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From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning the Mass
Besides, the prophet’s own words express his meaning. First, he states that the name of the Lord will be great. This is accomplished by the preaching of the gospel, by which the name of Christ and the mercy of the Father promised in Christ are made known. The preaching of the gospel produces faith in those who receive the gospel. They call upon God, they give thanks to God, they bear afflictions in confession, they produce good works for the glory of Christ. This is how the name of the Lord becomes great throughout the nations.
Therefore “incense” and “a pure offering” do not mean a ceremony ex opere operato, but refer to all those sacrifices through which the name of the Lord becomes great, such as faith, prayer, the preaching of the gospel, confession, etc. If someone would include the ceremony, we readily concede it, provided he does not mean that the ceremony alone, ex opere operato, is salutary.
Among the praises of God, or the sacrifices of praise, we include the preaching of the Word. Just so, the reception of the Lord’s Supper can be praise or thanksgiving. But it does not justify ex opere operato or merit the remission of sins if applied to others. In a while, we will explain how even a ceremony is a sacrifice. Malachi speaks of all the services of the New Testament—not only of the Lord’s Supper—as he does not promote the pharisaic opinion of the opus operatum. So, Malachi is not against our position, but assists us. For he requires worship of the heart, through which the name of the Lord becomes truly great.
Pulling It Together
The day is coming when every knee in heaven and on earth will bow at the name of Jesus (Phil 2:10). This does not come through robotic religion; it happens when hearts are regenerated through the preaching of the gospel. Then people everywhere will praise the Lord, offer prayer and thanksgiving, confess their sin, and feast at his table. This is true worship, a pure offering to God. This is faith worked out in real life. All else is not a bending of the knee, but simply going through the motions of religion, which accomplishes nothing.
Prayer: Lord, make your name great among all people. Amen.
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Most Certainly True contains 75 stories of Lutherans throughout the world, during many eras, in various locations, revealing much about the Lutheran church. At their core, the stories explore the heart of the church and its people at work and reveal something of the ordinary and unique lives that have shaped Christ's church. God is at work through us and in spite of us: the communion of saints.