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From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning the Mass
These are the sacrifices of the New Testament, as Peter teaches: “Like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 2:5). Spiritual sacrifices, however, are contrasted not only with animal sacrifices, but even with human works offered ex opere operato. “Spiritual” refers to the movements of the Holy Spirit within us. Paul teaches the same thing: “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Rom 12:1). “Spiritual worship” is that service in which the spirit knows and apprehends God, as happens when one fears and trusts God. This is therefore contrasted with Levitical service in which cattle are slain, and also with a service in which a work is imagined to be offered ex opere operato. The Epistle to the Hebrews teaches the same thing: “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God” and adds the interpretation, “that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name” (Heb 13:15) He commands us to offer praises, that is, prayer, thanksgiving, confession, and the like. These are valid because of faith, not ex opere operato. This is understood by the phrase, “Through him then let us offer,” in other words, by faith in Christ.
Pulling It Together: We are to offer sacrifices but the Lutheran Reformers wanted to be clear, not only what those sacrifices are but, what they accomplish. There is no sacrifice that we can offer or that can be offered for us—at the altar or elsewhere—that accomplishes the forgiveness of sin, grants eternal life, or reconciles us to God. That has already been done for us, and may only be received in faith. In other words, you do not do anything to get God to forgive. God’s mercy toward us through Christ already made these gifts freely available to all who believe, not through any works, services, or sacrifices we render.
But there are other sacrifices that all Christians should offer; and these sacrifices, as has been stated, do not avail for salvation, forgiveness, and justification before God. These sacrifices of the new life in Christ are spiritual sacrifices, true worship in which the Spirit of God testifies with our spirits (Rom 8:16). This is how all believers are priests before God (1 Pet 2:5, 9; Rev 1:6), offering sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving. In this service of worship, we become living sacrifices to God. This transformation does not save, but instead is simply the reasonable service or spiritual worship of all believers.
Prayer: Thank you, Father, for your mercy to me through your Son, Jesus Christ the Lord. Amen.
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This booklet provides a suggested list of Bible verses, prayers, and familiar worship texts assigned to various age levels, recommended for use along with Sola Publishing’s Sunday Schoolhouse curriculum series. The order of texts matches the suggested grade levels in Luther’s Small Cat Series: elementary-aged curriculum on Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, also available from Sola Publishing.