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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
Concerning the Invocation of Saints part 1

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Psalm 116:15

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Invocation of Saints 

They altogether condemn the Twenty-first Article because we do not require the invocation of saints. Nor do they speak more eloquently or with more verbosity on any topic. Nevertheless, they do not substantiate anything except that the saints should be honored, and that the saints who are still living should pray for one another. This is all presented as through the invocation of dead saints were necessary on that account.

They cite Cyprian, because he asked Cornelius, while still alive, to pray for his brothers after he died. With this example they would prove the invocation of the dead. They also refer to Jerome and Vigilantius: “On this field,” they say, “eleven hundred years ago, Jerome overcame Vigilantius.” So our adversaries claim triumph, as though the war were already ended. Nor do those asses notice that in Jerome against Vigilantius, there is not a syllable concerning invocation. He speaks about honoring for the saints, not about invocation. Nor have the rest of the ancient writers before Gregory mentioned invocation. The invocation of saints, along with the adversaries’ opinions which they now teach concerning the application of merits, does not have the testimonies of the ancient writers.

Pulling It Together

Let us clarify our terms again. Saints are those who have been made holy by God’s grace; they are not those whom we have declared holy. Indeed, they are those whom God has declared holy for Christ’s sake. “For Christ’s sake” means “because of him.” We do not tally up the deeds of the deceased to see if they merit God’s favor and are therefore holy. Rather, the Father has accounted his Son’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension as that which merits holiness and salvation for those who believe. 

We should certainly pray for one another and honor the lives of the saints—not only those saints who are still living, but also those who have passed on before us. For the death of his saints is precious in the sight of the Lord. Precious, not because of their personal holiness, but because Jesus’ blood was shed so that they would be holy for Christ’s sake.

Prayer: Thank you, Father, for making me holy because of your Son. Amen.

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The Smalcald Articles are often considered Luther's theological Last Will and Testament. Written in easy-to-understand language, this study is presented in a discussion formation with assigned readings from the Scriptures and the Book of Concord. Included in the study is a shorter work by Philip Melanchton called "The Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope." 


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