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From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning the Mass
A false opinion about sacrifices existed among the godless priests in Judah, just as the worship of Baal continued in Israel. Nevertheless, God’s church was there, disapproving of godless services. Just so, Baalitic worship endures in the domain of the Pope, namely, through the abuse of the Mass, which they use to merit the remission of guilt and punishment for the unrighteous. It seems that this Baalitic worship will endure as long as the reign of the Pope, until Christ returns to judge, and by the glory of his advent, destroys the reign of Antichrist. Meanwhile, all who truly believe the gospel ought to condemn these wicked services that have been contrived against God’s command to obscure the glory of Christ and the righteousness of faith.
Pulling It Together: The righteousness of faith is a most blessed, gracious gift of God. Through this righteousness, we honor him and possess a constant comfort against sin and death. We honor him because we give credit where it is due. We honor him because we do not presume to usurp the glory for what God provides for us, what we could never supply ourselves. We honor him by receiving his gracious gifts in the sacraments. We dishonor him if we imagine we earn our righteousness simply by doing a religious ceremony. We honor him with the faith that it is he alone who freely gives us his grace, forgiveness, and eternal life.
This faith is a great benefit to the human heart. Armed with faith, we no longer fear judgment, for we fear God instead. Indeed, we “fear, love, and trust God above all things” (Martin Luther, Small Catechism, First Commandment). We should fear him enough that we do not institute false worship, whether it resembles the true faith or not. We should love him enough to know that he is a Father who provides for all our needs, not just food and drink and shelter, but righteousness and salvation. “He does this purely out of fatherly and divine goodness and mercy, though [we] do not deserve it” (Martin Luther, Small Catechism, First Article). We should trust him enough to have the faith that he will deliver us from sin and death as he promised. Trusting God instead of ourselves, we are at peace, knowing that sin, death, and the devil have no hold on those who are held in the embrace of God.
Prayer: Help me, O Lord, a sinner who would trust in you alone. Amen.
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