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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
Concerning Ecclesiastical Power – part 6

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Acts 15:6–11

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Ecclesiastical Power 

So, the bishops have no right to make traditions, claiming they merit the forgiveness of sins apart from the Gospel, nor services of worship that assert to please God as righteousness. Bishops have no right to burden consciences with these human traditions as though it would be a sin to ignore them. All this is taught by that one passage in Acts, where the apostles say that hearts are purified by faith (Acts 15:9), then forbid imposing a yoke, demonstrating how great a danger this is, emphasizing the sin of those who burden the Church. “Why are you testing God?” they ask (Acts 15:10). Our opponents, who violently defend their traditions and godless opinions, are not terrified in the least by this thunderbolt.

Pulling It Together: The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Rom 1:16). Nothing needs to be added to the Gospel in order to make it effective for the forgiveness of sins, justification, or eternal life. No traditions need to be added, nor are special acts of devotion or services of worship necessary for hearts to be purified. The Word of God is the means that makes us clean before God (John 15:3). In other words, God makes us clean—not the things we do or the human traditions that we maintain. We cannot keep them, even if they could keep us pure. But God can keep his word, and he has done so through Jesus Christ. Let us add nothing to Christ alone.

Prayer: O Living Word of God, help me trust in you. Amen.

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This pocket edition of Luther's Small Catechism includes quotations from the English Standard Versions (ESV) of Scripture, and the traditional ICET liturgical texts (as used in the Lutheran Book of Worship). The primary verses of Scripture, Creed, and Prayers are printed in italics; Luther’s explanations are printed in plain text. Luther’s explanations are formatted with a mid-sentence break, to highlight contrasting phrases and to aid in memorization.

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