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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
The Smalcald Articles – part 46

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1 Kings 19:1–8

From the Confessions: The Smalcald Articles 

Concerning Chapters and Cloisters

Chapters and cloisters, that in the past, were founded with the good intention of educating learned men and virtuous women, should be returned to this use, so that we may have pastors, preachers, and other ministers for the churches, others necessary for secular government of cities and countries, and well-educated young women for mothers, housekeepers, etc.

Pulling It Together: Monasteries and convents had become, by Luther’s time, places to earn one’s salvation. In other words, the sacrifice of living such a life was a merit of one’s virtue, imagined as deserving salvation. Luther viewed this, not only as distracting from the truth that we are saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ but, as unpractical. The various vocations of life needed well-trained people, from those making proper homes, including the schooling of children within those households, to civil servants and ministers of the Church.

Luther was taking on a dragon here. Cloistered orders were part of the fabric of society. What Luther proposed amounted to ripping that cloth from top to bottom. Sixteen years earlier, the Edict of Worms decreed that Luther be arrested and punished, probably by death as a heretic. Yet, he continued to champion the gospel by preaching, teaching, and writing about salvation by faith in Christ alone. God’s grace is the only food by which we are sustained for the journey to eternal life.

Prayer: Sustain me, Lord, by your grace. Amen.

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