdened and tortured consciences with the enumeration of all kinds of sin that no one was able to confess purely enough. 3 Worst of all, no one taught or understood what confession is and how useful and comforting it is. Instead, it was made sheer anguish and a hellish torture since people had to make confession even though nothing was more hateful to them. 4 These three things have now been removed and made voluntary so that we may confess without coercion or fear, and we are released from the torture of enumerating all sins in detail. Moreover, we have the advantage of knowing how to use confession beneficially for the comforting and strengthening of our conscience.

5 Everyone knows this now. Unfortunately, men have learned in only too well; they do whatever they please and take advantage of their freedom, acting as if they will never need or desire to go to confession any more. We quickly understand whatever benefits us, and we grasp with uncommon ease whatever in the Gospel is mild and gentle. But such pigs, as I have said, are unworthy to appear in the presence of the Gospel or to have any part of it. They ought to remain under the pope and submit to being driven and tormented to confess, fast, etc., more than ever before. For he who will not believe the Gospel, live according to it, and do what a Christian ought to do, should enjoy none of its benefits. 6 What would happen if you wished to enjoy the Gospel’s benefits but did nothing about it and paid nothing for it? For such people we shall provide no preaching, nor will they have our permission to share and enjoy any part of our liberty, but we shall let the pope or his like bring them back into subjection and coerce them like the tyrant he is. The rabble who will not obey the Gospel deserve just such a jailer as God’s devil and hangman. 7 To others who hear it gladly, however, we must preach, exhorting, encouraging, and persuading them not to lose this precious and comforting treasure which the Gospel offers. Therefore we must say something about confession to instruct and admonish the simple folk.

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