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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
The Small Catechism – part 139

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From the Word: Therefore, I want you to know that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is accursed”; and no one is able to say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:3)

From the Confessions: The Small Catechism

The Third Article

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church,* the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen

What does this mean?

I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him; but the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in the true faith. In the same way, he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and preserves it in unity with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church, he daily forgives abundantly all my sins and the sins of all believers; and at the last day, he will raise me and all the dead and will grant everlasting life to me and to all who believe in Christ. This is most certainly true!

*or “holy Christian Church” (“catholic” here refers to the fellowship of all believing Christians)

Pulling It Together: If we agree with Luther’s teaching on the third article of the Creed, we are acknowledging that we cannot climb our way to God. We are conceding that we cannot even believe in God without the Holy Spirit’s assistance. We need God’s Helper, the Holy Spirit, for without his help, we are unable to believe. For, we “cannot by [our] own reason or strength believe…” This is part of what it means to “believe in the Holy Spirit.” In other words, we believe in why Christ sent his Spirit, not merely that there is a Holy Spirit.

So, how does the Spirit bring us to faith? We may as well ask a second question. How does the Holy Spirit maintain our belief, or keep us “in the one true faith”? He does both through the gospel. The Holy Spirit does not act upon us through private, inner revelations, nor through manifestations to a group. He always acts through the agency of the outward gospel: Word and Sacrament. Through these means, the Spirit preaches Christ crucified, dead, resurrected, and ascended. He preaches Christ through the Word so that we may believe. He preaches Christ through the Sacraments so that we may remember that we believe and in whom we believe. Even here in the Sacraments, we hear the clear Word proclaimed to us by the Holy Spirit.

Through this Word of the Spirit Preacher, we are comforted, knowing that it is God himself who has brought us to and preserves us in the true faith.

Prayer: Holy Spirit, sanctify and preserve me, along with the whole church on earth, in the one true faith. Amen.

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