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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
Concerning Human Traditions in the Church – part 25

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Matthew 15:10–20

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Human Traditions in the Church 

Then, if any one observes these traditions, let it be done without the superstition of expecting some favor from God, just as there is no merit when soldiers are clothed one way and scholars another. The apostles violated traditions and were excused by Christ to show the Pharisees that these services are unprofitable. So if our people disregard useless traditions, they are excused when these traditions are said to merit justification, since such regard for Church traditions is profane.

Pulling It Together: Jesus says, “Hear and understand.” This is important. A person’s righteousness is not earned in the keeping of traditions or rituals or doing good works. Were someone to have a lifetime of perfect Sunday School attendance, never miss a Council meeting, never had a drink, given up smoking, always worn a nice outfit to worship, and never once uttered a bad word, these things could never earn God’s favor. If people make the sign of the cross at every mention of the Trinity, face the cross all the way through processions, bow so much that their friends wonder if they have a condition, and have developed an acute appetite for lutefisk, those people would be no more righteous or holy than anyone else.

People from other churches and countries observe different traditions. Let them do so. Furthermore, if people do not wish to do so, allow them this freedom. If the person sitting next to you in church, or who goes to another church, does not bow and cross, does wear jeans, but would not dare to eat fish gelatin, do not fret for her soul. It is not the things she wears, the things she does, or the food she puts in her mouth that defile her. Indeed, it is what comes out of her—out of her heart and soul—that corrupts.

So let us be more concerned with who is within us than with those things we do on the outside. “Hear and understand.” This is important.

Prayer: Give me grace, Lord, to hear and understand. Amen. 

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The General Epistles offers a series of 12 Bible studies based on Hebrews, James, I & II Peter, I, II, & III John, and Jude. The geographical locations of Biblical characters can symbolically refer to places we find ourselves with respect to our faith. As we become more acquainted with our spiritual geography, we will better discern where God would have us go or what changes we need to make in order to serve Him better.

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