Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions

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Isaiah 55:8–9 

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Marriage of Priests 

Sixthly, we have so many reasons for disapproving of the law of perpetual celibacy. Yet, besides these, though the law were not unjust, dangers to souls and public scandals must also be considered. These alone should discourage good folks from approving of such a burden as has destroyed innumerable souls.

Pulling It Together

We should never place so-called common sense before Holy Scripture. We may imagine that we understand something perfectly well, yet God’s way are not our ways. What once seemed entirely sensible to us looks quite different through the eyes of faith. Nevertheless, when God’s Word makes something clear, and common sense does as well, the way forward is unmistakable. This was the broad path of the Reformers; they could go in no other direction concerning celibacy than that which both Scripture and sensibility dictated. 

Prayer: Teach me your Word, O Lord, that your will would become my daily desire. Amen.

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"The Great Reformer" is a Reformation Worship Service to Celebrate the 500th Anniversary of Luther’s Posting of the 95 Theses in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517. This downloadable PDF contains a monologue featuring Martin Luther and an accompanying order of service for Reformation.

Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions

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Hebrews 10:10–14

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Marriage of Priests 

Our adversaries require celibacy for religious reasons, for they know that chastity is not ordinarily rendered. But they feign these opinions in order to delude the ignorant. They are therefore more worthy of contempt than the Encratites, who seem to have strayed through a show of religion. By design, these Epicureans misuse religion as a pretext.

Pulling It Together

Not only was celibacy not the thing in Rome or in the monasteries, unchastity was on display in these places—as it is now. This hypocrisy was well-known to the people. Yet, the practice of having so-called celibate priests persisted, and continues to this day. This ecclesiastical law (for it is certainly not doctrine) seems to have begun to creep into the Church around the fourth century AD. At the Council of Nicea in 325AD, however, this kind of mandate was rejected. Still, it endures. Why?

It has long been believed in a variety of religions that priests who offer sacrifices must be pure. It is also thought that sex makes one impure. Therefore, a sexually active priest would be considered unclean, bringing that impurity upon the sacrifice. This presents a problem for those who believe that Christ is sacrificed again and again in the Mass. Thus, celibacy is seen as necessary.

The Reformers taught, as does Scripture, that Christ, who was pure and sinless, offered himself to God for the sins of the world. Saying that the priest makes the sacrifice of the mass pure, takes the honor away from Christ. Furthermore, as Scripture testifies, Christ Jesus offered himself as the “single sacrifice for sins.” Additional sacrifices of the Mass are both unnecessary and not biblical.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for your sacrifice and for the forgiveness of my sins. Amen.

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Kinderbeten is a compelling story touching on the exercise of free religion, the religious wars in Europe, the roots of Evangelicalism, the supernatural, and more, all wrapped up in a religious revival which began not through a charismatic revivalist or any adult at all, but rather found it's origin with children aged four to fourteen. The children became pawns in a controversy between political and religious opponents. Indulge your curiosity and read the remarkable story about the King of Sweden and the 1707-08 Children's Revival in Silesia, a tale of hope and prayer.

Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions

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1 Corinthians 7:35

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Marriage of Priests 

We could provide examples of godly consciences that were distressed over the legitimacy of marriage. This evil sprang from the superstitious opinions of monks praising celibacy. Nevertheless, we do not find fault with temperance or continence, having stated above that discipline and mortification of the body are necessary. Yet we deny that confidence should be placed in certain observances, as if they made one righteous. Epiphanius has elegantly said that these observances should be commended “for restraining the body or for public morals,” just as certain rites were introduced for instructing the ignorant, but not as services that justify.

Pulling It Together

Marriage should never be considered an obstacle to salvation, nor as a life filled with sin. Quite the opposite is true. The Apostle Paul praises the married life for its unique ability to keep one from sin (1 Cor 7:1-7). Because of the overwhelming temptation for most people to sin sexually, Paul encourages marriage. He also recommends self-control, even for those who are married. Self-discipline in the face of this strong temptation is good for the soul and a general advantage to the public. Consider the benefit to our society if people would control themselves. There is no better way to do so than through a godly marriage. Nonetheless, even such self-control does not save. Faith in Christ is what saves, and this faith is the gracious gift of God, not something that we perform or earn. This was the continuing focus of the Reformers; how could they have possibly supported celibacy as a means of justification?

Prayer: Help me, Lord Jesus, to control myself. Amen.

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The kind of church we see in the New Testament is different from what most modern people imagine when they think of “going to church.” Experience Life Together: Experiencing House-Church Ministry, by Rev. Tom Hilpert, is a 15-week house-church curriculum designed for pastors, lay leaders, and churches interested in getting a taste for what church in the home is really like. Whether referred to as a house-church, organic church, alternative church, or cell church, this material applies well to any group that wants to experience Christian worship in the context of a small group meeting within the homes of the participants.

Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions

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Colossians 2:18–19

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Marriage of Priests 

Paul greatly disapproves of these angelic forms of worship in Colossians 2:18. For when people believe that they are pure and righteous on account of such hypocrisy, they suppress the knowledge of Christ. They also inhibit the knowledge of God’s gifts and commandments which he desires us to employ in a godly way.

Pulling It Together

Programs of austerity for the sake of meriting favor with God are useless. Indeed, they are harmful. These things make us think that we are the cause of our own salvation. But when we face our condition, confessing our sins instead of imagining that we can atone for them, then we understand that Christ alone is our Head, the only ground of salvation. Looking to him, we find that he is the one who created faith in us through the gospel, and is then perfecting it in us through the sacraments (Heb 12:2).

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Reading and Discussion of Luther's Catechisms is a more challenging study series based on assigned readings from the Book of Concord and related Scripture texts. Each study is comprised of eight sessions, plus an optional introductory session, presented in a question and discussion format. 

• Student Workbook   • Leader's Guide

Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions

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Isaiah 53:6

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Marriage of Priests 

Misunderstanding the law of Moses, many heretics have treated marriage with contempt, but celibacy with extraordinary admiration. Epiphanius complains that by commending this, the Encratites subdued gullible minds. They abstained from wine—even in the Lord’s Supper; they abstained from the flesh of all animals, surpassing even the Dominican friars who eat fish. They also abstained from marriage; and this gained the principal admiration. They thought that they merited more grace by these works, these services rather than by using wine, meat, and marriage. These seemed to be profane and unclean matters that could scarcely please God, even though not altogether condemned.

Pulling It Together

These false teachings come about by not understanding the principal teaching of the New Testament, the one from which all good doctrine springs, and the central tenet of the Lutherans. That principal belief is that we are saved by God. Yet there are those who disagree. Those who think that they save themselves will come up with exhaustive lists of things that must be done. Denominations who imagine that people can be holy, will devise any number of ways to sanctify themselves. There are even folks—some who call themselves Lutheran—who would tell you that they are saved by God’s grace, yet will still give you things you must do in order to be justified to God.

What can a human being do that will make him right with God? I can think of nothing. Still, let us try. Does going to church get you right with God? No; worship is what keeps you oriented to the one who justifies you to himself. Does reading the Bible make you right with God? Again, no; the Scripture makes you aware of how unholy you are, while revealing the one who makes you holy in spite of yourself. Hopefully, you get the idea.

This is a matter of choosing the correct interrogative. Think of justification in terms of “who” instead of “what.” It is not what you must do but who must do it for you. What can you do? Nothing. Who has done it for you? Christ alone. So why must monks and priests be celibate instead of enjoying the good gift of God in Christian marriage? Because they are thinking of “what” instead of “who.”

Prayer: Keep me ever focused, Lord, upon you. Amen.

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The Sola Confirmation Series, written by the Rev. Steven E. King, is work-book style Confirmation curriculum. It is designed to serve as a simple and practical resource for teaching the biblical Word of God according to the traditional pattern of Martin Luther’s Small Catechism.  Each book in the series can be used as the basis for a “come as you are” small group Bible study, as a student book for home school or independent study programs, or as a classroom tool and homework resource as part of an existing confirmation program. 

The Ten Commandments book is a ten-week unit, which includes one session on each of the Commandments. The Scripture focus in the Ten Commandment series is on Moses and the Exodus Cycle, with Bible Study lessons taken primarily from the Pentateuch.

• Student Workbook   • Leader's Guide

Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions

Original image   •   Index of Scripture Graphics and posts by Scripture reference

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Psalm 51:17

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Marriage of Priests 

Now such self-control is easy for those who are godly and employed. But the facts show that the multitude of slothful priests living indulgently in the fraternities cannot keep Levitical self-control. The verse is well known: The boy accustomed to being lazy, hates those who are busy.

Pulling It Together

Those who enjoy their ease and indolence, without the benefit of the Word of God, and having no regard for it, live their lives without worry or guilt. These conditions brought the most debauched lifestyles upon the Church, just as they do in our times. Such people are unable to observe Levitical self-control, let alone perpetual celibacy. Add to this that God does not desire such sacrifice from his people. The sacrifices of God are the confession of sin and genuine repentance. 

Prayer: Wash me, Lord, and I shall be clean. Amen.

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The Spiritual Realms is a nine-session Bible Study series on Heaven and Hell and places beyond this world. Specifically, the study looks at the many “place names” that are found throughout Scripture, referring to spiritual realms of existence that underlie and comprise the universe God created. This Bible Study series is a challenging one, in that it explores realities of existence beyond what we know and experience everyday.

The study not only addresses matters of life, death, heaven and hell, it steadfastly affirms that Jesus Christ is at the center of all these things. Our ultimate faith and hope rest in Christ’s death and resurrection for our sake. We live in faith by the biblical promise that: “God raised the Lord, and will also raise us up by his power” (1 Cor 6:14).

Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions

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1 Corinthians 7:5

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Marriage of Priests 

In the meanwhile, good people will know how to moderately use marriage. This is especially so when they are occupied with public service, which often provides good people with so much labor that all domestic thoughts are removed from their minds. Good folk also know this, that Paul, in 1 Thessalonians 4:4, commands every one to control their own bodies with holiness. They also understand that they must sometimes abstain, in order that there may be time for prayer. Yet Paul does not wish this to be perpetual (1 Cor 7:5).

Pulling It Together

There must be good order in all things. I once did marriage counseling with a couple whose problems always seemed to come back to talk about sex. He was unsatisfied; she was overwhelmed by his constant advances. When I asked him what would be an agreeable number of times in a week for sex, his answer was first thing in the morning and last thing at night—every day. Twice. My counsel was that they not have sex for the next week but instead, devote themselves to prayer. Of course, he turned a deaf ear to this advice.

I was not encouraging celibacy but that he practice controlling his body and its urges for a while. This is about as far as Scripture takes us in terms of abstinence. It does not demand celibacy for anyone, not even ministers. But it does insist upon godly order and holiness—in bed and otherwise.

Prayer: Lord, give me such devotion to you that I honor you with my body as well as my spirit. Amen.

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The Basics of the Christian Faith is an edition of the catechism that is aimed at seekers, visitors, and those that may not come from a Lutheran background. It is recommended for use in outreach, as a visitor welcome gift, or in new member packets.

 

Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions

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Acts 15:8–10

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Marriage of Priests 

If any defend the rule of celibacy with the purpose of burdening consciences with these Levitical observances, we must strongly oppose them, just as the apostles did in Acts 15:10, resisting those who required circumcision and tried to impose the law of Moses upon Christians.

Pulling It Together

We neither require nor need any acts of purification. For it is God alone who cleanses hearts. King David knew this to be true. What work of cleansing did he do after his sin with Bathsheba? He did nothing but ask God to create a clean heart within him (Psa 51:10). The most heinous of sins are forgiven by God when one confesses those sins, believing with faith that God is both faithful and just to do forgive (1 John 1:9). God covers such persons with the righteousness of Christ (2 Cor 5:21). But if one expects to end up with a clean heart because he keeps certain fasts, gives alms, is celibate, or does any variety of good works, that person is deceived. We must resist sects who require these works, since all they do is weigh down the conscience with grief and guilt.

Prayer: Lord, create a clean heart heart within me. Amen.

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The Sola Online Worship Resource (SOWeR) includes liturgies and services for your use. There are ready-to-copy settings for Holy Communion, services, services of the Word, Vespers, occasional services, funerals, and seasonal services. SOWeR is a lectionary-based web resource for Scripture lessons, lectionary inserts, children's bulletins, devotionals, text studies, prayers, hymn-planning, and much more! Join the hundreds of congregations who have discovered how simple, flexible, and useful SOWeR is for worship planning and sermon preparation. 

Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions

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1 Corinthians 1:30–31

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Marriage of Priests 

In reference to their examples about the Levitical priests, we have already replied that these do not impose a perpetual celibacy upon the priests. Furthermore, the Levitical ceremonial statutes about uncleanness do not pertain to Christians. Intercourse contrary to these statutes was an impurity. Now it is not impurity, since Paul says, “To the pure all things are pure” (Titus 1:15). The Gospel frees us from these Levitical regulations about uncleanness.

Pulling It Together

The ceremonial code in the law of Moses, those things concerning what is clean or unclean, do not pertain to Christians. Christians are freed from all the ceremonies of Moses, not only from the laws concerning uncleanness. For it is Christ who makes us pure, not washings or other observances. He has become our holiness. Holiness is not found in hairstyles, clothing, lack of jewelry, the foods eaten or abstained from, nor celibacy or marriage—or anything other than Christ Jesus. He alone is our cleanness, holiness, righteousness, purity. If one wants to be a holy priest, there is only one necessary thing: believe in Jesus Christ. 

Prayer: Thank you, righteous Lord, for imputing your righteousness to me. Amen.

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The Sola Online Worship Resource (SOWeR) also includes bulletin templates. There are word processing templates for both communion and non-communion services. There are also templates for Sola, LBW, and Reclaim service settings. SOWeR is a lectionary-based web resource for Scripture lessons, lectionary inserts, children's bulletins, devotionals, text studies, prayers, hymn-planning, and much more! Join the hundreds of congregations who have discovered how simple, flexible, and useful SOWeR is for worship planning and sermon preparation. This brochure will answer more questions about SOWeR. Call 1-888-887-9840 to order a yearly subscription. 

Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions

Index of Scripture Graphics and posts by Scripture reference

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Matthew 19:10–12

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Marriage of Priests 

Neither Christ nor Paul praise virginity because it justifies, but because it is freer and less distracted by domestic occupations, allowing time for prayer, teaching, serving. For this reason Paul says, “He that is unmarried cares for the things that belong to the Lord” (1 Cor 7:32). Virginity is therefore commended for the sake of of meditation and study. Thus Christ does not simply praise those who make themselves eunuchs, but adds, for the kingdom of heaven’s sake, that is, that they may have leisure to learn or teach the Gospel. He does not say that virginity merits the forgiveness of sins or salvation.

Pulling It Together

I am distracted every day by domestic duties, when what I am anxious to do is write and study and pray and so forth. On Saturday about Noon, in the midst of running one more household errand, I complained (again) to my wife: “I’m not going to get anything done today!” Truth be told, I ended up getting a great deal of kingdom work accomplished, but see how anxious I was when domestic duties got in the way? Furthermore, domestic duties are kingdom duties. Being Susan’s husband is part of my calling. But for those who can receive it, celibacy probably affords more time to a stricter regimen.

Prayer: Lord God, help Christian families make time to do your will and the work of the kingdom. Amen.

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The Sola Online Worship Resource is a lectionary-based web resource for Scripture lessons, lectionary inserts, children's bulletins, devotionals, text studies, prayers, hymn-planning, and much more! Join the hundreds of congregations who have discovered how simple, flexible, and useful SOWeR is for worship planning and sermon preparation.