Martin Luther - Lesson 19

Luther and the Small Catechism

Luther developed a catechism to help people focus on the foundational beliefs of the Christian faith.

Gordon Isaac
Martin Luther
Lesson 19
Watching Now
Luther and the Small Catechism

Luther and the Small Catechism

Luther, the Pastor: From the Small Catechism


I. A Brief History of Catechism

A. Galatians 6:6, 2 Clement 17:1

B. Ambrose and Augustine

1. Augustine first to use term catechism

2. In the middle ages catechism became a popular movement. It was a lay movement that paralleled the monastic.

C. A Fruitful Mirror of Small Handbook for Christians, 1470

1. Particular structure

a. What one must believe

i. begins with faith

ii. moves to the commandments - goal to bring one to contrition

b. How one must live

2. Everyone who holds to these lessons can hope to reach heaven

D. Other Catechisms

1. There were tons written during this time.

2. An example of an Anabaptist who wrote one as if in dialogue between two individuals.


II. Luther's Small Catechism

A. The request of Nicolas Hausmann

B. Three reasons for Luther's catechism

1. Has an experience during a visitation the need for the catechism - Lull, 471 - The Small Catechism

2. Lengthy absence of the head pastor.

3. Disputes in 1527 between Melanchthon and Agricula over penitence.

a. Agricula - Forget the teaching of the law, preach the gospel only. "Moses belongs in the courthouse not the church"

b. Melanchthon - We have to preach the law which convicts of sin and then preach the gospel. Without law one does not come to the realization of need

C. The significance of Luther's work

1. Reversal with medieval piety

a. Medieval devotion runs from faith, to penitence, to satisfaction

b. For Luther begin, with the Law that brings one to their need, into the truth of the gospel, and then to serve the neighbor.

2. Becomes a handbook for the Christian household.

3. In the medieval world there was a definite division between the sacred and the secular world. Luther works against this. He shows that the Christian life is the object of our work no matter what.

4. The small catechism was originally printed on small boards so that it could be hung on the wall to aid families to study it.

5. There were 22 wood cuts as visual aids.

6. Included two appendices: Luther's Marriage and Baptismal Services.

7. Law and gospel again the rubric in which Luther explains his evangelical approach to catechism.

8. For Luther he writes the catechism on this same model but he begins with a new hermeneutic, the distinction between law and gospel. One begins first with law that leads one to gospel.


III. Small Catechism look at the 10 Commandments

A. Fear, love and trust God.

B. This is how God is revealed in the world.

C. Fear, a major component

D. Discussion of the Sabbath

E. Recommendation of it as a devotional


IV. Small Catechism on the Creed

He is my Lord. Not a matter of opinion or doctrine but it is a matter of personal belief.


V. On the Lord's Prayer

  • Dr. Isaacs summarizes the course objectives and lists the recommended textbooks.
  • Luther expressed his views in a way that was shaped by his theology and the culture.

  • Martin Luther was born in Germany in the late 15th century, just after Guttenberg developed his printing press.

  • When Martin Luther posted the 95 theses, his intention was to discuss and debate the misuse of indulgences, but it was interpreted by the church heirarchy as an attack on the power of the papacy.

  • Luther's writings demonstrate his ability to understand and articulate issues that are at the core of the nature of God and man. His theology is distinct from philosophy and consists of many comments on passages in Psalms and Romans.

  • Faith alone justifies. By faith the Christian is made to love God, therefore a person does good works because they cannot remain idle.

  • The work of Christ when he allowed himself to be crucified on the cross, teaches us about God's nature, our nature and our relationship to God.

  • Luther's fourfold sense of scripture focused on historical (literal), allegorical (figurative), tropological (moral), and anagogic (future).

  • Luther's view of the atonement differs from classical views taught during his time and view held by the scholastic tradition.

  • Luther's teaching on justification by faith is central to his theology.

  • Theology of the cross assumes bondage and moves to freedom.

  • Four positions on predestination include the Calvinist, neo-Protestant, intuitu fidei, and Gnesio-Lutherans.

  • Luther's commentary on Galatians is an attempt to set "Law" in its proper setting.

  • The sacraments are an external expression of an internal reality.

  • Luther's teachings on the importance of baptism and arguments for infant baptism.

  • Luther's view of the theological and personal significance of the Lord's Supper.

  • The kingdom of God and secular government have areas of unity and areas of differences.

  • Luther gives a definition of the church and describes characteristics of the church.

  • Luther developed a catechism to help people focus on the foundational beliefs of the Christian faith.

  • Martin Luther's writings can encourage people to pursue their relationship with God on a deeper level.

This course is an introduction to the life and writings of the great German reformer, Martin Luther. There are 20 lectures totaling approximately 18 hours. These lectures were given at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts.

Dr. Gordon Isaac
Martin Luther
Luther and the Small Catechism
Lesson Transcript

Let's just take a quick peek here at Luther's explanation of the creed in small catechism as a way of beginning our class together. I believe in God, the Father almighty maker of heaven and earth. What does this mean? Answer I believe that God has created me and all that exists that He has given me and still sustains my body and soul. All my limbs and senses, my reason and all the faculties of my mind together with food and clothing, house and home, family and property that he provides me daily and abundantly with all the necessities of life, protects me from all danger and preserves me from all evil. All this he does out of his pure fatherly and divine goodness and mercy without any merit or worthiness on my part. For all of this, I am bound to thank, praise, serve and obey him. This is most certainly true. Let's pause for prayer. Almighty God, our dear Heavenly Father, we come into your presence thanking you that you have asked us to call upon your name in every event of life. And as we wind down this semester and look to the final bits of work that we have to complete. We ask that you would indeed help us so that we might do our work even as unto you. We pray also that you would continue your divine warfare in our lives so that we might be killed to an old way of living and be brought to new life in faith. Lord, we pray that you would continue with us so that we on our part might continue with you and thus bless others as they come into our sphere of influence.

[00:02:08] Raise up your church. Allow us to be a part of that movement. In Christ's name, we pray. Oh, man. Okay. Today let's we're going to be taking a look at Luther in the small catechism. It's an interesting subject, and there's been a lot of stuff written on this. And I am indebted to especially to Timothy Wingert. He's a guy about my age who studied with David Steinmetz down at Duke, and he now teaches in the Lutheran context. And he has written several articles about the catechism and they have just put out I've not yet even put my hands on it yet, but they've put out a new edition of the The Lutheran Confessions, and Timothy Winger was one of the editors of that. That new bit of work. So I'm indebted to him in this little presentation here. Let's talk here just a bit about a brief history of catechism. It's it's a fact that catechism is one of the things that the church has occupied itself with. Catechism is just a fancy word for teaching its instruction. In one of the earlier lectures this semester, I spoke a little bit about Augustine and his and carried in his handbook for Christian Living, talks about faith, hope and love and organized itself in that manner. So catechism is catechism. Catechesis is important stuff. The Apostle Paul mentions it in Galatians six six and in second. Clement 17 one. The word designated pre baptismal instruction and in the early church they used to in the run up to Easter, they used to gather together the cat of humans, those who were to be instructed, and they would give them basic instruction about the Christian faith in anticipation of the Easter celebration in which these kind of humans were baptized.

[00:04:20] So it's this this business of catechism. Catechesis is central to the life of the church and very important early on in the Middle Ages, in a class ecclesiastical Latin, Ambrose, Augustine and others use it for basic Christian instruction. You've already mentioned the ingredient for Augustine being the first to use the noun catechism to designate the basic topics of Christian instruction. In the Middle Ages, the word became more and more associated with the Apostles Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments. And these elements then became a part of traditional the traditional catechism that were developed over time. And what we have finally, then in the Middle Ages, we have kind of a full blossoming of this of this as a it actually becomes a popular movement during. The Middle Ages. Of course, you know, there were monastic orders that took very seriously the business of being Christian and of study, and they set themselves apart from the world. Well, the cloistered movements did. There were some who were out in the world. Friars that, you know, had contact with with the laity. But nonetheless, what you had in the Middle Ages, too, is you had a lay movement which paralleled the monastic movements. So you had what one authors called lay monasticism. And so the laity wanted to take on the disciplines of the truly religious, and they used all kinds of devotional literature in order to help them and aid them in their piety. One of the most popular late medieval catechism was a fruitful mirror or small handbook for Christians. It was written in 1470 by Dietrich Cole Day, an observant Augustinian who became a Franciscan. It was printed at least 19 times before 1500 and another 28 times after that. So you can see just from the history of the publication of this book that was quite popular and many people came to appreciate it and use it a fruitful mirror or small handbook for Christians.

[00:06:37] Now, this handbook had a very particular structure. It begins with a discussion of what must be believed, what must be believed. And it had 22 sections of that. And it moves to an explanation of how one must live, in which there were 21 sections. So the movement is what one must believe, and then moves to this business of how one must live. Now, what called says about this final section goes for the whole catechism. He says Every person who holds to these lessons can hope to reach heaven. Every person who holds to these lessons can hope to reach heaven. So it's a theology of musts and of law and the interest. The goal is, of course, meriting heaven. The first part begins with faith. Interestingly enough, the first part begins with faith because medieval theology held that one could, in a state of sin, through the exercise of the free will, muster up an acquired faith. That is an acknowledgment that the church's teachings are true. So in other words, you see this really fascinating, this fascinating insight into medieval piety when a person in a state of sin with the exercise of their free will can at least muster up enough to say, Well, even though I can't do it, I can't believe it. In my own heart of hearts, I can place my faith in the church. That will be the for me, it's an acquired faith, an implicit faith. It's not an explicit faith in the life of the individual, but it's saying, yeah, the church knows what it's talking about. And so I'll put my trust in the church. And they believe that a person who is in a state of sin could do that. Now, cold, it moves immediately to the commandments, because with such faith comes anxiety over God's judgment.

[00:08:37] His goal is to bring the individual to contrition. Keep each commandment every word. If you would come to see the Lord as if not content with his lengthy explanation of the Ten Commandments, he adds descriptions of the five Commandments of Holy Church, the seven deadly sins, the nine alien Sins, the Six Sins against the Holy Spirit and the like, ending with instruction in how to tell whether one is in a state of grace or not and how to confess. Now, once this stage is set, you can see this. This is all this is all predicated upon the medieval penitential system. And we talked about that earlier on in the semester. The orientation of the medieval Pilgrim of Faith was oriented toward the penitential system of the church so that the dispensing of grace could be received by that individual and thus do its work. The second part, then, of this catechism deals with the Christian life. That is doing works of satisfaction. The penance prescribed by the priest is not sufficient. Therefore, it is necessary for us to do even more penance. In this part, exhortations to consider Christ's suffering and to hear the mass or coupled with suggestions for prayer at the monastic hours, meal times, as well as morning and evening, including the Lord's Prayer, the Ave Maria, neither of which is explained, and the prayer of Saint Gregory and one to Mary. After these prayers comes a recitation of good works under such titles as Seven Works of Mercy or Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, called The Evening shows how the Clock of Mary, by which she protects us from the wrath of the sun, is woven by good works such as conversion, fasting, hearing, mass, praying the rosary, feeding the poor, or reciting the Psalter.

[00:10:27] So you have this kind of piety which is is developing at the urging of this catechism. So it's against the background of this immensely popular medieval catechism that we can understand the first and possibly most important contribution made by Luther to catechetical instruction. He jettisons the medieval penitential order, which moved from faith to contrition to satisfaction, and he replaced it with an evangelical one based upon his understanding of justification by faith alone and its hermeneutic the distinction between law and gospel. The shift is already clear. In a piece that Luther produced in 1522 entitled Big Book Line, which means a little prayer book that was more of a devotional book than a Catechism, is a partial collection of his earlier remarks on various parts of the catechism and shows a strong medieval influence, especially with mention of the Seven Deadly Sins, Sins against the Holy Spirit and so forth. However, Luther is up to something new, and this is how he puts it. In the preface to that piece. He says, Among the many harmful books and doctrines which are misleading and deceiving Christians and give rise to countless false beliefs. I regard the personal prayer books as by no means the least objectionable. They drop into the minds of simple people such a wretched counting up of sins and going to confession, such un-Christian tomfoolery about prayers to God and his saints. These books need a basic and thorough reformation, if not total extermination. So Luther really cuts loose here and tells us what he thinks. Something he was always willing to do, it seems. And so his own recasting of why the catechism or a prayer book might be becomes clear to us. He executes the called for reformation in his distinction between law and gospel.

[00:12:31] And here we return to this topic that we spent a little bit of time on in one of our lectures. In this regard, Luther and the Reformation break away from medieval penitential theology is most important. One must begin not with faith as called a dead, but with commandments law that drive inexorably first to the Gospel in Christ, and then with one's need and the source of rescue revealed to prayer, now understood not as work or merit, but as the cry of the believer in desperate need of help. So you see, you have a very different sort of a movement with cold. You have him beginning with faith, moving to penance and then satisfaction with Luther. You have it beginning with law, the word of God, the commandment of God. Moving to the creed, which gives us the gospel, and then finally moving on to the Lord's Prayer, not understood as something which wins us merit, but as the cry of a desperate believer. So there is a there's a major shift then in what Luther does with his catechism. Now, there were other cataclysms, as a matter of fact. There were just tons and tons of cataclysms that were written during this time period. And interestingly enough, I took a quick peek this morning in preparation for today's class in a Catechism written by Balthasar Meyer, who was an Anabaptist. And it's a fascinating, if somewhat prolix piece in which he describes catechism and frames it in terms of a conversation between two individuals. They're having a conversation back and forth that range over all kinds of topics. It's somewhat wordy and it has a distinctively Anabaptist flavor to it. He talks about the three forms of baptism, baptism of water, baptism by fire, baptism by blood, which will have to take my Anabaptist course to know what that means.

[00:14:42] And he goes on and on doing all kinds of different things. But the point I want to make here is that catechism and other devotional devices and AIDS were very common during this time period. As a matter of fact, I was up in Toronto a few years back attending the 16th Century Studies Conference and went with a Lutheran friend of mine to a museum. And there there were some wonderful little pieces. I mean, just tiny, tiny little pieces like the size of a walnut and inside very small carvings of figures representing a particular biblical story. And these were used by Christians of that age to to meditate, to think upon the texts of scripture, and they would pull them out of their pocket, you know, and look at this stuff and be reminded of the message of of scripture. And there was great devotion and piety. And, you know, there were probably some who would pull out of their pocket a rosary and with those beads then would proceed to pray through that cycle of prayers and that sort of thing. So this was a time of very great devotion. Lay monasticism really was a part of the culture of the time. So there you've got kind of a brief history of catechism so you can begin to see already here Luther's small catechism then has, you know, a very distinctive place in the history of catechesis. Now, Luther came to the business of writing the small catechism, but he didn't come to it right off. Nicholas Houseman of Zwickau was a parish pastor who made a request. In 1525. Housman had appealed to Luther and the elector for three things visitation of parish parishes and worship service in the vernacular, and a catechism for the simple people.

[00:16:41] In response, Luther mentions that Justice Jonas, his colleague, and John Agricola, his student, were working on that very thing, unfortunately, right at this time. Elector Frederick died and John Agricola moved to Iceland where he became rector of the Latin school. And so all of this upset the plans that Luther had for having a catechism come out, although Luther then promised to write his own catechism. A year later, he was still content to describe the evangelical options, pointing to his own that roofline as a possible resource. So apparently in this time there was an anonymous campaign. Tyler, who crafted who brought together a number of things that had been written in different places. And he put together this little book entitled Version for The Lion in Kinder or a book for the Laity and Children. It began with a so-called lay Bible. That is the text of the commandments to create the Lord's Prayer, the description of baptism in Mark 16 and the words of institution. The rest consisted of excerpts from Luther's little booklet on prayer, as well as some other sources. So this this initial request of Housman was set off for a period of time. And then what happened was rather interesting, because what happens is Luther had made some provision for a visitation, a group of visitors who would go around into the parishes and find out what was going on out there and make recommendations for what they ought to do in terms of providing help for pastors and for teaching the the laity. And there are three reasons why Luther finally then writes his own catechism. The first event was this poor health and the fact that at Luther's urging, Melanchthon had been elected by Wittenberg Theological faculty as one of the four official visitors, meant that Luther himself was not initially involved in the visitation.

[00:18:57] But this changed, and Luther himself went on a visitation and he has an experience out in the field which convinces him of the dire need for writing a catechism. One of the things he says this in the preface to a small catechism, he says The deplorable, wretched deprivation that I recently encountered while I was a visitor has constrained and compelled me to prepare this catechism or Christian instruction in such a brief, plain and simple version. Dear God, what misery I beheld. The ordinary person, especially in the villages, knows absolutely nothing about the Christian faith. And unfortunately, many pastors are completely unskilled and incompetent teachers. Yet they all supposedly bear the name Christian are baptized and receive the Holy Sacrament, even though they do not know the Lord's Prayer, the Creed, or the Ten Commandments. As a result, they live like simple cattle or irrational pigs. And despite the fact that the gospel has returned, have mastered the fine art of misusing all of their freedom. So in typically blunt and straightforward manner. Luther deals with this business. Actually, you know, you've got a copy of this Turn in your copy of Llull turning your copy of Llull here to page 471 Small Catechism. Notice the very top it's called and then Caribbean Handbook, Small Catechism, brief opening, and then paragraph one, paragraph one, two and three or And there you find Luther making this kind of statement. So this is one of the first reason why Luther decides that he finally, in the end, must do that. I mean, the writing of a catechism for the Reformation out of Wittenberg has been delayed by all these other factors. So Luther sees that he's got to do it. The second event, as Wanger points out, one that many assistant pastors like Luther have had to endure was the rather lengthy absence from Wittenberg of Saint Mary's head pastor, Johann Wolfgang Hagen.

[00:21:07] Great name, right? I love that. Johann Bug and Hog. And he was introducing reform measures in Braunschweig. And as a result, in 1528, all of the preaching duties at the town church fell to Luther, including weekday preaching on the catechism. So one of the things that you'll find as you continue to your reading in Luther in years to come is that Luther had a number of sermons on the catechism. He preaches a sermon on the catechism and moves through it in like manner. He does that with the sacraments, too. So you can find many sermons in Luther's writings on the sacraments and on the catechism. So all of this fell to him. So this stuff was really forced upon him in terms of his pastoral ministry had to do it. The third event, which we can only infer from the sources, had the most profound impact on the content of Luther's catechism. It centered in the first dispute among students of Luther, the 1527 fight over the meaning of potentia or penance or repentance. And this fight took place between Philip Melanchthon and John Agricola. Their fight was triggered by the Saxon visitation. In the summer of 1527, Melanchthon formulated a set of. Theological articles to be used by visitors to train the pastors whom they encountered after an initial skirmish over the inclusion of the three fold division of an attention to contrition, confession and satisfaction, where satisfaction was made by Christ, not by us. Agricola attacked the lengthens notion that sorrow for sin arises from the law and terror. Agricola insisted that the law only leads to despair, and that sorrow for sin must come from the love of God and the gospel. As proof, he cited the stories of Judas and Peter.

[00:22:59] Judas was condemned by the law and finally despaired and killed himself. Whereas, Peter, buoyed by the promise given to him in the upper room, was moved by his love of Christ to repent after his denial. So you get what's going on here. In the case of John Agricola, he says, Look, we should forget the preaching of the law. What really is important is the preaching of the gospel, because people really become sorry for their sins only in the gospel. Melanchthon, on the other hand, said this We don't come to an awareness of our sinfulness without the preaching of the law, and it's actually the preaching of the law that convinces us of our sin. So it's needful and necessary. So remember, they're going in, they're doing a visitation thing on the churches and they're noticing what the preachers preach and what they don't preach. And so finally they're coming back and they're going to give recommendations to preachers. Melanchthon says this We've got to tell our preachers, preach law and preach gospel. The law teaches our sin. It drives us to Christ. Preach the gospel in the gospel, The voice of the law, which terrifies and brings us into great turmoil, is finally put to rest because Christ is the fulfillment of law. He's the end of the law so that we might fulfill the law in faith. And Agricola says now, Well, I think you are wrong. If we preach the law, what are we going to do? We're simply going to drive our people to despair. They don't become sorry for their sins when you preach the law. It's only when they hear the voice of the gospel that they recognize they have a good and loving father. And it's only then that their hearts are won by love and they're fully attached to God.

[00:24:50] Well, how would you sort this theological issue out? How would you sort it out? Well, it's interesting to note that Luther is kind of the mediator between between the two. And they have their first fight in 1527. This erupts later on in what is known as the Anthony Simeon controversies for right about 1535 some time, about oh, seven or eight years later, you have Johann Agricola, John Agricola, a student of Luther's, who says Moses belongs in the courthouse, not in the church. It's only the preaching of Christ. For Agricola, only the preaching of gospel, which is important for him. Of course, Blanca says no. If you preach only the gospel that leads to Anthony communism and too easy believe ism and doesn't tie us to the righteous and holy standard of God. If you preach only law, then what you get is Christianity's moralism. You do this and then you're a good Christian. And that's obviously not what Luther says in his writings. Hopefully we know that by now, this time in the semester. So anyway, this is the third issue. So what is the relationship between law and gospel? That's one of the questions that comes up in this big fight. What's the relationship between law and gospel? Agricola says. Gospel stands alone, Mélenchon says. No, it doesn't. The both have to go together. That's to oversimplify. But nonetheless, it kind of gets us to gets us to the issue. Okay. So these are the three issues that are theme three reasons for Luther's catechism. Finally, he recognizes that he can't just leave the business of writing the catechism in a reckless hands and hope that someday he might come through well as an endpoint. As a point of fact, Agricola does write a catechism, and it's a long, very verbose thing.

[00:27:04] Some 130 questions. It's really quite unwieldy and it represents this particular view of gospel alone with cutting off of the law. And so Luther realizes that he really must stand in the gap and begin to do his own work. So that's what Luther does. Now, there are a number of ways, I suppose, we could talk about the significance of Luther's work. And I just want to mention a couple of ways in which it's very important. We've already mentioned, first of all, the first thing we need to say here is that there really is a reversal of the medieval penitential system in Luther's catechism. There's a break with medieval piety and devotion. Instead of proceeding from faith to penance to satisfaction, which in large measure is really kind of a moralistic pattern. You know, you begin with the faith. This is what you must believe. And even if you're in a state of sin, you can buy an exercise if you're free, will refer to implicit or acquired faith, and then you move to penance and then you move to satisfaction. And all of these things really are intended to merit heaven. See, the whole business of merit is deeply embedded in this process. You begin, you know, assuming that these individuals have some religious standing. But notice what Luther does. He reverses that begins with the Ten Commandments, begins with law. And what does law do? It shows us our sinfulness. It brings us to a recognition of the fact that we are sinners in need of a savior. The law puts the old Adam to death so that the gospel can raise you and me up out of our stubborn unbelief and doubt into a state of faith. And resurrected life so that we then might devote ourselves to prayer and service of the neighbor.

[00:29:24] It's not in order to merit heaven, but it's now redirected so that we might serve the neighbor. And the movement here in Luther's Small Catechism is a fantastic and direct reversal of medieval piety. One of the other things that we can say about this, the significance of Luther's works, has to do with the fact that these the small catechism, really becomes a handbook for the Christian household. This is a way to instruct people about how they are to live. There is in law, you'll find toward the end there's a table of duties, household duties. This is what a father is supposed to do. This is what a bishop is supposed to do. This is what a father supposed to do. So why, if these are servants, what servants doing all these sort of kinds of things. One of the things that Luther is doing is he's breaking down the split that had taken place in the medieval mindset with respect to the world. There were, according to the medieval laws, secular jobs, and there were sacred jobs. And the world was really split between this secular and sacred paradigm. Now, the secular, just regular lay people, they just went about doing their work and they were supposed to follow the Ten Commandments. But the sacred individuals, those that were dedicated to monastic orders of one sort or another, were the perfected. These were the ones who were under a vow, and hence they were in a state of perfection whose works by virtue of the vow of chastity, poverty and obedience were always works of super irrigation. In other words, if you were a monk and you were a part of this order and you did good works, you did works over and above what it really took to merit heaven.

[00:31:27] And those works, along with the extra works of Christ, were deposited into the treasury of merits. And it was out of that treasury of merits then that the Pope dispensed indulgences and other kinds of stuff like that. Luther said, Time out. Let's not think that way. I don't think it's a particularly biblical way of going about our business. And so what Luther is attempting to do in the small catechism is to show that really the Christian life is the object of all of our work as Christians. There isn't a division between the sacred and the secular. The work that we do, whether we happen to be a bishop or a scullery maid, is still noble in the sight of God. Luther overturned the entire system of this sacred and secular distinction by centering the Christian life in baptism and in everyday affairs. If this truth could be impressed upon the poor people, a servant girl would dance for joy and praise and thanks God, and with her careful work for which she receives sustenance and wages. She would gain a treasure such as all who pass for the greatest saints do not have. Is it not a wonderful thing to be able to boast to yourself if I do my daily housework faithfully? That is better than the holiness and austere life of all the monks. In the side of God. It is really faith that makes a person holy. Faith alone serves him. While our works serve the people. See, what's going on Here is a profound reversal that's embedded deeply in Luther's small catechism, and it has to do with Christian vocation. It's no longer possible from Luther's point of view, to talk about the really holy and just the common Christian. No.

[00:33:26] All of us who have been incorporated into the life of Christ through baptism and the Word of God, we now each have our work to do, whether we're a plumber, whether we wait tables, whether we are pastors, we all have equal standing in the eyes of God because faith is the center of the Christian life, not doing special works or super irrigation. So there really is mainstreaming. Then in Luther's Small Catechism of Our Life in Christ, we do our work and we do it in such a manner that the old Adam is put to death. The new life of faith comes and is revealed, and we are thus fulfilling our baptism. So this is one of the profound and significant matters which is deeply embedded in Luther's small catechism, showing the outcome of reformation of faith. One of the things that we need to talk about here, too, is just simply this great impact in terms of instruction catechesis. It's really interesting to note that the small catechism in its earliest forms was printed on pages. Actually, it was printed on boards of size so that you could post them in your home and they would be evident and something that could be read and thus studied by the entire family. And it was a job of the parents to instruct the children not simply as an aide to the pastor. And, you know, the pastor's work is supposedly to do the catechism. You know, there's a a catechism class when, you know, kids get about eighth grade or so, that that wasn't just it. The point was also that the entire family was involved in the day to day reading and the inculcation of God's word through the catechism. It is very interesting to note that in the 16th century printings of the small catechism, there were woodcuts and not just one or two, but one for each commandment.

[00:35:47] Each article of the creed, each petition of the Lord's Prayer and each sacrament. 22 in all, each depicted a Bible story, complete with reference illustrating the point of the respective portion of the catechism. They served as visual aids for illiterate members of the household. You know, and it's interesting to note that Luther, when he talks about the Sabbath, remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy? How do we keep the Sabbath day holy? Well, Luther says the Sabbath is holy whether we keep it holy or not. But our task as believers is to hallow this day by the hearing of God's Word and the preaching of it so that we might gladly hear and learn it. So says the small catechism. And so in that little section there's a woodcut of a pastor preaching, thus illustrating how one remembers the Sabbath to keep it all. And now, no doubt some of the the Puritan Divines would not have thought that was sufficient in order to keep the Sabbath holy. But here I will stand with Luther and let the Puritans do what they will. And it's interesting to note, too, that these printings of the Small Catechism include two appendices Luther's German marriage and baptismal services. And they left an impression then of the great importance of marriage. And remember, to the part of the split, you know, the secular and sacred, there were a lot of priests. And these priests weren't married, although many of them had their housemaids or whatever. And it set forward the notion that marriage is a good thing. And it gave an evangelical description of marriage with respect to the rest of society. So these the small catechism is really very, very important stuff. One other thing that we should probably say, too, is that law and gospel then is really the way that Luther operates in this catechism.

[00:38:01] And I don't think that it can be emphasized enough that this is the rubric by which Luther describes an evangelical way of doing this catechesis. It's this clear explanation for the word and sacraments that use this rubric of law and gospel. He'll talk about, for example, to talk about baptism in terms of the command we are commanded to baptize, and then the Scripture comes under that. So he talks about the command in the baptism, but also he talks about the benefits of what one receives in baptism. So even in the section on the the sacraments and we're going to take a look at that just in just a moment. That's how he proceeds. So law and gospel is really the framework and the rubric by which he goes about his business. So there no doubt are many other things that one could say with respect to the significance of Luther's works. But rather than talking about the small catechism, why don't we just turn to it in your law on page 471, you have the introduction, and I'll allow you to take a look at this preface to the small catechism. On your own. It's of course, lively reading. Luther always is kind of spicy and and interesting, and he sets up how he's going to go about his work here. And he gives some some advice about how this should be used. Okay. Take a look here at the Ten Commandments and notice how this goes. You shall have no other gods. What does this mean? Answer We should fear love and trust in God above all things. Notice already at the outset, you have this fear, love and trust. And you'll find that in the rest of the explanations to the Ten Commandments.

[00:40:06] Notice this pair as it appears. Notice in the second commandment you shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. What does this mean? Answer We should fear and love God, and so we should not use His name to curse, swear, practice, magic, lie or deceive. But in every time of need, call upon him, pray to him, praise him, and give him thanks. So this fear, this pair. Fear and love go together. This is an answer in response to John Agricola, who says the law now is no longer necessary. So he fights against the antonym in a tendency. And also what he's doing here is he's showing how it is that God speaks in this world. It's not simply to say that, you know, this is this is reformation hermeneutic, but this is to say this is how God is revealed in the world. Of course, if you were to begin to teach this in your Sunday school class, I can just bet you that you would get all kinds of questions precisely at this point. But. But you don't mean that we're supposed to fear God, are we? I mean, isn't that a little harsh? Don't we really mean that we have all. In respect for God. Kind of like as in Wow, that's totally awesome. You know, and there would be people who no doubt will would would raise questions at this point. And of course, then, you know, we kind of shift we downshift, you know, as teachers, we might be put on the defensive here and we might downshift and say, well, no. Well, well, well, we're not know. Now. We're really talking about fear. I mean, not fear, certainly not that maybe we're just simply talking about, you know, servile fear.

[00:41:57] You know, we we, we we want to respect God, but we're not really talking about out and out Fear Not that kind of fear. But I don't know. I think it's tough to make those kinds of arguments because ultimately, if we recognize really what's going on in the law, there is this this cutting edge, this there is this aspect of the wrath of God, and it's there and it's real in scripture. And to simply explain it away, which is possible to do on one level or another, it cannot ultimately explain it away. When you are in your moments of doubt and despair, when you in those rare moments, when you allow yourself to be open enough to hear that God is angry against sin and that yes, there still is remaining sin in me. I think the fear is altogether appropriate and needful and necessary just by virtue of how the Word of God operates and acts. The fear drives us to the Gospel and its finally in the gospel that the terror and our fear of God is transformed so that we might offer Him praise and continue in an attitude and response to him that calls forth prayer. But it is interesting that law and gospel is the category here that's used even in talking about the Ten Commandments. Take a look at the third commandment. Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy? What does this mean? Answer We should fear and love God, and so we should not despise His word and the preaching of the same, but deem it holy and gladly here and learn it. This is an interesting summary of what it means to keep the Sabbath day Holy Notice. It has nothing to do with works as such.

[00:44:02] We sometimes think, well, we keep the Sabbath holy by not going to the grocery store. By not mowing our lawn. By not doing this, that or not seeing movies. Certainly not that. I have a friend who grew up in North Child already told you this story. Friend grew up in North Carolina, went to family camp and, you know, in big, bold letters on the side of one of the recreational buildings that said no volleyball playing on Sundays, no loud laughing on Sundays. And she further and further and further. Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. And this is a leftover this is a remnant from a misguided Christian belief that we somehow keep the Sabbath holy by what we do or leave undone. But really, the point is this The Sabbath is holy because God has made it holy. And notice what the tech says. Remember the Sabbath day? We are to think back and to remember creation. God created all things. It is good. And then he rested. We can talk about it in a number of ways. I mean, Christ is our Sabbath rest. We can also say that what God gives is holy. Every good and every perfect gift comes from him. So the remembering the Sabbath really is a recognition that the entirety of our lives comes to us in the form of gift. And when we recognize that, then the appropriate attitude and response to God is one of gratitude. And so there's a very interesting thing that goes on here. Now, then, I would really recommend to you the use of the small catechism in terms of your devotion to take this little piece and use it as a daily, as a daily devotional. I really think there's wonderful opportunity in all of this.

[00:45:58] As a matter of fact. I know someone who does this. This comes out of a large catechism. It's an interesting little passage here. He's talking about an admonition to passage. This is besides a shameful and insidious plague of security and boredom has overtaken us. Many regard the catechism as a simple, silly teaching which they can absorb and master at one reading. After reading it, they toss the book into a corner as if they were ashamed to read it again. As for myself, let me say that I too am a doctor and a preacher. Yes. And as learned and experienced as any of those who act so high and mighty, yet I do as a child who is being taught the catechism every morning and whatever else I have time, I read and recite word for word, the Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Psalms, etc. I must still read and study the catechism daily, yet I cannot master it as I wish, but must remain a child and a pupil of the catechism. And I do it gladly. So says Luther. Interesting. Interesting to note. So the catechism should not be looked upon as just some simple thing that one gets under their belt. And then you move on to what's really important or what's really, you know, deeply academically significant, but rather this is the heart of Christian life. And these are issues which never go out of style. When I was at Luther Seminary, I took a course on the Lutheran Confessions, and the professor gymnast again had a requirement for his M.D. of students, and that is that they memorized the small catechism. They had to make appointments to come in and recite it to the professor. And I thought, you know, this is just right on the money.

[00:47:50] Now, of course, as a Lutheran pastor, you would be responsible for teaching the catechism. And so the. I need to be very familiar with it yourself. But nonetheless, a very interesting point that Luther himself makes here. He talks about, you know, in the morning sometimes his heart is very cold and so he'll come to prayer. You'll come to the scriptures so that his heart might be warmed by the Holy Spirit. As an evangelical, I was not introduced to Luther's small catechism, as you might imagine. And it was only later on that I discovered it as a marvelous piece for encouraging faith. And I found using it with young people to be a very worthwhile and productive activity. I remember one family camp that I went to. My teenage students went to a class on the Book of Revelation, of all things. And they would come into my class all disturbed. I mean, all of these crazy images, you know, the Apostle John, you know, sets forward in that book. And they would just become and they would be stirred up and agitated and, you know, really bothered in a number of different ways. And it took me half of my class to just calm them down. But I found that working with teenagers of this, you know, this age level, it was really great stuff. Just take a piece of it. Just take a little piece of it and talk about it. And I found that to be wonderfully helpful. It's the kind of thing I think that could that could really be a marvelous resource to you in your own in your own teaching, your own settings in your church. You know, the even evangelical tradition, you know, we we think that doing creeds and that kind of stuff, you know, well, you know, creed, but the Bible is kind of a movement that I came out of, you know, and that's.

[00:49:46] So they would say, Oh, that's too Catholic or some such thing. But I really don't think that's the case because I find in moving through the small catechism that there's just so much that's wonderfully biblical and pointed, simple, very simple. I mean, and the formula is exactly the same. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. What does this mean? Answer We should fear and love God so that we not tell lies about our neighbor or betray slander or defame him, but should apologize for him, speak well of him, and interpret charitably all that he does. I remember an instance where there were a couple of girls in this family camp and they I noticed they were no longer the best of friends and they were no longer speaking to one another saying, What's going on? Well, one girl had heard someone else say that this her friend had said something else about her and said, well, and I talked with her and she said, well, but I heard someone else say something about her and that's just not right. And so I'm not going to talk to her. I said, Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute. And I pointed them to this this passage. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. What does that mean? We should believe the best about another until we recognize that we can no longer do so. And what does it say here? We should speak well of them. Interpret charitably all that they do. You know what? You need to check with your friend as to whether or not that's really what she thinks about you. After a little instruction, very practical stuff. These two get back together again. That's just an expression of how this very simple kind of stuff works in the life of the church.

[00:51:27] And we are, you know, instructed by this kind of material. So it's wonderful. Okay. Let's take a quick peek now at the Creed, the explanation of the creed. This is really quintessential Luther and wonderful stuff. Check this out. I believe in God, the father almighty maker of heaven and earth. What does this mean? Answer this on page 479 of your law, I believe that God has created me and all that exists. He has given me and still sustains my body and soul, all my limbs and senses, my reason and all the faculties of my mind together with food and clothing, house and home, family and property that he provides me daily and abundantly with all the necessities of life, protects me from all danger and preserves me from all evil. All this he does out of pure fatherly and divine goodness and mercy without any merit or worthiness on my part. For all of this, I am bound to thank, praise, serve and obey him. This is most certainly true. Daily Bread for Luther. When you move to his explanation, the Lord's Prayer is expanded to include all of these things that he's mentioned here in the Creed. So it's a it's a wonderful exposition. If you shift over to the Lord's Prayer, hallowed be thy name, like the fourth petition. Give us this day our daily bread. Notice how he answers this. What does this mean? Answer to be sure. God provides daily bread, even to the wicked, without our prayer. But we pray in this petition that God may make us aware of His gifts and enable us to receive our daily bread with Thanksgiving. What is meant by daily bread? Answer Everything required to satisfy our bodily needs, such as food and clothing, house and home fields and flocks, money and property.

[00:53:13] A pious spouse and good children. Trustworthy servants. Godly and faithful. Rulers, good government, seasonal weather, peace and health, order and honor, true friends, faithful neighbors and the like. Notice how he makes this interpretation expanding. Now let's move back to the Creed here. Second, second article. And in Jesus Christ, his only son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontious pilot was crucified, dead and buried. He descended into hell. The third day he rose from the dead. He ascended into heaven and asserted that the right hand of God, the Father Almighty, whence he shall come to judge the living in the dead. What does this mean? Answer I believe that Jesus Christ, true God begotten of the Father from eternity and also true man born of the Virgin Mary is my Lord who has redeemed me. A lost and condemned creature delivered me and freed me from all sins, from death and from the power of the devil. Not with silver and gold, but with his holy and precious blood and with his innocent sufferings and death. In order that I may be his live under him in his kingdom and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness, even as he has risen from the dead and lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true. Notice, especially here in the third line of his answer, he's talking about Jesus Christ. True God begun to the Father and also a true man born of the Virgin Mary is my Lord. Notice how Luther focuses the whole thing down into this personal confession. This is not a talk about God as He is in heaven. But once again, we see this as an expression of His theology of the cross.

[00:54:57] It's not a matter of speculation. It's not a matter of opinion or of doctrine written in a book somewhere. But it's a matter now of personal conviction. Seeing God in the face of the crucified and risen Jesus now demands response. And in the case of the believer, it's that of confession of Thomas in the upper room. He sees the wounds in his hands and his feet places his fingers in his side. And what is he saying, my Lord and my God. So this this is one of these very interesting critical moments in Luther's theology. Notice then finally here and we'll end with this and I'll leave the rest of the catechism to your reading. The third article on Sanctification. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen. What does this mean? Answer I believe that I. I believe that by my own reason or strength, I cannot believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him. This is bondage of the world stuff, isn't it? But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlighten me with His gifts and sanctified and preserved me in the true faith, just as he calls, gathers and lightens and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and preserves it in Union with Jesus Christ in the one true faith in this Christian church. He daily and abundantly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. And on the last day, he will raise me and all the dead and will grant eternal life to me and to all who believe in Christ. This is most certainly true. We've already pointed out this last week that here is the section where he talks about his understanding of the church as the gathered ones in which the forgiveness of sins takes place.

[00:57:00] And also notice to the great emphasis upon the last day, he will raise me and all the dead and will grant eternal life to me. And so in Luther, there is really, truly a focus on this. And it's a very interesting sidelight in Luther that in many places Luther talks about death as a deep, sweet sleep. A He says that we will go to sleep in Christ and in our next waking moment we shall hear his voice calling us out of the grave. And there's a marvelous little passage where he talks about how Christ will come and call him Dr. Martinez arise. And then he says, and I will gladly join him and to spend eternity with him. And then one of his one of his Easter sermons he talks about Christ laid in the ground was raised on the third day, but not for himself, only for his resurrection is our resurrection. So that Luther's hope finally, in the end, is that he will rise to enjoy in his body an eternal Easter celebration. So wonderful stuff. Wonderful, wonderful stuff. I do recommend the small catechism to your reading and to your devotions. Sometimes one's devotions can get a little dry or whatever, and so a little variation in change of pace will be good.