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.

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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. 

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions

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

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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

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions

Index of Scripture Graphics and posts by Scripture reference

  Click for a recording of today's lesson. 

Hebrews 10:4-10

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Mass 

In fact, there has been only one propitiatory sacrifice in the world, namely, the death of Christ, as the Epistle to the Hebrews teaches. “For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins” (Heb 10:4). A little later, it speaks of the will of Christ. “And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb 10:10).

Pulling It Together

Although there were symbolic types of atoning sacrifice in the Old Testament, true, propitiatory sacrifice was only accomplished by Jesus Christ. This was what he came to earth to accomplish. “Behold, I have come to do your will” (Heb 10:9). Because this justification of sinners with God could not be accomplished through the sacrifice of animals—even the thousands that Solomon offered (1 Kings 3:4; 2 Chr 7:5)—the perfect Son of God came to fulfill his Father’s will (Matt 5:17). The temporary satisfactions of animal sacrifice were finished in the perfect, complete work of God’s Lamb. His atoning sacrifice on the cross fulfilled the Law and makes God just to forgive us all our sins.

Prayer: Thank you, Jesus, for putting me in a righted relationship with your Father. Amen.

Receive Sola's Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions by email. Write mryman@solapublishing.com with "Subscribe" as your subject. To unsubscribe, send an email to the same address with "Unsubscribe" as your subject.

The Sola Confirmation Series is a basic work-book style Confirmation curriculum, 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 Lord's Prayer workbook is a ten-week unit, which includes one session on the Introduction, each of the Petitions, and the Conclusion. The Scripture focus in the Lord's Prayer series is on the Parables of Jesus, with Bible Study lessons taken from the Gospels.

Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions

Index of Scripture Graphics and posts by Scripture reference

  Click for a recording of today's lesson. 

1 Corinthians 2:2 

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Mass 

All Levitical sacrifices may be sorted under one of these groups. The Law titled certain sacrifices as propitiatory because of their significance or similarity. These sacrifices did not merit the forgiveness of sins before God, but did on the basis of the righteousness of the Law, so that those for whom they were made might not be excluded from the community. Therefore they were called atoning sacrifices for sin and burnt offerings for trespasses. The eucharistic sacrifices were food offerings, drink offerings, thanksgivings, first fruits, and tithes.

Pulling It Together

Our concern is what a propitiatory or atoning sacrifice is for Christians. For that matter, what is an atoning sacrifice for anyone during this Christian era? There is just one: Christ crucified. Every other sacrifice is not one that atones or reconciles God to sinners. We may render the sacrifice of praise, but it does not atone. We may offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, tithes, time, our very selves, but these will never satisfy God. Any sacrifice that we make can not make us righteous before God. Only “Christ and him crucified” satisfies God and justifies believers.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for dying so that I may live. Amen.

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All of the Sola Sunday Schoolhouse materials for Year C may be found here. They include reproducible sheets of Bible lesson, pictures, drama, worksheets, and a Christmas program. This is the Schoolhouse unit subtitled "Stories from the Beginning," covering Bible stories from the first half of the Old Testament, from Genesis through Joshua.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions

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

  Click for a recording of today's lesson. 

Hebrews 10:8-10

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Mass 

There are only two kinds of sacrifice—no more. One is propitiatory sacrifice: a work of satisfaction for guilt and punishment that reconciles God, or appeases God’s wrath, or that merits the forgiveness of sins for others. The other kind is the eucharistic sacrifice, which does not merit the forgiveness of sins or reconciliation, but by it those who have been reconciled give thanks or show gratitude for the forgiveness of sins and for other benefits received. We must keep in view these two types of sacrifice during this controversy, as well others, taking care not to confuse them. If the limits of this book would allow, we would add the reasons for this distinction, as it has many testimonies in the Epistle to the Hebrews and elsewhere.

Pulling It Together

Jesus ended the former type of sacrifice, that is, animal sacrifice for the purposes of reconciliation with God and the forgiveness of sin. Therefore, since that sort of sacrifice has been ended by Christ himself, we have no business offering a sacrifice of the altar that would be said to afford remission of sin or to appease an angry God. In Christ’s single sacrifice rendered for all people for all time, he offered himself as the perfect Lamb who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29)—both original sin and all of our various sins as well.

Prayer: Thank you, Jesus, for doing the will of your Father. Amen.

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In The Blowing WindPastor Eddy Perez gives a heartfelt and unvarnished recounting of the Holy Spirit's amazing work in his life and in the lives of others. In addition to speaking to the power of the Third Person of the Trinity, Pastor Perez's story also offers readers a rare glimpse of the day-to-day struggles of simply being a Christian under Cuba's communist regime, culminating with the cliffhanger account of his escape to the United States.

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Two Sermons for Reformation Sunday

Photo: Rusty Bates

“A Gift for Sinners,” preached at Grace Lutheran Church, Advance, NC, October 29, 2017

“The Transliteration of Souls,” preached at the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation service, Organ Lutheran Church, Salisbury, NC, October 29, 2017

A Gift for Sinners” – Romans 3:19–28

My great-grandmother was the Sunday School Superintendent of Calvary Baptist Church in Springfield, Ohio, for 50 years. Then the whole Ryman clan left for, half going to a Methodist Church and the rest, the ones from whom I am descended, to Calvary Lutheran Church. All of this happened because, for whatever reason, the Baptist Church no longer allowed a Boy Scout troupe to meet in their church. My grandfather and great-uncle were Scout leaders so they had to go somewhere else. That is why I was raised Lutheran.

Let us pray. Sovereign God, we pray for the Holy Spirit to continue to reform the church of Christ. Keep it in the true faith; restore, correct, and inspire its teachings; and embolden it to bear witness to the life-giving message of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection; through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

God does not look at a person and say, “Zounds! You were a Boy Scout leader? Seriously? Come on in!” He doesn’t look at a woman who has been a church leader for 50 years and decide, “She’s a keeper.” He doesn’t look for confirmed Lutherans to fill the pews of heaven. We are not saved in these ways: through our good works and religion. The fact is, we are so incapable of saving ourselves, or of being good enough, that we are condemned. “He will render to each one according to his works” (Rom 2:6).

“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Rom 3:10-12). So, if we are rewarded according to our works, and no one does good, what reward can you expect? “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 6:23).

Like Peter’s audience on that ancient Pentecost, who on hearing his sermon were cut to the heart, we too should cry aloud in despair, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). The answer echos down through the ages: there is nothing we can do. People have tried, and we may try to comfort ourselves that we have even succeeded. One hears it at every visit to a funeral home. Perhaps you have even said it yourself: “He was such a good man. He’s in a better place now.” Well, if we are judged by our goodness, we will all burn in the fires of hell. Our goodness is not good enough. We are not good enough. Indeed, we are not good at all. The sooner we admit that we are just sinners like all sinners, the closer we will be to the only solution to our predicament.

I mean, you may be a better sinner than someone else—or a worse sinner. But there’s no difference. You’re a sinner. Don’t think you’re not. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). But that’s a good place to be. Yes, it’s good to admit who you are and what you are. That is the first step in getting better. That is the purpose of the Law: it makes you aware of your sin. And that you cannot satisfy its demands of you. And its demand is that you be holy, as holy God is. Impossible, you say. Remember, this is impossible to do on your own, but with God all things are possible (Matt 19:26).

That was Martin Luther’s problem: all he could see were two things: (1) an angry God and (2) a man who could not appease that angry God. So, he confessed and did penance, and confessed more and did more penance. But nothing changed. God was still God and Martin was still Martin. He knew that he was a sinner but thought, as his church taught and the Jewish faith before had instructed, that he must appease God through works. It was a no-win situation.

Then, in reading the Bible, Luther didn’t have to get far into Romans when he read a verse that changed everything. “The just shall live by faith” (Rom 1:17). “The righteous shall live by faith.” We must have the faith that declares we are saved in only one way: by the grace of God alone. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph 2:8-9).

The righteousness of God cannot be obtained by human effort. It always comes back to God’s work, his righteousness—on our behalf. This is a gift that no one deserves since all have forfeited any personal righteousness due to their sin. Therefore, righteousness can never be left to our own exertions. Rather, we rely through faith on the work of God in Christ. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” (Eph 2:4-5).

Consequently, in the great love with which he loves us (Eph 2:4). God offers his own righteousness to us and does so freely. It is available to all who believe. The righteousness of God justly makes us just through the redemptive work of Christ on the cross. This free gift of God, his righteousness, becomes ours through faith alone.

A nationwide poll was taken in the United States on religious questions. When asked whether they believed in God, 95 percent of those polled answered “yes.” When asked whether religion in any way affected their politics and their business, 54 percent said “no.” They had a belief, but they did not have faith. If these half of all Americans who believe in God do not have faith that God affects simple things like politics and business, how many believe in their hearts that God can make them righteous, so righteous that they may stand before the holy God with complete confidence that they are as righteous as Jesus Christ himself? If they do not have such faith, faith in the cross of Christ, then they only believe in half of what that cross means.

The cross is two things—and should be two things at once. It is the wrath of God visited upon sinners. Sinners must die. And those who do not have faith in Christ will remain conscious of their sin, but terrorized by the wrath of God upon sinners. But the cross is not just God’s judgment of sinners, it is his acquittal of those sinners who have faith in the Savior who died there for them. This is what that great old word “propitiation” means. The cross is that which makes God favorable toward sinners like you and me. The cross is not sacrifice, but as William Tyndale that great English Reformer put it, the “atonement.” That which ones us with God, or justifies us with him—the only at-one-ment of sinful humanity with the holy God.

That is Luther’s great gift to the world, as its is the Apostle Paul’s. They have made clear to us how to do the impossible. They have shown us how to be righteous before God.

So, as you come to his Table in a few minutes, remember your baptism: that you have already died for your sins, but died in Christ’s death so that you may live. Remember that there is nothing you can do, no law-keeping, no good-working, no Sunday School superintending, no scout leadership, no graduation from a class, no denomination that will save you from the wrath of God. Only Christ, received by faith, saves sinners. Come to the Holy Meal, and commune with the God who has given this great gift of his grace to sinners who have faith in Jesus.

The Transliteration of Souls” – Revelation 14:6-7

The Small Catechism exhorts us to “fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” Since the day of judgment is coming, it will serve us well to learn this lesson now, so that our fear, love, and trust brings him glory not only on that great and glorious day but also in these earthly days. In the meanwhile, may we be his messengers who fly about the globe, proclaiming the eternal gospel of salvation.

Let us pray. Sovereign God, we pray for the Holy Spirit to continue to reform the church of Christ. Keep it in the true faith; restore, correct, and inspire its teachings; and embolden it to bear witness to the life-giving message of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection; through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

We too often think of angels as beings who are hidden from our senses. We typically think of them as supernatural beings whom we cannot see or hear or touch. And angels are indeed supernatural beings. But that is not all they are. The word we read as angel in the New Testament is not a translated word. It is instead, transliterated. It is taken from the original language, in this case Greek, and carried across into the language of other literature. One example of a transliterated word is “baptize.” Literally, the word means to dip into or under. Symbolically, it means to kill in order to make alive. Paul makes this clear in Romans. “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (Rom 6:3).

If publishers wanted to be literal, they would have said, “Don’t you know that all of us who have been dipped into Christ Jesus were dipped into his death.” It just doesn’t carry the same spiritual idea, does it? So, the English translators removed the “o” ending on the Greek word baptizo and added the English “e” ending, creating through transliteration, a brand knew English word. Baptizo becomes “baptize.”

The New Testament Greek word under consideration in our First Reading today is angelos. The word means “messenger” but again Perhaps it is simply too difficult to come up with a new English word that carries the weight and substance of a heavenly being that we cannot imagine. So again, translators of the New Testament removed the Greek os ending on angelos and left the word as AHN-GUL, or as we say in English: “angel.”

One wonders whether these transliterations are a good idea. I suppose that they sometimes are. But in the case of angel, I more often prefer the literal translation of “messenger.” For this is what those angels who are sent to earth are meant to be. They are sent with God’s message. Consider the angels who were heard on high, sweetly singing over the plain. They were sent with the message of God. “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!’” (Luke 2:14-15).

Or consider another angel who visited the earth earlier, calling upon a maiden named Mary. Gabriel was sent with a message: “You have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:30-33).

Angels are messengers of God, sent to earth to convey his message. They do not have to be what we consider angelic beings. Earlier in Revelation, am angel, a messenger if you will, was sent to John with a message from Jesus Christ. He tells John to write to the angels of each of seven churches. Did you know that individual churches have angels? Did you know that your church has at least one angel? Now there would be no need for an angel to receive a letter dictated by an angel to an apostle. These angels of the churches must have been something other than a heavenly being, if they needed to receive a written communique from John that they were then to be read to their churches.

Remember that “angel” means “messenger.” Who is the messenger at your church? Who is the one God has sent to you with his message. Now it may come as quite a shock to you to find out here on this Reformation Sunday that your pastor is an angel. Yet that is indeed what your pastor is: someone whom God has given a message to be proclaimed to you.

Human beings, not just spiritual beings, may be angels. So we ought to take the writer of Hebrews admonition seriously: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Heb 13:2).

My wife Susan encountered an angel back in 1974 at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio. He was sitting outside the Student Union and had been sent with a message of encouragement for that Freshman. Susan told me that she had spoken with an angel. Some time later, she was startled to see that her angel was at a service we attended together, discovering that he was the pastor at a church on the other side of town.

Luther was an angel. He was a messenger sent from God with a message for the world. That message changed everything. Through it, communications was changed. One-eighth of the human race is Protestant. Public education became normal because of the schools Luther started or encouraged. Luther also helped Germans…speak German. In translating the Greek New Testament into common German in eleven weeks, he not only gave them the Scriptures, he gave them a readable that normalized the language for the whole people. Even the modern notion of individuality was influenced because Luther was available to be God’s angel.

Eric Metaxas writes in his newest biography, Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World, “The quintessentially modern idea of the individual was as unthinkable before Luther as is color in a world of black and white. And the more recent ideas of pluralism, religious liberty, self-government, and liberty all entered history through the door that Luther opened.”

Luther, God’s angel, influenced and changed a great many things. But the greatest thing he did was help us understand—indeed, help us to see the truth of it in God’s own Word—that Christians are not saved by their good works or their religion or their piety or by a perfect, sinless life. Instead, “The righteous shall live by faith” (Rom 1:17).

I really hesitate to say it, since I know them just well enough, but this is why your pastor too, is an angel. Your pastor has been sent with a message, the same message Luther was entrusted with. Our pastors are not alone—or at least they shouldn’t be alone. For all Christians are meant to be angels. Everyone who believes has been transliterated from someone dead in his sins into a reborn being, full of new life in Christ. What could you call such a person but an angel! We have been reborn in our baptism into Christ’s death, and then sent into the world “with an eternal gospel to proclaim.”

If you think Luther changed Germany, Europe, and the world, think how God would remake North Carolina, the USA, indeed, the whole world, if we all took seriously our calling to an angelic, transliterated status. We have been given a message, an eternal message. Go and tell!

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions

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

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Mark 16:16

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Mass 

Theologians rightly distinguish between a Sacrament and a sacrifice. The common genus of both of these is either a ceremony or a sacred work. A Sacrament is a ceremony or work in which God presents us with that which the promise attached to the ceremony offers. Therefore, Baptism is a work—not one that we offer to God, but in which God baptizes us through a minister operating in the place of God. Here God offers and presents the forgiveness of sins according to the promise: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). A sacrifice, on the contrary, is a ceremony or work that we render to God in order to honor him.

Pulling It Together

Baptism is necessary for salvation. Jesus did not say, Believe and you will be saved. Instead, he adds a work that he does to us through a Sacrament (meaning a sacred thing). This is not a sacrifice or work done by us, but one that God does for us. The work of God is effective because of the promise that he has connected to the ceremony. In the Sacrament of Baptism, both belief and baptism are given to us by God. Even the faith to believe is a gift from God (Eph 2:8). The promise attached to God’s work in us—both faith and baptism—is that one is saved. The Sacrament of 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” (Small Catechism).

Prayer: Help me to hold fast to my faith in you, Lord, by remembering that you baptized me. Amen.

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Learning About Baptism teaches the meaning of Holy Baptism according to the pattern of Luther's Small Catechism, and is recommended for the First 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 focus on Baptism as a promise from God, emphasizing the power of God's Word in the Sacrament to create faith and repentance in our daily life.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions

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

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2 Timothy 2:15

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Mass 

Socrates, in the Phaedrus of Plato, says that he is especially fond of divisions, because without them nothing can either be explained or understood in a discussion, and if he discovers someone skillful in making divisions, he would attend him and follow in his footsteps as those of a god. He instructs the divider to separate the members at their very joints, lest like an unskillful cook, he sever the member at the wrong place. But the adversaries despise these principles, and so, according to Plato, are truly kakoi mavgeiroi or poor butchers, since they mutilate the members of the concept of “sacrifice,” as will be understood when we have enumerated the types of sacrifice.

Pulling It Together

It is critical to have a right understanding. Our modern English Bible translations use the phrase, “rightly handling the word of truth.” The King James Version puts a finer point on the phrase by following William Tyndale’s lead in literally translating the phrase as “rightly dividing the word of truth.” The idea here is that one should cut straight when reading the Bible. One should correctly analyze the word. This happens best when the plain truth of the Word is sought, allowing Scripture to interpret itself instead of filtering the Word with traditions and human philosophy. The latter too often leads to a butchering of the Word. What does Scripture have to say about a subject? That is the proper question when one wishes to rightly handle or divide God’s Word.

Prayer: Holy Spirit, lead me as I read your Word. Amen.

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"Why Did Jesus Have to Die?" examines the most profound event of salvation history—the crucifixion of Jesus Christ—exploring from a biblical perspective what is known as the doctrine of the Atonement. This six-week Bible Study would be particularly appropriate during the season of Lent.

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A Sermon for the Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost

Sermon…

Children’s message…

Let us pray…

Sovereign Lord, your reign extends across time and space. You ruled through ancient kings and governors of all countries, and you govern our time and nation too. Help us therefore, to trust you with the governance of our country, paying our taxes and obeying the laws of the land. Give us the courage and conviction to also return to you what is yours, giving ourselves fully to your mission in the world; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

God goes before us, just as he went before King Cyrus of old, leveling what seem to us to be high and mighty places—flattening even death and hell themselves by bringing his salvation with glory and great strength. What would we chosen and elect ones do then, but throw ourselves wholly in to Christ’s kingdom, worshiping him and becoming devoted disciples and imitators of the Lord?

When this trust in God’s reign happens within us, we change in a fundamental way. We concern ourselves with matters of his eternal kingdom instead of being preoccupied with the things of this world. We know that God will take care of the world we live in, governing it just as he did Persia, Babylon, and Israel.

God has used many earthly kings to accomplish his will. He still employs the rulers of our world so that his will is done on earth as it is in heaven (Mt 6:10). We believe this implicitly, as this is what we pray, even as Jesus taught us to pray:

“Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Our prayers should attend kings, presidents, and other rulers. So yes, we should pray for President Trump—even as we ought to have prayed for President Obama. These are not perfect men. They require our prayers—and we are commanded to pray for them (1 Ti 2:1–2). This is simple, first-order business of the Church.

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”

Yet, as much as God used a king named Cyrus, he has used the King of kings to accomplish far more. God subdued nations before King Cyrus but the forces of Hell itself have been vanquished through the cross of Christ. He is the one who causes people from the east to the west to know that there is none besides the Lord who accomplishes these things. God may use a Cyrus or even a Trump or a Putin, but it is the Lord who subdues nations and levels high places. There is no one like God, our God, who brings prosperity and creates disaster. Such matters are the work of God—not political parties. Let us trust in him alone. To do otherwise is to put your trust in other gods, idols, not the creator of heaven and earth.

We should fear, love, and trust him “above all things…worshiping him with prayer and praise, and thanksgiving” (SC), for it is he, as the psalmist says, who “will judge the people with equity” (v10), or as the Creed states, “will come again to judge the living and the dead.”

Knowing this to be true, we should be emboldened to declare the glory of God to the nations. One way to accomplish this is by offering more for missions than we do for government—in terms of money, as well as work and prayer. We give 20, 30, and 40 percent in taxes to the government. Yet we only give a tithe (if that) to the Lord’s work. I wonder what would happen if we gave as much to the Lord’s mission as we give to the government. Could we trust God by living on half of what we make? Will we actually dare to ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name? What would the Church look like if we lived so daringly? How would such living influence the world? What could our country look like if we understood discipleship in a radical way, throwing ourselves all in with Jesus?

For it is “our gospel” (1Th 1:5), the gospel of Christ’s Church, that ultimately impacts the world. Taxes, civic authority, and armies are of some use. Indeed, God uses such things. Yet in the end, our trust must be placed in the Gospel of Christ’s kingdom. Then our efforts and prayers will be with those workers in the true kingdom on this earth, those who are spread as his kingdom throughout the kingdoms of the earth. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, individual lives are changed. Even whole nations can be changed when the Church does not yield to the temptation to be less than they are called to be.

He has chosen us (v4) to be an example to all. This example is not simply in words but in the power of the Holy Spirit. Our steadfast faith and certain hope can be an inspiration not only to believers but to all. When we do not give in to the temptation to be Sunday-believers, instead being sold out to Jesus, wholly committed to his Gospel, God will change lives through your example. He will change your life, your family’s, your country’s, and the lives of people all over the world.

So, pay your taxes…and pray to God. Jesus has called us to do both, trusting the Lord with the nations. Certainly, God will use our prayers even more than our taxes but we are called to be faithful in each. This is not a matter for debate; it is a matter of obedience—Christian obedience to God.

As you continue to prepare to receive the Holy Meal, examine yourselves concerning the temptation to be disobedient in these things: whether in the matter of paying taxes or giving your tithe. Pray, “Lead me not into temptation,” and resolve to do the Lord’s will today.

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