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
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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

All Lessons
  • Introduction to the life and theology of Martin Luther.

  • 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.