Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions

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Matthew 26:28 

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Mass 

If this was all that needed to be said, then the case has already been stated. For no sane person can approve of that pharisaic and heathen opinion of opus operatum. Nevertheless, this opinion has seized the people, infinitely increasing the number of masses. Masses are purchased, thinking that by them, God’s wrath is appeased. They hope by this work to obtain the remission of guilt and punishment, to procure what they need in life, and even to liberate the dead. Monks and sophists have brought this pharisaical teaching into the Church.

Pulling It Together

The common belief was that God’s grace and mercy could be had at a price. Therefore, spiritual benefit could come from the work worked, opus operatum. Not only could God’s forgiveness be had in the Mass, but for a fee, one could have health and prosperity. The so-called prosperity gospel probably comes to the mind of today’s reader. Yet, in the Reformers’ day, this superstitious and heretical idea had taken hold of the whole Church.

Prayer: O Lord, help us to trust in your grace alone. Amen.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions

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

Romans 5:1-2 

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Mass 

We remind our readers that this is the principal question. Aeschines admonished the judges that just as boxers contend with one another for their position, they also should strive with their adversary concerning the real point, not permitting him to wander beyond the issue. In the same manner, our opponents should be obliged to speak on the topic at hand. When the real issue has been thoroughly understood, an appraisal of both arguments will be very easy.

We have stated in our Confession that the Lord’s Supper does not bestow grace ex opere operato, and that, when applied on behalf of others, alive or dead, it does not merit for them ex opere operato the forgiveness of sins, guilt, or punishment. This position is clearly and firmly established, first, because it is impossible to obtain the forgiveness of sins on account of our own work ex opere operato, and second, because the terrors of sin and death must be overcome through faith, when we comfort our hearts with the knowledge of Christ, believing that we are forgiven for Christ’s sake, and that the merits and righteousness of Christ are given us. “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:1). These things are so sure and so firm that they can stand against all the gates of hell.

Pulling It Together

Peace comes to us through faith. Faith must come first, since we cannot know peace until we know that somehow we have become righteous before God. Now, any sane person knows that righteousness cannot come by virtue of human works. Try as we might, we know that we are not righteous by virtue of what good we have done, or what evil we have avoided. We know that all is lost; there is no way for us to have peace because it is impossible for us to become righteous under our own power. Our moral excellence is none too excellent. So, we try to do better. We do more religious works and good deeds but are ever mindful of how much we fall short (Rom 3:23). This persistent voice within us is that old hammer, the law, pounding away at us.

All would be lost if that were the only voice we ever heard. Yet, there is a good word too. That word is Jesus. We can never be righteous before God for the sake of the things we do, try to do, try not to do, or fail to do. Yet for the sake of Jesus, those who believe are forgiven their sins. We become justified, or made right, with God through our faith in Christ. The result is that our peace comes from Christ, not from ourselves (Phil 4:7; Col 3:15). This is a most excellent peace that persists despite our less than excellent thoughts, words, and actions.

Prayer: Lord, I believe. Amen.

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The Lord's Prayer is a seven lesson curriculum based around Luther's Small Catechism.  Each lesson has a Bible study connected to the article of the Lord's Prayer covered. A section entitled "About Prayer"  teaches students helpful items about a solid prayer life and a prayer assignment for the coming week.  A major goal of this material is to help kids experience prayer and practice it in a variety of ways. This book could be used as part of a larger Confirmation series, or as a "pre-confirmation" Sunday School series for Jr. High and Middle School youth.

Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions

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Mark 11:15–17 

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Mass 

Although our opponents have collected many testimonies to prove that the Mass is a sacrifice, their great tumult of words from authorities, rationalizations, and testimonies, however lengthy, are silenced by the single answer that the Mass does not confer grace ex opere operato. Nor may it be applied to merit for others the forgiveness of venial and mortal sins, guilt, and punishment. This one response overthrows all the objections of the adversaries, not only in their Confutation, but in all the writings that they have published concerning the Mass.

Pulling It Together

Grace is not merited “from the work worked” (ex opere operato) by humans. It is a gift received through faith in the great work of Christ. Going through religious motions accounts for nothing without faith in God’s word of promise. Therefore, since one may only have faith for self, God’s grace cannot be applied to another. I may not be baptized for another’s good. I may not receive the means of grace in the Holy Supper for the sake of another. More to the example at hand, I may not purchase an indulgence—even if it is a private Mass instead of a scrap of paper—that merits forgiveness of sins for anyone (myself or another), or take time off of a so-called Purgatory. Grace is a gift from God, received through individual faith, not something available from a vendor.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord Jesus, for accomplishing for the world—yet even for me—forgiveness of sin and life everlasting. Amen.

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A Latin phrase meaning “Scripture Alone,” Sola Scriptura is one of the traditional Lutheran slogans used since the time of the Reformation. It expresses our confession that Scripture is “the only rule and norm according to which all doctrines and teachers alike must be appraised and judged.” Using the familiar phrase as its title, Sola Scriptura is a new, advanced-level Bible Study in a two-part series, of six chapters each, on the functional authority of Scripture. For those who would like to cover the topic in detail, there is enough material to cover one chapter in two sessions, making each part a 12-week study.

Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions

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2 Thessalonians 3:10–12 

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Mass 

We will not discuss the nature of their origins for the moment. Yet, it is obvious that private Masses increased after the beggar monks began to prevail. The increase of superstition and racketeering caused good people to want some limit to this thing for a long time. St. Francis wished to mend this matter by deciding that each fraternity should be content with a single, daily, common Mass. This changed later, either because of superstition or for the sake of gain. So, where it is advantageous, they change the institutions of the Fathers, then cite the authority of the Fathers against us. Epiphanius writes that in Asia, Holy Communion was celebrated three times a week, but that there were no daily Masses. Indeed, he states that this custom was handed down from the apostles. He says, “Assemblies for Communion were appointed by the apostles to be held on the fourth day, on Sabbath eve, and the Lord’s Day.”

Pulling It Together

I know a man who reads his morning paper, then removes the employment section of the classified ads. He takes that bit of the paper with him on his drive to work. If someone is panhandling on a street corner, he hands them the employment classifieds. You may or may not like his approach, but you have to admit that there are a lot of beggars out there. Now, imagine that those beggars are religious, begging money so they can build a church. Envisage them at the street corners on your way to work. Imagine they tell you that your family members are kept from the joy of heaven because of you—because you could simply purchase a private Mass to be celebrated in their memory that would shorten their time in Purgatory. What would you do if besieged by these beggars day after day? Perhaps you would eventually consider printing copies of 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 to hand to them when they approach you.

Prayer: Lord, give me work to do and help me do it as if I were working for you. Amen.

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Learning the Lord's Prayer teaches the Lord's Prayer according to the pattern of Luther's Small Catechism, and is recommended for the Second Grade Level. Each week focuses on a specific Bible story which illustrates the theme, with additional references from Scripture and Luther's Small Catechism – Children's Version

Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions

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Acts 20:7 

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Mass 

The fact that we hold only public or common Mass is no offense to the Church catholic. Even today, Greek churches do not conduct private Masses; there is only the public Mass, and that on the Lord’s Day and festivals. Daily Mass is held in the monasteries, but this too is only public. These are the vestiges of early practices, as the ancient writers before Gregory make no mention of private Masses.

Pulling It Together

The Augsburg Confession, of which this document is a defense against the charges of the Roman Confutation, states that “the Mass is a Sacrament for those gathered.” Therefore, Lutherans in the days of the Reformation celebrated Holy Communion when the people would gather to worship. The point of this is simply that the Lord’s Supper is for the people—all believers, not a select few who might be seeking special favor or who have paid for the privilege. For it is Christ who has paid the price—not any of us. 

Prayer: As we assemble to worship, Lord, help us always to gather around you. Amen.

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Personalities of Faith is a ten-session Bible study for youth. The goal of the series is to encourage young people to commit themselves to follow Jesus in discipleship by becoming "personalities of faith." By showing biblical examples of people who have followed—or failed to follow—God's call, participants will be prepared to better follow the Lord in their own lives.

Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions

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Romans 10:17 

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Mass 

Ceremonies should be observed to teach people Scripture, and that those who have been reproved by the Word may have faith and fear, and may then also pray. So, we retain the Latin language for those who are learning and understand Latin, yet mingle with it German hymns so that the people may also learn things that evoke faith and fear. This custom has always existed in our churches. Some sing German hymns more frequently, and others less often, nevertheless people almost everywhere sang something in their own language. However, it has nowhere been written or even suggested that the act of hearing lessons is a benefit to people when they do not understood the language, or that ceremonies are a benefit ex opere operato, because they are performed or are gazed upon—instead of because they teach or admonish. Away with such pharisaic opinions!

Pulling It Together

One must trust the promise of God, believing with true faith. Yet, as we have said, this cannot be accomplished without the Word. One must actually hear the words of Scripture, not a babbling in another language but real, understandable words. What would Christ himself have accomplished if he spoke to his disciples and the multitudes in Mandarin or English? They had a hard enough time comprehending his parables when spoken in their own language. Now we might insist that they should simply trust he was saying something very important and that they should just believe it. But believe what? Exactly what? There is the rub. One may say she believes, and feel quite pious for being so devout. But where is the faith in that?

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for working faith within me through your Word. Amen.

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The season of Advent is not only a time of preparation for Christmas, it is a time to consider God's long-term plans and how God has promised that he will intervene in the lives of his people, and the world itself, on the coming Day of the Lord. Prophecy Fulfilled is a four week Bible Study about the Old Testament prophecies of our Lord's Advent, showing how these prophetic words were fulfilled not only in the coming of Christ over 2,000 years ago, but how they also point ahead to the return of Christ in his Second Coming.

Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions

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Acts 8:30

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Mass 

Our opponents offer a lengthy diatribe about the use of the Latin language in the Mass, in which they absurdly amuse themselves about how it profits someone who knows nothing of the faith of the Church to hear a Mass which he does not understand. They must imagine that the mere act of hearing is a service of worship that benefits people without it being understood. We are unwilling to belabor this point, but leave it to the judgment of the reader. We mention it in passing for the purpose of stating that our churches also also retain the Latin lessons and prayers.

Pulling It Together

More than one person has proclaimed to me, as though to unsettle me, I suppose, that going to church does not make one a Christian. Well, amen to that. God creates faith through the working of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. Now that very often happens in churches, but it may just as well happen in a house, a prison, a field, or anywhere else because it always happens by the same agency: hearing the word of Christ. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17). Thank God for those like Wycliffe, Luther, and Tyndale who translated the Scriptures into their own languages, so that God may give us understanding. 

Prayer: Help me, Lord, to be engrossed by your Word. Amen.

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Sola’s Confirmation workbook, The Lord's Prayer, is designed to be a small group Bible study, student book for home school or independent study programs, or as a classroom tool and homework resource as part of an existing confirmation program.

Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions

Index of Scripture Graphics and posts by Scripture reference

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1 Timothy 4:13–16

Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 14 Do not neglect 

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Mass 

To begin with, we must repeat our preliminary statement that we do not abolish the Mass but religiously maintain and defend it. Mass is celebrated every Lord’s Day in our churches, and on the other festivals, when the Sacrament is offered to those who long for it after they have been examined and absolved. We observe traditional liturgical order such as the Lectionary, prayers, vestments, and similar things.

Pulling It Together

The Reformers would not sit still for the scattered blows of their opponents’ Confutation. Twisting statements into something they are not could not be permitted, if the central focus of the Reformation was to be maintained. It is easy enough for an adversary to get people to think you are something you are not, simply by spinning the truth. The fact was (and is) that Lutherans were quite similar to those whom they prayed would reform. Yet, this entire Defense shows that those who needed reforming tried to paint the Lutherans as wild heretics. Meanwhile, the Lutheran Reformers kept bringing the focus back to the main point of conflict: how God is reconciled. Our new section, “Concerning the Mass,” will show again the similarities and the one major difference between the Reformers and the Church they wished to reform.

Prayer: Bless us, O Lord, with those who teach us sound doctrine. Amen.

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The ReClaim Hymnal for Church and Home contains three Communion Settings along with liturgies for Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage, Funerals, and other occasional services. It also includes the Small Catechism, as well as 275 beloved hymns from various hymn traditions. It is a resource that would be suitable for confirmation and graduation gifts as well as congregational use. 

Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions

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Luke 11:28 

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Marriage of Priests 

Whatever may happen, our princes will be able to have clear consciences. Even if priests had done wrong by marrying, it is surely contrary to the will and Word of God to break up marriages and issue these cruel bans. Our princes do not delight in novelty or dissent, but it is more certain that they have higher regard for the Word of God than all other things.

Pulling It Together

Cultural correctness is not an easy thing to buck. It feels like nearly everyone is against you. Yet, it is far better to have the whole world denounce you than have God condemn you. What is the clear teaching of the Word? That is God’s will. Does someone spin fine words and human reason that make you question God’s will? Go to his Word. What is written?

Prayer: Spirit of God, strengthen me to keep your Word. Amen.

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Connections is a magazine for evangelical Lutheran Christians filled with meaty articles as well as lighter spiritual fare. Connections provides great food for the soul. Articles and features are contributed by individuals and ministries of LCMC, NALC, CALC, Lutheran Core, and other evangelical Lutherans from congregations across North America.

Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions

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1 Peter 1:24–25

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Marriage of Priests 

They defend a law that is godless and destructive to good morals with false arguments like these. With such reasons they set the minds of princes firmly against God’s judgment, who will hold them accountable for dissolving marriages, and for torturing and killing priests. Do not doubt that, as the blood of Abel cried out in death (Gen 4:10), so the blood of many good men, against whom they have unjustly raged, will also cry out. God will avenge this cruelty. Then you will discover how vacuous our opponents’ reasons are, and you will perceive that in God’s judgment, no slander against God’s Word will stand, as Isaiah says, “All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field” (Isa 40:6).

Pulling It Together

Only God’s Word will abide. Our idle arguments will wither, our fine words and reasoning fall with the flowers at the end of summer. As they wither and fall, God’s glory will appear in full bloom before us. It was there all along but obscured by the high-standing hedges of our lofty intellects.

Prayer: Lord, have mercy. Amen.

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Not My Will, But Yours is a six-week study that explores the topic of the “free will” from a biblical perspective, looking at what Scripture has to say about the bondage of the human will, and how Jesus Christ has come to deliver us from ourselves.