From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning the Mass
The Old Testament prophets condemn the popular opinion about ex opere operato, teaching instead the righteousness and sacrifices of the Spirit. “For in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to your fathers or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. But this command I gave them, ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God...’” (Jer 7:22-23). How should we imagine that the Jews received this announcement, which seems to openly dissent with Moses? It is clear that God had given the fathers commands concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices, but Jeremiah is condemning an idea about sacrifices that had not come from God, namely, that these services pleased him ex opere operato. The prophet adds that God had commanded faith. “Obey my voice.” That is, believe that I am your God; that I wish to be known in this way when I show mercy and assist you, for I do not require your sacrifices. Believe that I wish to be God, the Justifier and Savior, not on account of your works, but on account of my word and promise. Truly and sincerely seek and expect help from me.
Pulling It Together: The Hebrew word for “obey” can also be understood to heed, listen, or hear. For to truly hear is to obey. If you do not obey, you have not really heard. How many times do parents cry out, “Did you hear me?” And when their child responds, “Yes,” reply with exasperation, “Then why didn’t you do what I said?” To have experienced this parental exasperation is to begin to sense the frustration of the Lord with his children.
Our parents did not wish for us to do the dishes or take out the trash or clean up our rooms, with the hope that they might love us or help us. If they were good parents, they already loved us and were more than willing to give us all the assistance we required. They did not want us to obey in order to be loved; they wanted us to obey because they already loved us. We understand this natural equation far better than we comprehend the spiritual. But there it is: God wants us to believe that he cares for us—that he is gracious and merciful—not because we have done him some service but, because he loves us.
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for your steadfast and abundant mercy, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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A Latin phrase meaning “Scripture Alone,” Sola Scriptura is one of the traditional Lutheran slogans used since the time of the Reformation. It expresses our confession that Scripture is “the only rule and norm according to which all doctrines and teachers alike must be appraised and judged.” Using the familiar phrase as its title, Sola Scriptura is a new, advanced-level Bible Study in a two-part series, of six chapters each, on the functional authority of Scripture. For those who would like to cover the topic in detail, there is enough material to cover one chapter in two sessions, making each part a 12-week study.