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In concise poetic prose, Luther tells us who Jesus is and what He has done to become our Lord. He is true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and true man, born of the Virgin Mary. With clarity and utter simplicity Luther summarizes the Chalcedonian confession of the two natures in Christ, rendering it preachable! What has this Christ done? He has purchased and won me, lost and condemned person, from all sins, death, and the power of the Devil, not with gold or silver but His holy blood and innocent suffering and death. Luther is not bound to one picture of the atonement but brings together the Biblical motifs of ransom purchased and victory won.

He is demonstrating how the work of Christ is to be preached not as a theoretical transaction framed by the Law, but as an evangelical necessity of the Christ who actually reconciles humanity to God and God to humanity by dying under the condemnation of the Law on a Roman cross.


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The redemption accomplished in the Second Article is delivered in the Third Article as the Holy Spirit calls lost and condemned persons-dead in trespasses and sins-to faith in Christ through the Gospel. The Third Article teaches preachers how this Gospel can never be left in the rear-view mirror. It is always and ever proclaimed anew, just as sin, death, and despair are never absent on this side of the Resurrection. Conversely, a sermon which does not absolve is not a Christian sermon! Preaching evokes such prayer as it equips believers to call not upon an unknown and hidden deity, but on God whose fatherly heart is revealed in Christ.

The Small Catechism keeps Baptism present tense in our preaching. It is not merely that I was baptized, but I am baptized. The name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit sticks. Faith lays hold of what the Spirit gives, dying daily to sin and daily rising by the promise of the Gospel to the newness of life. These two supplementary resources will help move things along while keeping us true. You are commenting using your WordPress.

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Faith Lutheran Church: Corning, NY > The Small Catechism

Share this: Facebook Twitter Email Reddit. Like this: Like Loading Leave a Reply Cancel reply Enter your comment here Who was going to teach the faith? Then as now, people need to know the essential elements of the divine worship, and not just for Sunday of course. Luther taught the evangelical states how to pray. Christendom was divided into nobility, monks and nuns, and commoners. The religious were to pray for the other two estates.

That notion was abolished by Luther, and in the new worldview all people were to pray. Luther taught that prayer was simple and we need not overthink it. He taught that we pray because we are commended to pray, but we pray to a loving Father. Luther envisioned that the vocation of family life would be lived out in pious Christian homes. The head of the household would see to Morning and Evening prayer.

Many families did such devotions after the meal was finished. The Small Catechism forms a special kind of Christian identity; a baptismal identity. It teaches the Christian life is a daily drowning of the old self and the rising of the new self out of the baptismal waters. The Six Chief Parts teach us the divine worship informs the gospel-centered life. Lutherans receive a form of continual pastoral care from the Word and Sacraments and confession and absolution.

We learn the liturgical texts by heart and they too become curriculum for life-long learning. The catechism is meant to be taught to the very young and continue in importance through our whole life not a special spiritual curriculum for teenagers as happened in modern times. In a nutshell, we should first fear and love God. Everything else springs forth from this attitude of the heart.

We should not provoke authorities to anger, but honor, serve, obey, love and esteem them. We should not kill or do any bodily harm to our neighbor, but rather help and befriend them in every need. We should not only not commit adultery, but we should lead a chaste and decent life in word and deed, and see to it that husband and wife each love and honor the other.

We should not only not bear false witness against our neighbors, we ought not lie about, betray or slander our neighbors, but excuse them, speak well of them, and put the best construction on their motive.

Neither should we tempt, force or coax away from our neighbor his wife or his workers, but urge them to stay and do their duty. God threatens to punish all who transgress these commandments. But He promises grace and every blessing to all who keep these commandments. Therefore, we should also love and trust in Him and willingly do according to His commandments. By that time not only pastors but also teachers, sextons, acolytes and midwives in ducal Saxony were required to know the catechism to obtain and continue in their positions.

Knowledge of the catechism was tested upon yearly for all in some congregations, as it was for the youth throughout German Lutheran churches. Baptismal sponsors were required to know it in some areas, and bridal couples had this requirement in some. It was held to be the standard for evangelical theology, to serve as a resource for the laity in exercising responsibility, to provide correct theological solutions to controversies.

David P. Scaer and Robert D.

Commentary On Luther's Catechisms, Baptism and Lord's Supper

Preus, editors. Or, perhaps Amsdorf was correct and the above Reformation-era theologians meant exactly what they said. Perhaps only a few fathers actually taught and prayed the Small Catechism. If there are records of visitations where progress was being made, where are they?

How about if parents found it hard to teach this? How about if it was hard to teach pastors how to teach parents how to teach? How about if we took sin seriously? There is plenty of evidence of its use by pastors in churches and teachers in schools. How successful have the heads of households been at teaching it to the household? The lack of material no hits on Google, ProQuest, Ebrary would point to there is next to nothing to be submitted to examination!

One hundred forty or fifty are reviewed and only one is suggestive that the editor understood the role of parent in teaching the catechism in the home.


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That would be the frontier missionary-pastor Paul Henkel Only once was it envisioned for the use of the head of the household to teach the faith in the home. In the years since its origins, the Small Catechism was far and away used as a book for pastors to teach Confirmation. Even in frontier America, with very few pastors, where are the reports that parents taught the basics of our evangelical faith? In many cases these catechisms swelled to books much larger than the Large Catechism, teaching things perhaps only pastors could understand Why did these books supposedly based on the Small Catechism grow to the size of the Large Catechism with the addition of material not written by Luther?

Did parents demand more theology? Since that is not likely, why did the regional churches and clergy feel the need to expand it? From the time of Muhlenberg, the catechism was seen more as a school book or a resource book for church than something for parents. For in the schools the children ought to be well grounded in the truths of the Catechism, and to do this, it is important to have a uniform set of phrases.

Review: Commentary on Luther’s Catechisms: Baptism and Lord’s Supper

In an anecdote from we see the pastors to the Salzburgers using it in a half-hour evening prayer service. Then the children recite several times, loudly and clearly, the part of the 23 Arthur C. This passage is catechized briefly, and its real meaning explained and applied to the practice of godliness. Are these quite different things? It would be more helpful to our focus had there been less on what is in them and more on how it was used, but few are asking that question yet. In brief, the author chronicles the various additions and does an Orthodoxy vs Pietism critique.

We can join in his laments that few of the editions even had a decent translation of what Luther wrote, preferring an evolving paraphrase. Those curious about the various Orders of Salvation, Hymns, etc. The authorized catechism continued to serve to a large extent as a series of texts…thus it served as a resource for pastors and teachers who were ministering in a variety of circumstances and at different levels of maturity.

Almost completely forgotten was the fact that Luther intended his Small Catechism to be taught to baptized children by parents who themselves also were Christians, thus presupposing faith and spiritual life in both the teacher and child. Remember, Luther stated it even more starkly, that is, the catechism teaches what one need to know to for their salvation.

That is its historical purpose and is something we should be striving to. If pastors were to teach parents how to teach their children the catechism so that their children might join them in heaven, I hazard to guess that it would reawaken the faith of all, pastor and parents alike. Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, Girgensohn, Herbert.