Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions

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Revelation 5:8-10

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Mass 

Malachi speaks about these sacrifices: “For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering” (Mal 1:11). Our adversaries misconstrue this passage, applying it to the Mass, citing the authority of the Fathers. A response, however, is easy. Even if this were a reference to the Mass, it would not follow that the Mass justifies ex opere operato, or that it merits the forgiveness of sins by transferring it to others. The prophet says nothing of that sort the monks and scholastics shamelessly concoct.

Pulling It Together

            The Lord’s name is great throughout the earth because of the preaching of the gospel. The Spirit produces faith in individuals through the Word (Rom 10:17). The result is that God’s priests (1 Pet 2:5, 9; Rev 1:5-6; 5:10)—all believers—offer the Lord true sacrifices of worship and praise. Still, these services do not save from sin and death. We will continue to proclaim, as did the Lutheran Reformers 500 years ago: only Christ saves. Our works can never merit forgiveness, justification, or eternal life. 

Prayer: O Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, give me the courage and joy to sing of your victory. 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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Romans 12:6–8

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Mass 

But Scripture is full of such passages which teach that sacrifices do not reconcile God ex opere operato. Accordingly, since Levitical sacrifices have been abrogated, the New Testament teaches that new and pure sacrifices will be made, namely: faith, prayer, thanksgiving, confession, and the preaching of the Gospel, suffering on account of the Gospel, and similar things.

Pulling It Together

Having been moved to faith, the Spirit of God begins to transform us through the Word, worship, and testing. He gives each believer a gift or gifts of the Spirit that should be used in service for God. This service is a sacrifice, rendered along with sacrifices of worship and prayer. Yet these services or sacrifices do not save us; they are the reasonable services of all people who have been saved by the grace of God.

Prayer: Thank you, Holy Spirit, for giving me gift and a place in your Church. Amen.

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I Am Who I Am is a six-week study that explores what it means to “not take the name of the LORD your God in vain” (Exod 20:7), while at the same time trusting the promise in Christ that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21).

Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions

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1 Samuel 15:22

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Mass 

Psalm 40:6 says: “Sacrifice and offering thou dost not desire; but thou hast given me an open ear.” That is, God has offered us his Word that we would hear it, and that he requires us to believe his Word and his promises, that he truly desires to show us mercy and help. Likewise, “For thou hast no delight in sacrifice… The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Psa 51:16-17). And, “Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord” (Psa 4:5). He commands us to trust, and says that this trust is a righteous sacrifice, meaning that other sacrifices are not true and righteous sacrifices. Further, “I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord” (Psa 116:17). They call prayer a sacrifice of thanksgiving.

Pulling It Together

“According to His Word, God wants to repay works gloriously, but first He wants us to confess that we are sinners and to entrust ourselves to His mercy” (Luther’s Works, vol 12, 345). Works are things that God rewards, to be sure, but something else is more certain. God does not reward our good works with salvation. Put your trust in this: God rewards faith alone with eternal life, and he does so without cost of any kind other than that which was paid by his Son at Calvary.

Prayer: As you have offered me you word, give me faith to believe. Amen.

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The goal of Personalities of Faith, a ten-session Bible study for youth, is to encourage young people to commit themselves to follow Jesus in discipleship by becoming "personalities of faith". Using 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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Hebrews 13:15

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Mass 

Psalm 50:13, 15 rejects sacrifices and requires prayer. It also condemns the notion of ex opere operato. “Do I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?” “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” The Psalmist testifies that calling upon God from the heart is true worship and honors him.

Pulling It Together

Do good but do not depend upon your good works. Depend upon God, upon his word and his promises. Though they please him if done from the heart, God does not require your sacrifices. He does require faith. Only wholehearted belief will trust God’s promises when it cannot trust its own works, services, and sacrifices. Such faith in God honors him alone and is genuine worship.

Prayer: O Lord, I rejoice in your salvation. Amen.

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The Cross and the Crown is an eight session study in Lutheran Basics, using the word "sola" to get the big picture right: that salvation is all God's doing.

Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions

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Hosea 6:6

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Mass 

The Old Testament prophets condemn the popular opinion about the ex opere operato, teaching instead the righteousness and sacrifices of the Spirit. “For in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to your fathers or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. But this command I gave them, ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God…’” (Jer 7:22-23). How should we imagine that the Jews received this announcement, which seems to openly dissent with Moses? It is clear that God had given the fathers commands concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices, but Jeremiah is condemning an idea about sacrifices that had not come from God, namely, that these services pleased him ex opere operato. The prophet adds that God had commanded faith. “Obey my voice.” That is, believe that I am your God; that I wish to be known in this way when I show mercy and assist you, for I do not require your sacrifices. Believe that I wish to be God, the Justifier and Savior, not on account of your works, but on account of my word and promise. Truly and sincerely seek and expect help from me.

Pulling It Together

The Hebrew word for “obey” can also be understood to heed, listen, or hear. For to truly hear is to obey. If you do not obey, you have not really heard. How many times do parents cry out, “Did you hear me?” And when their child responds, “Yes,” reply with exasperation, “Then why didn’t you do what I said?” To have experienced this parental exasperation is to begin to sense the frustration of the Lord with his children.

Our parents did not wish for us to do the dishes or take out the trash or clean up our rooms, with the hope that they might love us or help us. If they were good parents, they already loved us and were more than willing to give us all the assistance we required. They did not want us to obey in order to be loved; they wanted us to obey because they already loved us. We understand this natural equation far better than we comprehend the spiritual. But there it is: God wants us to believe that he cares for us—that he is gracious and merciful—not because we have done him some service but, because he loves us.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for your steadfast and abundant mercy, through Jesus Christ our Lord. 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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Romans 12:1–2

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Mass 

These are the sacrifices of the New Testament, as Peter teaches: “Like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 2:5). Spiritual sacrifices, however, are contrasted not only with animal sacrifices, but even with human works offered ex opere operato. “Spiritual” refers to the movements of the Holy Spirit within us. Paul teaches the same thing: “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Rom 12:1). “Spiritual worship” is that service in which the spirit knows and apprehends God, as happens when one fears and trusts God. This is therefore contrasted with Levitical service in which cattle are slain, and also with a service in which a work is imagined to be offered ex opere operato. The Epistle to the Hebrews teaches the same thing: “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God” and adds the interpretation, “that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name” (Heb 13:15) He commands us to offer praises, that is, prayer, thanksgiving, confession, and the like. These are valid because of faith, not ex opere operato. This is understood by the phrase, “Through him then let us offer,” in other words, by faith in Christ.

Pulling It Together

We are to offer sacrifices but the Lutheran Reformers wanted to be clear, not only what those sacrifices are but, what they accomplish. There is no sacrifice that we can offer or that can be offered for us—at the altar or elsewhere—that accomplishes the forgiveness of sin, grants eternal life, or reconciles us to God. That has already been done for us, and may only be received in faith. In other words, you do not do anything to get God to forgive. God’s mercy toward us through Christ already made these gifts freely available to all who believe, not through any works, services, or sacrifices we render.

But there are other sacrifices that all Christians should offer; and these sacrifices, as has been stated, do not avail for salvation, forgiveness, and justification before God. These sacrifices of the new life in Christ are spiritual sacrifices, true worship in which the Spirit of God testifies with our spirits (Rom 8:16). This is how all believers are priests before God (1 Pet 2:5, 9; Rev 1:6), offering sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving. In this service of worship, we become living sacrifices to God. This transformation does not save, but instead is simply the reasonable service or spiritual worship of all believers.

Prayer: Thank you, Father, for your mercy to me through your Son, Jesus Christ the Lord. Amen.

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This booklet provides a suggested list of Bible verses, prayers, and familiar worship texts assigned to various age levels, recommended for use along with Sola Publishing’s Sunday Schoolhouse curriculum series. The order of texts matches the suggested grade levels in Luther’s Small Cat Series: elementary-aged curriculum on Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, also available from Sola Publishing. 

Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions

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Revelation 5:6–10

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Mass 

Now the rest are eucharistic sacrifices, called sacrifices of praise, which are specifically the preaching of the Gospel, faith, prayer, thanksgiving, confession, the afflictions of saints, yes, all good works of saints. These sacrifices are not satisfactions for those making them, or applicable on behalf of others, so as to merit for those persons the remission of sins or reconciliation, ex opere operato. Indeed, they are made by those who have already been reconciled.

Pulling It Together

There is only one work that saves, reconciles, justifies, atones, provides forgiveness of sin. That one work or sacrifice is not something that any human being can do. People earn nothing from God through a work that they have done (ex opere operato). Now, they may indeed offer sacrifices, but they do not merit God’s favor so as to redress their sinful condition. Those who have already been redeemed may offer sacrifices of thanks, praise, or other kinds of worship. It is right that they should do so since they have been made into a kingdom of priests. But these sacrifices do not expiate sin. Only Christ atoned for our sin. 

Prayer: You alone are worthy, O Lamb of God. Amen.

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Views of Baptism is written for a range of readers including the parent or sponsor about to baptize a child, the adult who wants to understand baptism more fully, and the professional teacher or preacher who needs the truth about baptism stated simply but backed by careful research. This books explores three views of baptism: the individual-centered view, the means-of-grace view, and the Roman Catholic view. It includes a description of how Christian baptism came to us in stages from its Jewish roots. A question and answer section addresses specific matters often raised when people contemplate baptism.

Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions

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Isaiah 53:4–6

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Mass 

The so-called Levitical propitiatory sacrifices only pointed to a future atonement. They were satisfactions by analogy, purchasing a righteousness of the Law so that those persons who sinned would not be excluded from the community. But after the revelation of the Gospel, they had to cease. Since they had to end with the revelation of the Gospel, they were not truly atoning sacrifices since the Gospel was promised for that very reason, that is, to set forth the atonement.

Pulling It Together

After the true sacrifice had been accomplished, all analogous and ceremonial sacrifices should cease. What they pointed toward had already been accomplished in Christ’s cross. There is no reason to use something lesser when it only pointed toward the fulfillment. This would be like handing a person who was dying of thirst an empty cup and telling him to drink deeply of the water that would one day appear, while holding a cup of water in the other hand. Only Christ crucified attends to our transgressions; in him alone is forgiveness of sin. No other sacrifice atones but that Lamb of God upon whom our iniquity has been laid.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for bearing my curse. Amen.

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Luther's Small Cat Discovers: The Seasons of the Church Year is written for 4th grade level students. This book takes students through the church year, accompanied by Luther’s Small Cat — a character who is just as inquisitive and precocious as the students. May your journey through the church year bring you closer to Christ, who walks through each moment of life alongside you.

Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions

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Colossians 2:16–19

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Mass 

We may more easily understand the word by looking at the customs of the pagans that sprang from misunderstood expressions of ancient patriarchal traditions. When great calamity struck and God seemed to be especially enraged, the Latins offered what they considered an expiatory sacrifice to appease God’s wrath. They sometimes offered human sacrifices, perhaps because they had heard that a human victim would appease God for the entire human race. The Greeks sometimes called them refuse and scum. Isaiah and Paul, therefore, mean that Christ became a victim, that is, an expiation to reconcile God by his merits and not by our own. Let it remain established in this issue: only the death of Christ is truly a propitiatory sacrifice.

Pulling It Together

You may sacrifice this thing or another, hoping that God will be appeased and forgive your sins. Or you might do some good work or act of penance, again, hoping that God will remove your guilt. Then you might try to offer God something especially meaningful—money or perhaps your very life—toward the end that you feel a sense of peace. But you will not feel any better. Indeed, you will feel worse for the trying and failing. And fail you will because you cannot make such a sacrifice. Only God can. Only God has. Christ crucified is the only sacrifice that God honors. Thanks be to God that this one truly atoning sacrifice is effective for all who take hold of Christ through faith. Our petty attempts at sacrifice are nothing, mere shadows; only Christ is real, solid, substantial.

Prayer: Help me, Holy Spirit, hold fast to Jesus. Amen.

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Connections is a magazine for evangelical Lutheran Christians. It is 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 CALC, LCMC, NALC, Lutheran Core, and other evangelical Lutherans from congregations across North America. 

Grab your copy of the Reformation back issue before they're all gone. 

Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions

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Romans 6:2-4

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Mass 

Isaiah interprets the Law so we may know that the death of Christ is truly expiation or satisfaction for our sins, which the ceremonies of the Law are not. Therefore he says, “When he makes himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days” (Isa 53:10). For the word asam employed here means a victim sacrificed for transgression. In the Law this meant that a certain victim was to come to make satisfaction for our sins and reconcile God, so that people might know that God wishes to be reconciled to us on account of the merits of another, namely Christ, not because of our own righteousness. Paul interprets the same word as sin. “For sin, he condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom 8:3). God punished sin for sin, that is by a victim for sin.

Pulling It Together

Baptism “brings about forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives everlasting salvation to all who believe, as the Word and promise of God declare” (The Small Catechism). There is no halfway here. Baptism does not sort of save, or maybe save. God’s promise attends the water, so baptism saves. This is not dependent upon our goodness or our religious righteousness. The efficacy of baptism depends upon the sacrifice that undergirds it, namely Christ. When we are baptized, we are buried into the death of Christ (Rom 6:3). So in our reborn person, there is no sin. Sin is quite dead. Our sin died with Christ on the cross. This is why Paul said that it was no longer he who sinned, but his flesh that did so (Rom 7:20). What else can this flesh do but sin? But thanks be to God that we are delivered from this body of flesh by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Forgive me, Lord, a sinner of your own redeeming. Amen.

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The Sola Confirmation Series, written by the Rev. Steven E. King, is basic 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