1 Peter 1:6–7
From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning Human Traditions in the Church
If we are allowed to create religious rites that merit grace or righteousness, why were the heathen and the Israelites denied this right? The religious rites of the heathen and the Israelites were rejected for the very reason that, because they did not yet know about the righteousness of faith, they believed that they earned remission of sins and righteousness through these ceremonies.
Pulling It Together: The highest service of God is to have faith in him. There is nothing you can do that is more precious to God than to trust him, believing his promises—to have faith, which is “more precious than gold.” This is another reason why we are denied the right to create our own ceremonies and sacraments. It is God’s pleasure to give; so we must receive, and that only requires faith.
In the sacraments themselves, we see that grace is nothing we earn. In Baptism, we are given new life in Christ; we do not earn rebirth. In Holy Communion, we are given the Body and the Blood of our Lord; we do not take it; we do not earn the benefits of his sacrifice. The Small Catechism asks, “What is the benefit of such eating and drinking?” It answers: “It is pointed out in these words: ‘Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.’ Through these words the forgiveness of sin, life, and salvation are given to us in the Sacrament, for where there is forgiveness of sin, there is also life and salvation.”
All these gracious blessings are “given to us.” So, instead of inventing ceremonies that are intended to earn grace, or trusting in rituals invented to do so, we must instead, give God the highest service we can: we must have faith in him to freely give us the grace he has promised.
Prayer: Increase my faith in you, Lord Jesus. Amen.
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The Spiritual Realms is a nine-session Bible Study series on Heaven and Hell and places beyond this world. Specifically, the study looks at the many “place names” that are found throughout Scripture, referring to spiritual realms of existence that underlie and comprise the universe God created. This Bible Study series is a challenging one, in that it explores realities of existence beyond what we know and experience everyday.
The study not only addresses matters of life, death, heaven and hell, it steadfastly affirms that Jesus Christ is at the center of all these things. Our ultimate faith and hope rest in Christ’s death and resurrection for our sake. We live in faith by the biblical promise that: “God raised the Lord, and will also raise us up by his power” (1 Cor 6:14).