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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
Concerning the Mass – part 35

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Hebrews 4:1–3a

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Mass 

They do not teach the gospel in their sermons, or console consciences, or show that sins are freely forgiven for Christ’s sake. Instead, they talk about worship of saints, human satisfactions, and human traditions, claiming that these justify people before God. Although some of these traditions are obviously godless, they nevertheless defend them with violence. If any preachers wish to be more learned, they undertake philosophical questions, which neither they nor the people understand. Those who are more tolerable, teach the law but say nothing about the righteousness of faith.

Pulling It Together

The good news of Jesus Christ comes to us in preaching. We must hear it; then God gives us faith (Rom 10:17). But the Word must truly be heard in this proclamation, with all that “hearing” means. This listening to the Word is not casual, but engaged. I believe I have mentioned this illustration before. Many children hear their parents say something, perhaps, “Clean up your room,” or, “Finish your homework.” When these things are not done by the child, the parent asks, “Did you hear me?” Now, what they mean is not whether or not the sound reached their ears. They know full well that the child heard, in that sense. Parents are not concerned about whether children’s ears are working. They want to make sure hearts are working. For if the heart is engaged, the homework will be done, the room cleaned. True hearing means obedience.

Yet, if the good news—for that is what we are considering—is never preached, how would the heart become engaged? If only religious traditions, or the heresy of works righteousness, or even if only the law is taught, how will there be faith? First, God’s law must be taught so that the hearer is aware of her alienation from God, and her need of forgiveness. Then the gospel must be preached, so that she may know with certainty that God desires to forgive and provide eternal fellowship with himself. This is the great task of preaching: that faith in Christ may be the outcome.

Prayer: Help me, O God, to truly listen to your Word. Amen.

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