Sola Publishing News and Feedback [Sola Devotions series] http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/feed.html?series=1 News, devotions and feedback blog for Sola Publishing en-us Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a366.html Tue, 21 Sep 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Matthew 19:16-22

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

Where Jesus said, “If you would enter life, keep the commandments” (Matt 19:17), we must understand that one cannot keep the commandments or please God without Christ. The first commandment in the Decalogue itself states, “showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exod 20:6), adding the most liberal promise of the law. But this law is not observed without Christ. For it always accuses the conscience which does not satisfy the law, and therefore, flies in terror from the judgment and punishment of the law. “For the law brings wrath” (Rom 4:15). People observe the law however, when they hear that God is reconciled to us for Christ's sake even though they cannot satisfy the law. When faith apprehends Christ as mediator, the heart discovers peace and begins to love God and observe the law. It knows that because of Christ as mediator, it is now pleasing to God, even though the rudimentary fulfilling of the law is far from perfect and very impure.

Pulling It Together: The rich man wanted to know what good deed he as yet lacked so that he could earn eternal life. Having boasted that he had kept all the commandments, he nonetheless felt that he still lacked some fine deed. For all of his religious pluses, he knew that he was still deficient. Jesus knew that he had actually failed to keep the first commandment, so he told the rich man to sell all of his possessions and give the money to the poor. Because he loved his wealth more than God, the rich man turned away from Jesus.

This is the point. Unless you turn to Jesus, the law will not be fulfilled no matter how religious you think that you are. As long as you think there is something you must do, perfection, justification, and peace will seem just out of reach. We must always remember to stop looking in the mirror, to turn around and see Jesus, the fulfillment of the law (Rom 10:4).

Prayer: Help me to turn away from myself, Lord, and follow you. Amen. 

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The Wise Economy of Your Life, Balancing Your Time & Money shows how to practice the principles of God’s economy as revealed in the Scriptures, leading to wise “spending," and creating more freedom and versatility in your life. This study booklet is intended as a basis for group discussion and contains a list of Scripture verses to supplement each chapter.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a365.html Mon, 20 Sep 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Romans 4:22-5:2

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

In all our praise of works and in the preaching of the law, we must retain this rule: that the law cannot be observed without Christ. He himself said, “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Likewise, “And without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb 11:6). The doctrine of the law is not intended to remove the gospel and Christ as propitiator. Let those Pharisees, our adversaries, be cursed, who interpret the law so as to ascribe the glory of Christ to works, namely, that they are a propitiation, that they merit the forgiveness of sins. It follows, therefore, that works are to be praised because they are pleasing to God on account of faith. For works do not please without Christ as propitiator. We have access to God through Christ (Rom 5:2), not by works, without Christ as mediator.

Pulling It Together: The preaching of the law must have its rightful place among us. The law sets necessary boundaries in society so that we might enjoy a measure of order and civility. It also reveals the holy God in such a way that we see ourselves in a different light. We begin to understand that we are poor sinners in need of God’s mercy and grace. The law also shows us how to live. So, we are to obey God’s laws but depend upon him for grace. This, of course, is where the gospel comes in to play.

We are justified to God through faith in the work of Jesus Christ. He died on the cross to make the payment for our sin. Then he was raised from the dead so that we would be justified to God. We should never expect our obedience to the law to cause our justification. This honor goes to Christ alone. So, let us teach and preach the law. Let us do good works and more of them, so that people know God is in their midst. But may we never be led so far astray as to imagine that these works earn God’s grace. We must also preach the gospel, so people comprehend that the God among them loves them, forgives sin, and justifies sinners.

Prayer: I have faith in you, Lord, and thank you for your peace. Amen. 

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Teach Us to Pray is an eight lesson curriculum based around Luther's Small Catechism.  Each lesson has a Bible study connected to the article of the Lord's Prayer covered. A section entitled "About Prayer"  teaches students helpful items about a solid prayer life and a prayer assignment for the coming week.  A major goal of this material is to help kids experience prayer and practice it in a variety of ways. This book could be used as part of a larger Confirmation series, or as a "pre-confirmation" Sunday School series for Jr. High and Middle School youth.

Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a364.html Sun, 19 Sep 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Psalm 136:23-26

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

So, we reply to the words of Daniel that because he is preaching repentance, he is not teaching only about works, but also of faith, as the narrative itself testifies. Since Daniel clearly presents the promise, he necessarily requires faith that believes that sins are freely forgiven by God. Although he mentions works in regards to repentance, he does not say that we earn forgiveness of sins by these works. Daniel is not speaking only of the payment for the punishment because remittal of the punishment is sought in vain unless the heart first receives remission of guilt. If the adversaries understand Daniel as speaking only of the remission of punishment, this passage proves nothing against us, because it will be necessary for even them to admit that the remission of sin and justification precede works. Afterwards, even we concede that the punishments that chasten us are eased by our prayers and good works, and ultimately, by our entire repentance. These passages bear witness. “But if we judged ourselves truly, we should not be judged” (1 Cor 11:31). “If you return, I will restore you” (Jer 15:19). “Return to me...and I will return to you” (Zech 1:3). “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you” (Psa 50:15).

Pulling It Together: You may work all day and night, trying to prove yourself worthy to God, only to discover at the break of day that you do not believe he finds you worthy. So, you might set yourself to the task of working hard every day and night so that God would consider you deserving of his favor. Yet, at the end of some considerable period of time, you observe that you still do not believe that he favors you. All of your work has amounted to nothing because you do not believe that he loves and forgives. Nonetheless, God has loved you all the while. Your works make no impact on his love.

You must first believe that he loves you (John 3:16). Then you can trust in his promise to forgive and justify. Once you have faith in God, works are much more rewarding, since you do them out of simple, obedient love instead of for reward. Works will not merit forgiveness of sins or gain you any peace at the end of the day. You already have these things through faith in the God who has loved you all the while.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for loving me with an everlasting love. 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.

• Part 1  • Part 1 Leader's Guide  • Part 2  • Part 2 Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a363.html Sat, 18 Sep 21 00:00:00 -0500 Click for online jigsaw.

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Matthew 6:9-15

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law – part 69

Human reason naturally admires works because they are impressive. Not considering, let alone understanding faith, all they see are works, and so they imagine that these works earn forgiveness of sins and justify. This opinion of the law is by nature stuck in people’s minds and cannot be displaced except by godly instruction. The mind must be recalled from such natural or fleshly opinions to the Word of God. We see that the gospel and the promise concerning Christ have been laid before us. So, when the law is preached, when works are ordered, we should not spurn the promise of Christ. We must first lay hold of the promise so that we may be able to produce good works that please God. For Christ says, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Therefore, if Daniel had said, "Redeem your sins by repentance," the adversaries would take no notice of this passage. But since he has expressed this thought in other words, the adversaries distort his words to the injury of the doctrine of grace and faith, even though Daniel decidedly means to include faith.

Pulling It Together: Consider this teaching from the Lord’s Prayer: Forgive, and you will be forgiven. The first part in this doctrine demands amendment of life and good works, while the second part adds the promise. We should not extrapolate from this that our forgiving of others earns for us forgiveness of sin. That is not what Christ said. Just as Christ has attached the promise to an external sign in the sacraments, so he attaches here the promise of the forgiveness of sin to an external work. We do not obtain forgiveness of sin in the Lord's Supper by faithlessly eating and drinking. We must have faith in the promise. So also, we do not receive forgiveness simply through the work of forgiving, merely by the work worked.

If Christianity was only a matter of the law, there would be no need of Christ. We could just work our way up to heaven—if such a thing were possible. If Christianity was merely a matter of faith, then the church would be filled with runaway sinners. To that, Paul exclaims, “God forbid” (Rom 6:1-2, KJV)! By understanding these passages in terms of both law and gospel, we always give Christ his due and thereby, gain considerable peace. Without faith in his satisfaction for our sin, and his appeasement of God, we would be forever uncertain if our pitiful works were of sufficient merit to satisfy an otherwise angry God. 

Prayer: Deliver me, Lord, from the temptation that I might save myself through my religion. Amen. 

Receive these daily Sola Devotions by email. Write mryman@solapublishing.com with "Subscribe" as your subject. To unsubscribe, send an email to the same address with "Unsubscribe" as your subject.

Learning the Lord's Prayer teaches the Lord's Prayer according to the pattern of Luther's Small Catechism, and is recommended for the Second Grade Level. Each week focuses on a specific Bible story which illustrates the theme, with additional references from Scripture and Luther's Small Catechism – Children's Version

Teacher's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a362.html Fri, 17 Sep 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Romans 5:15-16

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

Jerome added a particle to his translation of Daniel 4:24 that expresses doubt, and unwisely claims in his commentaries that the remission of sins is uncertain. Let us remember that the gospel gives a sure promise of the forgiveness of sins. Denying that there is certainty of the promise of forgiveness of sins is to abolish the gospel. So, let us dismiss Jerome concerning this passage, although the promise is evidenced even in the word “redeem.” For it signifies that the forgiveness of sins is possible, that sins can be redeemed, that the obligation or debt can be removed, that the wrath of God appeased. But our opponents always overlook the promises, considering only the commands, and attach the false, human opinion that forgiveness happens because of works. The text does not say this, but requires faith instead. For wherever there is a promise, faith is required, since a promise cannot be received unless with faith.

Pulling It Together: There is not only a different numbering of the verses in Jerome’s Latin translation of Daniel 4:24, but also a joining of verses 24 and 27 into one verse. Add to that the poor translation of a few words, and you end up with confusion. In English, we sometimes use the word “perhaps” when saying that something “may” happen. Yet, we also use the word “may” when there is certainty because of a promise of God, as in, “May it be so.” We state as much when we confidently add, “Amen,” to the end of the Lord’s Prayer. In our text, the word “may” ought to be understood this way: “...that he may forgive your sins.” In so doing, uncertainty is removed. At any rate, the Hebrew text is not speaking of redemption but of the lengthening of the king’s days.

So let us reject the entire squabble as not only a misunderstanding of the text, but a bad translation as well. May we comprehend the gospel instead, for there is nothing uncertain in Christ. Nowhere does the gospel require works or the earning of God’s grace. How could it be considered grace if it had to be earned? Rather, we confess that the grace of God is his freely given gift through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Prayer: Lord, give me unsurpassed peace through confidence in your free gift of redemption. Amen. 

Receive these daily Sola Devotions by email. Write mryman@solapublishing.com with "Subscribe" as your subject. To unsubscribe, send an email to the same address with "Unsubscribe" as your subject.

The Letters of Paul looks at all but one of Paul's thirteen epistles and seeks to get at the heart of each one so that his message can inspire new hope, faith, and love in us today.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a361.html Thu, 16 Sep 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Ezekiel 18:21-22

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

Daniel knew that the forgiveness of sins in Christ was promised not only to the Israelites but to all nations. Otherwise he could not have promised to the king the forgiveness of sins. For it is not in the power of man, especially amid the terrors of sin, to assert that he ceases to be angry without having a sure word of God concerning God's will. The words of Daniel speak in his own language even more clearly of repentance, and clearly bring out the promise: “Redeem your sins by righteousness and your iniquities by favors toward the poor.” These words teach about the whole of repentance. They direct him to become righteous, then to do good works, defending the poor against injustice, as was the duty of a king.

Righteousness is faith in the heart. Sins are redeemed by repentance, that is, the obligation or guilt is removed because God forgives those who repent, as it is written in Ezekiel 18:21-22. We should not infer from this that he forgives because of works that follow faith or because of alms. Rather, he forgives because he promised; he forgives those who apprehend his promise. No one takes hold of his promise except those who truly believe, and by faith overcome sin and death. Being reborn, they ought to bear fruit corresponding to repentance, as John says in Matthew 3:8. The promise, therefore, was added: “There will be healing for your offenses.”

Pulling It Together: Daniel does not simply demand certain kingly works such as alms giving. He demands faith by saying, “Break off your sins by righteousness.” In Scripture, righteousness does not mean only external works, but includes faith (Heb 10:38). So, Daniel was not telling Nebuchadnezzar to sanctify himself by doing good deeds. Indeed, the king could not do those works because he did not believe the words of the prophet. Though Daniel told the king the will of God and added God’s promise too, the king would not believe—and therefore, he would not do the things required of a king. But God was not finished with Nebuchadnezzar. He drove him away from people, to live with wild beasts so that eventually, the king might come to his senses and believe.

The Spirit works the same way in our lives. He demands both faith and those works befitting faith in Christ, empowering us to both believe and practice righteousness. If we neglect his commands—or even one to the exclusion of the other—we too will suffer our madness because we have come to trust in ourselves instead of Christ. Yet, when we come to our senses and trust in God through Christ, our sins will be forgiven and forgotten. There will be healing for our offenses.

Prayer: Father, help me repent of my sins, through faith in your Son Jesus Christ. Amen. 

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The season of Advent is not only a time of preparation for Christmas, it is a time to consider God's long-term plans and how God has promised that he will intervene in the lives of his people, and the world itself, on the coming Day of the Lord. Prophecy Fulfilled is a four week Bible Study about the Old Testament prophecies of our Lord's Advent, showing how these prophetic words were fulfilled not only in the coming of Christ over 2,000 years ago, but how they also point ahead to the return of Christ in his Second Coming.

Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a360.html Wed, 15 Sep 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Daniel 4:24-27

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

Thus in Daniel’s sermon, faith is required (Dan 4:24). He did not intend that the king should only give alms, but he means everything pertaining to repentance by saying, “Break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed” (Dan 4:27). In saying, “break off,” he implies a change of heart and works, for faith would be required. Daniel proclaims to him many things concerning the worship of the only God, the God of Israel, and converted the king not only to the bestowing of alms, but much more to faith. For we have the excellent confession of the king concerning the God of Israel: “There is no other god who is able to rescue in this way” (Dan. 3:29). So, Daniel’s sermon incorporates two components. The one part commands a new life and the works of the new life. In the other part, Daniel promises the king the forgiveness of sins. This promise of the forgiveness of sins is not a preaching of the law, but a truly prophetic and evangelical voice which Daniel certainly meant should be received in faith.

Pulling It Together: Even the prophets of old required faith since they too conveyed the promises of God. Promises require faith because they involve trust in the one making the promise. The promises of God cannot be received in any other way than by the heart relying on the sure word of God. For the heart cannot trust its own worthiness. Accordingly, faith was demanded for there to be forgiveness and healing of the king’s sins. So, we understand that God calls us to faith and at the same time, that we are to practice righteousness. The two cannot be separated.

Prayer: Holy and mighty God, I repent of all my sin, calling upon your mercy through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen. 

Receive these daily Sola Devotions by email. Write mryman@solapublishing.com with "Subscribe" as your subject. To unsubscribe, send an email to the same address with "Unsubscribe" as your subject.

Personalities of Faith is a ten-session Bible study for youth. The goal of the series is to encourage young people to commit themselves to follow Jesus in discipleship by becoming "personalities of faith." By showing biblical examples of people who have followed—or failed to follow—God's call, participants will be prepared to better follow the Lord in their own lives.

Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a359.html Tue, 14 Sep 21 00:00:00 -0500

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1 Timothy 4:6-10

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

This is so certain that none of the gates of hell can overthrow it—that in the preaching of repentance, the preaching of the law is insufficient, because the law works wrath and always accuses. The preaching of the gospel must be added so that the forgiveness of sins is granted to us if we believe that sins are forgiven us for Christ's sake. Why else would there be need of the gospel? Why would there be need of Christ? This belief must always be kept in view so that we may refute those who cast aside Christ and blot out the gospel, wickedly distorting the Scriptures to the human opinion that we purchase forgiveness of sins with our works.

Pulling It Together: The law is used by God to achieve certain results. It exhorts us to look out for “number two,” or to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31). Beyond urging us to care for others, the law also condemns us if we do not. So, the law provides us with standards of behavior, thereby making us acutely aware when we fail to keep God’s law. In so doing, the law creates in us a need of forgiveness. However, the law does not meet this need. This is why we confess that the law is insufficient by itself. The law needs the gospel. Nothing is more welcome and necessary than good news when one has heard a guilty verdict. God has provided that good news in Jesus Christ, who has purchased our redemption, for he is the Savior of the world—especially for those who believe.

Prayer: Help me set my hope on you, Lord, for you alone have come into the world to save sinners like me. Amen. 

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Winning, Losing, Loving; The Gospel in the Old Testament traces themes of chosenness, sin, and grace throughout the early books of the Bible. These cycles of sin and redemption point forward toward God's ultimate act of redemption in Jesus Christ.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a358.html Mon, 13 Sep 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Matthew 18:23-35

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

This is how we must understand all similar passages. Christ preaches repentance when he says, “Forgive,” and then adds the promise, “And you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37). He does not say that by our forgiving we earn the forgiveness of sins by the work worked, or as they call it, ex opere operato. He expects a new life, which certainly is necessary. Yet, at the same time, he teaches that forgiveness of sins is received by faith. So, when Isaiah says, “Share your bread with the hungry” (Isa 58:7), he is requiring a new life. The prophet does not speak of this work alone, but as the text indicates, of total repentance. Yet, he concurrently means that forgiveness of sins is received by faith.

Pulling It Together: As the parable indicates, we are indebted to the King. Our sin-debt should cost us our lives (Rom 6:23) but God is merciful, forgiving us and making us into new persons. He now expects his new people to live like citizens of his kingdom. We are to forgive as we have been forgiven, and to do other good works. Having been shown mercy, we are now to live like the King’s people. However, take note that living like a good citizen of the kingdom is not what saved the servant in the parable. He was condemned but then forgiven while he was indebted to his king. We too, were shown mercy while we were still sinners (Rom 5:8). We did not do one thing that could earn God’s forgiveness. He freely forgave us because of his great mercy for Christ’s sake. Now he expects us to live like new people, still depending with faith upon his mercy, while doing what is merely expected of godly people.

Prayer: Lord, help me to forgive from the depths of my heart, just as you have forgiven me. Amen.

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Sola’s Confirmation workbook, The Lord's Prayer, is designed to be a small group Bible study, student book for home school or independent study programs, or as a classroom tool and homework resource as part of an existing confirmation program.

Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a357.html Sun, 12 Sep 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Isaiah 45:22-25

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

See how Isaiah preaches penitence. He urges us to repentance, then adds the promise. “Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isa 1:16-18). It would be foolish to merely say, “Relieve the oppressed; defend the fatherless.” At the beginning, he says, “Cease to do evil,” reprimanding impiety of heart and requiring faith. Nor does the prophet say that they can merit the remission of sins ex opere operato, through the works of relieving the oppressed and defending the fatherless. Rather, he commands such works as are necessary in the new life. Concurrently, he wants us to understand that forgiveness of sins is received by faith, and accordingly, the promise is added.

Pulling It Together: God commands us through the prophets to do good. Yet, through those same prophets, he makes it clear that our righteousness does not come from the works worked, but from the Lord himself. Therefore, because it is not by anything we have done, but instead, because we believe the promise that God ascribes righteousness to us, what is left to us but trust in God? We are to repent and do good but our justification comes from God through faith.

Prayer: Lord, help me believe what you have promised. Amen. 

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Combining the message of salvation in Christ with personal witness, The Gospel in Miniature is a Lutheran guide for evangelism.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a356.html Sat, 11 Sep 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Hebrews 10:17-22

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

Two things should be understood in the preaching of the law. First, the law cannot be observed unless we have been regenerated by faith in Christ. He teaches this, saying, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Second, though some external works can certainly be done, this general view of the entire law must be retained: “Without faith it is impossible to please him” (Heb 11:6). We must, therefore, always remember the promise of the gospel, that we have access to the Father through Christ (Rom 5:2; Heb 10:19). For it is evident that we are not justified by the law. Why would there be need of Christ or the gospel if the preaching of the law alone would be sufficient? In preaching about repentance, it is insufficient to only preach the law, the Word that convicts of sin, because the law brings wrath, only accusing and terrifying consciences. Consciences are never at peace unless they hear the voice of God in which the forgiveness of sins is clearly promised. Accordingly, the gospel must be added, that sins are forgiven for Christ's sake, and that we obtain remission of sins through faith in Christ. If our opponents exclude the Gospel of Christ from the preaching of penitence, they are judged correctly to be blasphemers against Christ.

Pulling It Together: The law must be preached. Yet, it must also be taught that the keeping of the law does not bring new birth. Only God can regenerate the dead, which we most certainly were (Rom 5:6). No amount of works or keeping of the law or acts of charity will ever cause the dead to be born again. So, the gospel must also be preached so that people may receive God’s forgiveness and be regenerated.

Though regenerate people are to do acts of charity and other good works, they will never do so to any degree of perfection. So, the law continues to convict everyone of sin, even if they have been reborn, as it is meant to do. Convicted, guilty consciences can only be afforded peace through faith in the promise of Christ’s gospel. So why is there any need to offer our works for the remission of sins? As the writer of Hebrews says, where there is forgiveness of sins, there is no more need of offering for sin (Heb 10:18).

Prayer: Merciful Father, forgive me of my sins for Christ’s sake, and empower me to do your will through your indwelling Spirit. Amen. 

Receive these daily Sola Devotions by email. Write mryman@solapublishing.com with "Subscribe" as your subject. To unsubscribe, send an email to the same address with "Unsubscribe" as your subject.

Combining the message of salvation in Christ with personal witness, The Gospel in Miniature is a Lutheran guide for evangelism.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a355.html Fri, 10 Sep 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Matthew 5:3-12

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law – part 61

Certain other passages concerning works are also cited against us. “Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37). “Is it not to share your bread with the hungry...? ...Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer” (Isa. 58:7,9). “Break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed” (Dan 4:27). “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matt 5:7). These verses only speak against us when our opponents attach false ideas to them.

These passages contain two things. One is the preaching of either the law or repentance, which not only convicts those doing wrong, but also instructs them to do what is right. The other is a promise which is added to the command. However, it is not stated that sins are forgiven without faith, or that works themselves are a propitiation.

Pulling It Together: Those who have been justified through faith in Christ are expected to act righteously. They are not, however, forgiven of their sins because they act in accordance with God’s will. For example, in verse ten, those who are persecuted for righteousness are called blessed because, while suffering abuse, the promise of a joyful future is already taken hold of by trusting in the promise. Therefore, even while being mistreated, we may already enjoy a beatific peace because we hope in the promise of God. Yet the forgiveness of sins is not added to the beatitude, nor is justification to God. For those who have faith in Christ have already been both justified and blessed by him. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

Prayer: Thank you, God, for the many blessings of your grace. Amen.

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In Harmony with the Word is an eight-session Bible Study focusing on Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, from Matthew 5-7. It is written at an introductory level, to be led by a lay leader or pastor in a small-group question and discussion format. The study would serve as an excellent resource for monthly women's group meetings, or in an informal small-group setting.

Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a354.html Thu, 09 Sep 21 00:00:00 -0500

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John 15:4-5

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

These statements, simply spoken, contain nothing erroneous, but they are distorted by our opponents, who attach to them godless opinions. For it does not follow that works merit the forgiveness of sins that causes regenerate hearts, that works are a propitiation, that works please without Christ as propitiator, or that works do not need Christ as propitiator. James says nothing of these things. Nevertheless, the adversaries shamelessly infer all these things from the words of James.

Pulling It Together: Any keeping of the law requires God’s help. Before we can ever keep the law in a way that God finds acceptable, we must have faith in Christ. For the works of the old nature are ruled by human intention instead of the will of God. Instead of calling upon God for help, we would be trying to fulfill the law in our own power. It would be as though the branches were separated from the vine, yet were and expected to bear fruit. We must first be born again through faith, the old nature being regenerated so that we are able to work with Christ, or to have Christ’s life-giving Spirit working in us. Apart from him, we can do nothing good. However, by abiding in him or being attached to Christ through faith, acceptable works or fruit will grow because we are attached to the vine that gives life to the branches.

Prayer: Thy will be done, Lord. Amen.

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John is the fourth book in the "Old Places, New Faces" series. Twelve studies explore the profound metaphors of the Gospel of John. This study guide will make the story of Christ alive and relevant for today's readers.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a353.html Wed, 08 Sep 21 00:00:00 -0500

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James 1:21-22

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

When James says that we are justified by faith and works, he certainly does not say that we are born again by works. Neither does he say that Christ is partly our propitiator while our works are partly our propitiation. He is not describing the mode of justification, but only the nature of the just after they have already been justified and regenerated. To be justified does not mean that a wicked person is made righteous, but that a person is pronounced righteous in a forensic sense, as in Romans 2:13: “The doers of the law shall be justified.” As these words contain nothing contrary to our doctrine, we also believe the words of James: “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24), since people with faith and good works are certainly pronounced righteous. As we have said, the good works of saints are righteous, and please God because of faith. For James commends only such works as faith produces, as he testifies when he says of Abraham, “Faith was completed by works” (James 2:22). In this sense it is said that, “The doers of the law shall be justified,” that is, God pronounces that they are righteous when they believe in him from the heart and then have good fruits which please God because of faith, and consequently are a keeping of the law.

Pulling It Together

Again, James is referring to those works that should follow faith. So, it is well said that the one who has faith and good works is righteous. Righteousness is not earned through the works, but instead, because God pronounces a person righteous through faith in Christ. If an adopted child acts like his new father, he does not then, become a member of the family. He is already his father’s son because he had previously been accepted into the family. If he believes he is this father’s son, he will then begin to act like the father. He will never act like the father if he does not believe that the father loves him and has welcomed him into the family. Just so, good works follow new birth, as they must, though they do not make people acceptable to God. We must first be accepted by God through faith for Christ's sake. Works will not make God favorable toward us if he was not already gracious to us for the sake of Christ.

Prayer: Work out of me, Lord, the word that you have worked into me. Amen.

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The newest volume in the series, "Old Places, New Faces," The General Epistles offers a series of 12 Bible studies based on Hebrews, James, I & II Peter, I, II, & III John, and Jude. The geographical locations of Biblical characters can symbolically refer to places we find ourselves with respect to our faith. As we become more acquainted with our spiritual geography, we will better discern where God would have us go or what changes we need to make in order to serve Him better.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a352.html Tue, 07 Sep 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Romans 8:8–11

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

It is clear that James does not contradict us since he is making a distinction between dead and living faith, and admonishes the idle and self-satisfied who imagine that they have faith when they do not. He says that faith is dead if it does not bring forth good works, and that faith is living if it brings forth good works. We have frequently shown what we call faith, not meaning idle knowledge such as devils have, but a faith that resists the terrors of conscience, and cheers and consoles terrified hearts. Such faith is neither an easy matter, as the adversaries dream, nor a human quality, but a divine power by which we are regenerated, and by which we overcome the devil and death. Paul says that faith is effective and overcomes death because of the power of God: “in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God” (Col 2:12). Since this faith is a new life, it necessarily produces new movements and works. Accordingly, James is right in denying that we are justified by a faith that has no works.

Pulling It Together: One cannot create faith by deciding to believe in the historical Jesus, but then, going on to live the same old, natural life. This is the sort of dead faith to which James refers. However, faith that is given by God creates a new person. Those who have been born again will be different from the old, lifeless persons they had been before God gave them faith. They will begin to produce fruit for Christ’s kingdom. Dead trees produce no fruit. Living trees, by nature, produce fruit. What else can they do? Yet, trees do not bear fruit because they have somehow decided to do so. They produce fruit because they were created for that purpose. Even so, you who once were dead, have been recreated by the power of God so that you may produce the fruit of good works (Eph 2:10). If the Spirit of God dwells in you through a living faith, you are a new creation and will bear fruit because that is what you have been created to do. It is your new nature. What else could you do—since the power of Jesus Christ is at work in you?

Prayer: Live in me today, Lord, bringing forth good fruit for your glorious kingdom. Amen.

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Subscribe to Connections Magazine today. Connections features articles that connect Lutherans to the Word. Martin Luther’s Small Catechism provides the inspiration for confessional, biblical content, delivered in a stylish, readable design. 

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a351.html Mon, 06 Sep 21 00:00:00 -0500

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James 1:17-18

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

Thirdly, James has spoken shortly before concerning regeneration, namely, that it occurs through the gospel. Therefore, he says, “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures” (James 1:18). When he says that we have been born again by the gospel, he teaches that we have been regenerated and justified by faith. For the promise of Christ is apprehended only by faith, when we set it against the terrors

Pulling It Together: Every good gift comes from the Father—most notably, the gift of new birth in Christ. Salvation is a gift. Forgiveness of sins and justification are not things that can be earned. They are promised gifts that come to us from God, not from ourselves or from our own doing. We do not take hold of salvation; it is apprehended by faith. It is faith, itself a gift from God, that takes hold of salvation. We cannot make our doubts and fears fly away because we will it so or work hard at being good. Yet, faith in the promise of God’s free gift brings both new birth and peace. Faith alone regenerates the natural person into one created to do good works (1 Tim 2:8-10).

Prayer: Help me look intently into your perfect, liberating law, Lord, so that I may be set free to become a doer of the word. Amen.

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Not My Will, But Yours is a six-week study that explores the topic of the “free will” from a biblical perspective, looking at what Scripture has to say about the bondage of the human will, and how Jesus Christ has come to deliver us from ourselves.

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Romans 16:25-27

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

Secondly, the subject itself declares that works follow faith, and show that faith is not dead, but living and effective in the heart. Therefore, James did not believe that we earn the forgiveness of sins and grace by good works. For he speaks of the works of those who have been justified, who have already been reconciled and accepted, and have obtained forgiveness of sins. So, the adversaries are mistaken when they infer that James teaches that we merit remission of sins and grace by good works, that by our works we have access to God, without Christ as propitiator.

Pulling It Together

The old real estate expression, “Location, location, location,” might be modified when it comes to reading. “Context, context, context,” is crucial when interpreting a text. Otherwise, one may end up buying into the wrong teaching. James has been teaching about what real faith is, and uses works as a proof of faith. His subject is faith: “Can that faith save him?” (James 2:14). Everything read in this section, if read in context, refers back to faith. Therefore, if one has saving faith in Christ, works that glorify God will ensue. First, Christ satisfies God’s righteousness, then because we believe in his sacrifice for our sin, we are made righteous because of him. Only those works that are attached to his righteousness are acceptable to God. One may do religious deeds for a lifetime, but they will never save. Yet, a sinner, having never done anything good, may finally believe and be saved because of Christ alone. That sainted sinner will then seek to be obedient to the gospel, to continue in a true and living faith that glorifies God. Chrysostom said it well: “As faith without works is dead, so are works without faith dead.”

Prayer: Make my faith in you a living faith so that you are glorified in my life, Lord. Amen.

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The kind of church we see in the New Testament is different from what most modern people imagine when they think of “going to church.” Experience Life Together: Experiencing House-Church Ministry, by Rev. Tom Hilpert, is a 15-week house-church curriculum designed for pastors, lay leaders, and churches interested in getting a taste for what church in the home is really like. Whether referred to as a house-church, organic church, alternative church, or cell church, this material applies well to any group that wants to experience Christian worship in the context of a small group meeting within the homes of the participants.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a349.html Sat, 04 Sep 21 00:00:00 -0500

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1 Timothy 1:3-5

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law

We must consider first, that the passage is more against the adversaries than against us. For our opponents teach that people are justified by love and works. They say nothing of faith by which we apprehend Christ as propitiator. Indeed, they condemn this faith in sentences and writings, and also by the sword and capital punishments, endeavoring to exterminate faith in the Church. How much better does James teach, not excluding faith, or presenting love in preference to faith, but retaining faith, so that in justification Christ may not be excluded as propitiator! Paul also includes faith and love when he deals with the sum of the Christian life. “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and sincere faith” (1 Tim 1:5).

Pulling It Together

Propitiation means appeasement of God. The argument that the Lutherans were making is simply this: Christ alone is that satisfaction for our sins. What God has worked into us, we are now to work out with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12). However, we must be careful not to amplify the importance of our charity and works, as though what we do is the means of our justification with God. Our only boast is in the Lord (1 Cor 1:31). He is our atonement. When faith is genuine, when one trusts in Christ Jesus for righteousness, charity and good works will follow. The honor then, properly goes to God in Christ, for he alone is our propitiator.

Prayer: Give me sincere faith, Lord, a pure heart, and a good conscience, so that I may truly love. Amen.

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Combining the message of salvation in Christ with personal witness, The Gospel in Miniature is a Lutheran guide for evangelism. 

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a348.html Fri, 03 Sep 21 00:00:00 -0500

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James 2:17-26

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

They cite from James 2:24, “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.” No other passage is thought to contradict our belief more than this verse. But the reply is easy and plain. If our opponents do not attach their own opinions concerning the merits of works, the words of James contain nothing that is of disadvantage. Yet wherever there is mention of works, they falsely add ungodly opinions: that by means of good works we earn the forgiveness of sins, that good works are a propitiation and price by which God is reconciled to us, that good works overcome the terrors of sin and death, that good works are accepted in God's sight on account of their goodness, and that they do not need God’s mercy and Christ as propitiator. None of these things came into the mind of James, which the adversaries nevertheless, defend under the pretext of this passage of James.

Pulling It Together: James reinforces what kind of faith he has been referring to in this passage. Faith is not mere assent, such as you hear from people today when they say things like, “I believe in God,” or “I am a Christian,” or “I go to church.” That type of faith, which is nothing more than religion like any other religion or “faith,” does not save. Faith that believes Christ is the satisfaction for sin will both save and produce good fruit. This is the substance of James and is discovered in the context of his letter—not in one verse. Living faith is never detached from good works because God will grow what he has established in those persons whom he has already justified and saved. The danger here is when we begin to believe in ourselves, in our good works as a virtue or merit that God ought to recognize as justification for our sins. Still, good works must never be absent from faith. When this occurs, that faith, as James says, is dead.

Prayer: Help me do the works of faith, Lord, by the power of your Spirit. Amen.

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The Basics of the Christian Faith is an edition of the catechism that is aimed at seekers, visitors, and those that may not come from a Lutheran background. It is recommended for use in outreach, as a visitor welcome gift, or in new member packets.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a347.html Thu, 02 Sep 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Proverbs 19:11–12

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

So, Peter does not mean that love earns God's forgiveness of sins, that it is a propitiation to the exclusion of Christ as mediator, that it regenerates and justifies. He is teaching that love toward one another is not moody, harsh, or obstinate, that it overlooks some mistakes of its friends, that it takes in stride even the harsher manners of others, just like the well-known expression: “Know, but do not hate, the manners of a friend.” Nor was it without design that the apostle taught so frequently concerning this duty that the philosophers call epiekeia, or leniency. For this virtue is necessary for harmony, which cannot last unless pastors and churches mutually overlook and pardon many things.

Pulling It Together: Presidential pardons, bestowed by outgoing US presidents, are received with gratitude but also sometimes, with irritation by those who disagree with a president’s choices. Nevertheless, the mercy of a ruler is refreshing, according to the proverb. If a president excuses the offenses of some whose crimes we might find unpardonable, we ought to find mercy to overlook the faults and even the outright offenses of the friends of Jesus (John 15:15). This is sensible public decency and promotes concord in Christian fellowship. While our charity ought not to be mistaken as something that justifies us to God, we rejoice with thankfulness that God has covered our own sins. Just so, we ought to pray daily, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”

Prayer: Set me free of my debts, God, and empower me to forgive others, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Views of Baptism is written for a range of readers including the parent or sponsor about to baptize a child, the adult who wants to understand baptism more fully, and the professional teacher or preacher who needs the truth about baptism stated simply but backed by careful research. This books explores three views of baptism: the individual-centered view, the means-of-grace view, and the Roman Catholic view. It includes a description of how Christian baptism came to us in stages from its Jewish roots. A question and answer section addresses specific matters often raised when people contemplate baptism.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a346.html Wed, 01 Sep 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Proverbs 10:9–12

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

Besides, this sentence concerning love is derived from Proverbs 10:12, where the antithesis clearly shows how it ought to be understood: “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.” It teaches precisely the same thing as the passage of Paul from Colossians, that if any dissensions occur, they should be moderated and settled by equitable and lenient conduct. Dissensions, it informs, increase because of hatred, as we often see that tragedies arise from the most trifling offenses. Certain trifling offenses occurred between Gaius Caesar and Pompey, in which, if the one had yielded a very little to the other, civil war would not have occurred. Because each indulged his own hatred, great commotion arose from a matter of no account. Many heresies have arisen in the Church merely from hatred of the clergy. So, we understand that this teaching does not refer to a person's own faults, but to the faults of others. When it says, “Love covers all offenses,” it means the faults of others. When these offenses happen, love overlooks, forgives, yields, and does not carry all matters to the extreme of the law’s justice.

Pulling It Together: If 1 Peter 4:8 or Proverbs 10:12 are thought to mean that love covers up one’s own sins, that would be a misinterpretation. We have already seen how Paul deals with the text (Col 3:12), so notice how James interprets the Proverb in the same way. “Whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:20). The transgressions that are cloaked or forgiven here are not one’s own. Rather, because we are determined to love as Christ loves, we overlook offenses against ourselves.

Think of how often the smallest spark of some perceived offense in a congregation is fanned into flame by someone who chooses to make the matter personal. That person begins to talk behind the back and even posts about the affront in social media in order to make the matter everyone’s business. Now it is thought that because others are also concerned, the petty behavior was justified. This is the moment when some people give up on the whole church, when it was the prideful act of an individual who took umbrage too far. This is not the way of Christ. Love overlooks the faults of others—real or imagined.

Prayer: Forgive me my trespasses, Lord, as I forgive the trespasses of others. Amen.

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Views of Baptism is written for a range of readers including the parent or sponsor about to baptize a child, the adult who wants to understand baptism more fully, and the professional teacher or preacher who needs the truth about baptism stated simply but backed by careful research. This books explores three views of baptism: the individual-centered view, the means-of-grace view, and the Roman Catholic view. It includes a description of how Christian baptism came to us in stages from its Jewish roots. A question and answer section addresses specific matters often raised when people contemplate baptism.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a345.html Tue, 31 Aug 21 00:00:00 -0500

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1 Peter 2:4–6

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

But this is far distant from those praises of love which they recite from Paul, nor do they understand the word any more than the walls that bounce back their words. They also cite Peter in this verse: “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pet 4:8). It is evident that Peter also speaks of love towards one's neighbor since he joins this passage to the precept that commands love for one another. It could never have come into the mind of any apostle that our love overcomes sin and death, that love is the propitiation by which God is reconciled, thereby excluding Christ as mediator, or that love is righteousness without Christ as mediator. For this love, if there would be any, would be a righteousness of the law, and not of the gospel that promises reconciliation and righteousness to us if we believe that the Father has been reconciled on account of Christ as propitiator, and that the merits of Christ are bestowed upon us. Accordingly, a little earlier Peter urges us to come to Christ so that we may be built upon Christ (1 Pet 2:4-5). And he adds, “He who believes in him will not be put to shame” (1 Pet 2:6). When God judges and convicts us, our love does not free us from shame. Nevertheless, faith in Christ liberates us despite these fears, because we know that for Christ's sake we are forgiven.

Pulling It Together: We must be careful not to build a doctrine of righteousness and salvation upon anything that we do. Such a house would surely fall, since it is founded on the limited and human instead of upon the infinite and divine. God commands us to do many things, including charity toward others and love for God. But these things, even though commanded by God, do not save. Only God saves. The Father has overcome sin and death through the work of his Son. That is a finished work; we are merely called to believe what God has done, not to add anything to his work in an effort to complete it in ourselves. If his work on the cross required our completion, he would not be the mediator between God and humanity since his work would not have been sufficient.

People seek to earn God’s favor because they feel the blush of sin. Though we should confess our sin and repent, we cannot earn God’s grace. That grace has already been earned for us by Jesus. When we believe what the love of God has wrought, the fear that the law delivers is quickly dispatched and then replaced with God’s forgiveness and peace, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Prayer: Loving Father, I offer you my sacrifice of praise while depending upon the final sacrifice of Jesus, my Savior. Amen.

Subscribe to Connections Magazine today. Connections features articles that connect Lutherans to the Word. Martin Luther’s Small Catechism provides the inspiration for confessional, biblical content, delivered in a stylish, readable design. 

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a344.html Mon, 30 Aug 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Ephesians 4:31–32

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

Moreover, it is disgraceful for the adversaries to preach so much about love when they do not bestow love. What are they doing? They are tearing apart churches; they are writing laws in blood; they are proposing to the most clement prince, the emperor, that these should be published. They are slaughtering priests and other good men if they even intimate their dislike of some unmistakable abuse. These things are not consistent with speeches about love, which if the adversaries would follow, both church and the state would have peace. Disturbances would be stilled if the adversaries would not bitterly insist upon certain traditions that are useless for godliness and which are not observed even by those very persons who most earnestly defend them. They easily forgive themselves, yet do not forgive others, according to the poet Maenius: “I forgive myself.”

Pulling It Together: We should not worry ourselves over the actions of others toward us. Instead, we should be devoted to the gospel. This means that we will love those who hate and hurt us. Finally, it means that we must forgive those who trespass against us. While the rest of the world, even those in the church, demand much of us—a great deal of which is useless, as well as unfair and not reciprocated—we must nevertheless be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving. This is the way of Christ who loves and forgives us.

Prayer: Forgive me of my sins, Lord, so that I may forgive those who sin against me. Amen.

The Spiritual Realms is a nine-session Bible Study series on Heaven and Hell and places beyond this world. Specifically, the study looks at the many “place names” that are found throughout Scripture, referring to spiritual realms of existence that underlie and comprise the universe God created. This Bible Study series is a challenging one, in that it explores realities of existence beyond what we know and experience everyday.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a343.html Sun, 29 Aug 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Ephesians 4:1–3

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

The books of all the wise are full of these principles of fairness, namely, that in everyday life we should all make many allowances for the sake of mutual order. Paul frequently teaches this here and elsewhere. Therefore, the adversaries’ argument that the term "perfection" means that love justifies does not make sense, since Paul is speaking of unity and peace. Ambrose interprets this passage: “Just as a building is said to be perfect or entire when all its parts are fitly joined together with one another.”

Pulling It Together: God is able to do far more with the Church than we could possibly imagine (Eph 3:20). Knowing therefore, not only what God is capable of doing but is actually accomplishing in spite of us, we are to act in a manner that corresponds to the Church that God both intends to be and is creating. We are called to be humble, gentle, patient, and charitable toward one another despite our failings. Christians should be eager to act like Christ so that there is unity and peace in the Church, without imagining that we have done some great work that justifies us to God.

Prayer: Help me to truly love, Lord, as you love your Church. Amen.

Disciples of the Cross is a two-part Bible study addressing the topic of Christian discipleship from a uniquely Lutheran perspective. Part 1: Who We Are is an introduction to the theology of discipleship, laying the biblical groundwork for what it means to be called to live the life of faith as a follower of Jesus. 

The study may be used in conjunction with various discipleship programs and studies to highlight themes from the Lutheran tradition that are not often addressed in many discipleship materials. These include: a Theology of the Cross, the centrality of the Word and Sacrament, an understanding of the Means of Grace, and a recognition of the Christian as both "Saint and Sinner."

Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a342.html Sat, 28 Aug 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Romans 15:1–6

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

For concord ends up being torn apart whenever the bishops impose heavy burdens upon the people or have no regard for their weakness. Dissensions also arise when the people judge the clergy’s conduct too severely or despise them because of a minor mistake, thereafter seeking different doctrine and clergy. On the other hand, perfection in Church fellowship is preserved when the strong bear with the weak—when the people have patience with their preachers, and when the bishops make some allowances for the weakness of the people.

Pulling It Together: During a committee meeting, a brother suddenly spoke strong words against his pastor. There was silence in the room. People did not know how to respond. The pastor knew what to say. Nothing. He understood that his brother was struggling with other issues, and that the outburst came at a moment of weakness. He vented because he had reached the moment when he could no longer hold it all in. Days later, the man stopped by the pastor’s office, just to chat. It was his way of showing that Christian fellowship was still important to him. Harmony often depends upon a quiet answer (Prov 15:1) instead of proving who is right. Sometimes, concord does not even depend upon a calm answer but rather, no answer at all. In that silence, a greater voice may be discovered: the voice that does not demand to name which one is right but instead, a united voice that glorifies the name of the Lord.

Prayer: Give me your peace, Lord, so that I may be gentle and quiet when necessary. Amen.

All God’s Critters is a fully reproducible Sunday School series designed with the particular needs of small churches, mission congregations, and house churches with students in Preschool and Kindergarten. Lessons are based on storytelling, rhyme, and pictures, and are suitable for participation by non-readers. The flexible lesson plans introduce the youngest believers to the importance and truth of God’s Word. Each lesson includes the story of the day written in a simplified manner so that young children may understand an important truth about God and what it means for us to be God’s children.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a341.html Fri, 27 Aug 21 00:00:00 -0500

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John 15:12–13

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

Paul is not speaking of personal perfection, but of the integrity common to the Church. He says that love is a bond or connection that holds the many members of the Church together, just as in all families and states, harmony is nourished by service to one another, and tranquility is retained by people overlooking and forgiving small mistakes among themselves. So Paul commands that there should be love in the Church in order that harmony may be preserved, bearing with the harsher manners of some as there is need, and overlooking small mistakes, lest the Church splinter into various schisms, and the hostilities, factions, and heresies that arise from such divisions.

Pulling It Together: Having understood that Christ alone is the satisfaction for our sins, we see love in a new light. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19), not because we expect special favor from God. Knowing how much Christ loves the Church, we should want to hold together that for which he died and rose again. The fellowship of the Church is quickly divided when we do not bear with one another’s weaknesses (Col 3:13) and forgive them. Imagine how many of his disciples’ actions Jesus overlooked. Now think of how much he endures in your behavior. It is to your glory when you overlook an offense, and it preserves harmony in Christ’s Church.

Prayer: Help me do what you command, Lord, through the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

The goal of Personalities of Faith, a ten-session Bible study for youth, is to encourage young people to commit themselves to follow Jesus in discipleship by becoming "personalities of faith". Using biblical examples of people who have followed—or failed to follow—God's call, participants will be prepared to better follow the Lord in their own lives.

Teacher's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a340.html Thu, 26 Aug 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Colossians 3:12–14

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

In the Confutation, the adversaries have also cited against us Colossians 3:14: “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” They infer from this that love justifies because it renders men perfect. We could supply many replies about perfection but will simply give Paul’s meaning. Paul was clearly speaking of love towards one’s neighbor. We must not imagine that Paul would ascribe either justification or perfection to works of the Second Table instead of to those of the First. Even so, if love renders men perfect, there is then no need of Christ as propitiator, for faith apprehends Christ alone as propitiator. This, however, is far distant from the meaning of Paul, who never suffers Christ to be excluded as propitiator.

Pulling It Together: Paul consistently teaches that we are accepted on account of Christ and not on account of our love, or our works, or because we keep the law. For no one perfectly fulfills the law. Since he writes and teaches that there is no perfection in this life through our works, it must not be thought that Paul is speaking here of personal perfection. Because we cannot live up to the demands of the law, God sent his Son as satisfaction. Jesus, as both God and man, fulfilled the law for everyone. So, yes, we are instructed to love our neighbors, as the second great commandment teaches us (Mark 12:31). Yet we should never assume that love of neighbor, which we fulfill imperfectly, satisfies God’s law. Only Jesus has done this, so we must put our faith in him alone.

Prayer: Help me depend upon your righteousness, Lord, while your Spirit empowers me to love my neighbor. Amen.

Seasons of the Church Year introduces students to the seasons or cycles of the liturgical year as the Church reflects upon the story of Christ and our life of faith in this world. It was written for a 3rd-4th grade level, but is flexible enough to be used for most elementary-aged students.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a339.html Wed, 25 Aug 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Romans 1:16–17

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

We are not ignorant of how distant this doctrine is from the judgment of reason and of the law. Nor are we unaware that the doctrine of the law concerning love makes a much greater show; for it is human wisdom. But we are not ashamed of the foolishness of the gospel. For the sake of Christ's glory we defend this, and beseech Christ, by his Holy Spirit, to aid us that we may be able to make this clear and manifest.

Pulling It Together: Everyone gets a trophy. That is the way of things in children’s sports these days. Nobody is a loser, so long as they join the team. People are divided on their opinions about this approach. Some people think children need to earn a trophy while others have the view that even if the team never wins, all should go home with a trophy because they made the effort. Brands of Christianity are like this children’s sports analogy. There are some who believe that only those whose religious efforts are successful should be rewarded with eternal life. Others believe that simply being on the team, being a believer in Jesus Christ, is what counts.

The wisdom of the world concludes that effort makes the difference. Only winners should be rewarded with eternal life. So, some believe that human righteousness makes the difference with God.

While we should press on for the prize of resurrection from the dead (Phil 3:14), Lutherans confess that this heavenly prize is apprehended through faith in Jesus Christ, not through their efforts. This is foolishness to the worldly mind, but to the spiritual mind, it is the power of God for salvation. “The righteous shall live by faith” in the righteousness of God instead of by trust in their own righteousness, though the world considers them losers.

Prayer: Jesus, thank you for saving me and giving me your righteousness so that I do not need to depend upon myself. Amen.

God's Reluctant Leaders is a nine-session Bible Study that focuses on the stories of three biblical characters: Jonah, Gideon, and Moses. Sessions explore how God works to create faith within those whom He calls to serve His mission. The study is written at an introductory level, to be led by a lay leader or pastor in a small-group question and discussion format. It would serve as an excellent resource for monthly women's group meetings, or in an informal small-group setting.

Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a338.html Tue, 24 Aug 21 00:00:00 -0500

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2 Corinthians 3:12–18

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

Our adversaries ascribe justification to love because they teach and require the righteousness of the law everywhere. We cannot deny that love is the highest work of the law. Human wisdom gazes at the law and seeks justification there. Consequently, the scholastic doctors, great and talented men, also proclaim this as the highest work of the law, and attribute justification to this work. Deceived by human wisdom, they did not look upon the uncovered face of Moses, but just like the Pharisees, philosophers, and Mohammedans they saw the veiled face of Moses. But we preach the foolishness of the gospel that reveals another righteousness, namely, that because of Christ as propitiator, we are accounted righteous when we believe that for Christ's sake God has been reconciled to us.

Pulling It Together: It makes sense that doing good deeds and being religious would cause God to love us and forgive us for our efforts. If God commands it, then there should be the reward of his favor. Yet, “The wisdom of this world is foolishness before God” (1 Cor 3:19, NASB). Perhaps it would be helpful to think about this matter on a more elemental level. If a child is commanded by his father to take out the trash, and he does this chore, should he expect the reward of his father’s love? No. His father already loves him. He is simply expected to do as his father commands. We see that God’s love is already disposed toward the world. That is why he sent his Son to fulfill the law and reconcile us to himself (John 3:16).

This is difficult for people to understand, because they think about the matter in terms of human wisdom and religion. We need to consider it from the divine perspective. After being in the presence of the divine majesty on the mountain, Moses’ face shone with the brilliance of God’s glory. When he descended to the Israelites, he veiled his shining face. So long as we look upon the law of Moses in this veiled, human fashion, the glory of God will be obscured. When people turn to the Lord instead of depending upon their own righteousness, the veil of the law is removed and the glory of the Lord is seen. This is foolishness to the religious but it is, nevertheless, the wisdom of God’s gospel. This glorious wisdom, for those who will look beyond the veil, is that the righteousness we could never achieve through our own wisdom and effort, God has accomplished through his Son and has freely given to those who believe such foolishness.

Prayer: Loving God of righteousness, help us see clearly by looking beyond the veil of the law to behold your glory. Amen.

Seasons of the Church Year introduces students to the seasons or cycles of the liturgical year as the Church reflects upon the story of Christ and our life of faith in this world. It was written for a 3rd-4th grade level, but is flexible enough to be used for most elementary-aged students.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a337.html Mon, 23 Aug 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Acts 16:30–31

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

They object that love is preferred to faith and hope since Paul says, “The greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:13). Now, it is reasonable that the greatest and chief virtue should justify. However, Paul speaks specifically in this passage of love towards one's neighbor, and indicates that love is the greatest, because it has most fruit. Faith and hope only deal with God; but love has infinite external duties toward people. Nevertheless, we grant to the adversaries that love towards God and our neighbor is the greatest virtue because the chief commandment is, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matt 22:37). But how do they infer from this that love justifies? The greatest virtue, they say, justifies. By no means. For as even the greatest or first law does not justify, so also the greatest virtue of the law does not justify. The virtue that justifies is the one that apprehends Christ, transmitting Christ's merits to us, by which we receive grace and peace from God. This virtue is faith. For as it has been often said, faith is not only knowledge, but rather a desire to receive or apprehend those things that are offered in the promise of Christ. This obedience towards God, this desire to receive the offered promise, is no less an act of worship than is love. God wants us to believe him and to receive blessings from him. This he declares to be true divine service.

Pulling It Together: God does not say, “Do this thing and you will be saved.” He could have said something like, “Do a cartwheel and you will be saved.” Of course, he said nothing so absurd, so let us think more civilly. He might have said, “Do 1,000 hours of community service and you will be saved.” He did not say anything like that either. So, let us consider the religious. He could have demanded perfect attendance at worship. But he did not command anything religious either. Instead, he wants us to believe that he has saved us without any works that we have done. For God saves sinners, not people who have proved that they are righteous without him. His only command for salvation is clearly stated in Acts 16:30-31: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

Prayer: Father, assure me of the plain gospel, that you love me in spite of myself. Amen.

The Sola Music Series offers simple collections of easy-to-play worship music, including new songs and arrangements of old favorites. Based in a confessional theology and a respect for the historical and sacramental liturgy, these resources do not require a high level of musical expertise. Written in a simple and straight-forward style, these songs are intended for congregations that would like to explore a less formal musical style in worship, while still maintaining the integrity of the traditional order of worship. Such music would fit into what is sometimes referred to as "contemporary" or "blended" worship, without necessarily requiring a full band of experienced musicians and singers to lead the songs. Providing lead sheets for guitar and vocals, along with full scores for piano, Sola Publishing grants to those who purchase this volume the permission to reproduce words and music of the songs within for local congregational use.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a336.html Sun, 22 Aug 21 00:00:00 -0500

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John 13:34–35

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

If there be no need of Christ, if by our love we can overcome death, if by our love, without Christ as propitiator, we have access to God, then let our adversaries remove the promise concerning Christ; let them abolish the gospel. The adversaries corrupt very many passages because they bring to them their own opinions. They do not derive the meaning from the passages themselves. What difficulty is there in this passage when we remove the imagined interpretation that the adversaries attach to it because they do not understand what justification is or how it occurs? Already being justified, the Corinthians had received many excellent gifts. In the beginning they glowed with zeal, as is generally the case. Then dissensions began to arise among them, and as Paul indicates, they began to dislike good teachers. Accordingly, Paul reproves them, recalling them to responsibilities of love. Although these are necessary, it would be foolish to imagine that works of the Second Table justify us, for they deal with people, not expressly with God. Justification is a transaction by God through which his wrath is appeased and our conscience is pacified before God. None of this comes about through works of the Second Table.

Pulling It Together: Yes! We should obey God by loving one another and doing acts of charity and other good works. Yet these actions will never conquer sin and death or provide access to God. Claiming that they accomplish such great effects is to call the good news of Jesus Christ ineffective. However, when we read the Scripture in context, we understand that God’s reconciling work is wholly sufficient. Basing a doctrine on a verse can mislead, as in the case in question. When we consider the entire unit of thought, we see that the Corinthians had already been justified by Christ and, as a result, had been eager to obey God. In time however, they listened to teachers who told them what they wanted to hear by tickling their ears with false doctrines (2 Tim 4:3, NASB) instead of teaching the whole counsel of Scripture. This is when good teachers must use the law to demonstrate that we cannot keep God’s commands. For, “the Law is a word of death, a doctrine of wrath, a light of sadness, which reveals sin and demands righteousness from us, which we cannot produce” (“Epistle for the Day of the Three Holy Kings,” Luther’s Works). Only then will people be driven back to the gospel, to the righteousness of Christ alone. When we comprehend that he first loved us, then we may rightly respond to his command to love one another.

Prayer: Thank you, God, for your law that accuses me, causing me to rely upon your Son instead of myself. Amen.

Beginning in 2016, Sola is adding a Bible Overview year to its Confirmation Series, with two ten-session booklets — one on the Old Testament and one on the New Testament. These books provide a step-by-step overview of the history and geography of the Scriptures, exploring the various time periods and sections of the Bible and how they connect to one another. The goal is to give students a sense for the over-arching story of Scripture, fulfilled in the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a335.html Sat, 21 Aug 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Exodus 20:13–17

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

The adversaries treat the matter preposterously, citing this one passage in which Paul teaches about fruits. Yet they omit very many other passages in which he discusses the mode of justification in a regular order. Besides, they always add a correction to the other passages that deal with faith, namely, that they ought to be understood as applying to fides formata. They add no correction that there is also need of the faith that understands we are accounted righteous for the sake of Christ as propitiator. As a result, they exclude Christ from justification and teach only a righteousness of the law. So, let us return to Paul.

No one can infer anything more from this text than that love is necessary. This we confess. Therefore, not to commit theft is also necessary. But this reasoning will not be correct if someone would desire to frame an argument like this: "Not to commit theft is necessary. Therefore, not to commit theft justifies." Justification is the approval of the entire person, not of a certain work. Therefore, this passage from Paul is not against justification by faith, so long as the adversaries do not add to it whatever their imaginations please. For he says, "I am nothing," not that love justifies. He declares that without faith, love is extinguished, however great it may have been. He does not say that love overcomes the terrors of sin and of death, that we can set our love against the wrath and judgment of God, that our love satisfies God's law, that without Christ as propitiator we have access to God because of our love, that by our love we receive the promised forgiveness of sins. Paul says nothing like this. He does not, therefore, think that love justifies, because we are justified only when we apprehend Christ as propitiator, and believe that for Christ's sake God is reconciled to us. Justification should not even be dreamed of without Christ as propitiator.

Pulling It Together: Faith is not formed by love or other good works. That is backwards thinking and contrary to Scripture. Rather, love is formed by faith. Faith in Christ compels us to love and to obey God. Therefore, faith also urges us to keep the other commandments, such as, “You shall not steal” (Exod 20:15). Yet there are people who do not steal, though they have no faith in Christ. Are they justified to God because they do not steal? No; religious and civil works do not justify. Only faith in Christ reconciles God by justifying sinners. Without faith, good deeds are of no account with God since works do not justify. That is Christ’s function, not ours. Therefore, once justified through faith, good works necessarily follow but they do not make payment for our sins or remove the terrors of sin and death. We should never imagine anything but Christ Jesus as the only satisfaction and payment for our sins.

Prayer: Lord, have mercy upon me, a sinner. Amen. 

In Part 2 of Sola Scriptura, "The Norm of Faith" study shows how an active view of the Word informs and guides our understanding of what Scripture says. In other words, it will talk about what the Bible means based on what it does. In terms of how we come to articulate our faith and our doctrinal teachings, to speak of Scripture as the "norm" of faith means that it is the standard against which our theology and proclamation are measured.

• Study Guide   • See also Sola Scriptura, Part 1: The Source of Faith

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a334.html Fri, 20 Aug 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Galatians 5:22–25

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

Now we will reply to those passages that the adversaries use to prove that we are justified by love and works. They cite: “And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing” (1Cor 13:2). Here they exult, claiming that Paul testifies to the entire Church that faith alone does not justify.

We have shown above what we hold concerning love and works. But a reply is easy. This passage of Paul requires love. We require it also. For we have said above that renewal and beginning to fulfill the law must exist in us, according to the word: “I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts” (Jer 31:33). Anyone who casts away love will not keep faith, however great it seems, for he does not retain the Holy Spirit.

Paul is not treating the mode of justification in this passage. He is writing to those who have already been justified, urging them to bear good fruit lest they lose the Holy Spirit.

Pulling It Together: The Roman Confutation claimed that people are justified by adding love and other works to faith in Christ. Conversely, the Lutherans confessed that love and good works are a necessary response to faith in the saving work of Christ. Although the work of Christ on the cross is sufficient for salvation, the person who will not love as Christ loves, has become spiritually cold and lives according to the flesh again. That person has become nothing, no longer keeping in step with the Spirit and living by faith. For the Holy Spirit does not dwell where Christian love and other fruits of the Spirit are not present.

Prayer: Holy Spirit, help me remember my baptism with daily repentance and sorrow for sin, so that the new person in Christ will emerge in me more and more every day. Amen. 

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.

Leader's Guide   • See also: Sola Scriptura, Part 2: The Norm of Faith

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a333.html Thu, 19 Aug 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Romans 4:22–5:1

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

We are speaking now of the righteousness by which we interact with God, not with men, and by which we apprehend grace and peace of conscience. The conscience however, cannot be pacified before God except by faith alone, because it is certain that God for Christ's sake is reconciled to us, according to Romans 5:1: “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Pulling It Together: The assurance of God’s love for us is always disturbed by our works. As soon as we trust in an act of charity or devotion to God, our confidence is shattered by an unkind thought or lack of devotion. That is when we must think of Christ instead of ourselves. So long as our thoughts are on our acts of charity or ability to fulfill the law, we become anxious and our consciences will be troubled. Since, however, we are not reconciled to God by our works, or even our works added to Christ’s work, we must always turn our thoughts to Christ. When we remember that we are justified by faith in Christ and not faith in ourselves, we return to a place of quiet rest and the peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil 4:7).

Prayer: Quiet my heart, Lord, and strengthen my faith in you through the power of your indwelling Spirit. Amen. 

Subscribe to Connections Magazine today. Connections features articles that connect Lutherans to the Word. Martin Luther’s Small Catechism provides the inspiration for confessional, biblical content, delivered in a stylish, readable design. 

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a332.html Wed, 18 Aug 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Ephesians 2:13–18

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

We believe and teach that good works must necessarily be done. Nevertheless we give Christ his own honor. We believe and teach that by faith, for Christ's sake, we are accounted righteous before God. We are not accounted righteous because of works without Christ as mediator. We do not earn the forgiveness of sins, grace, and forgiveness by works, which cannot be set against the wrath and justice of God. Nor can they overcome the terrors of sin. The terrors of sin are overcome by faith alone. Only Christ is to be presented by faith as mediator against the wrath and judgment of God. If any one think differently, he does not give Christ due honor, who has been set forth that he might be the propitiator, that through him we might have access to the Father.

Pulling It Together: Polls differ as to how many Americans say that they believe in God, some as high as 80% or more. Other polls demonstrate that the most basic evidences of faith are a much lower percentage. So let us be clear. The faith that we profess is not a mere nod to God. As James says, even demons believe in God (James 2:19). Faith has feet. Real faith is put into action. It bears fruit. Real believers, not those who simply agree that there is a god, are slowly beginning to act like Jesus. First of all, they give him all the glory and honor that is his due. As it is his work that justifies us to God, we give him that honor. We do not believe that Jesus needs any assistance from us. Therefore, although works necessarily follow, or go hand in hand with faith, it is Christ who has saved us from sin and death. Our works neither save us nor give us any consolation that they do.

Christ alone is our peace. He has reconciled us to God, and did so without our help. As a result, we have access to God. There is no longer a wall between God and true believers. We are now in a corrected relationship and at peace with him because of Christ alone.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for tearing down the wall that had separated us from the Father. Amen.

The General Epistles offers a series of 12 Bible studies based on Hebrews, James, I & II Peter, I, II, & III John, and Jude. The geographical locations of Biblical characters can symbolically refer to places we find ourselves with respect to our faith. As we become more acquainted with our spiritual geography, we will better discern where God would have us go or what changes we need to make in order to serve Him better.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a331.html Tue, 17 Aug 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Romans 8:31–33

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

Our adversaries uphold these godless, unscriptural opinions concerning works. But to ascribe atonement to our works, to claim that our works merit the forgiveness of sins and grace, instead of being accounted righteous before God by faith in Christ as propitiator, what else is this than to deny Christ the honor of mediator and propitiator?

Pulling It Together: If you pay attention to the sports headlines, you will hear an odd assertion from time to time, especially during professional basketball season. A very talented player will either claim or a reporter will state that the athlete was a one-man team. The other four players seemed to make no difference. He carried the team on his back. Yet, as good as some players are, they cannot win the first game without the other members of the team. However, Christianity is not basketball.

Jesus accomplished what the rest of the team could never do. He atoned for the sins of the entire world. No one assisted him. Neither you nor I will be interviewed as one of his teammates who helped him conquer sin and death. We cannot add one work to his victory. Our works add nothing to the salvation he has won for those who believe. The honor belongs to Christ. It is God alone who justifies.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for saving me. Amen.

Examining Our Core Beliefs explains in straightforward terms the core of what we believe—from a biblical, theological, historical, and confessional point of view. A 30-page study guide is included in the back of the book.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a330.html Mon, 16 Aug 21 00:00:00 -0500

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John 4:7–10

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

So the world thinks that all works are a propitiation by which God is appeased, that they are a payment by which we are considered righteous. It does not believe that Christ is the propitiator; it does not believe that by faith we are freely accounted righteous for Christ's sake. Yet, since works cannot pacify the conscience, other works are continually chosen, new rites are performed, new vows made, and new orders of monks formed beyond the command of God, in order that some great work may be found to set against the wrath and judgment of God.

Pulling It Together: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” (Matt 5:6) Note that Jesus did not say blessed are those who have dug a well and quenched their own thirst. The woman was already at the well, and yet, she was still parched. Multiple marriages had not satisfied her need for relationship. The religion of her fathers had not slaked her thirst. No matter what she did, she would remain thirsty. The fulfilling righteousness of God is available, but only to those who admit their thirst and their inability to satisfy themselves. If she had known, she would have admitted her need, and asked Jesus. Then he would have given her living water that never runs dry. Then she would be satisfied.

When my daughters were very young, they could not open the refrigerator or pour from a heavy container. But they could ask, “Daddy, may we have some apple juice?” We also, are unable to fabricate works of religion that meet our desperate need for righteousness. But we may ask Jesus, and he will satisfy our thirst.

Prayer: God of righteousness, I am thirsty for you; quench my thirst through Jesus Christ, my Lord. Amen.

Kinderbeten is a compelling story touching on the exercise of free religion, the religious wars in Europe, the roots of Evangelicalism, the supernatural, and more, all wrapped up in a religious revival which began not through a charismatic revivalist or any adult at all, but rather found it's origin with children aged four to fourteen. The children became pawns in a controversy between political and religious opponents. Indulge your curiosity and read the remarkable story about the King of Sweden and the 1707-08 Children's Revival in Silesia, a tale of hope and prayer.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a329.html Sun, 15 Aug 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Ephesians 2:4–10

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

Anthony, Bernard, Dominicus, Franciscus, and other holy Fathers selected a certain kind of life either for the sake of study or other useful exercises. In the meantime, they believed that they were accounted righteous through faith, and that God was gracious to them for Christ's sake, not because of their spiritual exercises. But since then, the multitude has not imitated the faith of the Fathers, but their activities without faith, thinking that they might earn the forgiveness of sins, grace, and righteousness by such works. They did not believe that they received these freely because of Christ the propitiator.

Pulling It Together: Being a pastor or missionary is not a free ticket to heaven. While the work that such people do is important to the kingdom of Christ, it is only faith in Christ that opens the gates of heaven. A pastor may labor for a lifetime to swing those gates but they will not budge without faith. Only the righteous will enter that blessed rest. Now, that would keep us all out of heaven—except for the work of Christ. Those who have faith in him are assigned his righteousness. Without his righteousness, no one will pass through.

I received a text this morning. It was an electronic boarding pass for a flight home. My wife had purchased my ticket, and then had the airline send the boarding pass to my phone. Now, without this pass, I will never get home. More to the point, while I was busy doing pastoral work, my wife made sure I could get home. Once I get to the airport, I could argue all day about being a pastor and that I was busy doing the work of the kingdom. They still will not allow me on the flight. It is her work that will get me home. You were created for good works, and you should live a life of Christian service, but it is faith in the work of Christ on the cross that brings you home.

Prayer: Lord, empty me of trust in my efforts, and help me rely on you alone. Amen. 

Consider the Years

by Rev. Brad Hales

As the subtitle indicates, this Bible study was written for mature Christians. That is, it bears in mind the unique perspective of those who have seen many years in their relationship with God and may wonder how faith can speak anew to their daily lives. The study offers thirteen brief sessions on issues seniors must navigate, emphasizing how God's Word can bring strength and comfort in the unknown.

This study has been printed in a larger type-face than other Sola Bible studies. The questions offered for discussion focus on Scripture texts that address some particular concerns of older Christians.

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1 Corinthians 11:26–30

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

Thus the Lord's Supper was instituted in the Church so that through this sign we might remember the promises of Christ, faith would be strengthened in us, and we might publicly confess our faith and proclaim the benefits of Christ. Paul says, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor 11:26). But our adversaries contend that the mass is a work that justifies us ex opere operato, and removes the guilt and obligation of punishment in those for whom it is celebrated, as Gabriel writes.

Pulling It Together: In Exposition of the Canon of the Mass (26:81), Gabriel Biel claimed that the mass atoned for the people’s sins, simply by their presence at the mass. For that matter, the priest who celebrated the mass, would have his sins expiated, even though he was in an unrepentant state—simply because he did the work. It required no faith whatsoever. Instead, it was believed that the ritual itself was the saving act.

But the Lutherans confessed that there was no grace to be derived from the work itself. Thus, the Lord’s Supper is not a work through which we receive forgiveness because we went through the motions. We must eat and drink in faith and with repentant spirits. Our mere presence at the table does not atone for our sins. We do not believe in either the work of the priest or in our own work of showing up. This would be an unworthy eating and drinking that brings condemnation rather than grace. Instead, we have faith in the true work that we remember in that holy meal: the work and word of Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord Jesus, for your word of presence in your body and blood. Amen. 

Reading and Discussion of Luther's Catechisms is a more challenging study series based on assigned readings from the Book of Concord and related Scripture texts. Each study is comprised of eight sessions, plus an optional introductory session, presented in a question and discussion format. 

• Student Workbook   • Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a327.html Fri, 13 Aug 21 00:00:00 -0500 Click for larger image

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Genesis 22:1–14

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

Because no works calm the conscience, they contrived new works in addition to God's commands. The people of Israel had seen the prophets sacrificing on high places. The examples of the saints moved the minds of those who hoped by similar works to obtain grace as those saints obtained it. Therefore the people began to imitate this work with remarkable zeal, in order that by such a work they might earn the forgiveness of sins, grace, and righteousness. But the prophets had been sacrificing on high places, not so these works might merit the forgiveness of sins and grace, but because they taught on these places and, accordingly, presented there a testimony of their faith. The people had heard that Abraham had sacrificed his son. Therefore, in order to appease God by a most cruel and difficult work, they also put their sons to death. But Abraham did not sacrifice his son with the opinion that this work was a price and propitiatory work for the sake of which he was accounted righteous.

Pulling It Together: In 1920, the farmers and ranchers of a small town in southern Texas quit working. For one year, they all laid off work and built a brand new Lutheran Church. What a sacrifice! A year of wages for dozens of families was forfeited so that the next generation could worship the Lord God. Surely, some of those people thought, “How will we get by? How will we live?” That is when a word comes to the faithful: “The Lord will provide.”

Did they earn God’s favor and grace through a year of hard work? No. Did the sacrifice of their livelihood reconcile them to God? No. Did the sacrifice of praise in the new church building merit God’s forgiveness? No. But you can bet the people in the area heard about it and talked. Such a great testimony to the faith of a people does not go unnoticed—by people or by God. Yet their sacrifice did not merit God’s grace—nor do our sacrifices and service. For God has graciously provided a Lamb who takes away the sins of the world for those who have faith in him.

Prayer: Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, grant us peace. Amen. 

The kind of church we see in the New Testament is different from what most modern people imagine when they think of “going to church.” Experience Life Together: Experiencing House-Church Ministry, by Rev. Tom Hilpert, is a 15-week house-church curriculum designed for pastors, lay leaders, and churches interested in getting a taste for what church in the home is really like. Whether referred to as a house-church, organic church, alternative church, or cell church, this material applies well to any group that wants to experience Christian worship in the context of a small group meeting within the homes of the participants.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a326.html Thu, 12 Aug 21 00:00:00 -0500 Click for larger image

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Jeremiah 7:20–22

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

This godless opinion concerning works has always existed in the world. The Gentiles had sacrifices derived from the fathers. They imitated their works but did not keep their faith. Instead, they thought that the works were a propitiation and price by which God would be reconciled to them. The people in the law imitated sacrifices with the opinion that these works would appease God, so to say, ex opere operato. We see how earnestly the prophets rebuke the people about this opinion. “I do not reprove you for your sacrifices” (Psa 50:8). “I did not speak to your fathers or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices” (Jer 7:22). Such passages do not condemn works, which God had certainly commanded as outward functions in the government, but they condemn the godless opinion that by these works people appeased the wrath of God, and thereby eliminated faith.

Pulling It Together: The working of the work does nothing to temper the Almighty. You could sacrifice a thousand burnt offerings and it would not pacify him. You could serve on every committee in your church and it would not justify you to God. What else could you try? Well, you could give every dollar that you earn this year to missions. But you have already surmised the correct answer. That, also, would not reconcile God.

Is God displeased with sacrifice, service, and offerings? Not necessarily. These works must be done in faith that God is reconciled by faith in the sacrifice of his Son instead of your works. We ought not serve, sacrifice, and give because we imagine that we can earn God’s favor through the things we do, even if done for him. Instead, we know that we are favored by him because of Christ. We do these other things because they are expressions of his kingdom, not because we suppose he is appeased by the work that we have done (ex opere operato).

Prayer: Direct my steps in wisdom, Lord, and help me walk in your counsels. Amen. 

Portraits of Jesus is a nine-session Bible study that explores the "I AM" statements given to us by Jesus himself. In comparing Jesus' words with related Scripture in both the Old and New Testaments, the study provides a well-rounded look at the center of our faith in Christ.

Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a325.html Wed, 11 Aug 21 00:00:00 -0500 Click for larger image

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1 John 5:13–15

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

We condemn this godless opinion concerning works. First, it obscures the glory of Christ when people offer their works to God as a price and propitiation, an honor due to Christ alone. Second, they nevertheless do not find peace of conscience in these works. Instead, in true terror, they heap up works upon works, and eventually despair because they find no work sufficiently pure. The law always accuses and elicits wrath. Thirdly, such persons never attain the knowledge of God because they angrily flee from God’s judgment and affliction, never believing that they are heard. But faith assures us of the presence of God, being certain that God freely forgives and hears us.

Pulling It Together: God wants us to be confident of eternal life. He does not dangle salvation over our heads, tempting us and teasing us to work a little harder, or else. Instead, we are to believe in the great name of Jesus Christ, who died and rose and ascended so that we might do the same. He alone endured the cross and the shame (Heb 12:2) for our sin. We did nothing. And we do nothing. Christ alone is the satisfaction for our sin. We do not share the honor with him.

It sounds downright un-American but you have to stop believing in yourself. As long as you believe that you have some stake in your salvation, you will always be frightened that you have not been good enough, have not done enough, or that what you have done was not done with purity and charity. That terror can be relieved. You can have peace of conscience and certainty in God—as soon as you stop having faith in yourself. When, instead, you have faith alone in Christ alone, you will serve him with a glad and liberated heart. You will pray to him, knowing that you are both loved and heard—because of what Christ did, not because of what you have done.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for hearing my prayers and caring for me. Amen. 

A Reading and Discussion of the Augsburg Confession is written in easy-to-understand language but is a challenging study series based on assigned readings from the Book of Concord and related Scripture texts. Each study is comprised of eight sessions, plus an optional introductory session, each presented in a question and discussion format. Click here to see the Table of Contents and a sample session.

Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a324.html Tue, 10 Aug 21 00:00:00 -0500 Click for larger image

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John 6:27–29

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

Good works ought to follow faith. However, people use works in a far different way when they cannot believe with certainty that they are freely forgiven and have a reconciled God for Christ's sake. When they see the works of saints, they imagine in a human way that saints have earned the remission of sins and grace through these works. So they imitate them, thinking that through similar works they too merit the forgiveness of sins and grace. They believe that they appease the wrath of God and are counted as righteous through their own works.

Pulling It Together: “I promise that I’ll do better!” children declare to their parents when they have been caught in another transgression. When they grow up, they promise the same thing to their spouses. How much better we would fare if we truly believed that our parents cared for us, that our husbands or wives really loved us. So long as we believe that our familial or marital well-being depends upon ourselves, never depending upon the love of another, these relationships will suffer.

We carry the same baggage into religious affairs. So long as we think our relationship with God depends upon ourselves, it will also suffer. As long as we imagine that we make the difference with God, we will fail God—and ourselves. We should always depend upon the strength of God’s love for us when the expressions of our own love are weak.

When the people asked Jesus what work they should do in order to please God, his answer was plain and simple. Believe! That is the blessed work we should do for God. Other works will necessarily follow faith but when we fail in our efforts, as we certainly will, the only work that matters is that we still believe in God’s Son.

Prayer: I believe, Lord; help my unbelief. Amen.

Learning About Communion teaches the meaning of Holy Communion according to the pattern of Luther's Small Catechism, and is recommended for the Fifth Grade Level. Each week focuses on a specific Bible story that illustrates the theme, with additional references from Scripture and Luther's Small Catechism - Children's Version. Lessons emphasize the sacramental promise of the forgiveness of sins conveyed to us in the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. This booklet was designed to be used as a Sunday School unit, or for classes to prepare students for their First Communion.

Teacher's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a323.html Mon, 09 Aug 21 00:00:00 -0500

 

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Romans 4:9–12

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

Paul also teaches about works in Romans 4:9–12, saying that Abraham did not receive circumcision in order that he might be justified. Being accounted righteous by faith, he had already been justified. Circumcision was added so that he might have a sign written in his body, reminding him to exercise his faith, to confess his faith before others, and by his testimony invite others to believe. “By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice” (Heb 11:4). Because he was righteous through faith, the sacrifice that he made was pleasing to God. His work did not merit the forgiveness of sins and grace. Yet, through the sacrifice, he exercised his faith and invited those who observed it to believe.

Pulling It Together: You were baptized before you ever thought to do a good deed. God put his seal on you first. So, baptism, like circumcision, is a sign that God gives Christ’s righteousness to sinners (Rom 5:8). Then, once you have faith in Christ, you will love him and keep his commandments (John 14:15). Your obedience does not make you righteous or cause your sins to be forgiven since you have already been justified to God through faith in Christ. Your faithful works confirm your faith in the fullness of God within you (Eph 3:19). Through your obedience to God’s commands, he increases your faith while calling others to believe (Luke 17:5).

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, that while I was still a sinner, you died for me. Amen.

Personalities of Faithpart 1, is a ten-session Bible study for youth. The goal of the series is to encourage young people to commit themselves to follow Jesus in discipleship by becoming "personalities of faith." By showing biblical examples of people who have followed—or failed to follow—God's call, participants will be prepared to better follow the Lord in their own lives.

Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a322.html Sun, 08 Aug 21 00:00:00 -0500 Click for larger image

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1 John 3:1–3

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

Because faith makes us children of God, it also makes us co-heirs with Christ. Therefore, because our works do not merit justification, through which we are made children of God and co-heirs with Christ, we do not merit eternal life by our works. Faith obtains this because faith justifies us and has a reconciled God. Eternal life is given to the justified, according to Romans 8:30. “Those whom he justified he also glorified.” Paul commends to us (Eph 6:2) the commandment about honoring parents, mentioning the reward that is added to that commandment. He does not mean that obedience to parents justifies us before God, but that when it occurs in those who have been justified, it merits other great rewards. Yet God exercises his saints variously, often deferring the rewards of the righteousness of works in order that they may learn not to trust in their own righteousness, and may learn to seek the will of God rather than the rewards. This happened with Job, in Christ, and other saints. Many psalms teach this, consoling us against the happiness of the wicked. “Be not envious of wrongdoers” (Psa 37:1)! Christ says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:10). By these praises of good works, believers are undoubtedly moved to do good works. Meanwhile, the doctrine of repentance is also proclaimed against the godless, whose works are wicked; and the wrath of God is communicated, by which he has threatened all who do not repent. Therefore we praise and require good works, showing many reasons why they ought to be done.

Pulling It Together: Garry Trudeau produced a popular series of cartoons in the 70s called I Have No Son. The father in the series seemed to disown his son for being an embarrassment, someone who did not think or act at all the same as himself. Sometimes this is the way humans treat their offspring. God is different.

Despite ourselves, the Father has called us his children. As his children, we try to honor God and please him by being obedient to his commandments. We are not always successful but God still loves us. He knows that one day—if only when days are finally ended—we will grow up into the likeness of his Son. In the meanwhile, when we do succeed at doing some good and appearing to have some of the family likeness and character, our good works do not earn us forgiveness of sins and justification. Indeed, it may seem like there is no reward at all for the good that we do. Sometimes, our lives are just as difficult as they ever were. So, we should always seek to do God’s will, instead of seeking rewards, no matter how tough life gets. Melancthon gives Christ and Job as examples of those who persevered under tremendous trials. There are plenty of examples of other saints who are models of Christian behavior.

Who knows? Perhaps your good works, done because of love for God instead of reward, are modeling the life of one more saintly child to someone who is watching you.

Prayer: May your will be done in my life today, Lord. Amen.

Living Faith, a Believer's Guide to Growing in Christ is a discipleship resource based on Martin Luther’s Small Catechism. This 12-part Bible study by Pastor Brack East is designed to help individuals grow more deeply into a living faith in Jesus, while interacting with other believers in a life-to-life setting of three or four people. Such settings around the Word of God have proven to be part of the workshop of the Holy Spirit, and Luther’s Small Catechism has stood the test of time as a reliable guide to growing in faith. 

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1 Corinthians 3:6–9

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

To disparage works such as the confession of doctrine, affliction, works of charity, and mortification of the flesh would be to disparage the outward government of Christ's kingdom on earth. Here we add a word concerning rewards and merits. We teach that rewards have been offered and promised for the works of believers. We teach that good works are meritorious—not for the forgiveness of sins, grace, or justification which are only obtained through faith, but for other physical and spiritual rewards in this life and the life to come. Paul says, “Each shall receive his wages according to his labor” (1 Cor 3:8). Therefore, different rewards will be given to different labors. But the forgiveness of sins is offered in the same way and equally, just as Christ is one and is offered freely to all who believe that their sins are forgiven because of Christ. Forgiveness of sins and justification are received only by faith, and not because of any works. Terrors of conscience make this evident, since none of our works can oppose God's wrath. Paul clearly states this: “Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand,” etc (Rom 5:1).

Pulling It Together: That God rewards one’s labors is certain but what he rewards to “fellow workers,” and when, is unknown. What is very certain, however, is that all who believe in Christ for forgiveness of sins, justification with God, and salvation, receive these blessings equally. People do not receive more forgiveness because they labored harder or did greater works of charity. The remission of sins is received by faith in Christ’s work, not by believing in our own works. The result of the right faith is peace with God. Is there really a need for any additional reward?

Prayer: What shall I give to you today, Lord, but to receive your gift of salvation? Amen.

Crossways is now available through Sola Publishing!

Sola Publishing is now the exclusive North American distributor of the Crossways Bible Studies written by Dr. Harry Wendt. These include The Divine Drama ®, See Through the Scriptures ®, Topical Short Courses, and the original Crossways ® series. Preserving the legacy of a ministry that has served the Gospel for over forty years, Sola is proud to reintroduce these courses to a new generation!

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a320.html Fri, 06 Aug 21 00:00:00 -0500 Click for larger image

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1 Corinthians 16:1–4

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

David's labors in waging war and governing the nation are holy works, true sacrifices, godly battles to defend the people who had the Word of God against the devil, in order that the knowledge of God might not be entirely extinguished on earth. We think the same about every good work in the humblest job and in private life. Through these works Christ celebrates his victory over the devil, just as the distribution of alms by the Corinthians (1 Cor 16:1) was a holy work, a sacrifice, and battle of Christ against the devil, who is at work so that nothing may be done for the praise of God.

Pulling It Together: You may think that your little church does not contribute much to the kingdom. Never think that way. That is the same as saying that Christ does not contribute much to his own kingdom. For it is Christ who is at work in you and in your congregation. When your church gives to the local food pantry, Jesus celebrates another victory over the devil. When your congregation supports a missionary, Christ’s kingdom marches forward. When your church eats the bread and drinks the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he returns (1 Cor 11:26).

All of these things and more are the very power of God at work in your congregation—no matter the size. The same is true of little old you. You may consider yourself quite ordinary but what does that say about your Lord? Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you (2 Cor 13:5)? He is strong in you, despite all the weakness that you know about yourself. In fact, in these very weaknesses, Jesus celebrates his power through you. Where you and I fail, he succeeds for us. What a great victory it is each and every day when the devil points his finger at you and complains to God what a sinner you are, while the Father smiles over you, declaring once again that you are a saint because of your faith in his Son. Thus, day after day, week after week, Satan is defeated again and again in your life and your church.

Prayer: Use me today, Lord, for the advancement of your kingdom. Amen. 

Where Two or Three Are Gathered is a guide for what Luther referred to as "mutual conversation and consolation" among believers. These are the times we come together one to one, as people of faith, to talk about our lives and struggles, and strengthen one another in prayer with the promise of God's grace and mercy. This devotional conversation guide may be used for a number of purposes and applications where people are looking for some help in structuring conversations on the practical and spiritual dimensions of Christian discipleship.

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2 Corinthians 13:4–5

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

Good works are to be done on account of God's command and for the exercise of faith, witness, and thanksgiving. For these reasons good works need to be done. However, they are done in the flesh that is not yet entirely renewed, that inhibits the movements of the Holy Spirit, imparting some of its uncleanness. Yet, because of faith in Christ, these are holy, divine works, sacrifices, and acts under the reign of Christ, displaying his kingdom to this world. For in these activities, he sanctifies hearts and represses the devil. In order to sustain the gospel among people, he openly opposes the kingdom of the devil with the confession of saints, and in our weakness, declares his power. The dangers, labors, and sermons of the Apostle Paul, Athanasius, Augustine, and other teachers of the Church, are holy works, are true sacrifices acceptable to God, struggles through which Christ repressed the devil and drove him away from those who believed.

Pulling It Together: You are not yet perfect. You are weak. The old nature still clings to you, making your works, however well-intentioned, seem poorly executed and blemished. And as long as that is all you see, the devil is happy. So, understand this also: the power of God is at work in you and it horrifies that devil. Though your works are imperfect, because they are done with faith in Christ, are accepted by God and holy. This must boggle the mind of Satan. Surely, he cries, “Foul!” How unfair it seems to him that we do not receive the penalty of our imperfection. Instead, even the labors of ordinary Christians subdue the devil because they are not done in the power of those persons but in the power of God.

“Jesus Christ is in you.” We know it is true but we get distracted by our own performance. That is why we must always bring back to the memory of faith that the power of God is real and at work in our lives—especially in our weaknesses. That is when the Lord is strongest in us (2Cor 12:9). So, the next time you try and seem to fail, rejoice that Christ reigns over sin, death, and the devil, that he turns your seeming failures into victories. Get your eyes off of yourself, and keep your sights fixed on Christ.

Prayer: Holy Spirit, help me walk by faith instead of by sight. Amen. 

All God’s Critters is a Sunday School series designed for young students in Preschool and Kindergarten. Lessons are based on storytelling, rhyme, and pictures, and are suitable for participation by non-readers. The flexible lesson plans introduce the youngest believers to the importance and truth of God’s Word. Each lesson includes the story of the day written in a simplified manner so that young children may understand an important truth about God and what it means for us to be God’s children. All God’s Critters curriculum is fully reproducible and is designed with the particular needs of small churches, mission congregations, and house churches in mind. Check out some sample pages by clicking here.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a318.html Wed, 04 Aug 21 00:00:00 -0500 Click for larger image

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2 Timothy 2:14–17a

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

But in just and sure cases, one or two explanations derived from the sources correct all things that seem to offend. This occurs in our current discourse. The rule that I have just expressed explains all the passages they have cited on law and works. We acknowledge that Scripture teaches in some places the law, and in other places the gospel, the free promise of the forgiveness of sins for Christ's sake. But our adversaries absolutely abolish the free promise when they deny that faith justifies, and teach that we receive forgiveness of sins and reconciliation because of our love and works. If the forgiveness of sins depends upon the condition of our works, it is totally uncertain and the promise would be abolished. Therefore, we refer godly minds to the consideration of the promises. We teach them about the free forgiveness of sins and about reconciliation, which occurs through faith in Christ. Then we add the doctrine of the law. It is necessary to handle these matters correctly, as Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:15. We must see what Scripture ascribes to the law and what it ascribes to the promises. For it praises works in such a way as not to remove the free promise.

Pulling It Together: “I promise you that we will go for ice cream after school.” That is a promise that is free of of conditions. The only thing you have to do, if one could call such a thing something that is done, is believe the promise—or not. However, if the parent picks up the child and goes home instead of to the ice cream parlor, the child might wonder aloud, “I thought we were going for ice cream.”

If the parent then stated that ice cream would only be given if homework and chores were done first, the child would be confused. The promise had been freely given; no conditions were attached. Worse, the child believed the parent, and that belief was dismantled because stipulations had been added to the unqualified promise.

God is no such Father. He has freely promised his merciful grace through Christ. The forgiveness of sins is certain because it depends upon the promise of God, not your deeds.

So, do your homework, take out the trash, and clean your room—or your adult versions of such duties. Do these things because you wish to please God. But do not depend upon them to make a promise sure when it is already certain. In this way, the Scriptures are rightly handled or divided, with law and gospel having their own function, and the promise of God remaining free in Christ Jesus.

Prayer: Lord, help me rightly handle the Scriptures, gently correct its opponents, yet avoid quarreling so that people around me are brought to a knowledge of the truth. Amen. 

Dwell In My Love!, unit 3 in the Word of Life Series, is a resource for those looking to develop small groups built around the Word of God. This model of small-group ministry is an excellent tool for evangelism since it is rooted in prayer and Scripture. Its primary focus is to empower those who believe in Jesus Christ to be comfortable sharing their faith and inviting others to experience a transformed life in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Meant for use in Small Group gatherings, each of the six sessions is based on a primary Scripture text, with intentional time for reflection. There are questions, prayer, faith sharing, and mini evangelism case studies. The series would be helpful for those involved in starting a Bible study fellowship, house church, or mission congregation. It can also be used by established congregations to aid in establishing a small group ministry.

• Unit 1  • Unit 2  • Unit 3

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a317.html Tue, 03 Aug 21 00:00:00 -0500

 

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Matthew 11:28–30

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

Reply to the Arguments of the Adversaries

Now, when the grounds of this case have been understood, namely, the distinction between the law and the promises or gospel, it will be easy to resolve the objections of the adversaries. They cite passages concerning the law and works, but omit passages concerning the promises. We reply to all opinions concerning the law that it cannot be observed without Christ, and that if civil works are done without Christ, they do not please God. Therefore, when works are commended, it is necessary to add that faith is required—that works are commended because of faith, that they are the fruits and testimonies of faith. Ambiguous and dangerous cases produce many and various solutions. For the judgment of the ancient poet is true: "An unjust cause, being in itself sick, requires skilfully applied remedies."

Pulling It Together: There is nothing ambiguous about the distinction between the law and the gospel. The law requires one to keep its commandments, rules, and rituals. The gospel requires one to believe that Jesus has fulfilled the law. Therefore, even when one obeys a commandment, it is done with faith in what Jesus has done. For even if we can practice the commandments sometimes, we cannot do so consistently and perfectly, which the law requires. The standards of the law are still in place, but because Jesus has fulfilled them, we now practice the law, however imperfectly, because of love instead of mere duty. More than that, we have come to understand that God does not love us because we keep the law. He loves us and accepts our efforts because we have faith in his Son. Anything we do, whether it be cutting the church lawn on Saturday or keeping the third commandment the next day, is a by-product of our faith in Christ. These things do not move God to accept us or love us. 

Prayer: Thank you for even loving me, through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen. 

Go and Tell, unit 2 in the Word of Life Series, is a resource for those looking to develop small groups built around the Word of God. This model of small-group ministry is an excellent tool for evangelism since it is rooted in prayer and Scripture. Its primary focus is to empower those who believe in Jesus Christ to be comfortable sharing their faith and inviting others to experience a transformed life in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Meant for use in Small Group gatherings, each of the six sessions is based on a primary Scripture text, with intentional time for reflection. There are questions, prayer, faith sharing, and mini evangelism case studies. The series would be helpful for those involved in starting a Bible study fellowship, house church, or mission congregation. It can also be used by established congregations to aid in establishing a small group ministry.

• Unit 1  • Unit 2  • Unit 3

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a315.html Mon, 02 Aug 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Acts 2:36–39

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

From this it is evident that we are justified before God by faith alone since by faith alone we receive forgiveness of sins and reconciliation, reconciliation or justification being something promised because of Christ, not because of the law. Therefore it is received by faith alone, although, when the Holy Spirit is given, the keeping of the law follows.

Pulling It Together: Most of us have been a part of group projects in school. Three or four people are assigned to a team to complete an assignment. Many times, one person does all the work while the entire group gets the credit. Two things stand out in such cases. One, is the rather amazing faith that the group has in one person’s resolve to get the work accomplished. The other, is that the one person would rather the others not contribute because they would likely bring down the grade. That person knows that his or her work will be sufficient to earn a good mark. The rest of the group knows it too.

In this same way, our efforts play no part in the forgiveness of sins and justification before God. When we have faith, specifically when we become sorry for our sins, believe in Christ, and are baptized, we are forgiven our sins and receive the Holy Spirit. We are now justified before God because of our faith in Christ, yet we desire to please God by keeping his commandments. Still, we fulfill them imperfectly and place no trust in our law-keeping. To do so, would be to cheat Christ of the honor that he alone deserves. He is our forgiveness, justification, reconciliation. Christ alone has earned our good mark with God.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, give my family and me absolute trust in your promise. Amen. 

Come and See, unit 1 in the Word of Life Series, is a resource for those looking to develop small groups built around the Word of God. This model of small-group ministry is an excellent tool for evangelism since it is rooted in prayer and Scripture. Its primary focus is to empower those who believe in Jesus Christ to be comfortable sharing their faith and inviting others to experience a transformed life in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

• Unit 1  • Unit 2  • Unit 3

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a314.html Sun, 01 Aug 21 00:00:00 -0500 Click for larger image

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Psalm 46:1–11

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

The promise should always have the view that because of his promise, God wishes for Christ's sake, and not because of the law or our works, to be gracious and to justify. In this promise timid consciences ought to seek reconciliation and justification. By this promise they ought to sustain themselves and be confident that for Christ's sake, because of his promise, they have a gracious God. Thus works can never render a conscience pacified; only the promise can. If, therefore, justification and peace of conscience must be sought elsewhere than in love and works, love and works do not justify, although they are virtues and pertain to the righteousness of the law, in so far as they are a fulfilling of the law. To that degree, this obedience of the law justifies by the righteousness of the law. But this imperfect righteousness of the law is only accepted by God because of faith. Accordingly it does not justify, neither reconciling, nor regenerating, nor by itself making us acceptable before God.

Pulling It Together: Peace is a profound need in our world that is torn apart by war and terrorism. There is also the lack of peace caused by bad economic conditions. Yet the lack of peace that is most dire is spiritual. It is this peace that the Confessions address. The deepest need of the Christian—and of others, if they knew better—is peace of heart. This tranquility is only had by trusting in the promise of God. As soon as we begin to trust our religiosity, good works, morality, or virtue, peace of mind begins to slip away. Yet, when we remember that God wants to be gracious toward us and, in fact, is because of Christ’s reconciling work on the cross, the heart is quieted. Peace of mind is the great spiritual need of Christians, yet they rob themselves of it by trusting in their works and service. Works cannot justify us to God. These acts are only accepted by God if they are done with faith in Christ. Therefore, peace in the heart is discovered through faith, by trusting in the promise of God. Be still; have faith that God has been reconciled by Christ alone.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me to be still and know that you are God. Amen. 

By the Will of God

A Nine-Session Bible Study on the Book of Ephesians

by Rev. Drs. Amy C. Little and Steven E. King

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is one of the central books of the New Testament in that it lays out the solid foundation of Christ’s identity, what he has done for us, and what implications his grace has in our lives of faith. While the letter carries strong theological weight, it is also very gracious and supportive on a personal level. It reminds us that God alone is the sovereign actor in our salvation, choosing us in Christ before the foundation of the world. The book also shows us what this choice made by God means for how we live our lives.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a313.html Sat, 31 Jul 21 00:00:00 -0500

 

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8 Be vigilant so that no one manipulates you by philosophy and empty deception, according to human tradition, according to the rudimentary principles of the world, and not according to  Christ. 9 For in him dwells bodily the entire fullness of the divinity, 10 and you have been filled in him who is the head of all dominion and authority. (Colossians 2:8–10)

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

Paul teaches this in Galatians 3:13, when he says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us.” That is, the law condemns all men, but because sinless Christ has borne the punishment of sin and been made a victim for us, he has removed that right of the law to accuse and condemn those who believe in him. He is the propitiation for whose sake they are now accounted righteous. But since they are declared righteous, the law cannot accuse or condemn them, even though they have not actually satisfied the law. Paul writes to the same effect in Colossians 2:10. “You have come to fulness of life in him.” It is as though he were to say, “Although you are still far from the perfection of the law, the remnants of sin do not condemn you because for Christ's sake you have a sure and firm reconciliation—if you believe—even though sin still dwells in your flesh.

Pulling It Together: You are not whole because you have filled yourself. If you believe in Christ, you are whole and filled in him, by him, because of him. So far, and as far as this life allows, you will never be whole as a result of your religious works and moral behavior. You will fail as much or more than you succeed at these works because sin and the old nature cling to you. Nevertheless, you are reconciled to God because of the wholeness of Jesus Christ. Be sure of this; be confident in your faith in him. Christ alone is your fullness. He completes you—in spite of yourself.

Prayer: We praise and bless you for being our fullness, the one who completes us. Amen. 

Learning About Confession teaches the meaning of Confession and Forgiveness according to Luther's guidance in the Small Catechism. It is recommended for the Sixth Grade Level. Each week focuses on a specific Bible story that illustrates the theme, with additional references from Scripture and Luther's Small Catechism - Children's Version. With a healthy balance of Law and Gospel, lessons emphasize the connection between repentance and forgiveness, and how the promise of God’s forgiveness changes our lives.

Teacher's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a312.html Fri, 30 Jul 21 00:00:00 -0500 Click for larger image• Index of Scripture graphics and posts

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Hebrews 11:4–6

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

Therefore we cannot conclude that we are accounted righteous before God because of our fulfilling of the law. In order for the conscience to become tranquil, justification must be sought elsewhere. For we are not righteous before God as long as we flee from God's judgment and are angry with God. Therefore we must conclude that, being reconciled by faith, we are accounted righteous for Christ's sake, not because of law-keeping or our works. This elementary fulfilling of the law pleases God because of faith. Because of faith, there is no charge of our imperfect keeping of the law, even though the sight of our imperfection frightens us. So then, if justification must be sought elsewhere, our love and works cannot justify. We ought to regard the death and satisfaction of Christ far above our purity—indeed, far above the law itself. His propitiation is given to us so that we might be sure that because of this satisfaction, and not because of our fulfilling of the law, we have a gracious God.

Pulling It Together: It will always be impossible in this life to do anything in an altogether pure manner. However unfulfilled our efforts seem to us, they are accepted by and pleasing to God if they are done with faith in Christ. This means that we have no faith in the works themselves or in our doing of them. They are simply offerings to God. Rather, our faith is in the completed work of Christ. Because we have faith and are certain that Christ satisfied God’s righteous commandments, we can also be sure that his Father is gracious and merciful toward us. Because God sent his Son to fulfill the law and save us, we know that God loves us.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for giving me faith. Increase my faith. Amen. 

The Sola Confirmation Series, written by the Rev. Steven E. King, is work-book style Confirmation curriculum. It is designed to serve as a simple and practical resource for teaching the biblical Word of God according to the traditional pattern of Martin Luther’s Small Catechism.  Each book in the series can be used as the basis for a “come as you are” small group Bible study, as a student book for home school or independent study programs, or as a classroom tool and homework resource as part of an existing confirmation program. 

The Ten Commandments book is a ten-week unit, which includes one session on each of the Commandments. The Scripture focus in the Ten Commandment series is on Moses and the Exodus Cycle, with Bible Study lessons taken primarily from the Pentateuch.

• Student Workbook   • Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a311.html Thu, 29 Jul 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Romans 3:28–31

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

Augustine says it well: “All the commandments of God are fulfilled when whatever is not done, is forgiven.” Therefore he requires faith even in good works, in order that we may believe that we please God for Christ's sake, and that even the works are not of themselves worthy and pleasing. And Jerome, speaking against the Pelagians, says: “Then, therefore, we are righteous when we confess that we are sinners, and that our righteousness consists not in our own merit, but in God's mercy.” Therefore, faith ought to be present in this rudimentary fulfillment of the law which is certain that for Christ's sake we have a reconciled God. For mercy cannot be apprehended unless by faith, as has been repeatedly said above. Therefore, when Paul says, “we uphold the law” (Rom 3:31), we ought to understand by this, not only that those regenerated by faith receive the Holy Spirit and have inclinations agreeing with God's law, but it is by far of the greatest importance that we also add this: that we ought to perceive that we are far distant from the perfection of the law.

Pulling It Together

We profess that the law ought to be kept. We also declare that it is kept because Christ has fulfilled it—we did not, nor can we. So we seek to please God by keeping his perfect law (Psa 19:7) even though we keep it imperfectly. However, Christ has kept it most fully and perfectly. When we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us (1 John 1:9) and reconcile us to God. In other words, Christ gives us his righteousness, since we cannot earn it for ourselves. In all this, we see that our righteousness cannot come by good works or keeping the law. Righteousness comes through faith in Christ who has fulfilled the law and accomplished that greatest of works, the work of the cross. We confess therefore, that he is our righteousness.

Prayer: Thank you, Jesus, for forgiving what I could not fulfill and, thereby, making me righteous in your righteousness. Amen. 

Learning About Confession teaches the meaning of Confession and Forgiveness according Luther's guidance in the Small Catechism. It is recommended for the Sixth Grade Level. Each week focuses on a specific Bible story that illustrates the theme, with additional references from Scripture and Luther's Small Catechism - Children's Version. With a healthy balance of Law and Gospel, lessons emphasize the connection between repentance and forgiveness, and how the promise of God’s forgiveness changes our lives.

Teacher's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a310.html Wed, 28 Jul 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Galatians 5:16–23

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

They are more than blind who do not perceive that wicked desires in the flesh are sins, of which Paul says, “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh” (Gal 5:17). The flesh distrusts God, trusting instead in worldly things. It seeks human aid in times of trouble, and contrary to God's will, flees from those afflictions that it ought to bear because of God's commands. It also doubts God's mercy. The Holy Spirit in our hearts contends with such dispositions in order to suppress and put them to death, and to produce new spiritual drives. We will collect more testimonies about this topic later, although they are obvious throughout the Scriptures and also in the holy Fathers.

Pulling It Together: From the moment we are born again, the battle begins. We are always at war within ourselves. The flesh resists the Spirit who has moved into our lives. So, as might be expected, the Spirit opposes the flesh and would go so far as to terminate those urges of the flesh that would lead us away from God. However, this is a slow, daily chore, so the Holy Spirit would do more than curb and kill. The Spirit brings forth new, better, and spiritual impulses in us so that we are slowly reworked into the new creation God is making. Even so, we begin to bear fruit of the Spirit, such as love, joy, peace, and self-control. In so doing, God has caused us to go deeper than we ever could have through law-keeping.

Prayer: Help me, Holy Spirit, to keep in step with you today. Amen. 

The Spiritual Realms is a nine-session Bible Study series on Heaven and Hell and places beyond this world. Specifically, the study looks at the many “place names” that are found throughout Scripture, referring to spiritual realms of existence that underlie and comprise the universe God created. This Bible Study series is a challenging one, in that it explores realities of existence beyond what we know and experience everyday.

The study not only addresses matters of life, death, heaven and hell, it steadfastly affirms that Jesus Christ is at the center of all these things. Our ultimate faith and hope rest in Christ’s death and resurrection for our sake. We live in faith by the biblical promise that: “God raised the Lord, and will also raise us up by his power” (1 Cor 6:14).

Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a309.html Tue, 27 Jul 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Romans 7:14–19

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

What need is there of a long discussion? All Scripture, all the Church cries out that the law cannot be satisfied. Therefore this rudimentary fulfillment of the law does not please on its own account, but on account of faith in Christ. Otherwise the law always accuses us. For who loves or fears God sufficiently? Who bears with sufficient patience the afflictions imposed by God? Who does not frequently doubt whether human affairs are ruled by God's counsel or by chance? Who does not frequently doubt whether he is heard by God? Who is not frequently enraged because the wicked enjoy a better lot than the godly, because the wicked oppress the godly? Who satisfies his own calling? Who loves his neighbor as himself? Who is not tempted by lust? Accordingly, Paul says, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do” (Rom 7:19). Likewise, “I of myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin” (Rom 7:25). Here he openly declares that he serves the law of sin. And David says, “Enter not into judgment with thy servant; for no man living is righteous before thee” (Psa 143:2). Here even a servant of God prays that judgment would be averted. Also, “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity” (Psa 32:2). Therefore, in our current weakness, there is always sin present that could be imputed. He says a little while later, “Therefore let every one who is godly offer prayer to thee” (Psa 32:6). Here he shows that even saints ought to seek forgiveness of sins.

Pulling It Together: Imagine the poor apostle, wanting to be godly but failing at the task. The things he set out to do, he was not able to perform. Conversely, the very things he wished to avoid were what he kept on doing. It is not hard to imagine, for this is the description of each and every one of us. Though we know this about ourselves, some of us would nonetheless imagine ourselves co-propitiators, a sort of tag team with Jesus. There is a style of wrestling where it is two against two, instead of one on one. Only two people wrestle at a time (at least that is the rule). When one of them gets in a tough spot and seems unlikely to prevail, he taps the hand of his partner, who then jumps into the ring and takes over the battle.

Jesus has won the battle. He does not need our help. We need his help. We cannot do what we determine to do, let alone what God commands. But Jesus has accomplished his mission. He has redeemed us. Our incompetent obedience and weak efforts add nothing to what Christ has done. Even if we were better at life than the Apostle Paul, our endeavors would still add nothing to our justification since Christ has already assigned his righteousness to us. It is finished. We may make the effort at doing some good because we wish to please and honor God. But be sure of this: it will never reconcile you to God. If you are like Paul, you probably will not accomplish what you planned at any rate.

Prayer: Though I fail and cannot trust myself, help me trust in you until that day. Amen.

Saints and Sinners: Volume 3

Encouragers of the Faith

A Seven-Session Bible Study on New Testament Characters

By Dr. Dan Lioy, PhD

All those who believe and trust in Jesus as their Savior are both saints and sinners. The same was true of the people in Holy Scripture.

By virtue of our baptism into Christ, we are made holy by his saving grace. This is not something we do on our own, but something that is imputed to us by Jesus. At the same time, we are plagued by that age-old sin that makes us want to be in control of our own lives. As those who are called by God to follow Jesus in obedient discipleship, we, like many before us, have been called to be witnesses to God's saving grace in Jesus Christ.

This study is the third in a series of Saints and Sinners from the New Testament who were used by God to begin to spread the Gospel among both Jews and Gentiles. May your study of God’s saints and sinners enrich your understanding of your life with Christ and encourage you in discipleship.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a308.html Mon, 26 Jul 21 00:00:00 -0500 Click for larger image

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Acts 15:7–11

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

If they think that after they are regenerated they ought to be accepted on account of fulfilling the law, when would a conscience be certain that it pleased God, since we never satisfy the law? Accordingly, we must always go back to the promise, for by this our infirmity must be sustained. We must regard it as certain that we are accounted righteous for the sake of Christ, who is ever at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us (Rom 8:34). If any one thinks that he is righteous and accepted on account of his own fulfillment of the law, and not on account of Christ's promise, he dishonors this High Priest. It is incomprehensible that one could imagine that anyone is righteous before God if Christ is excluded as propitiator and mediator.

Pulling It Together: When people hear the gospel and believe, God cleanses their hearts and gives them the Holy Spirit. If we add works and the keeping of the law to the simple requirement of faith in Christ, we test God by seeking to undo what he has accomplished through Christ Jesus. Furthermore, it is a futile effort to gain righteousness through good works. I know when I have faith. How do I know when I have kept the law? Indeed, I cannot keep the law. No one can, and there is the problem. Thanks be to God that he has promised his grace and righteousness to those who have faith in Christ—not to those who have faith in themselves. No one is righteous before God unless it is Christ alone who does the justifying.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for keeping your promise even though I am undeserving. Amen. 

The Basics of the Christian Faith is an edition of the catechism that is aimed at seekers, visitors, and those that may not come from a Lutheran background. It is recommended for use in outreach, as a visitor welcome gift, or in new member packets.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a307.html Sun, 25 Jul 21 00:00:00 -0500 Click for larger image

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Romans 3:20–26

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

First, Christ does not cease to be mediator after we have been renewed. They err who imagine that Christ has only merited a first grace, and that afterward we please God and earn eternal life by our fulfilling of the law. Christ remains mediator, and we ought always to be confident that because of him we have a reconciled God, even though we are unworthy. Paul clearly teaches this when he says, “I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me” (1 Cor 4:4). He knows that by faith he is accounted righteous for Christ's sake, as the passage declares, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven” (Psa 32:1, Rom 4:7). But this absolution is always received by faith. Likewise, the imputation of the righteousness of the gospel comes from the promise. Therefore it is always received by faith, and it must always be regarded trustworthy that by faith we are accounted righteous because of Christ.

Pulling It Together: Original sin is a powerful thing; it holds humanity in its clutches with a grip so tight that no one can escape its deadly consequences. The entire human nature is altogether corrupt, as has previously been shown. So, we need God’s grace and goodness, regardless of any good works we have accomplished. God provides this grace by satisfying the demands of his law through his Son. He alone propitiates or satisfies the Father. Being God in the flesh, he earns this favor for the whole world. Therefore, we may be confident that Christ mediates or stands before the Judge to state to the heavenly court that our penalty has been paid in full.

The fine (Rom 6:23) has not been partially paid. Jesus did not make a down-payment. He is our complete redemption. We need add no other payment with good works, offerings, worship, or virtue. Nor can we. All we can and must do is receive this gospel gift in faith that the promise of our debt having been paid is really true. If we think we must add anything to Christ’s atonement, we both dishonor him and look rather foolish. It would be contempt of court, when the Judge declares that payment has been rendered, but we insist that it has not been paid. Indeed, this is contempt of Christ—and puts us right back into the grip of our prideful, disobedient, and original sin.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for saving me by grace. Amen.

 

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 an 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.

• Part 1 Participant  • Part 1 Leader
• Part 2 Participant  • Part 2 Leader

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Acts 13:38–39

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

Again, this fulfilling of the law, or obedience toward the law, is indeed righteousness when it is complete. However, it is limited and impure in us. Accordingly, it does not satisfy God on its own; nor is it accepted for its own sake. Although it is evident from those things which have been said above that justification does not only indicate the beginning of the renewal, but the reconciliation by which we are also accepted afterward. Nevertheless, it can now be seen much more clearly that rudimentary keeping of the law does not justify, because it is accepted only on account of faith. We must not trust that we are accounted righteous before God by our own perfection and fulfilling of the law, but rather on account of Christ.

Pulling It Together: We are not only unable to keep the law, but if we trust our works as righteousness, we will find that we have been idolatrous. We discount the work of Christ when we trust as righteousness our own incomplete and imperfect works. Also, we diminish the complete work of Christ when we think that we must add our own works to Christ’s in order to be considered righteous by God. This is blasphemy. Furthermore, it leads to despair, for the heart will never be at peace with God so long as it wonders if it has done enough good to counterbalance sin. Christ has already accomplished the atonement for our sin. Be satisfied with his perfect work. We should add our works as obedient thanks, not as an attempt to justify ourselves to God. He is already pleased with us through faith in his Son. Think how happy it makes him, that we trust in his grace alone. 

Prayer: Thank you God for the grace you give through your Son so that I am free and forgiven. Amen. 

Receive these daily Sola Devotions by email. Write mryman@solapublishing.com with "Subscribe" as your subject. To unsubscribe, send an email to the same address with "Unsubscribe" as your subject.

The Spiritual Realms is a nine-session Bible Study series on Heaven and Hell and places beyond this world. Specifically, the study looks at the many “place names” that are found throughout Scripture, referring to spiritual realms of existence that underlie and comprise the universe God created. This Bible Study series is a challenging one, in that it explores realities of existence beyond what we know and experience everyday.

The study not only addresses matters of life, death, heaven, and hell, it steadfastly affirms that Jesus Christ is at the center of all these things. Our ultimate faith and hope rest in Christ’s death and resurrection for our sake. We live in faith by the biblical promise that: “God raised the Lord, and will also raise us up by his power.” (1 Cor 6:14) 

Free Educational Resources on the Afterlife

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Acts 2:36–39

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

Now, let us reply to the objection that we stated above. The adversaries are right in thinking that love is the fulfilling of the law; and obedience to the law is certainly righteousness. But they make a mistake in thinking that we are justified by the law. Since we are not justified by the law, but receive forgiveness of sins and reconciliation through faith for Christ's sake, and not for the sake of love or the fulfilling of the law, it necessarily follows that we are justified by faith in Christ.

Pulling It Together: Love and other obedience to the law would indeed be considered as righteousness—if we kept the law. Because people did not keep the law, the promise of grace was given. This promise was also meant for those who were as yet distant (Acts 2:38-39). The promise is for us. For we too have been unable to keep the law. Thanks be to God that the promise is also for us.

It is well and good to point to the law, but to only consider the law—to take aim at it as a means of righteousness—is to miss the main issue, which is God’s grace toward us. However, the gospel turns us in the right direction, leading us away from a dependence on the law and our ability to keep it. It orients us to the promise of God’s grace toward sinners. Before we can keep even one bit of the law, there must be faith in Christ by whom we are reconciled to God. We must first obtain the forgiveness of sin and be empowered by the Holy Spirit before we love and otherwise keep the law. Otherwise, the keeping of the law is a futile religious endeavor.

Prayer: Thank you, Everlasting God, for building your Church on the foundation of your promise of grace, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Receive these daily Sola Devotions by email. Write mryman@solapublishing.com with "Subscribe" as your subject. To unsubscribe, send an email to the same address with "Unsubscribe" as your subject.

The Sola Online Worship Resource (SOWeR) includes a limited selection of music for use in worship, drawing primarily upon texts and music in the public domain, along with biblical texts set to familiar tunes. SOWeR is a lectionary-based web resource for Scripture lessons, lectionary inserts, children's bulletins, devotionals, text studies, prayers, hymn-planning, and much more! Join the hundreds of congregations who have discovered how simple, flexible, and useful SOWeR is for worship planning and sermon preparation. This brochure will answer more questions about SOWeR. Call 1-888-887-9840 to order a yearly subscription. 

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a304.html Thu, 22 Jul 21 00:00:00 -0500 Click for larger image

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Matthew 5:17–20

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

We are debating about a great subject that concerns the honor of Christ and where god-fearing minds may seek a sure and firm consolation—whether confidence is to be placed in Christ or in our works. Now, if trust is placed in our works, the honor of mediator and propitiator is appropriated from Christ. Yet in God's judgment, we will discover that such confidence was vain, and then consciences will rush into despair. If the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation do not occur freely for Christ's sake, but instead because of our love, no one will have forgiveness of sins unless he has fulfilled the entire law. For the law does not justify as long as it can accuse us. Justification is reconciliation for Christ's sake. Therefore it is clear that we are justified by faith because it is very certain that by faith alone the forgiveness of sins is received.

Pulling It Together: Take note of this sentence: “For the law does not justify as long as it can accuse us.” The purpose of the law is to teach people to live as God wills and, when they deviate, to accuse them of breaking the law. The law still accuses and condemns, as it should. Indeed, it will condemn everyone, for there is no one who can fulfill the law by keeping it perfectly—except Jesus. He kept the law and even fulfilled its penalty of death when he took upon himself the sins of the world (1Pet 2:24). So the law teaches us and accuses us but also compels us to rely upon the righteousness of Christ instead of our own. For everyone quickly understands that they cannot keep the whole law. We have lied, coveted, and dishonored our parents. We do not love God with our whole heart and soul and mind and strength. Breaking even one of these commandments just one time is to have failed to fulfill the whole law (James 2:10). At this point, the law accuses us of sin and condemns us with the penalty of death (Rom 6:23).

This is why we need a propitiator and mediator, someone who has fulfilled the law for us and stands before the Eternal Judge to show that the penalty for our sin has been paid. We must believe Jesus alone is this satisfaction for our sin. If we appropriate this function to ourselves, we are altogether lost and condemned—no matter how hard we work at being good and religious.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me to see and confess my sin through your law, but also to see you, my Savior. Amen. 

Receive these daily Sola Devotions by email. Write mryman@solapublishing.com with "Subscribe" as your subject. To unsubscribe, send an email to the same address with "Unsubscribe" as your subject.

The Sola Online Worship Resource is a lectionary-based web resource for Scripture lessons, lectionary inserts, children's bulletins, devotionals, text studies, prayers, hymn-planning, and much more! Join the hundreds of congregations who have discovered how simple, flexible, and useful SOWeR is for worship planning and sermon preparation. 

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a303.html Wed, 21 Jul 21 00:00:00 -0500 Click for larger image

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Luke 11:39–44

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

Therefore, Jesus praises her entire worship by that by one statement, as often happens in the Scripture, so that we comprehend many things. Later we will speak at greater length regarding similar passages, such as Luke 11:41: “But give for alms those things which are within; and behold, everything is clean for you.” He requires not only alms, but first the righteousness of faith. In the same way, he says here, “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much,” that is, because she has truly worshiped me with faith and the deeds and signs of faith. He considers her entire worship but teaches that the forgiveness of sins is rightly received by faith, although love, confession, and other good fruits ought to follow. Therefore, he does not mean that these fruits are the cost or the necessary sacrifice that earns the forgiveness of sins that reconciles us to God.

Pulling It Together: What good is it to go to church on Sundays, bring an offering, be an usher, and serve on a committee, if the doing of these things is the whole of one’s religion? All of these things and more can be done without any faith in God. Jesus does not condemn such religious acts but teaches that, if they do not come from the heart, they are like plastic flowers covering a grave (Matt 23:27). The one whose religion is devoid of faith, is dead. Indeed, if worship and service do not spring from faith, all else that is done in the name of religion is superficial spiritualism. Consider this in light of the Pharisee and the sinful woman (Luke 7:36-50). The Pharisee was strictly religious in his deeds, even offering to God a percentage of his garden herbs. He thought that he kept the commandments but he neglected the first table. You could say that he loved his religious practice more than he loved God. The woman, however, did not keep the law very strictly at all, for she was considered a sinner for being ceremonially unclean. Yet for all of her lack of religious pretense, she was forgiven and reconciled to God. Why? Her faith made her clean. The result was that she worshiped Christ, the very thing that the Pharisee refused to do. In the same way, if we go to church and perform acts of service without faith, we do not worship at all—we merely serve self.

Prayer: Lord, increase my faith. Amen. 

Receive these daily Sola Devotions by email. Write mryman@solapublishing.com with "Subscribe" as your subject. To unsubscribe, send an email to the same address with "Unsubscribe" as your subject.

The Sola Online Worship Resource (SOWeR) also includes bulletin templates. There are word processing templates for both communion and non-communion services. There are also templates for Sola, LBW, and Reclaim service settings. SOWeR is a lectionary-based web resource for Scripture lessons, lectionary inserts, children's bulletins, devotionals, text studies, prayers, hymn-planning, and much more! Join the hundreds of congregations who have discovered how simple, flexible, and useful SOWeR is for worship planning and sermon preparation. This brochure will answer more questions about SOWeR. Call 1-888-887-9840 to order a yearly subscription. 

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a302.html Tue, 20 Jul 21 00:00:00 -0500 Click for larger image

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Luke 7:44–50

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

Besides, synecdoche, the figure of speech by which we combine the cause and effects is well known. Christ used this sense, saying, “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much” (Luke 7:47). He interpreted himself by adding, “Your faith has saved you.” So he did not mean that the woman had merited the forgiveness of sins by that work of love. That is the reason he said, “Your faith has saved you.” But faith is that which freely perceives God's mercy on account of God's Word. Anyone who denies that this is faith, does not understand the meaning of faith. The narrative itself shows in this passage what it is that Jesus calls love. The woman came with belief in Christ that the forgiveness of sins should be sought in him. This is the highest worship of Christ. She could ascribe nothing greater to Christ. To seek the forgiveness of sins from him was to truly acknowledge him as the Messiah. Now, to think this way of Christ, to worship him, to embrace him, is truly to believe.

Furthermore, Christ used the word "love" not towards the woman, but against the Pharisee, because he was contrasting the entire worship of the Pharisee with the entire worship of the woman. He reproved the Pharisee because he did not acknowledge that he was the Messiah, although he rendered him the outward offices due to a guest and a great and holy man. He pointed to the woman and praised her worship, ointment, tears, and so forth, all of which were signs of faith and a confession, namely, that she sought the forgiveness of sins in Christ. It is not without reason that this was a great example indeed, that moved Christ to reprove the Pharisee, who was a wise and honorable man, but not a believer. He charged him with unrighteousness, and admonished him with the example of the woman. He demonstrated the Pharisee’s disgrace by contrasting with him an unlearned woman who believed God, while he, a doctor of the law, did not believe, nor did he acknowledge the Messiah or seek from him forgiveness of sins and salvation.

Pulling It Together: Faith in Christ freely obtains forgiveness of sins and delivers a person from sin and death. The result is love and worship. Faith in one’s religious works and moral excellence, however, is a deadly trap. It leads, not as one might expect, to death and condemnation. So, this story from the Gospel of Luke is a great example that contrasts the two types of people. One, it seems, is not a particularly religious person while the other is altogether religious. Yet, the nonreligious woman believes while the ultra-religious Pharisee does not believe. So, who is the one who would be forgiven—the one who thought that he had no sins to confess, or perhaps very few that he should bother to confess? Or would the one who sinned much but admitted her sins be the one who was forgiven? Of course, it is she who came to Jesus expecting it who received forgiveness, not the one who neither expected it nor even thought that he was a sinner who needed forgiveness.

This is a classic case of micromanagement. The Pharisee expended so much emotional energy on the woman and her sins, that he was distracted from his own. Perhaps, in his duplicity, he even hoped that Jesus would not notice his sins. The question for us is, which person in the story are we? Are we the micro-managers of sin who point out the sins of others, hoping our own sins might go unnoticed? Or are we those who confess our sins, expecting the forgiveness of a loving Savior?

Prayer: Thank you, Lord and Savior, for seeing my great sin and forgiving me nevertheless. Amen. 

Receive these daily Sola Devotions by email. Write mryman@solapublishing.com with "Subscribe" as your subject. To unsubscribe, send an email to the same address with "Unsubscribe" as your subject.

The Sola Online Worship Resource (SOWeR) includes liturgies and services for your use. There are ready-to-copy settings for Holy Communion, services, services of the Word, Vespers, occasional services, funerals, and seasonal services. SOWeR is a lectionary-based web resource for Scripture lessons, lectionary inserts, children's bulletins, devotionals, text studies, prayers, hymn-planning, and much more! Join the hundreds of congregations who have discovered how simple, flexible, and useful SOWeR is for worship planning and sermon preparation. 

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a301.html Mon, 19 Jul 21 00:00:00 -0500 Click for larger image

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Psalm 46:10–11

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

But some one may ask: Since we also profess that love is a work of the Holy Spirit, and since it is righteousness because it is the fulfilling of the law, why do we not teach that it justifies? To this we must reply that in the first place, it is certain that we do not receive forgiveness of sins either through or because of our love, but on account of Christ's, by faith alone. Faith alone looks upon the promise that overcomes the terrors of sin and death, and knows with certainty that God forgives because Christ has not died in vain. If any one doubts whether sins are forgiven, that person dishonors Christ by judging that his sin is greater or more effective than the death and promise of Christ, although Paul says, “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom 5:20)—that is, mercy is more comprehensive than sin.

If any one thinks that he obtains the forgiveness of sins because he loves, he dishonors Christ and will discover in God's judgment that this confidence in his own righteousness is wicked and vain. Therefore it is essential that faith reconciles and justifies. And as we do not receive forgiveness of sins through other virtues of the law or on account of them—because of patience, chastity, obedience to magistrates, and so forth—nevertheless these virtues ought to follow. We do not receive forgiveness of sins because of love toward God, although it is necessary that this should follow faith.

Pulling It Together: The conscience is a restless thing. It is always busy trying to soothe itself. This never works since there is only one thing that brings peace. The absolute certainty that one’s sins are forgiven brings peace. This peace comes through the gracious work of Christ, not through our deeds, character, or virtue. “But what must I do?” the busy conscience demands. Nothing. Be still. Accept that God is in control. You cannot add anything but chaos with your virtuous busyness. Do you really think that you are able to do more than God? He has done it all at Calvary. Be still and know that God is God—and you are not.

Prayer: Lord and Reconciler, be a truly present help in times of trouble. Amen.

Receive these daily Sola Devotions by email. Write mryman@solapublishing.com with "Subscribe" as your subject. To unsubscribe, send an email to the same address with "Unsubscribe" as your subject.

The ReClaim Hymnal for Church and Home contains three Communion Settings along with liturgies for Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage, Funerals, and other occasional services. It also includes the Small Catechism, as well as 275 beloved hymns from various hymn traditions. It is a resource that would be suitable for confirmation and graduation gifts as well as congregational use. 

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Romans 4:13–16a

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

From these outcomes of faith the adversaries select one, namely, love, and teach that love justifies. Because of this it is obvious that they only teach the law. They do not teach that forgiveness of sins is first received through faith. They do not teach about Christ as Mediator, that on Christ's account we have a gracious God. They say these are because of our love. Yet, they do not and cannot say what the nature of this love is. They claim that they fulfill the law, although this glory belongs properly to Christ. They place confidence in their own works against the judgment of God by saying that they merit de condigno grace and eternal life. This self-assurance is absolutely impious and vain. For we cannot satisfy the law in this life because our sinful nature does not cease to bring forth wicked dispositions, even though the Spirit in us resists them.

Pulling It Together: If we endeavor to stand on our own two feet before God, to meet the demands of his law with our own righteousness and love, honest people will find themselves wanting. The very inclination to imagine that we can satisfy God’s holy demands is proof of our depravity. We cannot transcend ourselves by our own efforts; we are what we are. We are simply incapable of exceeding our limitations. We need assistance. Putting it in the vernacular: God knows, we need help. Though we try to keep the law, we will never pull it off on this side of eternity. Yet, if we insist upon depending on the law for our righteousness, or worse, of depending upon our own love and righteousness as a way to keep the law, then we discount faith altogether. We also invalidate the promise of God in our lives when we depend upon our own righteousness. For the law will always bring the accusations of both conscience and the devil, as well as the wrath of God. On the other hand, the love of God is abundantly available to those who will receive his grace by faith in God instead of trust in their own religious efforts.

Prayer: Take away all fear, Lord, and perfect me in your love. Amen.

Receive these daily Sola Devotions by email. Write mryman@solapublishing.com with "Subscribe" as your subject. To unsubscribe, send an email to the same address with "Unsubscribe" as your subject.

  

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 an 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.

• Part 1 Participant  • Part 1 Leader  • Part 2 Participant  • Part 2 Leader

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a299.html Sat, 17 Jul 21 00:00:00 -0500 Click for larger image

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1 John 4:15–19

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Article 5: Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

Again, we teach not only how the law can be observed, but also how God is pleased if anything is done, not because we render satisfaction to the law, but because we are in Christ, as we shall say a little later. It is obvious, therefore, that we require good works. We even add that it is impossible to separate love for God from faith, even though it be a small work. For it is through Christ that we come to the Father, and because we have received the forgiveness of sins we are now truly certain that we have a God—a God who cares for us. So we call upon him, give him thanks, fear him, and love him. “We love, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19), that is to say, because he gave his Son for us and forgave us our sins. As a result, he confirms that faith precedes and love follows. Likewise, the faith of which we speak exists in repentance, that is, it is conceived in the terrors of conscience that senses the wrath of God against our sins, and seeks the forgiveness of sins and to be freed from sin. In such terrors and other afflictions, this faith ought to grow and be strengthened. Therefore, it cannot exist in those who live according to the flesh, those who are delighted by their own lusts and obey them. Accordingly, Paul says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus...who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Rom 8:1, 4). So too, “We are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—for if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live” (Rom 8:12-13). Thus, the faith that receives forgiveness of sins for a heart that is terrified and fleeing from sin, does not remain in those who obey their desires, nor does it coexist with mortal sin.

Pulling It Together: The law is kept in this way: first, God loves us. Then, while we are still ignorant of his love, our disobedience to God begins to unsettle and even frighten the conscience. Third, we hear of God’s great love for us. The gospel teaches us that God has redeemed sinners by sending his Son to save them by satisfying the demands of the law. Fourth, we confess that Jesus Christ is this saving Son of God. At this point, faith in a loving God confronts our fear of a wrathful God. Knowing that we are no longer condemned by the law, we have peace with God despite the weakness of our nature. Fifth, we begin to live in God and God begins to live in us. His love not only begins to grow in us, it is perfected in us—not because of anything we have done or do, but because this love is something he has done and is doing. Last, our love with its subsequent acts of obedience, however modest, is a response to his love. “We love because he first loved us” (1John 4:19).

Prayer: Loving Father, help me cling to Christ through faith and the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Receive these daily Sola Devotions by email. Write mryman@solapublishing.com with "Subscribe" as your subject. To unsubscribe, send an email to the same address with "Unsubscribe" as your subject.

The Spiritual Realms is a nine-session Bible Study series on Heaven and Hell and places beyond this world. Specifically, the study looks at the many “place names” that are found throughout Scripture, referring to spiritual realms of existence that underlie and comprise the universe God created. This Bible Study series is a challenging one, in that it explores realities of existence beyond what we know and experience everyday.

The study not only addresses matters of life, death, heaven and hell, it steadfastly affirms that Jesus Christ is at the center of all these things. Our ultimate faith and hope rest in Christ’s death and resurrection for our sake. We live in faith by the biblical promise that: “God raised the Lord, and will also raise us up by his power” (1 Cor 6:14). 

Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a298.html Fri, 16 Jul 21 00:00:00 -0500 Click for larger image

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Matthew 15:17–20

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law

We confess that it is necessary for people to begin keeping the law and that it be continually observed more and more. At the same time we comprehend both spiritual movements and external good works. Therefore the adversaries falsely charge against us that our theologians do not teach good works. They not only require these, but also show how they can be done. The result convicts hypocrites, who by their own powers endeavor to fulfill the law, though they cannot accomplish what they attempt. For human nature is far too weak to be able in its own power to resist the devil, who holds as captives all who have not been freed through faith. There is need of the power of Christ to resist the devil. Since we know that because of Christ we are heard and have the promise, we may pray for the governance and defense of the Holy Spirit so that we may neither be deceived and then err, nor be impelled to undertake anything contrary to God's will. Just as Psalm 68:18 teaches, you have led captivity captive and have received gifts for man. For Christ has overcome the devil, and has given to us the promise and the Holy Spirit so that, by divine aid, we ourselves also may overcome. “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1John 3:8).

Pulling It Together: People cannot keep the law of God as long as they have bad hearts—while they operate in their original, sinful nature. They may undertake to practice the law but these will only be lifeless, cold actions. Therefore, we do not begin to do good works and then receive a good heart from God. We must first receive the good heart. We must be reborn with an empowered nature. When people have been born again, God sends his Holy Spirit to live in them. The Spirit defends them from the devil, and empowers them to live within God’s will. This does not mean that they will suddenly keep God’s law with perfection, for although the old nature has been drowned in baptism, it still threatens to undo us. It does mean, however, that those who are first forgiven, regenerated, and filled with the Holy Spirit will not only begin to keep God’s law, they will then persevere in the power of the Spirit, observing God’s word and will more and more.

Prayer: Defend and deliver me, Holy Spirit, from all temptations and trickery of the devil so that I may keep your will on earth as it is kept in heaven. Amen.

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Not My Will, But Yours is a six-week study that explores the topic of the “free will” from a biblical perspective, looking at what Scripture has to say about the bondage of the human will, and how Jesus Christ has come to deliver us from ourselves.

Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a297.html Thu, 15 Jul 21 00:00:00 -0500

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6 And on this mountain the Lord of hosts make for all peoples a feast of fat things, a feast of aged wines, of fat pieces full of marrow, of refined, well-aged wines. 7 And on this mountain he will destroy the face of the covering that is over all peoples, and the veil that is woven over all nations. 8 He will swallow up death forever, And the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces. And he will take away the reproach of his people from all the earth. For the Lord has spoken.

9 And it will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” (Isaiah 25:6–9)

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law

But Christ was given for this purpose: that for his sake the forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit may be given to us to bring forth in us new and eternal life, and eternal righteousness. Therefore the law cannot be truly kept unless the Holy Spirit is received through faith. Accordingly, Paul says that the law is established by faith, not abolished, because the law can only then be thus kept when the Holy Spirit is given. Paul also teaches that the veil that covered the face of Moses cannot be removed except by faith in Christ (2Cor 3:15-16), by which the Holy Spirit is received. He says, “Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their minds; but when a man turns to the Lord the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” By “the veil,” Paul means the human opinion concerning the entire law, the Decalogue, and the ceremonies. In other words, hypocrites think that external and civil works satisfy the law of God, and that sacrifices and observances justify before God ex opere operato. But when this veil is removed from us, when we are freed from this error, God reveals to our hearts our unrighteousness and the heinousness of sin. Then, for the first time, we see that we are far from fulfilling the law. Only then do we understand how flesh, dwelling in security and indifference, does not fear God, and is not fully certain that we are favored by God, but imagines that men are born and die by chance. Then we see that we do not believe that God forgives and hears us. But when we hear the gospel and the forgiveness of sins, we are consoled by faith and receive the Holy Spirit so that now we are able to think correctly about God, and to fear and believe God, and so forth. It is plain from these facts that the law cannot be kept without Christ and the Holy Spirit.

Pulling It Together: Why did the Father send his Son to earth? He did this so that humanity would be redeemed. In other words, Jesus, the long-awaited Savior, came to save us from sin and death by justly forgiving our sins and giving us rebirth and his own eternal righteousness. This is something we could never do for ourselves through keeping the law. So, Jesus fulfilled the law and gave us his Spirit so that we could practice even the spirit of the law—the first table that commands us to love God. His Spirit produces true love for God in us so that we no longer seek to satisfy God through mere performance of good deeds. Rather, we live for God because we love him. We love him because his Son satisfied the law for us. All of this happens when we hear the gospel and believe what God has done for us through Christ. Only then does the Holy Spirit indwell us and produce the kind of love in us that desires to keep the whole law. We do not love him first and then receive his forgiveness as a reward. Rather, while we were still sinners, God first loved us, and sent his Son to die for us and for our sins (Rom 5:8). It is clear that the love of God for us is what produces love for God within us.

Prayer: Thank you, Jesus, for putting to death my old nature and giving me rebirth, a new nature, so that I may fear and love you in the power of your Spirit. Amen.

Receive these daily Sola Devotions by email. Write mryman@solapublishing.com with "Subscribe" as your subject. To unsubscribe, send an email to the same address with "Unsubscribe" as your subject.

Sola’s Word of Life series is a resource for those looking to develop small groups built around the Word of God. This model of small-group ministry is an excellent tool for evangelism since it is rooted in prayer and Scripture. Its primary focus is to empower those who believe in Jesus Christ to be comfortable sharing their faith and inviting others to experience a transformed life in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Meant for use in small group gatherings, each of the six sessions in Dwell in My Love is based on a primary Scripture text, with intentional time for reflection. There are questions, prayer, faith sharing, and mini evangelism case-studies. The series would be helpful for those involved in starting a Bible study fellowship, house church, or mission congregation. It can also be used by established congregations to aid in establishing a small group ministry.

• Unit 1   • Unit 2   • Unit 3

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a296.html Wed, 14 Jul 21 00:00:00 -0500 Click for larger image

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Deuteronomy 6:4–5

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

Though civil works, that is, the outward works of the law, can be done, in a measure, without Christ and without the Holy Spirit, nevertheless it appears from what we have said that those things belonging specifically to the divine law, that is, the affections of the heart towards God that are commanded in the first table, cannot be rendered without the Holy Spirit. But our adversaries are fine theologians. They regard the second table and political works as though they care nothing for the first table, as though it were of no matter, or that they only require outward observances. They in no way consider the law that is eternal, and placed far above the sense and intellect of all creatures: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” (Deut 6:5).

Pulling It Together: “The greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:13). Therefore, we must keep the whole law, the first commandments as well as the latter. We must not only honor our parents, and not lie or steal, we must also love the Lord our God with our whole selves—with all our hearts and with all our souls and with all our might. Yet, when trying to do so in our own strength, it becomes quickly evident that we cannot love God in this way. Eventually, even decent people give up trying to love God, or confuse loving God with works of the second table: not committing adultery, etc. Only those who have already been filled with God’s love keep pressing on (Phil 3:14) in spite of past failings. For the child who truly loves mother and father, who has their own loving character, will try to please them, regardless of previous failures.

People need the character of God in order to love him truly. That divine quality comes in the person of the Holy Spirit. Yet the Holy Spirit is not given until one has faith, believing in Christ and what he has done for us out of his Father’s great love for us (John 3:16). So we see that all does depend upon love—the Father’s love, not ours. When we have faith that the Father has loved us so much that he sent his Son to reconcile us to himself, we are regenerated so that we also try to practice the higher theology of the first table, loving God with our whole selves.

Prayer: I praise you God for the great love with which you have loved me. Amen.

Receive these daily Sola Devotions by email. Write mryman@solapublishing.com with "Subscribe" as your subject. To unsubscribe, send an email to the same address with "Unsubscribe" as your subject.

The Ten Commandments is a ten-week unit in the Sola Confirmation Series. It includes one session on each of the Commandments. The Scripture focus in the Ten Commandment series is on Moses and the Exodus Cycle, with Bible Study lessons taken primarily from the Pentateuch.

Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a295.html Tue, 13 Jul 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Galatians 3:10–14

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

These things cannot occur until we have been justified by faith, born again, and receive the Holy Spirit. This is because first, the law cannot be kept without Christ, and second, the law cannot be kept without the Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit is received by faith, according to the testimony of Paul, “That we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Gal 3:14). Then too, how can the human heart love God while it thinks that he is terribly angry, and is oppressing us with temporal and perpetual calamities? But the law always accuses us, always shows that God is angry. God therefore, is not loved until we understand his mercy by faith. Not until then does he become someone we can love.

Pulling It Together: “Let me know how that works out for you,” some friends of mine remark whenever people say they are going to do something considered unlikely or even impossible. It is a sarcastic reply, meaning that they do not even have to mention later that they were unable to do what they said they were going to do. We might say the same to those who intend to keep the law by their own strength. Good luck with that; “let me know how that works out for you.” Soon enough, it will be discovered that the law was unable to be kept, while it constantly accused them of their inability.

Even if one is able to keep the law with some degree of perfection, the law is still not kept, because it has been undertaken as an effort of human will. It is not kept for the right reasons, since that person is relying on works of the law to be reconciled to God. Therefore, as Luther said, “In “keeping” the Law he does not keep it” (Luther’s Works, vol 26, 268). These people “remain under the curse.” (ibid)

Because redemption is through his blood, not our sweat, Christ saved us from this curse and from the accusations of the law. It is only by the grace of God, not our efforts, that we discover his mercy and love. We also find that we keep the law because Christ has fulfilled for us. When we believe in Christ, we receive his Holy Spirit, who helps us rely upon God despite our failings. The result is that we persevere at living godly lives but do not depend upon ourselves to be godly. Instead, we have faith in God’s rich grace, love, and mercy toward us.

Prayer: Holy Spirit, help me live a godly life today, through faith in the Son of God. Amen.

Receive these daily Sola Devotions by email. Write mryman@solapublishing.com with "Subscribe" as your subject. To unsubscribe, send an email to the same address with "Unsubscribe" as your subject.

A Reading and Discussion of the Augsburg Confession is a more challenging study series based on assigned readings from the Book of Concord and related Scripture texts. Each study is comprised of eight sessions, plus an optional introductory session, presented in a question and discussion format. The Leader's Guide that accompanies this study is a resource for those facilitating group discussion, or may serve as a reader's commentary for those who are studying the Book of Concord on their own.

Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a294.html Mon, 12 Jul 21 00:00:00 -0500 Click for larger image

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Jeremiah 31:31–33

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law 

Here the adversaries urge against us: “Keep the commandments” (Matt 19:17), and likewise, “The doers of the law who will be justified” (Rom 2:13), and many other similar things concerning the law and works. Before we reply to this, we must first declare what we believe concerning love and the fulfilling of the law.

It is written in the prophet, “I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts” (Jer 31:33). Paul says, “Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law” (Rom 3:31). Christ says, “If you would enter life, keep the commandments” (Matt 19:17). Likewise, “If I...have not love, I gain nothing” (1Cor 13:3). These and similar statements bear witness that the law ought to be begun in us, and be kept by us more and more. Now we do not speak of ceremonies, but of that law which commands the movements of the heart, namely, the Decalogue. Because faith brings the Holy Spirit and produces new life in hearts, it is necessary that it should produce spiritual movements in hearts. The prophet shows what these movements are when he says, “I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts” (Jer 31:33). Therefore, when we have been justified by faith and regenerated, we begin to fear and love God, to pray to him, to expect aid from him, to give thanks and praise him, and to obey him in afflictions. We begin also to love our neighbors, because our hearts have spiritual and holy movements.

Pulling It Together

Yes! We ought to keep the commandments. Our hearts urge us to do so, as do the Scriptures. The law is written upon our hearts and should be lived out. As Christians, we ought to be doing a much better job of keeping the law than we were previously able, particularly the spirit of the law, such as loving God and neighbor above all things. But this does not mean that we are to keep the old ceremonial law or any new versions of it, in order that we might be justified with God. Instead, because we have been justified by God’s grace through faith, the Spirit of Christ has given us new hearts, minds, and spirits so that we both desire to keep the law and are actually practicing it more and more in the Spirit.

Prayer: Thank you, Holy Spirit, for moving my heart to love. Amen.

Receive these daily Sola Devotions by email. Write mryman@solapublishing.com with "Subscribe" as your subject. To unsubscribe, send an email to the same address with "Unsubscribe" as your subject.

Many Gifts, One Lord considers grace in relation to the gifts of the Holy Spirit in order to show that the grace of God is free to flow with all those gifts without causing division and disharmony in the body of Christ. It is interesting that we really never seem to tire of gifts. Sad to say many go through life not even aware that they have specific gifts, which could not only be a blessing to themselves but to others.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a293.html Sun, 11 Jul 21 00:00:00 -0500 Click for larger image

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Matthew 7:24–27

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

In order that the subject might be made quite clear, we have so far shown with sufficient fulness, using both testimonies of Scripture and arguments derived from Scripture, that by faith alone we obtain the forgiveness of sins for Christ's sake, and that by faith alone we are justified, that is, that unrighteous people are made righteous or regenerated. It can be easily judged how necessary the knowledge of this faith is because in this alone the office of Christ is recognized, by this alone we receive the benefits of Christ, and by this alone brings sure and firm consolation to pious minds. There needs to be doctrine in the Church from which the pious may receive the sure hope of salvation. For the adversaries give people bad advice when they teach them to doubt whether they obtain forgiveness of sins. How will such persons be sustained in death when they have heard nothing of this faith and believe that they ought to doubt whether they have received the forgiveness of sins? Besides, the gospel, that is, the promise that for Christ's sake sins are freely forgiven, must be retained in the Church of Christ. Those who teach nothing of this faith of which we speak altogether abolish the gospel. Yet the scholastics do not mention even a word concerning this faith. Our adversaries, following them, reject this faith. They do they see that, by rejecting this faith, they abolish the entire promise concerning the free forgiveness of sins and the righteousness of Christ.

Pulling It Together

Justification is no idle dream among Christians. The Church stands upon the promise of God in Christ Jesus. Otherwise, we have built the Church on sand. But the Church has built its house on the Rock (1Cor 10:4). Therefore, when the storms of life come, her people are sustained. This is why bishops, pastors, and doctors of the Church must faithfully teach the sure and certain hope of salvation in Christ alone. Even the creed speaks to this, saying that we believe in “the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.” There is no need to make people doubt. Moreover, there is nothing reasonable about them professing such things while, on the other hand, doubting those very things. Great will be the fall of anyone who trusts in anyone or anything other than Christ and his work on the cross.

Prayer: Rock and Redeemer, on you alone I stand. Amen.

Receive these daily Sola Devotions by email. Write mryman@solapublishing.com with "Subscribe" as your subject. To unsubscribe, send an email to the same address with "Unsubscribe" as your subject.

The 2019-20 Liturgical calendar for Year A charts the Scripture readings for each Sunday in the Church Year, with each Sunday printed in the proper liturgical color for easy reference. Sola Publishing recommends the use of the Revised Common Lectionary as found in the Lutheran Service Book (LSB) published by Concordia Publishing House, and makes use of this lectionary in its own Sola Online Worship eResource (SOWeR) website.

Get a two-sided, glossy, card stock calendar for the Sacristy, Pastor, and Secretary.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a291.html Fri, 09 Jul 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Romans 5:1–5

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

It is truly amazing that the adversaries are in no way moved by so many passages of Scripture that clearly ascribe justification to faith, and indeed, deny it by ascribing it to works. Do they think this is repeated so often for no purpose? Do they think that these words fell inconsiderately from the Holy Spirit? But they have also devised sophistry so that they might elude them. They say that these passages of Scripture ought to be received as referring to a fides formata. That is, they do not ascribe justification to faith except on account of love. Indeed, they do not in any way ascribe justification to faith, but only to love, because they dream that faith can coexist with mortal sin. Where does this lead but to the abolition of the promise and a return to the law? If faith receives the forgiveness of sins on account of love, the forgiveness of sins will always be uncertain, because we never love as much as we should. We do not love unless our hearts are firmly convinced that the forgiveness of sins has been granted us. Therefore, as long as the adversaries require confidence in one's own love for the forgiveness of sins and justification, they altogether abolish the gospel concerning the free forgiveness of sins. Yet, at the same time, they neither render this love nor understand it, unless they believe that the forgiveness of sins is freely received.

Pulling It Together: The idea that faith only comes into existence when it is formed by love is contrary to Scripture. Faith comes first, as a free gift of God. Only then do virtues like love begin to develop. Therefore, love cannot form faith since love develops in the Christian life because of faith. We are not considering that easy kind of love that one feels, as a man has for a woman or parent has for a child. The love that faith develops exists when feelings lead the unjustified away from spiritual love. Faith then begins to give us an assurance and peace about our standing with God. This peace gives the Christian a spiritual endurance that perseveres through sufferings. Endurance leads to character development, a spiritual and Christian property. Hope is the result of this enduring character, despite any suffering that might produce negative feelings. The Christian hopes because of faith, not because of positive and loving emotions. This kind of love cannot produce faith. On the contrary, true spiritual love is formed by faith because it is after one has faith that the Holy Spirit pours God’s love into our hearts.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for dying for weak and ungodly me, and reconciling me by giving me your righteousness. Amen.

The enigmatic Disciple Jesus Loved has long intrigued readers of the Gospel of John. Why did he withhold his name? Did he leave clues in the Gospel to his identity? Does it matter? New Testament reasearchers have explored these questions with renewed energy. Unlike other books, The Mystery of the Beloved Disciple moves beyond their simple first names to find Lazarus, Martha, and Mary in sources outside the Bible, and the Beloved Disciple in the Talmud! Discovering who these people actually were informs our reading of the Gospel of John in powerful ways. The truth presented here will prove irrefutable.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a290.html Thu, 08 Jul 21 00:00:00 -0500 Click for larger image

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2 Corinthians 12:7b–10

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

Augustine writes many things to the same effect against the Pelagians. In Of the Spirit and Letter he says: “The righteousness of the law, namely that the one who practices the righteousness which is based on the law shall live by it,’ is established so that when any one has recognized his weakness he may attain and keep and live in it, conciliating the Justifier not by his own strength nor by the letter of the law itself, but by faith. Now in a justified person, there is no right work by which the one who does it may live. Rather, justification is obtained by faith.” Here he clearly says that the Justifier is reconciled by faith, and that justification is obtained by faith. A little after: “By the law we fear God; by faith we hope in God. But grace is hidden from those fearing punishment. The soul laboring under this fear resorts to faith in God's mercy, so that God may give what he commands.” Here Augustine teaches that hearts are terrified by the law, but by faith they receive consolation. He also teaches us to receive mercy by faith before we attempt to fulfill the law. We will quote certain other passages shortly.

Pulling It Together: We often think of Paul’s mysterious “thorn” as a physical affliction. However, if we consider it a spiritual thorn, we may find some profit. Besides any physical difficulties, we all have another chronic problem. We are sinners. This is such an acute and debilitating disease that we have all found ourselves in the same position as Paul. Have you ever prayed three or more times, “Lord, help me stop sinning”? Perhaps you have even asked God to make you quit a particular sin. And did you stop? Generally, these thorns are not removed immediately. These thorny little gifts from God—whether spiritual or physical—are given to keep us humble and reliant upon his grace. Otherwise, we Pauls of the Church would be unbearable. We cannot fulfill the law’s demands, so we either try to make people believe we are better than we know ourselves to be, or we avail ourselves of God’s mercy and grace. Since we cannot keep the law by our deeds, we rely upon the grace of God by faith, and then, content in our weakness, allow God to remove our thorns. This is the only real strength in our lives: the power of Christ resting upon us despite our great failings.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, weak as I am to keep your law, work the power of your salvation in me. Amen.

Winning, Losing, Loving: The Gospel in the Old Testament is an overview of Old Testament Scripture, tracing themes of chosenness, sin, and grace throughout the early books of the Bible. These cycles of sin and redemption point forward toward God's ultimate act of redemption in Jesus Christ.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a289.html Wed, 07 Jul 21 00:00:00 -0500 Click for larger image

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Colossians 2:11–14

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

Here and there, similar testimonies are found among the Fathers. Ambrose says in his letter to a certain Irenaeus, “Moreover, the world was subject to him by the law because, according to the command of the law, all are indicted, and yet, by the works of the law, no one is justified. In other words, because sin is perceived through the law but guilt is not discharged. The law seemed to have done injury by making all sinners but when the Lord Jesus Christ came, he forgave for all sin which no one could avoid, and by the shedding of his own blood, blotted out the bill that was held against us. This is what Paul says in Romans 5:20: ‘Law came in, to increase the trespass; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.’ Because after the whole world became subject, he took away the sin of the whole world, as John testified, saying, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’ (John 1:29) So because of this, let no one boast of works since none are justified by their deeds. Those who are righteous have it given to them because they are justified after baptism. Faith, therefore, is that which frees through the blood of Christ. ‘Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered’” (Psa 32:1). These are the words of Ambrose, and they clearly favor our doctrine. He denies justification by works, and attributes it to faith by which we are set free through the blood of Christ. Assemble into one heap all of the lecturers on the Sentences who are adorned with magnificent titles. For some are called angelic; others, subtle; and others indisputable. When all these have been read and reread, they will help us understand Paul far less than this one passage of Ambrose.

Pulling It Together: The bill is overdue. Ignoring it does not help a bit. It looms over you and you know that your service is about to be cut off. In the same way, our sin has put us in debt. The invoice has been sent by the law. Numerous overdue statements have arrived, though not for lack of trying to clear the debt. But the things we do, our good deeds and religion, do not satisfy the bill collector. We are dead in our trespasses and we know that we are about to be cut off—eternally. Our old nature, that sin nature that is in all of us from birth, needs to be reborn (John 3:3). Jesus blesses us with this rebirth, giving those who believe a new life.

Just as circumcision was the sign of God’s pledge of blessing to his people of old, Jesus made a new covenant in his blood. Baptism is a sign of that covenant. Now, neither circumcision nor baptism are things we do to ourselves. These signs are performed by God through the hands of others. In baptism, we are buried in the death of Jesus. The old nature is thereby put to death. The bill that hung over our heads is canceled. Our sins are forgiven; we are justified with God. All of this happens through faith—not by one thing that we do. Christ has done it all. Blessed are they who believe that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake.

Prayer: Lamb of God, thank you for being the sacrifice that settled the debt I owe. Amen.

Views of Baptism is written for a range of readers including the parent or sponsor about to baptize a child, the adult who wants to understand baptism more fully, and the professional teacher or preacher who needs the truth about baptism stated simply but backed by careful research. This books explores three views of baptism: the individual-centered view, the means-of-grace view, and the Roman Catholic view. It includes a description of how Christian baptism came to us in stages from its Jewish roots. A question and answer section addresses specific matters often raised when people contemplate baptism.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a288.html Tue, 06 Jul 21 00:00:00 -0500 Click for larger image

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Isaiah 53:5–11

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

By his knowledge he will justify many (Isa 53:11). But what is the knowledge of Christ unless to know the benefits of Christ, those promises which he has sown throughout the world by the Gospel? To know these benefits properly and truly is to believe in Christ, to trust that what God has promised he will certainly fulfill for Christ's sake.

Scripture is filled with such testimonies. In some places it presents the law and in others the promises concerning Christ, and the forgiveness of sins, and the free acceptance of the sinner on Christ's account.

Pulling It Together: Jesus was pierced for our “transgressions.” He bore the discipline that was our due, eternal death. Though we strayed, he went willingly to slaughter, knowing that his death would mean our life—eternal life. “Out of the anguish of his soul,” he watched from the cross and saw our salvation. In dying, he satisfied the law of God and made us righteous. We can add nothing to this mighty act of God’s Servant. He has done it all and justified us to God.

Prayer: All we can offer you, Lord, is thank you. Amen. 

Why Did Jesus Have to Die? is a six-week Bible Study that examines the most profound event of salvation history — the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ — exploring from a biblical perspective what is known as the doctrine of the Atonement.

Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a287.html Mon, 05 Jul 21 00:00:00 -0500 Click for larger image

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Habakkuk 2:1–4

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

“The righteous shall live by his faith” (Hab 2:4). He first says that people are justified by faith, by which they believe that God is gracious. Then he adds that this same faith gives life because it produces peace and joy and eternal life in the heart.

Pulling It Together

William Temple said, “If we are traveling heavenward, we are already in heaven.” Our lives have already been transformed in a heavenly way. More than that, we are so assured of eternity with God that eternity has begun in this present life. Because faith in Christ completely reconciles us to God and so entirely assures us of eternal life, we already begin to enjoy the confident peace and joy of heaven.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord Jesus, for your perfect peace. Amen.

Combining the message of salvation in Christ with personal witness, The Gospel in Miniature is a Lutheran guide for evangelism. 

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a286.html Sun, 04 Jul 21 00:00:00 -0500 Click for larger image

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Acts 4:11–12

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

“This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, but which has become the head of the corner. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:11-12). But the name of Christ is apprehended only by faith. Therefore, we are saved by confidence in the name of Christ, and not by confidence in our works. For “the name” signifies here the cause which is mentioned by which which salvation is attained. And to call upon the name of Christ is to trust in the name of Christ as the cause or price by which we are saved. God “cleansed their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:9). Therefore, that faith of which the Apostles speak is not idle knowledge but the reality of receiving the Holy Spirit and justifying us.

Pulling It Together: The Rymans are a pretty decent bunch of folks. You should have met my grandfather. He was a great man in my book. But salvation is not available to me in the name of Fred Ryman, nor in the name of Ryman—the whole of my lineage. Salvation is only available in the name of Jesus Christ. There is no other name under heaven by which I can be saved. That also means that my salvation did not come about because Mark worked with Jesus, my works added to his.

It is only God in Christ who cleanses the hearts of humanity. This purifying happens when we have faith and confidence that Jesus has done this for us, not when we possess a mere knowledge of Church history. When we call on the name of the incarnate God, trusting in the blessed name of Jesus Christ, there is a powerful work of the Holy Spirit in us that justifies our hearts before God. Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of this trust and faith. Upon his name the salvation of the whole world is supported—the decent folks as well as those who are not so respectable.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord Jesus, for making me part of your blessed family. Amen. 

Who is Jesus? is a five-session study, meant to serve as an introduction to what the Bible says about Jesus Christ—who he is and what it means to trust in him as Savior and Lord.

Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a285.html Sat, 03 Jul 21 00:00:00 -0500 Click for larger image

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Acts 13:38–39

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

“Let it be known to you therefore, brethren, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him every one that believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:38-39). How could the office of Christ and justification be declared more clearly? The law, he says, did not justify. Consequently, Christ was given so that we may believe that we are justified for his sake. He plainly denies that the law justifies. Therefore, for Christ's sake we are accounted righteous when we believe that God, for his sake, has been reconciled to us.

Pulling It Together: Verse 39 of today’s Scripture reads in English as either justified” or “freed.” The older the translation, the more chance there is that it will read “justified.” It is a legal term that is, evidently, beyond the understanding of the typical modern reader. The 1611 and even the 1900 versions of the King James read “justified,” as does the 1901 American Standard Version. By the time we reach the middle of the 20th century, we already need the word “freed,” as in the 1952 Revised Standard Version. The 1995 New American Standard Bible and the 2001 English Standard Version mirror this translation.

The word translated as either justified” or “freed” means to declare someone righteous or free. This declaration or verdict does not depend upon the person’s deeds or merits; it depends upon the judge. The judge, in this case, God, states that the offense is forgiven; the person is legally declared righteous in the eyes of the court, or in the eyes of God. When one hears what Christ has done and believes in his merit and the worth of what he did to reconcile us to the Father, that person is justified or freed from sin and death. This happens because of Christ, for his sake, not for the sake of anything we do or have done.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord Jesus, for setting me free from sin and death. Amen. 

The ReClaim Hymnal for Church and Home contains three Communion Settings along with liturgies for Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage, Funerals, and other occasional services. It also includes the Small Catechism, as well as 275 beloved hymns from various hymn traditions. It is a resource that would be suitable for confirmation and graduation gifts as well as congregational use. 

Most of the hymns and other resources in ReClaim are part of Sola's Online Worship Electronic Resource. Check out all that is in SOWER here

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a284.html Fri, 02 Jul 21 00:00:00 -0500

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John 3:16–18

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

“But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13). “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14-15). And a few verses later: “For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. He who believes in him is not condemned” (John 3:17-18).

Pulling It Together: If God expected us to save ourselves, we would be condemned before we begin. Even if we were capable of doing enough moral, civil, and religious works to cancel out our sins, we would still be sinners. It is our nature. Therefore, we cannot save ourselves. Nor will our good works make us righteous. Only God can do that to us and that is why the Father sent his Son into the world—to save sinners. How does that happen? He who believes in the Son is not condemned. In other words, the believer is justified with God and saved through faith. 

Prayer: Thank you, Jesus, for being the Word made flesh and bringing God’s grace to me. Amen. 

We Still Believe is offered as a resource for reflecting on key themes in biblical, Lutheran doctrine that are at risk in the Church today. It is offered in the hope that it will inspire individuals and congregations to examine the core beliefs of traditional Lutheranism and how these beliefs apply to our own present context. Written in a question and discussion style, the participant's book includes an introduction to and copy of the faith statement known as the Common Confession.

Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a283.html Thu, 01 Jul 21 00:00:00 -0500 Click for larger image

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Galatians 2:15–16

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

If one imagines that Paul used the phrase “faith justifies” without consideration, remember that he fortifies and supports this key phrase by a long discussion in the fourth chapter to the Romans, and repeats it in all his epistles. Thus he says, “Now to one who works, his wages are not reckoned as a gift but as his due. And to one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness” (Rom 4:4-5). As he clearly says here that faith itself is imputed as righteousness. Faith, therefore, is that thing which God declares to be righteousness, and Paul adds that it is imputed freely, adding that it would not be free imputation if it were owed because of works rendered. Therefore he even excludes the merit of moral works. For if justification before God were because of these, faith would not be imputed for righteousness without works. “We say that faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness” (Rom 4:9). Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God.” In other words, we have consciences that are tranquil and joyful before God. “For man believes with his heart and so is justified” (Rom 10:10). Here he declares that faith is the righteousness of the heart. “We have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law” (Gal 2:16). “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God—not because of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph 2:8-9).

Pulling It Together: Having been a devout Jew, a Hebrew among Hebrews and as to the law, a Pharisee (Phil 3:5), the Apostle Paul would never have let a phrase like “faith justifies” slip out unwittingly. Until Christ met him on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-22), his life had been dedicated to keeping the law. In dramatic fashion, he learned how blind he had been. Because of the grace of God alone, certainly not by having done anything to deserve it, Paul received his eyesight again through the faith of another. Then with the disciples at Damascus, Paul learned that Christ is the saving Son of God. That God had imputed or assigned righteousness to an unrighteous man had been made quite clear to Paul. He was now determined to make it just as clear to others. So he writes the phrase “faith justifies” and similar constructions many times in his works. Melancthon provides several references from three epistles. The teaching that it is faith—not works—that justifies is no accident.

Prayer: Oh, Bright and Morning Star, thank you for shining your light upon us and making us see. Amen. 

Pastor Kent Groethe's study of the Book of Acts, Acts - Old Places, New Facesfocuses on the life of the early church as a model for church life today. The message and power of the church today needs to be revitalized and renewed by the power of God's Spirit, just as it was in the early church.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a282.html Wed, 30 Jun 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Romans 3:21–28

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

Paul discusses this topic, especially in the Epistle to the Romans, declaring that when we believe that God is reconciled to us for Christ's sake that we are justified freely by faith. In the third chapter of Romans he maintains this proposition that contains the main point of the entire discussion: “For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law” (Rom 3:28). The adversaries interpret this as referring to Levitical ceremonies. However, Paul speaks not only of the ceremonies, but of the whole law. For he quotes afterward from the Decalogue: “You shall not covet” (Rom 7:7). If moral works could earn the forgiveness of sins and justification, there would also be no need for Christ and the promise—and all that Paul says about the promise would be overthrown. He would also have been wrong in writing this to the Ephesians: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God” (Eph 2:8). Similarly, Paul refers to Abraham and David (Rom 4:1, 6) who had the command of God concerning circumcision. Therefore, if any works justified, these works must have since it was commanded. Nevertheless, Augustine teaches correctly and at length in Of the Spirit and Letter that Paul speaks of the entire law. He states, “These matters, therefore having been considered and treated, according to the ability that the Lord has thought worthy to give us, we infer that man is not justified by the precepts of a good life, but by faith in Jesus Christ.”

Pulling It Together: The key phraseology of Paul is “through faith” or “by faith.” He mentions it 31 times. Not only Paul though, since James and Peter each use the phrase once, and the writer of Hebrews uses it 24 times. It is a critically important doctrine of the New Testament, as well as the Old Testament. Justification by faith, or forgiveness of sins through faith is not a new topic but it is one that is so hard to believe that much space, many writers, and even more years have been devoted to the topic. One’s principles and virtues and religious practices do not justify. Only faith in Jesus Christ justifies sinners. We should be thankful, since because of this oft-mentioned phrase we know that we are freely justified through faith or by faith in Jesus Christ. Otherwise, we would be lost, trying to make it on our own merits and abilities. There are not enough years to justify the likes of sinners like us. Only Christ will do.

Prayer: Gracious Redeemer, thank you for the gift of your salvation. Amen. 

The newest volume in the series, "Old Places, New Faces," The General Epistles offers a series of 12 Bible studies based on Hebrews, James, I & II Peter, I, II, & III John, and Jude. The geographical locations of Biblical characters can symbolically refer to places we find ourselves with respect to our faith. As we become more acquainted with our spiritual geography, we will better discern where God would have us go or what changes we need to make in order to serve Him better.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a281.html Tue, 29 Jun 21 00:00:00 -0500

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1 Corinthians 1:30–31

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

But since we receive forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit by faith alone, faith alone justifies, because those reconciled are accounted righteous and children of God, not on account of their own purity, but through mercy for Christ's sake, provided only that they apprehend this mercy by faith. Accordingly, Scripture testifies that by faith we are considered righteous (Rom 3:26). Therefore, we will add testimonies that clearly declare that faith is the very righteousness by which we are accounted righteous before God, not because it is a work that is in itself worthy, but because it receives the promise by which God has committed for Christ's sake that he wishes to be propitious to those believing in him, or because he knows that Christ of God has become for us wisdom, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption (1Cor 1:30).

Pulling It Together: Our lives come from God. Every good and perfect gift comes to us through the Father (James 1:17). Well, except salvation and righteousness; we must work for those. No! Heaven forbid! Every gift is just that: a gift—a gift from God. His mercy is a gift, apprehended, for lack of a better word, by faith alone. You either believe that God forgives you or you do not believe. There is nothing here in which we may take personal pride or boast (Rom 3:27). Jesus did it all. I have nothing to do with my righteousness. It too is a gift given to me by God. I am saved by God's grace alone. I know this only too well, from experience and from Scripture. 

Prayer: Holy God, Father of lights, give me more grace so that I may proclaim the excellencies of you who has called me out of darkness and into your marvelous light. Amen. 

The first in the series, Superior Justice is a mystery-fiction novel that features the character of Jonah Borden as a not-so-typical Lutheran Pastor, who also happens to investigate local mysteries. Set in the midst of the striking beauty of Minnesota's Lake Superior coastline, Superior Justice will draw you in with its unique and quirky characters, and keep you guessing until the end.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a280.html Mon, 28 Jun 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Revelation 3:20

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

Fourthly, forgiveness of sins is something promised for Christ's sake. Therefore, it cannot be received except by faith alone. For a promise cannot be received except by faith alone (Rom 4:16). “That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed,” as though he were to say: “If the matter were to depend upon our merits, the promise would be uncertain and useless, because we never could determine when we would have sufficient merit.” Experienced consciences can easily understand this. Accordingly, Paul says, “But the scripture consigned all things to sin, that what was promised to faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe” (Gal 3:22). He takes merit away from us, because he says that all are guilty and consigned under sin. Then he adds that the promise, namely, of the forgiveness of sins and of justification, is given, and adds how the promise may be received, namely, by faith. This reasoning, derived from the nature of a promise, is the chief reasoning in Paul, and is repeated often. Nothing can be devised or imagined whereby this argument of Paul can be overthrown. Therefore, faithful minds should not allow themselves to be forced from the conviction that we receive forgiveness of sins for Christ's sake, only through faith. In this they have a sure and firm consolation against the terrors of sin, and against eternal death, and against all the gates of hell.

Pulling It Together: I have promised to meet people for lunch today. Now, they may believe or disbelieve that promise but whether or not they believe, I will be at the restaurant. They do not need to do anything to make that happen. Lunch with me is both promised and guaranteed (...if God wills [James 4:15]). In the same way, forgiveness of sins is only promised and guaranteed because of what Jesus did, that is to say, for Christ's sake. There is no other way to receive forgiveness except to believe, to have faith, in what Jesus has done. There is no need to do anything about what has already been done.

Even if you had to do some things in order for the promise of forgiveness to apply to you, how would you know when you had done enough good? At any rate, merit has been taken away from us because we have been delivered over under sin. How much good can a sinner do in order to balance out his sin since even a single sin cannot be overcome with any amount of virtue? The issue is not so much that we sin, as it is that we are all sinners.

So Paul's oft-repeated argument is that the only thing we can do is trust God's promise. There is nothing else to do. Believe. Jesus stands at the door and knocks. Open the door, for he would dine with you today.

Prayer: Help me trust your word, Lord God, for it is all I truly have. Amen. 

Come, Lord Jesus answers the many questions that arise when modern readers look into the book of Revelation. In this book readers will come to understand the first-century context in which Revelation was written—and readers will join the holy choir in looking forward to the fulfillment of God's plan, offering our own invitation: "Come, Lord Jesus."

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a279.html Sun, 27 Jun 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Acts 10:36–43

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

Thirdly, Peter says, “To him all the prophets bear witness that every one who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:43). How could this be said more clearly? We receive forgiveness of sins, he says, through his name, that is, for his sake. Therefore, not for the sake of our merits, not because of our contrition, attrition, love, worship, works. And he adds, “When we believe in him.” Therefore Peter also requires faith. For we cannot apprehend the name of Christ except by faith. Besides he cites the agreement of all the prophets, which actually cites the authority of the Church. We will speak on this topic again when we consider “Repentance.”

Pulling It Together: Melancthon may as well have said that he could quote Paul, Augustine, and the Fathers all day long, but see here! Peter too, and the prophets also, lend support for justification by faith. More than support, they insist upon faith. They add nothing else. We are forgiven our sins, justified, through the merits of Jesus Christ alone. Nothing that we add, though add we must for it shows our faith, reconciles us to God. The judge of the living and the dead is the only one with the just authority to say, “Justified!” This righteous judge in none other than Jesus Christ, the Lord of all. 

Prayer: Father, we give you thanks for the gift of salvation that is found only in your Son. Amen. 

Acts – Old Places, New Faces focuses on the life of the early church as a model for church life today. The message and power of the church today needs to be revitalized and renewed by the power of God's Spirit, just as it was in the early church.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a278.html Sat, 26 Jun 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Hebrews 4:14–16

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

Secondly, it is certain that sins are forgiven for the sake of Christ, as propitiator, according to Romans 3:25: “whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood.” Moreover, Paul adds, “to be received by faith.” Therefore this atonement benefits us when we apprehend by faith the mercy promised in him and set it against the wrath and judgment of God. To the same effect it is written, “Since then we have a great high priest...let us then with confidence draw near” (Heb 4:14, 16). The Apostle pleads with us to approach God, not with confidence in our own merits, but with confidence in Christ as high priest. Therefore it requires faith.

Pulling It Together

Only the high priest could represent the people before God in the temple. But Jesus, the “great high priest,” represents us before the Father in heaven. We cannot represent ourselves. Instead, we rely upon Christ by faith. In doing so, we have confidence in him to draw near to God. There before the throne of justice, we receive mercy and grace instead of the judgment that had been our due. We discover this marvelous grace only because Christ Jesus mediates between his holy Father and us as the true propitiation or satisfaction for our sins. He brings no scapegoat to God for us (Lev 16:21-22). He is the scapegoat, the only offering for all our sins. This is our confession and we hold it fast through faith in Christ. 

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, give me grace to draw nearer to you today, not through any confidence in my own works but for your sake alone. Amen. 

Receive these daily Sola Devotions by email. Write mryman@solapublishing.com with "Subscribe" as your subject. To unsubscribe, send an email to the same address with "Unsubscribe" as your subject.

You Can Understand the Old Testament: Its Message and Its Meaning is an introduction to, and overview of, the Old Testament, exploring its meaning and its message for readers of today. Individual overviews and discussions of each book of the Old Testament are provided along with helpful maps, tables and charts as well as complete indexes of subject matter, biblical texts cited, and Hebrew words noted in the discussion. The book is aimed at students of the Bible, whether members of church congregations, pastors, or students in college or seminary. 

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a277.html Fri, 25 Jun 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Romans 5:1–2

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

Likewise, Paul says, “Through him we have obtained access” (Rom 5:2), and adds, “by faith.” Thus, we are reconciled to the Father and receive forgiveness of sins when we are comforted with confidence in the mercy promised for Christ's sake. The adversaries regard Christ as mediator and propitiator because he has earned the habit of love. Therefore, they do not urge us to rely upon him as mediator now. Rather, as though Christ were altogether buried, they imagine that we have access through our own works and earn this disposition through them, and by this love come to God. Does this not to bury Christ altogether and remove the entire doctrine of faith? Paul, to the contrary, teaches that we have access, that is, reconciliation, through Christ. To show how this takes place, he adds that we have access by faith. Therefore, we receive forgiveness of sins by faith because of Christ. We cannot set our own love and our own works over against God's wrath.

Pulling It Together: Some people rely on religion as a way to gain peace or go to heaven—or rather, not go to hell. This puts the cart before the horse. Instead, they should be interested in being with God. When they have gained access to God, they will then gain heaven, for that is where God dwells in eternity. If they have gotten into his eternal presence, they will of course therefore, be in heaven. They will also have peace in their consciences and spirits, though not because they are going to heaven. They have this peace because they know that their sins have been forgiven. They know that their sins have been canceled because they believe the promise: that their “sins are forgiven freely for Christ's sake” (Eph 1:7). Only those who believe this, that their sins are remitted through faith in Christ alone, have true peace of conscience and spirit. To the degree that they rely even a little bit on their religion, their works, their morality, or their so-called goodness, to that degree, they lack peace. To that degree, they worry about heaven. But when they know that they have most certainly been forgiven of all their sins, they no longer worry about heaven because they know that they stand in his grace by faith, and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I trust in you alone as the one who has negotiated my salvation. Amen. 

It is a vital task of the church today to encourage a renewed interest in and use of God’s Word. Unfortunately, many people find the Scriptures difficult to read and hard to understand at first. The purpose of Epistles, a Guide to Reading the Scriptures is twofold: to encourage Christians to read God’s Word on a regular basis and to help the reader slow down and concentrate on each chapter of the epistles before moving on to the next.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a276.html Thu, 24 Jun 21 00:00:00 -0500

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2 Corinthians 5:17–21

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

It will then become easy to state the minor premise if we know how the remission of sins happens. The adversaries carelessly dispute whether the forgiveness of sins and the infusion of grace are the same change. Being idle men, they do not know what to answer. In the forgiveness of sins, the terrors in the heart about sin and eternal death must be overcome, as Paul testifies, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 15:56-57). In other words, sin terrifies consciences through the law that reveals the wrath of God against sin. Yet we gain the victory through Christ. How? By faith, when we comfort ourselves with confidence in the mercy promised for Christ's sake. Thereby, we prove the minor proposition. The wrath of God cannot be appeased if we set against it our own works, because Christ has been set forth as the propitiator so that for his sake, we may become reconciled to the Father. But Christ is not taken hold of as a mediator except by faith. Therefore, by faith alone we obtain forgiveness of sins, when we comfort our hearts with confidence in the mercy promised for Christ's sake.

Pulling It Together: Søren Kierkegaard wrote in Sickness Unto Death that we acquire a new appreciation of ourselves when the self is viewed “directly in the sight of God.” When we see ourselves as God sees us, everything changes. And it is terrifying. So long as we are our own measure, everything seems right enough; we are barely troubled by our thoughts and actions. The only time we are bothered at all is when we have said or done something wrong and it has become public enough that it brings about uncomfortable consequences. We are then forced to measure ourselves by the views of others.

What a difference there is between our own standards and how others measure us. Still, when the trouble blows over, we fall back into a personal measurement of self. We seem good enough again. However, when God becomes the measure of a person, an absolute measure of our state is understood. “Getting God as a measure” is terrifying. We are backed up to the doorjamb of his holy righteousness and we discover that we do not measure up. The thought that makes sin so dreadfully alarming is that one no longer stands against his or her own measure but is reckoned by the measure of the Almighty.

When one realizes their true measurement against God's standards, eternal death now constantly looms nearby. So, how do we conquer eternal death? How might we even overcome the fear of it? We cannot, except by God's view of us being changed. We cannot, however, change the way he regards us though love and good works. We will never measure up. God's view of us is only altered when we are “in Christ.” When he sees us through the skin, so to speak, of his own Son, we measure up. This is nothing that we do; it has been done for us and the new measure is given to us freely.

This is the only way that we can ever be confident when being viewed “directly in the sight of God.” When we realize that, clothed in Christ as we are (Rom 13:14; Gal 3:27), God sees us as being in his Son, we have a sure and confident hope. So long as we attempt this through our own actions, our own measure, we remain uncertain, lacking confidence in God's mercy and love for us. But when we know that the Father is reconciled by the measure of the righteousness of his Son, then we who are by God's grace in Christ by faith are therefore justified by Christ.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for newness of life by bearing our sin and reconciling us to your Father. Amen. 

Portraits of Jesus is a nine-session Bible study that explores the "I AM" statements given to us by Jesus himself. In comparing Jesus' words with related Scripture in both the Old and New Testaments, the study provides a well-rounded look at the center of our faith in Christ.

Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a275.html Wed, 23 Jun 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Psalm 32:1–5

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

That We Obtain Remission of Sins by Faith Alone in Christ

We think that even the adversaries acknowledge that in justification the forgiveness of sins is necessary first. For we all are under sin. Therefore we reason as follows:

To receive the forgiveness of sins is to be justified, according to Psalm 32:1: “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven.” We receive the forgiveness of sins solely by faith in Christ, not through love, nor because of love or works, although love follows faith. Therefore we are justified by faith alone, understanding justification as the making of a righteous person from an unrighteous person—that one is regenerated.

Pulling It Together: It is easy to admit that everyone is a sinner, since we see the evidence in the news, in the lives of those we love, and certainly in our own lives. Scripture also plainly states that, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). Because sin has caused a fall so great as to remove us from the presence of God's glory, our sin needs covered. Adam and Eve understood this and covered themselves with fig leaves after they sinned (Gen 3:7). Notice how Adam's and Eve's works were refused by God? They tried to cover their sins but even they understood that their figgy outfits were inadequate. So they hid themselves among the trees of the garden (Gen 3:8).

Try as we might, our own efforts are unequal to the task. It is God alone who is able to cover our sins. So, from the skins of the very animals Adam was charged to care for, God made them a more lasting covering (Gen 3:31). Justification is that blessed relationship with God that happens when one's sin is covered. It is the forgiving and covering of sins that only God can do for us. “Blessed is the one...whose sin is covered” (Psa 32:1).

Prayer: Help me, Lord, to do all I can to please you but rely upon you alone for the covering of my sin. Amen. 

Genesis "Old Places, New Faces" Series   Places have to do with geography. In the Bible, we find God's people in many different places, both physically and spiritually, in their relationship to the Creator and Savior. We, like them, journey through many lands in our Christian walk. We move from chaos to order, from Ur to Canaan, and from obedience to disobedience. As we become more acquainted with our spiritual geography, we will better discern where God would have us go or what changes we need to make in order to serve Him better.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a274.html Tue, 22 Jun 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Romans 4:1–5

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

The particle “alone” offends some, although even Paul says, “For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law” (Rom 3:28). Again, “It is the gift of God — not because of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph 2:8b-9). Again, “They are justified by his grace as a gift” (Rom 3:24). If the exclusive “alone” displeases, let them remove from Paul also the exclusives “freely,” “apart from works,” “as a gift,” etc. For these also are exclusives. We do exclude the idea of merit. We do not, however, exclude the Word or Sacraments, as the adversaries falsely charge us. For we have said above that faith is conceived from the Word, and we honor the ministry of the Word in the highest degree. Love also and works must follow faith. Therefore, they are not excluded as things that follow faith. But confidence in the merit of love or in works is excluded in justification. And this we will clearly show.

Pulling It Together: Imagine a man condemned to spend the rest of his life in prison. One day, the word comes from the jailer that the president has pardoned his offense. It is too good to be true. Decades later, he dies, still sitting in prison. He never could believe the guard's report that a criminal like himself had been set free. After all, there had been no conditions, only the promise of the president. So, the man spent his remaining years in prison, working off his sentence and trying to become a good man. He was only freed from prison by his own death.

It seems incredible that one could be delivered from their eternal fate because they simply believe. Surely there must be more to Christianity than that. There must be rules and regulations, things to do and observe. If people are such wretched sinners, they must have to do something to become righteous and escape the consequences. Nevertheless, Lutherans confess that we are saved by God's grace alone, this happening through faith and not works of the law. 

Prayer: Help me believe your good word alone, Lord, instead of the religion that I would add. Amen. 

The kind of church we see in the New Testament is different from what most modern people imagine when they think of “going to church.” Experience Life Together: A 15-Week House-Church Model Resource & Session Book, by Rev. Tom Hilpert, is a 15-week house-church curriculum designed for pastors, lay leaders, and churches interested in getting a taste for what church in the home is really like. Whether referred to as a house-church, organic church, alternative church, or cell church, this material applies well to any group that wants to experience Christian worship in the context of a small group meeting within the homes of the participants.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a273.html Mon, 21 Jun 21 00:00:00 -0500

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1 Peter 1:3–5

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

But when we confess that faith justifies, perhaps some understand it as the beginning of justification or preparation for justification. But then it would not be faith itself through which we are accepted by God, but the works that follow faith. Accordingly, they would imagine that faith is highly praised because it is the beginning. The beginning is important because the beginning is half of everything, as they commonly say. It is just as if one would say that grammar makes the teachers of all arts, because grammar prepares for further arts—although in fact it is his own art that renders every one an artist. We do not believe this about faith, but we maintain that properly and truly, by faith itself, we are accounted righteous for Christ's sake, or are made acceptable to God. And because "to be justified" means that just persons are made out of unjust people, or born again, it also means that they are pronounced or accounted just. For Scripture speaks in both ways. Accordingly, we desire to first show this: that faith alone makes an unjust person into a just person, that one receives forgiveness of sins by faith alone.

Pulling It Together

What else do I need to do? Nothing. Christ has done it all. He has taken unrighteous sinners and assigned his own righteousness to their account. This is not the beginning of salvation, to which you must now add your own deeds to the work of Christ. He has done it all. Now, you will want to respond with all kinds of good deeds but remember that these do not justify you to God. Christ alone justifies you. He has at once converted you and made you righteous. You are born again to the Christ-life. All this happened when you believed in Christ when faith in him was kindled in a sinner's heart.

Prayer: Your righteousness is all I need, Lord. Amen. 

Many in the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) remember the loyalty, strength, and uniqueness of our Lutheran tradition and the necessity of "Christ Alone." Stand and Confess explores these traditions in light of Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a271.html Sun, 20 Jun 21 00:00:00 -0500

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1 Timothy 2:3–6

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

Now we will show that faith justifies. In the first place, readers must be reminded that just as it is necessary to maintain that Christ is mediator, it is necessary to defend that faith justifies. For how will Christ be mediator if in justification we do not use him as mediator, if we do not hold that we are accounted righteous on his account? But to believe is to trust in the merits of Christ, that God certainly wishes to be reconciled with us for his sake. Likewise, just as we ought to maintain that the promise of Christ is necessary apart from the law, it is also necessary to maintain that faith justifies. For the law cannot be performed unless the Holy Spirit is first received. It is necessary, therefore, to maintain that the promise of Christ is essential. Yet his promise cannot be received except with faith. Therefore, those who deny that faith justifies, set aside both Christ and the gospel by teaching nothing but the law.

Pulling It Together

Even our currency proclaims Christ alone. “In God we trust.” What is unwritten is that we do not trust in money or what it buys—or who does the buying. Yet when it comes to religion, we want to trust in the things we do, as though they can buy salvation. So we must be reminded that in order to receive salvation one must be reconciled to God and that this requires a go-between. Someone must have earned the status with God to stand between him and sinners, or lawbreakers. There is only one on whose account we may be reconciled with God. Christ alone bridges the gap without our having done a thing, apart from the law. This means that we believe in what Christ has done and not what we do. Even if we wanted to get right with God through keeping the law or doing good works, we could not do so without the help of the Holy Spirit. Yet the Spirit is not given except through faith and trust in Christ alone.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for not only paying the ransom for us all but for being that ransom. Amen.

 

Connections magazine is a voice for confessional Lutheranism in North America, featuring ministries and mission efforts of the movement. It provides reliable, Biblically based content, stories of faith, and inspirational messages all in a “coffee table quality” package that delights its subscribers. Connections has a deep commitment to the evangelical nature of Lutheranism that responds with vigor to Christ’s great commission to go and make disciples. It also gives a public center to the effort to renew Lutheranism in North America in concert with Biblical authority and the teachings of the Lutheran Confessions.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a270.html Sat, 19 Jun 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Romans 10:13–17

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

Since we do not speak of such faith as an idle thought, but that which liberates from death and produces a new life in hearts, and is the work of the Holy Spirit, it does not coexist with mortal sin. Rather, as long as it is present, it produces good fruit, as we will address later. What can be said more simply and more clearly about the conversion of the wicked, or concerning the mode of regeneration? Having so great an array of writers, let them produce a single commentary upon the Sentences that speaks of the mode of regeneration. When they speak of the habit of love, they imagine that men merit it through works, just as the Anabaptists now teach. They do not teach that it is received through the Word. But God cannot be dealt with, he cannot be apprehended, except through the Word. Accordingly, justification occurs through the Word, just as Paul says that the gospel is, “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes,” (Rom 1:16) and that, “faith comes from what is heard” (Rom 10:17). From this, we confess that faith justifies because if justification occurs only through the Word, and the Word is apprehended only by faith, it follows that faith justifies. Yet there are other more important reasons. So far, we have said these things so that the nature of that faith we are talking about is understood and to explain how regeneration occurs.

Pulling It Together: Faith is not ineffectual—or as some insinuate, “pie in the sky.” Faith is a light, life, and force in a person that renews the heart, mind, and spirit (1 Thes 5:23). Faith makes new people of those who believe in Christ. Since it does these things, it does not coexist with willful sin, for how can light and darkness coexist (2 Cor 6:14)? Instead, faith produces good fruit. This kind of faith is received through the Word of God. This is why justification is received in the same way. Justification, the saving faith that reconciles God, comes by what is heard through the Word. One does not earn justifying faith; one receives it by the word of Christ.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for the light of your Word that illuminates the path of faith. Amen.

Hymns and Spiritual Songs from The North is a compilation of Nordic hymns. In the spirit of Martin Luther, such a hymn is usually a meditation or sermon on a Biblical text that grows out of the text for a Sunday. Sometimes it is long and slow, even mournful, giving singers the possibility of meditating on God's Word in their own context. Less often it is joyful, but it is always filled with longing and hope. We can imagine the grandma, during long dark winters, sitting by the fire, spinning or knitting as she sang stanza after stanza of an old favorite hymn or spiritual song, teaching her grandchildren to sing along with her. When they learned to lisp those words with her, they were learning how Scripture could be used to meet the deepest sorrows and the greatest joys of life.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a269.html Fri, 18 Jun 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Luke 24:45–49

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

That Faith in Christ Justifies

So that no one thinks that we are talking about an idle knowledge of the history, we will first explain how faith is received. Then we will show both that it justifies and how this ought to be understood. Last, we will explain the objections of the adversaries.

In the last chapter of Luke, Christ commands that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name (Luke 24:47). The gospel declares that all people are under sin and are subject to eternal wrath and death, yet for Christ's sake offers the forgiveness of sin and justification. These are received by faith. The preaching of repentance accuses us and frightens consciences with true and severe terrors. Surrounded by these accusations and terrors, hearts must receive consolation. This happens if they believe the promise of Christ, that on account of him we receive the forgiveness of sins. This faith that encourages and comforts despite these fears, receives forgiveness of sins, justifies, and gives life. Indeed, this consolation is a new and spiritual life. These things are plain and clear, can be understood by God-fearing people, and have testimonies of the Church. Yet nowhere can our adversaries say how the Holy Spirit is given. They imagine that the sacraments confer the Holy Spirit ex opere operato, without an upright movement in the recipient, as though the gift of the Holy Spirit were an idle matter.

Pulling It Together: Saving faith does not happen because one performs the right deeds or recites the correct formula or prayer. Nor does it come about all at once. First, the word of God accuses the conscience that it is corrupt. It does not charge us with being a little bit bad, for we are not and that would do us no good. We must be convicted that we are wretched and miserable sinners, sold out to sin. This must seriously concern us; we must be terrified of the consequences of our sin. Next, God's word offers us the consolation of hope, that because Christ offered himself to God as payment for our sin debt, those who believe or have faith in his death and resurrection are forgiven. Last, this faith encourages and comforts people through Christ's gift of the Holy Spirit. So, faith is an active trust in God; it is not doing or reciting religious things by those who believe in the history of Christianity but do not believe in Christ.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for suffering in my place that I too may be raised from the dead to live with and for you. Amen. 

The Letters of Paul looks at all but one of Paul's thirteen epistles and seeks to get at the heart of each one so that his message can inspire new hope, faith and love in us today.

Other books in the "Old Place, New Faces" series.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a268.html Thu, 17 Jun 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Psalm 50:8–15

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

Therefore, the fathers too were not justified by the law, but through the promise and faith. It is astonishing that the adversaries diminish faith to such a degree, although they see that it is everywhere praised as an eminent service, as in Psalm 50:15: “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you.” God wishes himself to be known and worshiped in this way: that we receive benefits from him because of his mercy, not due to our merits. This is the richest consolation in all afflictions. But the adversaries abolish such consolations when they diminish and disparage faith by teaching that people only conduct themselves toward God by means of works and merits.

Pulling It Together: Daily sacrifices were performed at the temple in Jerusalem because God commanded them. Sacrifice was done as an outward expression of grateful dependence upon God. Note how David offered 1,000 bulls, 1,000 rams, and 1,000 lambs to the Lord. He did not do so to appease God. Rather, he made such a large offering in thanks to God for allowing Solomon to build the temple. He did not make the offering because God, who does not eat flesh anyway, was especially hungry that day. Was David's sacrifice rebuked? Are our works and ministries to the Lord not accepted? Of course not. God is pleased when we keep our obligations and do good works. However, when we imagine that these things mitigate or altogether appease God's righteous wrath concerning our sin, or think that God is now obligated to forgive us because we have balanced a bad deed with a good one, we do not glorify God. Instead, because of our lack of faith in him, and our misguided trust in our works, we are glorifying ourselves. Furthermore, by casting aside faith for works, we lose the benefit of God's comfort and peace. So long as we can do some good work, we might delude ourselves in thinking that God is reconciled. What happens though, when one is bedridden, awaiting death, and thinks an evil thought toward a reckless caregiver? What work will be done then to counter that sin? If only that person had faith in a merciful God instead of in self and religion. 

Prayer: Give me a thankful heart today, Lord, for all your blessings. Amen. 

Saints and Sinners
Volume 3: Encouragers of the Faith

A Seven-Session Bible Study on New Testament Characters

By Dr. Dan Lioy, PhD

All those who believe and trust in Jesus as their Savior are both saints and sinners. The same was true of the people in Holy Scripture.

By virtue of our baptism into Christ, we are made holy by his saving grace. This is not something we do on our own, but something that is imputed to us by Jesus. At the same time, we are plagued by that age-old sin that makes us want to be in control of our own lives. As those who are called by God to follow Jesus in obedient discipleship, we, like many before us, have been called to be witnesses to God's saving grace in Jesus Christ.

This study is the third in a series of Saints and Sinners from the New Testament who were used by God to begin to spread the Gospel among both Jews and Gentiles. May your study of God’s saints and sinners enrich your understanding of your life with Christ and encourage you in discipleship.

 

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a267.html Wed, 16 Jun 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Psalm 130:1–8

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

Throughout the prophets and the psalms this worship, this latreia, is highly praised. Although the law does not teach the free forgiveness of sins, the Fathers knew the promise concerning the Messiah, that God would remit sins on account of the Christ. Therefore, since they understood that Christ would be the payment for our sins, they knew that our works are not a payment for so great a debt. Accordingly, they freely received mercy and forgiveness of sins by faith, just like the saints in the New Testament. Here belong those frequent repetitions about mercy and faith in the psalms and the prophets, such as, “If thou, O Lord, shouldst mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?” (Psa 130:3) Here David confesses his sins yet does not recount his merits. He adds, “But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.” (Psa 130:4) Here he comforts himself by trusting in God's mercy, and he cites the promise: “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope.” (Psa 130:5) In other words, “I am sustained by this your promise because you have promised the forgiveness of sins.”

Pulling It Together: Even the saints of old understood the kind of worship that expected blessings from God. It may not have seemed like they understood anything but a quid pro quo religion. Yet the patriarchs and prophets did know about the coming Messiah and that he would take away the sins of the world. Isaiah 53:3-7 is a good example of this ancient knowledge. Though they made offerings as prescribed by the law, they knew that these offerings in themselves were insufficient payment for their sin debt. They understood that God's mercy was his motivation for his forgiveness of their sins. So we see that the saints in the Old Testament, like those in the New Testament, had faith in God's merciful forgiveness. They trusted in his promise because he gave his word.

Prayer: I praise you, O Lord, for although my sin is great, your mercy is far greater. Amen. 

The Sola Online Worship Resource (SOWeR) includes a limited selection of music for use in worship, drawing primarily upon texts and music in the public domain, along with biblical texts set to familiar tunes. SOWeR is a lectionary-based web resource for Scripture lessons, lectionary inserts, children's bulletins, devotionals, text studies, prayers, hymn-planning, and much more! Join the hundreds of congregations that have discovered how simple, flexible, and useful SOWeR is for worship planning and sermon preparation. This brochure will answer more questions about SOWeR. Call 1-888-887-9840 to order a yearly subscription. 

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a266.html Tue, 15 Jun 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Romans 6:21–24

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

Therefore, when speaking about justifying faith, we must keep in mind that these three things concur: the promise, that it is free, and that the merits of Christ are the payment and propitiation. The promise is received by faith since the word "free" excludes our merits, signifying that the benefit is offered only through mercy. The merits of Christ are the payment since there must be a certain propitiation for our sins. Scripture frequently implores mercy, and the holy Fathers often say that we are saved by mercy. Therefore, whenever mercy is mentioned, we must bear in mind that faith is required to receive the promise of mercy. Also, whenever we speak of faith, we want an object to be understood, namely, the promised mercy. For faith justifies and saves, not on the ground that it is a worthy work in itself, but only because it receives the promised mercy.

Pulling It Together: Justifying faith, properly understood, includes these three things. First, that a promise has been made. God has promised to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9) in order to reconcile the world to himself through Christ (2 Cor 5:19). Second, that the promise is freely given. There is no condition attached to God's promise. We need do nothing and can do nothing to make his promise come to pass. Our works will not hasten the fulfillment of the promise. God freely forgives, cleanses, and reconciles to himself without any assistance from us. We do not forgive ourselves, nor do we help God forgive. We do not cleanse ourselves from unrighteousness, nor do we help God do so. We do not propitiate ourselves, and we do not assist God in reconciliation. He is not only quite capable of doing these things, he has promised to do so freely—without our merits. Third, these things are accomplished through Christ's merits. He has paid the price for our transgressions. Because the penalty for sin is death (Rom 6:23), Jesus Christ gave his own life on the cross in payment for our debt. We did not help him pay this debt in any way. Nor can we offer to pay after the tab has been settled. All we can do—or need do—is thankfully receive what has been freely offered and paid for through God's great mercy.

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for setting me free from sin and death, and for giving me your free gift of eternal life. Amen.

The Sola Online Worship Resource (SOWeR) also includes bulletin templates. There are word processing templates for both communion and non-communion services. There are also templates for Sola, LBW, and Reclaim service settings. 

SOWeR is a lectionary-based web resource for Scripture lessons, lectionary inserts, children's bulletins, devotionals, text studies, prayers, hymn-planning, and much more! Join the hundreds of congregations that have discovered how simple, flexible, and useful SOWeR is for worship planning and sermon preparation. This brochure will answer more questions about SOWeR. Call 1-888-887-9840 to order a yearly subscription. 

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a265.html Mon, 14 Jun 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Romans 4:15–16

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

Faith does not merely acknowledge the history but assents to the promise. Paul plainly declares this when he says, “That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed” (Rom 4:16). For he understands that the promise cannot be received except by faith. This is why he places them together as things that belong to one another, connecting promise and faith. It is easy to determine what faith is if we consider this article in the Creed: “the forgiveness of sins.” So it is not enough to believe that Christ was born, suffered, and was raised again unless we also add the article that is the purpose of the story: “the forgiveness of sins.” To this article the rest must be related, namely, that because of Christ and not because of our merits, forgiveness of sins is given to us. Why was there a need for Christ to be offered for our sins if we could earn satisfaction for our sins through our own merits?

Pulling It Together: If a promise is made, faith—not work—is required. This is true in human relations and it is no less true in the relationship between the human and the divine. If I promise my children that we will go on vacation later in the year, they must hope with faith in me until it comes to pass. More to the point, if I promise that I love them and will not hold faults over their heads and use those mistakes against them in the future, even if they remember their mistakes, they must have faith that their father will keep his word. Indeed, they would never entertain such faith unless I had made that promise.

Just so, faith is required of us because God has made us a promise. He has pledged to forgive us all our sins because Christ satisfied the law's penalty for our trespasses. God has promised to forgive us our debts because his Son paid the price through the cross. Because he promised, faith is required; we must believe what he promised. Nor is it of any use to simply know the story of how God has accomplished this in Christ. We must have faith in his promise.

Imagine my children reminiscing after their father is in the grave. One child might say, “Remember that story about Dad promising to take us to the beach those summers? Do you know what I discovered? He and Mom really did go. I wish we had actually believed him so we could have gone too.” Then imagine the other child saying, “I wish we hadn't spent all of our summers working to earn money for vacations when we could have enjoyed the ones they wanted to give us.”

Prayer: I believe, Lord. Help my unbelief. Amen.

The Sola Online Worship Resource (SOWeR) also includes liturgies and services for your use. There are ready-to-copy settings for Holy Communion, services, services of the Word, Vespers, occasional services, funerals, and seasonal services. SOWeR is a lectionary-based web resource for Scripture lessons, lectionary inserts, children's bulletins, devotionals, text studies, prayers, hymn-planning, and much more! Join the hundreds of congregations that have discovered how simple, flexible, and useful SOWeR is for worship planning and sermon preparation. 

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a264.html Sun, 13 Jun 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Romans 12:1–2

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

And the difference between this faith and the righteousness of the law is easily discerned. Faith is the latreia that receives the benefits offered by God. The righteousness of the law is the latreia that offers to God our merits. By faith God wishes to be worshiped in this way: that we receive from him those things that he promises and offers.

Pulling It TogetherLatreia is the Greek word translated in the ESV as “divine service,” “divine worship,” “service of worship,” or “service” (Rom 9:4; 12:1; Heb 9:1, 6; John 16:2). It can also be translated simply as “worship.” Earthly righteousness or doing works of the law is a service that offers moral, civil, and religious deeds to God. We should certainly offer our whole selves to God (Rom 12:1). Yet, to imagine that this appeases God's wrath or earns justification and salvation is self-deception. Heavenly righteousness or faith does not offer anything to God but instead, receives merit from God because of Christ's offering on the cross. Having received God's mercy, forgiveness, justification, and sanctification, we ought to respond in obedience for his gifts. However, our obedience should never be construed as something that earns favor with God. Instead, because of the mercies of God that we receive through faith, we should be moved to offer our very selves—our entire lives—to God.

Prayer: Fill me with the power of your Spirit so that I may offer my whole self to you today. Amen. 

The Sola Online Worship Resource is a lectionary-based web resource for Scripture lessons, lectionary inserts, children's bulletins, devotionals, text studies, prayers, hymn-planning, and much more! Join the hundreds of congregations that have discovered how simple, flexible, and useful SOWeR is for worship planning and sermon preparation. 

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a263.html Sat, 12 Jun 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Romans 5:1–2

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

What Is Justifying Grace?

The adversaries pretend that faith is only historical knowledge, and therefore teach that it can coexist with mortal sin. The result is that they say nothing about faith, by which Paul so frequently says that men are justified, since those who are accounted righteous before God do not live in mortal sin. But that faith which justifies is not merely a knowledge of history; it is an embrace of the promise of God, in which the forgiveness of sins and justification are freely offered because of Christ. Just so that no one may imagine that faith is simply knowledge, we will add further: it is to desire and to receive the offered promise of the forgiveness of sins and of justification.

Pulling It Together: Even the devils believe in Christ, if by belief we mean mere knowledge (James 2:19). Knowing stories about Jesus is not faith. Faith is a matter of the heart over the head. Faith trusts that God loves me even when I think that he cannot. Faith believes the promise of God even when I know I have failed to deserve his gift. Faith joyfully receives the grace of God, forgiveness, justification, and salvation because of Christ's merits, not because of my own deeds. My mind wonders if I have brought enough to merit these great gifts. Indeed, my mind knows that I have not done enough. But God's Spirit testifies to my heart that I am nonetheless his child (Rom 8:16), so my heart is comforted and remains confident, peaceful, and full of hope in the grace and glory of God.

Prayer: Come and reign over me and in me in spite of me, Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Winning, Losing, Loving: The Gospel in the Old Testament is an overview of Old Testament Scripture, tracing themes of chosenness, sin, and grace throughout the early books of the Bible. These cycles of sin and redemption point forward toward God's ultimate act of redemption in Jesus Christ.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a262.html Fri, 11 Jun 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Philippians 3:8–9

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

Accordingly, this particular faith (by which a person believes that individual sins are forgiven because of Christ, and that on account of him, God is reconciled and propitious) obtains forgiveness of sins and justifies us. And because in repentance, that is in a terrified conscience, faith comforts and encourages hearts, regenerates us and brings the Holy Spirit so that then we are able to fulfill God's law—specifically, to love God, truly fear God, really be confident that God hears prayer, obey God in all afflictions, kill concupiscence, etc. So, because faith freely receives the forgiveness of sins and sets Christ as the mediator and propitiator against God's wrath, it does not present our merits or our love. This faith is the true knowledge of Christ, making use of the benefits of Christ; it regenerates hearts and precedes the fulfilling of the law. Not a syllable about this faith exists in the doctrine of our adversaries. Therefore we find fault with them, both because they teach only the righteousness of the law, and because they do not teach the righteousness of the gospel, which proclaims the righteousness of faith in Christ.

Pulling It Together: Ironically, so-called personal faith does not rely upon personal works but upon the person of Christ. It is solely because of him that God is reconciled and made favorable toward us. We are forgiven and made righteous because of Christ alone. We confess this to be true; we believe it is so, therefore we do not work to make it happen. Instead, we have faith that God in Christ has made it to be true. This same faith in Christ conveys his Spirit who compels us to believe all the more. He changes our natural inclinations so that we are enabled to keep the law of God—to pray to a Father whom we now believe genuinely loves us and cares for us, and to love and worship him more each day no matter what each day brings. This faith in Christ precedes good works because it is the true knowledge of him upon whom all righteousness and righteous deeds depend. 

Prayer: Help me depend more upon you than myself, Lord, and believe that your righteousness is at work within me. Amen. 

Teach Us to Pray is an eight-lesson curriculum based around Luther's Small Catechism.  Each lesson has a Bible study connected to the article of the Lord's Prayer covered. A section entitled "About Prayer"  teaches students helpful items about a solid prayer life and a prayer assignment for the coming week.  A major goal of this material is to help kids experience prayer and practice it in a variety of ways. This book could be used as part of a larger Confirmation series, or as a "pre-confirmation" Sunday School series for Jr. High and Middle School youth.

Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a261.html Thu, 10 Jun 21 00:00:00 -0500

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2 Corinthians 3:4–5

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

Since justification happens through a free promise, it follows that we cannot justify ourselves. Otherwise, why would there be a need to promise? For since the promise cannot be received except by faith, the gospel—inherently the promise of the forgiveness of sins and of justification for Christ's sake—proclaims the righteousness of faith in Christ, which the law does not teach. Nor is this the righteousness of the law. For the law requires works and perfection from us. But for Christ's sake, the gospel freely offers reconciliation to we who have been defeated by sin and death. This reconciliation is received not by works, but by faith alone. Such faith does not bring confidence in one's own merits to God, but only trust in the promise, or the mercy promised in Christ.

Pulling It Together: How misleading—and even rude—it would be to invite people to a party and then demand that they serve the guests in order to stay. Imagine a boy asking a girl out on a date and then telling her that she had to pay for the movie in order to remain his friend. That is essentially the scene we paint of God when we add the requirement of works to justification and salvation. God is perfectly within his rights to demand anything of us. He might have required that we must perfectly recite the Athanasian Creed in order to get into heaven. He could have demanded perfect attendance at church. He could have made the performance of things obligatory as he did under the old covenant. Instead, he has given us a promise through a new covenant in Christ. This covenant only requires that we believe the promise, that we believe that it is God who makes us holy through the perfect, reconciling work of our Lord. It may be difficult to believe that we do not have to do anything to earn our salvation, but that is nonetheless, the one thing that is required. Believe.

Prayer: Lord, help me today to remember that you are my sufficiency and grace. Amen.

The kind of church we see in the New Testament is different from what most modern people imagine when they think of “going to church.” Experience Life Together: Experiencing House-Church Ministry, by Rev. Tom Hilpert, is a 15-week house-church curriculum designed for pastors, lay leaders, and churches interested in getting a taste for what church in the home is really like. Whether referred to as a house-church, organic church, alternative church, or cell church, this material applies well to any group that wants to experience Christian worship in the context of a small group meeting within the homes of the participants.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a260.html Wed, 09 Jun 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Romans 4:7–14

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

Since people cannot fulfill the law of God by their own strength, and all are under sin, subject to eternal wrath and death, they cannot be freed by the law from sin and be justified. Yet the promise of the remission of sins and of justification has been given us for Christ's sake, who was given for us in order that he might make satisfaction for the sins of the world, having been appointed as mediator and propitiator. This promise is not dependent on our merits but freely offers the remission of sins and justification as Paul says, “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace” (Rom 11:6). And elsewhere, “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law” (Rom 3:21). In other words, the remission of sins is freely given. Nor does reconciliation depend upon our merits. If the forgiveness of sins depended upon our merits, and reconciliation were from the law, it would be useless. Since we cannot fulfill the law, it would also follow that we would never obtain the promise of reconciliation. Thus Paul reasons, “If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void” (Rom 4:14). For if the promise required the condition of our merits and the law that we never fulfill, it would follow that the promise would be useless.

Pulling It Together: Circumcision was a seal or sign of Abraham's faith in God's promise. It was not a requirement for earning God's grace. Rather, it was a sign that Abraham believed what God promised. Even so, the promise of God's complete forgiveness is for those who believe his promise, not for those who have been circumcised or have in any other way become virtuous enough to receive God's gift. His priceless gift is freely given because of what his Son accomplished—not because of our achievements. First, we cannot achieve righteousness by keeping the law. It simply is not possible, as has been demonstrated earlier. Peter came to the same conclusion (Acts 15:10). Second, if God's grace is freely given, how is it that some say it must be earned, that people must somehow merit God's forgiveness? If one has to earn God's grace through works, then his grace is not grace at all. Furthermore, since we cannot even love God with our whole heart and soul and mind and strength (Mark 12:30), we cannot keep the law at all. For whoever thinks he has kept the law but has failed in even one part of it, is guilty of breaking all of the law (James 2:10). So if meriting God's favor is based on our works, one easily sees that a promise of grace is altogether useless, since no one would ever be the recipient of that promise.

Prayer: Thank you, Father, for giving me your grace in spite of myself. Amen. 

Subscribe to Connections Magazine today. Connections features articles that connect Lutherans to the Word. Martin Luther’s Small Catechism provides the inspiration for confessional, biblical content, delivered in a stylish, readable design. 

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a259.html Tue, 08 Jun 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Genesis 3:8–10

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

Lastly, it was very foolish for our adversaries to write that men who are under eternal wrath deserve the remission of sins by an act of love that springs from their mind since it is impossible to love God, unless the forgiveness of sins is first received by faith. For the heart that truly feels that God is angry cannot love God unless God's reconciliation is confirmed. As long as he terrifies us and seems to be casting us into eternal death, human nature is not able to take such courage so as to love a wrathful, judging, and punishing God. It is easy for idle people to imagine fantasies concerning love—such as a person guilty of mortal sin being able to love God above all things—because they do not understand what the wrath or judgment of God is. But in the agony and conflicts of conscience, the conscience experiences the emptiness of such philosophical speculations. Paul says, “For the law brings wrath” (Rom 4:15). He does not say that by the law men earn the remission of sins. For the law always accuses and terrifies consciences. Therefore it does not justify, because the conscience terrified by the law flees from the judgment of God. Those who trust that by the law, by their own works, they merit the remission of sins, are therefore mistaken. It is sufficient for now for us to have said these things that the adversaries teach about the righteousness of reason or of the law. For after a while, when we will declare our belief concerning the righteousness of faith, the subject itself will compel us to cite more testimonies that will also be of service in overthrowing the errors of the adversaries that we have critiqued so far.

Pulling It Together: The law is always accusing us of wrongdoing. That is the law's job. Furthermore, we know that the law is right. In ourselves, we have no leg to stand on. The law has us dead to rights. Knowing that we have sinned against God, like Adam and Eve, we hide behind trees. God's response about our sin has made us fearful from the beginning. Adam and Eve were no longer interested in walking with God in the garden. Instead, their sin caused them to want to get as far away from him as possible. This law that drives us away from God will not suddenly draw us toward him. So, how can this law, the doing of things, somehow make us right with God when it is always telling us the exact opposite? It cannot. It does not, no matter how much we may wish it otherwise.

Prayer: Thank you, Father, for covering my sin and helping me to walk with you again. Amen. 

The Ten Commandments book is a ten-week unit, Confirmation workbook which includes one session on each of the Commandments. The Scripture focus in the Ten Commandment series is on Moses and the Exodus Cycle, with Bible Study lessons taken primarily from the Pentateuch.

• Student Workbook   • Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a258.html Mon, 07 Jun 21 00:00:00 -0500

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1 Samuel 16:6–7

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

The flesh certainly does not love God if the carnal mind is belligerent toward him. If it cannot be subject to the law of God, it cannot love him. If the carnal mind is hostile toward God, the flesh sins, even when we do external civil works. If it cannot be subject to the law of God, it certainly sins even when, according to human judgment, it possesses deeds that are excellent and worthy of praise. The adversaries consider only the precepts of the Second Table which contain civil righteousness that reason understands. Content with this, they imagine that they satisfy the law of God. In the meanwhile, they do not see the First Table that commands that we love God, that we declare as true that God is angry with sin, that we truly fear God, and that we declare as certain that God hears prayer. But the human heart without the Holy Spirit either in security despises God's judgment, or in punishment flees from and hates God when he judges. So, it does not obey the First Table. Since contempt of God, and doubt concerning the Word of God, and about the threats and promises, are inherent to human nature, people truly sin even when they do virtuous works without the Holy Spirit because they do them with a wicked heart. According to Romans 14:23, “whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” Such persons perform their works with contempt of God, just as Epicurus does not believe that God cares for him, or that he is regarded or heard by God. This contempt corrupts works that are seemingly virtuous because God judges the heart.

Pulling It Together: God is concerned, though not primarily so, with the things that we do. The external matters such as are found in the second table of the law are there—in second place—for a reason. Keeping the Sabbath or the Lord's Day should not be your focus, as it is not God's primary interest in you. Honoring parents, murder, adultery, theft, lying, and coveting are all external matters that are of secondary importance. For if you keep the first table—that which is internal or of the heart—you will surely keep the second table, which is an external work. Since God looks at the heart, we ought to concern ourselves primarily with loving him with our whole self. Then the other eight commandments will be kept as well. This is why Jesus could say, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) Though some people can keep the second table, they are still in sin if they do not keep the first. For only the person who has received God's grace by being filled with his Spirit is able to keep the first table. That person is absolved of sin for Christ's sake.

Prayer: Lord, help me love you with my whole self today. Amen. 

Full-Color Catechism Posters (Set of Seven)  These glossy full-color 11"x 17" posters feature the main texts from the six parts of Luther's Small Catechism and are designed for use in homes and churches to help children memorize these important and timeless words. Posters include: Holy Baptism, The Lord's Prayer, The Ten Commandments (standard), The Ten Commandments (simplified),The Apostles' Creed, Holy Communion, and Confession & Forgiveness. Each poster features a picture of "Luther's Small Cat" and matches the colors of the corresponding booklet from Sola's Luther's Small Cat Series.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a257.html Sun, 06 Jun 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Isaiah 64:4–6

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

Jesus said, “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). He also said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” So, if it is necessary to be born again of the Holy Spirit, the righteousness of reason cannot justify us before God and does not fulfill the law. Paul writes, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23); that is, they are destitute of the wisdom and righteousness of God that acknowledges and glorifies God. Paul also writes, “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, indeed it cannot; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom 8:7-8). These testimonies are so plain that, to employ the words of Augustine that he used in this case, they do not need a sharp mind, but only an attentive hearer.

Pulling It Together: The words of Jesus are enough. If it is Jesus who makes us free, how dare we try to make ourselves free through works of the law? So some say, “Yes, he sets you free but you must add works to remain free.” This is the righteousness of reason, the fleshly, earthly righteousness that satisfies some parts of the law but cannot keep it all. Yet, even if all of the law could be kept perfectly, as has been written earlier, without the grace of God, these civil and religious works would be filthy rags (Isa 64:6) and rubbish (Phil 3:8). Who then could imagine the following two things? First, who could imagine that there is a God who loves sinners so much that he would send his Son to set them free from their bondage to sin and death? Second, who would want to imagine that people could do a better job of liberation than God?

Prayer: Oh, Son of God, thank you for setting us free from this sin that we have been in for so long. Amen. 

Luther's Small Cat Discovers: The Seasons of the Church Year is written for 4th grade level students. This book takes students through the church year, accompanied by Luther’s Small Cat — a character who is just as inquisitive and precocious as the students. May your journey through the church year bring you closer to Christ, who walks through each moment of life alongside you.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a256.html Sat, 05 Jun 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Galatians 2:15–21

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

We have testimonies for our belief from the Fathers as well as the Scriptures. Augustine contends at great length against the Pelagians that grace is not given because of our merits. In On Nature and Grace he says, “If natural ability through the free will suffice both for learning to know how one ought to live and for living aright, then Christ has died in vain and then the offense of the Cross is made void. Why should I not cry out here too? Yes, I will cry out and with Christian grief will chide them: “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace” (Gal 5:4; cf. 2:21). “For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law, that every one who has faith may be justified” (Rom 10:3-4).

Pulling It Together: Lutherans teach that Christians should do good works. However, they also confess that these works do not earn God's grace and save them from sin and death. Even if they were able to choose righteousness instead of sin as the Pelagians claim, and to do so perfectly and completely (which is ludicrous in and of itself) this would be altogether insufficient. Our good works, however fine they may seem to us, amount to nothing in the balance of justification and salvation. People are not justified by works of the law—either civil or religious. The only way a person is considered righteous by God—the only way—is through faith in Jesus Christ. If there is any other way to be justified, then Christ died for no reason. Lutherans, along with Scripture and the Church Fathers, confess that Christ is the end and fulfillment of the law with its required acts of righteousness, so that those who believe in Christ, or have faith, may be numbered by God among the righteous. 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, give me a complete confidence in your Son so that I never rely upon myself. Amen. 

Luther's Small Cat Series from Sola Publishing is a graded elementary-aged Sunday School curriculum based on the sections of the Small Catechism, with each lesson focusing on an applicable story from the Bible. This easy-to-use workbook-style curriculum, allows kids to have a keepsake of the memory piece they master for the year.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a255.html Fri, 04 Jun 21 00:00:00 -0500

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1 Timothy 1:12–15

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

It is also both false and dishonoring of Christ to teach that men do not sin who do the commandments of God without grace.

Pulling It Together

An external religion does not earn the grace of God. Therefore, anyone merely keeping appearances, even if they strive to keep the commandments, is still in sin. Such people, as fine and decent as they may be, are trusting their own efforts. Anyone can keep some of the law some of the time, particularly the so-called second table of the law. But without the Holy Spirit and grace in our hearts, we will never keep the first table. We will never love God with our whole hearts unless we have faith through God's grace. Furthermore, when the Spirit of grace is within us, we then come to understand that we cannot keep the law nearly so perfectly as we once imagined. We understand what poor sinners we really are and that it is impossible to be saved without faith in the merits of Christ. Augustine wrote plainly of this matter in Of the Spirit and the Letter: “Man is not justified by the precepts of a good life, but by faith in Jesus Christ.” That person greatly dishonors the Lord who thinks he makes himself sinless and holy when “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1Tim 1:15).

Prayer: Increase my faith, Lord, and save me from myself. Amen. 

Why Did Jesus Have to Die? is a six-week Bible Study that examines the most profound event of salvation history — the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ — exploring from a biblical perspective what is known as the doctrine of the Atonement.

Participant's Book    • Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a254.html Thu, 03 Jun 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Jeremiah 17:5–7

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

It is also false that reason, by its own strength, is able to love God above all things and fulfill God's law. It cannot truly fear God, be truly confident that God hears prayer, be willing to obey God in death and other trials, or to not covet what belongs to others, etc. However, reason can produce civil works.

Pulling It Together: The first use of the law is social in nature, for it creates boundaries and consequences for those who do wrong. This is as far as reason or earthly righteousness goes. By itself, it can never create true love for God. It can create in a person the observance of religious duties that are often confused with true love of God. For example, the righteousness of reason can make a person mumble the Lord's Prayer without ever actually expecting a loving Father to be actively listening and desiring to answer that person's other prayers during the course of a day. Earthly righteousness might cause a person to take their children to church—because it is “the right thing to do.” But when tragedy or trial comes their way, does reason alone sustain them? As often as not, people will then turn away from the church to some other activity.

God's grace is required in order to really love him and keep his law. This is always the case but it is obvious when life gets difficult. If a person has been depending on their own external works of righteousness, their religion will begin to suffer under stress. When people rely upon their own strength, they will turn away from the Lord. But the person of faith will continue to place their confidence in God. When their own social and religious activities do not bring about anticipated results and life becomes difficult, the person of faith still loves God and walks in his ways.

Prayer: Thank you, Holy Spirit, for sustaining me with your grace. Amen. 

Family Matters is a nine-session Bible study that focuses on the first generations of God's people—Abraham and his descendants. It looks at how God's covenant promise sustained them as they navigated family relationships.

Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a253.html Wed, 02 Jun 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Psalm 51:1–10

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

It is also false that people are accounted righteous before God because of the righteousness of reason.

Pulling It Together: Just as people are not forgiven of their sins because of civil deeds and religious works, these works also will never make them righteous before the holy God. Their works and their external piety, no matter how fine, will never make them holy on the inside. This is why David asked God to do it; David could not. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me” (Psa 51:10). God must do for us what we can never do for ourselves. Only the holy God can make us clean, pure, holy, righteous. We will never stand before God, or be righteous, unless he does it for us. This certainly makes the admonition of Jesus more bearable: “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:20). For all of our effort to keep the commandments and the Sermon on the Mount, we will only discover that we cannot. We may come close or match their external righteousness, but the only way our righteousness will exceed that of the religious crowd is if God makes us righteous within. The righteousness of reason (external, earthly righteousness) will not change us on the inside and therefore, make us righteous before God (Matt 23:27). God does this for us “through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” (Rom 3:22).

Prayer: Thank you, Father, for sending your Son, Jesus Christ, the salvation of the world. Amen. 

Come, Worship the Lord (Sola Music Series, Vol I) The Sola Music Series offers simple collections of easy-to-play worship music, including new songs and arrangements of old favorites. Based in a confessional theology and a respect for the historical and sacramental liturgy, these resources do not require a high level of musical expertise. Written in a simple and straight-forward style, these songs are intended for congregations that would like to explore a less formal musical style in worship, while still maintaining the integrity of the traditional order of worship. Such music would fit into what is sometimes referred to as "contemporary" or "blended" worship, without necessarily requiring a full band of experienced musicians and singers to lead the songs. Providing lead sheets for guitar and vocals, along with full scores for piano, Sola Publishing grants to those who purchase this volume the permission to reproduce words and music of the songs within for local congregational use. This book includes music from "The Holy Cross Setting" available with a SOWeR subscription.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a252.html Tue, 01 Jun 21 00:00:00 -0500

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1 John 1:8–9

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

So it is false that we earn forgiveness of sins by our works.

Pulling It Together: There is an earthly righteousness that comes from human work and ability. Keeping the commandments, being a good citizen, exercising control over what is said, and minding one's own affairs with diligence and humility are examples of this kind of righteousness. The world would be a far better place if we all worked diligently at this earthly righteousness. Yet keeping the commandments, however perfectly, does not earn one anything but a fuller enjoyment of life (Lev 18:5). Applying the commandments to every part of life will only make for a blessed life here on earth. Earthly righteousness will never earn or merit the forgiveness of sins. Fine and decent people remain troubled about their standing before God because they know in their hearts that they are sinners. Even if they smiled at everyone and had a polite greeting, they know that they thought poorly of some. Even if they gave regularly to the local food pantry, they know that there was always more they could have done. And this is just the point. How can we ever know if we have done enough good?

So, we try to be more religious, hoping that the nagging accusations in our consciences will go away. We pile on more works, only now they are religious acts. These too, like other earthly kinds of righteousness, are fine and add to the enjoyment of life. But they will not earn the forgiveness of sins. The person who has 40 years of perfect attendance at Sunday School and worship, is still condemned by the sins he has committed. He will find no forgiveness of sins through his perfect attendance, even if he has a certificate and lapel pin to display for his lifetime effort. Imagine someone actually saying to God, “But, Lord! Lord! I have a shiny pin so I should enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 7:21-23).

There is, however, another kind of righteousness. It is not an earthly righteousness. This righteousness is heavenly and full of grace and forgiveness. It does not come from our hard work or the keeping of the commandments. Heavenly righteousness is the free gift and work of God. So, you should understand by now that even if you have an external, earthly righteousness, you must also have a righteousness that is higher and internal. Only the righteousness that is given by the work of God in Christ will free you from sin and an evil, accusing, nagging conscience. Only the righteousness of Christ graciously given to you will allow you peace of mind and lead you out of death into eternal life.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for the sweet peace and fellowship of your Spirit that I enjoy because of your grace. Amen. 

The Sola Confirmation Series, written by the Rev. Steven E. King, is work-book style Confirmation curriculum. It is designed to serve as a simple and practical resource for teaching the biblical Word of God according to the traditional pattern of Martin Luther’s Small Catechism.  Each book in the series can be used as the basis for a “come as you are” small group Bible study, as a student book for home school or independent study programs, or as a classroom tool and homework resource as part of an existing confirmation program. 

The Ten Commandments book is a ten-week unit, which includes one session on each of the Commandments. The Scripture focus in the Ten Commandment series is on Moses and the Exodus Cycle, with Bible Study lessons taken primarily from the Pentateuch.

• Student Workbook   • Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a251.html Mon, 31 May 21 00:00:00 -0500

Galatians 3:23–26         Search by Scripture

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

God requires the righteousness of reason. Because of his commandment, the honorable works that the Decalog commands must necessarily be performed. According to Galatians 3:24: “So that the law was our custodian.” Likewise, “The law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient” (1Tim 1:9). For God wants those who are carnal to be restrained by civil discipline, and to maintain this, he has given laws, letters, doctrine, magistrates, penalties. This righteousness of reason, by its own strength, can work to a certain extent, although it is often overcome by natural weakness and by the devil goading it to obvious crimes. We cheerfully assign this righteousness of reason the praises that are due it (since this corrupt nature has no greater good). Aristotle rightly says, “Neither the evening star nor the morning star is more beautiful than righteousness, and God also honors it with bodily rewards.” Nevertheless, it ought not to be praised with reproach to Christ.

Pulling It Together: The law is a good thing. It teaches us how to interact with God and with each other. The law also provides necessary restraint on the uncivil elements of society so that good order may be maintained. This works—up to a point. We understand that more laws, attorneys, judges, and punishments do not make a better society. Better citizens make a better society. The law keeps us in check until something better comes along. Knowing that we have a system of law in place would never cause us to disparage public education and other programs for the improvement of the citizenry. We would hope education has an effect and the law is not necessary. We would anticipate that some, at least, would become good citizens upon whom the law was never enforced because they saw the good reason of keeping the law.

In Christ Jesus, something far better than a program of education has arrived. Before faith in Christ came, the law instructed us, but we are no longer under the law's tutelage. That kind of righteousness has been fulfilled in Christ, who through faith has made us good citizens of his kingdom.

Prayer: Thank you, Father, for bringing me into the family and kingdom of your Son. Amen. 

The Spiritual Realms

A Bible Study on Heaven and Hell and Places Beyond this World

By Rev. Steven E. King

"We believe in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen." (Nicene Creed)

The Spiritual Realms is a nine-session Bible Study series on Heaven and Hell and places beyond this world. Specifically, the study looks at the many “place names” that are found throughout Scripture, referring to spiritual realms of existence that underlie and comprise the universe God created. This Bible Study series is a challenging one, in that it explores realities of existence beyond what we know and experience everyday.

The study not only addresses matters of life, death, heaven and hell, it steadfastly affirms that Jesus Christ is at the center of all these things. Our ultimate faith and hope rest in Christ’s death and resurrection for our sake. We live in faith by the biblical promise that: “God raised the Lord, and will also raise us up by his power.” (1 Corinthians 6:14)

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a250.html Sun, 30 May 21 00:00:00 -0500

Matthew 7:25–27       Index by Scripture

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

Therefore, the adversaries teach nothing but the righteousness of reason, or certainly of the law. Just like the Jews, they look upon the veiled face of Moses. As secure hypocrites who think that they satisfy the law, they excite presumption and empty confidence in works and have contempt for the grace of Christ. They drive timid consciences to despair, which while laboring with doubt can never experience what faith is, and how efficacious it is. Ultimately, they utterly despair.

Pulling It Together: The foolish person builds a house on sand. This should make me wonder about that beach house I have always wanted. Trying to live by the law is like owning a beach house. It sure looks pretty some days. The rest of the time it is a lot of work and is prone to being washed away in the next storm.

The wise person builds on the rock—or, if you will, the Rock (1Cor 10:4). She lives a life of faith in Jesus Christ. Believing in Jesus is the only sure foundation for life. Though the storms will come, the house of faith in Christ will not be washed away. The winds will blow and beat against that house, yet it will not fall, because Christ is its secure foundation.

So long as one tries to be Christian by doing things, her life will be knocked down in the end. How can she be confident in the things she does? “Surely,” she thinks, “I have failed to do enough to make God happy with my life.” But the one who is a Christian by virtue of the work Christ has done for her can be confident until the end. Whenever she wonders if she has done enough or been good enough, she thinks, “Of course, I haven't done enough or been good enough. Thank God that Christ has done it for me!” His grace is beyond sufficient (2Cor 12:9). It is a rock to build a life upon.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for being my rock and sure foundation. Amen.

Ambidextrous Christianity

A "Two-Handed" Approach to the Life of Faith

Nine-Session Bible Study by the Rev. Chris Brekke

Martin Luther was a champion of “dialectic” or “paradoxical” thinking — the idea that two truths sometimes need to be kept in tension. For example, as you drive your car down the highway, you have to be able to turn both left and right. The same is true in our Christian lives. We trust that the truth of God’s Word teaches us how to steer wisely. But it is a dialectical “two-handed” approach to our faith journey that helps us as Christ’s followers to navigate life without going into the ditches on either side.

In this nine-session Bible Study, we look at nine key questions of faith and life, letting our Lord direct us in steering on the narrow path of faith. In studying God's Word with other believers, we seek to grow in our ability to move forward in our journey together, no matter what the road may present us with.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a249.html Sat, 29 May 21 00:00:00 -0500

Titus 3:4–7         Index by Scripture

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

So as not to appear to agree with the Pelagians, they make a distinction between due merit (meritum congrui) and complete merit (meritum condigni). For, if God necessarily gives grace for due merit, it is no longer due merit, but a true duty and complete merit. They do not understand what they are saying. Once this habit of love is present, they imagine that people are able to acquire merit (de condigno). Yet they tell us to doubt whether there is even a habit present. How then, do they know whether they acquire merit partially (de congruo) or fully (de condigno)? This whole matter was fabricated by idle men who did not know how the forgiveness of sins occurs or how, in the judgment of God and through terrors of conscience, trust in works is driven out of us. Secure hypocrites always judge that they fully acquire merit (de condigno), whether the habit is present or not, because men naturally trust in their own righteousness. But terrified consciences waver and hesitate. Then they seek and accumulate other works in order to find peace. Such consciences never think that they acquire enough merit (de condigno), and they rush into despair unless they hear, in addition to the doctrine of the law, the gospel about unmerited forgiveness of sins and the righteousness of faith.

Pulling It Together: Where do these ideas come from, except from the minds of those who have turned from the clear teaching of Scripture to their own speculations? Why would one wonder whether they had fully earned God's grace? If it must be earned, is it grace? Wondering about such things is an indication that one does not understand the ways of God at all. It is not necessary to navigate the fine line between heresies such as Pelgianism (that there is no original sin and therefore one is able to be good) and conjectures about preceding (or provenient) habits of grace. Lutherans teach that one is not saved through either half or full measures of merit that are calculated on religious and self-righteous works. Rather, we are altogether saved—not partially but completely—by God's doing, not ours. He did so because of his mercy, not because one has developed a habit that deserves God's further grace. He saved us through the regeneration and renewal of his Spirit who is poured out on us so richly through Christ that we need not wonder if we have enough grace. Grace is not accumulated by the person but extravagantly gifted by God. Of course there is meritum condigni. How could there be anything but complete merit since it is God who gives it so freely? How could there be anything but meritum congrui or partial grace if one were trying to earn God's favor? In that case, just to be clear, there would only be worthless religion (Matt 7:21-23) and no grace at all—since it cannot be earned. 

Prayer: Thank you, God, for saving me so completely. Amen. 

Lord, Teach Us to Pray

by Kent Groethe and Steve King

Discover the  Joy of Talking to God ...
Lord, Teach Us to Pray is a eight-session curriculum on prayer intended for youth. Based on the themes of the Lord’s Prayer, it uses a Bible Study format, with each lesson including multiple Scripture texts along with the related section of Luther’s Small Catechism. A section entitled “About Prayer” teaches students helpful items about a solid prayer life and a prayer assignment for the coming week. A major goal of this material is to help kids experience prayer, and practice it in a variety of ways.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a248.html Fri, 28 May 21 00:00:00 -0500

Psalm 139:23–24           Index By Scripture

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

So as not to pass by Christ altogether, the adversaries require a knowledge of the history of Christ, and attribute him with giving us, as they say, prima gratia, "first grace," which they understand as a habit that disposes us to more readily love God. Yet what they ascribe to this habit is of little importance because they imagine that the acts of the will are of the same kind before and after this habit. They imagine that the will can love God but that this habit stimulates it to do so more cheerfully. They ask us to first merit this habit by preceding merits; then they tell us to earn an increase of this habit and eternal life through works of the law. Hence they bury Christ, so that men do not use Christ as as a mediator and believe that because of him they freely receive remission of sins and reconciliation. Rather, they dream that by their own fulfillment of the law they merit the remission of sins and are accounted righteous before God. Nevertheless, the law is never satisfied, since reason does nothing except certain civilized acts, while neither fearing God, nor truly believing that he cares. Although they speak of this habit, without the righteousness of faith, people cannot love God or even understood what the love of God is.

Pulling It Together: The Reformers were answering challenges from a church that really believed it was their own works that earned them eternal life. Take that in for a moment. It is a little difficult to conceive of today, as we have benefited for five centuries from the Lutheran Confession. But in the early sixteenth century, the church believed that knowing the story of Jesus was only the beginning of the Christian religion. Somehow, knowing about him gave one the disposition to please God. This adjustment of human nature, it was taught, would allow people to perform increasing acts of piety and devotion that would earn them favor, forgiveness, and righteousness with God. In the meanwhile, they do not avail themselves of Christ's merits, for he was only the beginning of religion. They have become the next step in their supposed salvation. All of this happens, they imagine, by virtue of their own religious works. All the while, they fail to keep the first commandment. For without the righteousness given by God through faith, people will never love him with their whole heart. Evidence of this is the anxiety they will feel the next time they sin. “What do I need to do to fix my sin?” they will worry, not knowing that their sin has already been fixed—and not by any work of their own. 

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for knowing me and leading me in the everlasting way. Amen. 

Speaking for Christ: Everyday Evangelism through the Promise of Forgiveness

by Rev. Hugh Brewer and the Rev. Dr. Steven E. King

"Speaking for Christ" is a Bible study on evangelism and what it means to share the message of Jesus in our everyday life. It approaches the subject by focusing on how God uses us to be his ambassadors and drives to the heart of the reason Jesus came into the world, to reconcile the world to himself through the proclamation of repentance and forgiveness of sins.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a247.html Thu, 27 May 21 00:00:00 -0500

Galatians 6:14–16         Index by Scripture

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

In this opinion, there are many great and pernicious errors that would be tedious to enumerate. Let the discreet reader consider only this: If this is Christian righteousness, what difference is there between philosophy and the doctrine of Christ? If we earn the remission of sins by these deceitful acts, of what benefit is Christ? If we can be justified by reason and the works of reason, of what need is Christ or regeneration? These opinions have caused the matter to come the point that many ridicule us because we teach that something other than philosophic righteousness must be sought. We have heard that some have set aside the gospel, and instead of a sermon, explain the ethics of Aristotle. Indeed, such men did not err if those things that the adversaries defend are true. For Aristotle wrote so learnedly about civil morals that nothing further concerning this is necessary. We see books in which certain sayings of Christ are compared with the sayings of Socrates, Zeno, and others, as though Christ had come for the purpose of delivering certain laws through which we might merit the remission of sins, as though we did not receive this freely because of his merits. Therefore, if we receive the doctrine of the adversaries—that by works of reason we earn remission of sins and justification—there will be no difference between philosophic—or certainly pharisaic—and Christian righteousness.

Pulling It Together: Do not suppose that Melancthon will not list some other errors as he develops this Article. By saying, "consider only this," he causes us to clearly see the main error that the Lutherans' opponents make. Their error was equating human philosophy with the work of God in Christ. If Christianity is simply another philosophy, then Christ and the cross offer no distinctive benefit to sinners. If one may earn a righteous standing before God through reason and philosophy, then why did God need to send his Son? If we may be justified with God by earning grace through reason then why do we hear that God gives grace freely? The error of the opponents reduces Christianity to pharisaism—one that makes a new law to keep, a law of reason and philosophy. But the Lutheran boast is in Christ and his cross alone, foolishness to the world but the very wisdom of God.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me trust in your work on the cross instead of my works and reason. Amen. 

The Word of Life Series is a resource for those looking to develop small groups built around the Word of God. This model of small-group ministry is an excellent tool for evangelism since it is rooted in prayer and Scripture. Its primary focus is to empower those who believe in Jesus Christ, to be comfortable sharing their faith and inviting others to experience a transformed life in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

• Unit 1   • Unit 2   • Unit 3

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a246.html Wed, 26 May 21 00:00:00 -0500

1 Corinthians 3:18–23        Index by Scripture

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

Here, having followed the philosophers, the scholastics teach only a righteousness of reason, namely civil works, and furthermore, concoct that reason without the Holy Spirit is able to love God above all things. So long as the human mind is at ease and does not feel the wrath or judgment of God, it can imagine that it wants to love God and that it wishes to do good for God's sake. In this manner, the scholastics teach that people merit the remission of sins by doing what is in them, that is, when reason grieves over sin, elicits an act of love to God, or wishes to do good. Since this opinion flatters people, it has produced and multiplied many services in the Church like monastic vows and abuses of the mass. With this opinion, in the course of time, one act of worship or observance and another has been devised. In order that they might nourish and increase confidence in such works, they have affirmed that God necessarily gives grace to those doing these works, not by the necessity of constraint but of immutability.

Pulling It Together

The whole problem of the scholastics, as it is with the world's philosophers, is that they believed that people are capable of being good. As a result, people who think this way, lull themselves into a state of calm, imagining that everything will be fine so long as they are good enough or religious enough or somehow balance the books against their debt of sin. But people are not good. Yes, it pains us to hear it but it is helpful to know it or to be reminded. Luther teaches that God “does not regard or consider anything in us as good. And in this way we are already good as long as we recognize nothing as good except God’s good and our own good as evil, for he who is wise in this way with God is truly a wise and good man. For he knows that nothing is good outside of God and that in God everything is good. As Christ says: 'The kingdom of God is within you' (Luke 17:21). It is as if He were saying: 'Outside of you is exile. Outside of you is everything which is seen and touched, but within you is everything which is believed only by faith'” (Luther's Works, Vol. 25, p. 383). Do you see that it is only God at work within you that brings about any real good in your life? And if it is God who is doing it, it is not you who does these good works, but instead the Spirit who is at work within you. How then would we imagine that we must do good works before God would offer us his grace? If there is anything immutable about God, it is that he offers his grace freely to all (Titus 2:11).

Prayer: Holy Spirit, work in me your will today. Amen. 

The goal of Personalities of Faith, a ten-session Bible study for youth, is to encourage young people to commit themselves to follow Jesus in discipleship by becoming "personalities of faith". Using biblical examples of people who have followed—or failed to follow—God's call, participants will be prepared to better follow the Lord in their own lives.

Volume 1  • Volume 1 Leader's Guide  • Volume 2  • Volume 2 Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a245.html Tue, 25 May 21 00:00:00 -0500

Mark 12:28–31.      Index by Scripture

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

Of these two parts, the adversaries choose the law because human reason naturally understands the law in some way (since it has the same judgment divinely written in the mind). They seek the remission of sins and justification through the law. But the Decalogue requires not only outward civil works that reason can to some degree produce; it also requires other works that are placed far above reason, namely, to truly fear God, to truly love God, to truly call upon God, to be truly convinced that God hears us, and to expect his aid in death and in all afflictions. Finally, it requires obedience to God in death and all afflictions so that we may not flee from these or refuse them when God imposes them.

Pulling It Together: Some things come to us naturally. For example, we can look at the beauty and complexity of nature and understand that there must be a creator. Yet, we do not instinctively know who the creator is, let alone begin to truly and completely love God (Deut 6:5; Mark 12:30). When we learn who God is, we quickly discover that we cannot keep his law. Yet there are some who insist that people can somehow work off the fine that has been levied for their sins (Rom 6:23). Those who opposed the Reformers believed that human effort could appease the wrath of God. To be fair, there are some things the law requires that we are completely capable of fulfilling (James 2:10). However, we cannot pick and choose the ceremonies and other requirements of the law that we determine are necessary; we are obligated to keep the entire law (Gal 5:3). If one is to depend upon the law, the whole law must be kept (James 2:10). Yet we must admit that even the first commandment eludes us—since we have other idols and do not love God with our whole heart and mind and strength. Nor do we trust him. A solid proof of this assertion is our seeking to satisfy his righteous law by our own works, instead of depending upon God.

Prayer: Blessed are you, Father, for quieting the unrest of my soul and setting my spirit free. Amen.

A Reading and Discussion of the Augsburg Confession is a more challenging study series based on assigned readings from the Book of Concord and related Scripture texts. Each study is comprised of eight sessions, plus an optional introductory session, presented in a question and discussion format. The Leader's Guide that accompanies this study is a resource for those facilitating group discussion or may serve as a reader's commentary for those who are studying the Book of Concord on their own.

Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a244.html Mon, 24 May 21 00:00:00 -0500

Galatians 3:21–23          Index by Scripture

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification 

All Scripture ought to be divided into these two main topics: the law and the promises. In some places Scriptures present the Law, while in others the promise concerning Christ, either when it promises that Christ will come and for his sake offers the remission of sins, justification, and eternal life, or in the gospel, after he appeared, Christ himself promises the remission of sins, justification, and eternal life. Furthermore, in this discussion, by “law” we designate the Ten Commandments, wherever they are found in the Scriptures. At present, we will not say anything about the ceremonial and judicial laws of Moses.

Pulling It Together: The defense of the doctrine of justification begins with a definition of terms. The revelation of God is understood easily by seeing it in its simplest functions. The Old Testament presents God's commandments. Further refining the definitions, the present discourse will be dealing with the law in terms of the root of all scriptural law: the ten commandments. The New Testament, on the other hand, though it does deal with law just as the Old Testament shows God's grace, more generally handles God's promises or grace that answers the law. Without acknowledging these definitions, it is unlikely that one will readily understand that people are imprisoned under law of God and liberated by the grace of Christ. Grace, faith, and justification must always be considered in contrast to the law and the commandments.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord Jesus, for setting me free from sin and death. Amen. 

The Sola Confirmation Series, written by the Rev. Steven E. King, is basic work-book style Confirmation curriculum. It is designed to serve as a simple and practical resource for teaching the biblical Word of God according to the traditional pattern of Martin Luther’s Small Catechism.  Each book in the series can be used as the basis for a “come as you are” small group Bible study, as a student book for home school or independent study programs, or as a classroom tool and homework resource as part of an existing confirmation program. 

The Ten Commandments book is a ten-week unit, which includes one session on each of the Commandments. The Scripture focus in the Ten Commandment series is on Moses and the Exodus Cycle, with Bible Study lessons taken primarily from the Pentateuch.

Student Workbook   • Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a243.html Sun, 23 May 21 00:00:00 -0500

Romans 5:1–2      Click here for Scripture Index

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Justification

In the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and, below, in the Twentieth Article, they condemn us, for teaching that people obtain remission of sins freely for Christ's sake, through faith in Christ, instead of by their own merits. They condemn us both for denying that people obtain remission of sins because of their own merits, and for affirming that through faith, men obtain remission of sins, and through faith in Christ are justified. This controversy addresses the chief topic of Christian doctrine which, rightly understood, illumines and magnifies the honor of Christ and brings necessary and abundant consolation to devout consciences. So we ask His Imperial Majesty to hear us with forbearance in regard to matters of such importance. For since the adversaries do not understand what remission of sins, faith, grace, or righteousness are, they woefully corrupt this topic and obscure the glory and benefits of Christ, robbing devout consciences of the consolations offered in Christ. Yet, that we may strengthen the position of our Confession and remove the charges which the adversaries raise against us, certain things must be set forth in the beginning so that the sources of both kinds of doctrine—that of our adversaries and our own—may be known.

Pulling It Together: We begin to handle a long Article with this reading, much longer than Article 2, “Concerning Original Sin.” This is the foremost of the chief articles for the Lutherans. Justification touches every other article and doctrine in the Augsburg Confession and its Defense. This could be seen in the conclusion of Article 3, Concerning Christ. Although it was noted that there was no disagreement between the Lutherans and their opponents on the doctrine of the dual nature of Christ, there was a note of what was to come in the following, lengthy Article. For it is not enough that one understands that Christ is both human and divine; one must also comprehend the benefits of his two-fold nature. One of those benefits is justification. Because Christ was qualified and just to offer a sacrifice for humanity, people may now be declared innocent of their sins, or justified with God. This happens through faith, not by a system of religious actions. As a result, “we have peace with God.” This peace of mind occurs because one never has to worry if the right thing has been done to appease God's wrath. Christ satisfied God's righteous requirement—a thing that no one else could ever do no matter how much effort is expended (Acts 15:10).

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for the peace that comes through your righteousness. Amen. 

Reading and Discussion of Luther's Catechisms is a more challenging study series based on assigned readings from the Book of Concord and related Scripture texts. Each study is comprised of eight sessions, plus an optional introductory session, presented in a question and discussion format. 

Student Workbook   • Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a242.html Sat, 22 May 21 00:00:00 -0500

John 20:24–28       Click here for Index by Scripture

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Christ

Our adversaries approve of the Third Article, in which we confess that there are two natures in Christ, that the Word assumed a human nature into the unity of his person; and that this same Christ suffered and died to reconcile the Father to us; and that he was raised again to reign, and to justify and sanctify believers, and so forth, as stated in the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed.

Pulling It Together: Even a doubter like Thomas understood that Jesus is both God and man. Jesus Christ is God incarnate, or in the flesh. Thomas said that he would not believe Jesus was raised from the dead unless he saw him in the flesh. Knowing he had been crucified, had died, and was buried, Thomas said he would never believe unless he verified it was the same man by seeing the nail marks in his hands and by placing his hand in the spear wound in Jesus' side. Eight days later, Jesus gave Thomas the opportunity to touch his wounds. It is not clear whether Thomas actually touched Jesus' hands and side but we know Thomas' response was, “My Lord and my God!” The resurrected body of Christ caused the famous doubter to believe in divine flesh. Those who opposed the Lutherans also believed in the dual nature of Christ. There was no disagreement between the scholastics in the church and the Reformers concerning this article. However, there was much difference on the further matters of justification and sanctification through Christ. These matters are defended in the next Article.

Prayer: Help me believe, Lord, what is written of you in the volume of the book. Amen. 

Who is Jesus? An Introductory Bible Study

It is only in God’s Word that we find what God has to say about himself, and what he has chosen to reveal to us in Jesus Christ. This five-session study, written by the Rev. Roy Beutel, is meant to serve as an introduction to what the Bible says about Jesus Christ — who he is and what it means to trust in him as Savior and Lord. The study would work well for introducing people to Bible Study, for those new to the Christian faith, or for those who want a refresher on the basics of our faith in Christ.

• Student Workbook   • Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a241.html Fri, 21 May 21 00:00:00 -0500

1 Peter 3:14–16.  Click here for Scripture Index 

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Original Sin 

We think that this will satisfy His Imperial Majesty concerning the puerile and trivial sophistry used by our adversaries to pervert this article. For we know that we rightly believe and are in concord with Christ's catholic church. If the adversaries will renew this controversy, there will be no lack among us of those who will reply, defending the truth. For on this subject there are a great many times when our adversaries do not understand what they say. They often contradict themselves and do not explain correctly and logically that which is essential to original sin, or what they call defects. At this point, we have been disinclined to analyze their arguments with overly much refinement. Instead, we thought it worthwhile only to note with conventional and familiar words the belief of the holy Fathers, which we also follow.

Pulling It Together: Melancthon cut to the heart of the issue in this closing paragraph of his article defending the doctrine of original sin. The issue was truth. The Lutherans were convinced that they correctly believed. They had good reasons to believe this since both Scripture and the Church Fathers supported their position. With this in mind, Melancthon made it clear that there would be many who would defend the truth of what original sin is, if their opponents pressed the issue. This was an important matter of faith, needing a fearless defense. For if people do not understand their depraved and damnable nature how will they understand the hope that God offers in Christ? They must first become aware of human unrighteousness, that all fall short of God's glory (Rom 3:23). Furthermore, they must know that no one will be justified by doing works of the law (Rom 3:20; Psa 14:1; Eccles 7:20). Only then, may the righteousness of God be given through faith in Jesus Christ (Rom 3:22). This is foundational. It is no wonder that the Lutherans defended the doctrine of original sin at length.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for ascribing your perfect righteousness to me, an undeserving sinner from my birth. Amen. 

David: Hero of God is a five-session VBS program that features one of the most famous people in Scripture. The Books of 1 and 2 Samuel tell the story of a young Israelite shepherd named David, who was chosen by God to be king. The biblical story shows how God can work through an ordinary person to do great things, illustrating the themes of faith, courage, compassion, and leadership. 

Sola’s Versatile Budget Series is a simple and flexible educational Vacation Bible School curriculum designed especially for small churches, house churches, and mission congregations. The flexible format works well for groups with limited budgets, or in situations where the ages and number of students may vary from session to session. Unlike more elaborate and expensive VBS kits, this book is meant to serve as an “all-in-one” teacher’s resource. The worksheets and handouts it contains can be reproduced according to local needs. Each book in the Versatile Budget Series focuses on a particular character from the Bible, bringing together several stories on a common theme. Resources and ideas are provided for gathering time, music, activities, games, and refreshments — allowing just a few adult leaders to host a week of Vacation Bible School.

More from the Versatile Budget Series

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a240.html Thu, 20 May 21 00:00:00 -0500

Genesis 3:14–19  Search by Scripture Verse

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Original Sin 

The scholastics rationalize both sin and punishment when they teach that people can fulfill the commandments of God by their own strength. Yet in Genesis, the punishment that is imposed because of original sin is described otherwise. Human nature is subjected there, not only to death and other physical problems, but also to the kingdom of the devil. It is there that this fearful sentence is proclaimed: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed” (Gen 3:15). The defects and the concupiscence are both punishment and sin. In a correct understanding, death and other physical maladies, and the dominion of the devil are punishments. For human nature has been enslaved and held captive by the devil, who provokes it with evil opinions and errors, and instigates all manner of sins. Just as the devil cannot be conquered except by the aid of Christ, we cannot free ourselves from that slavery by our own strength. Even the history of the world shows the great power of the devil's kingdom. The world is full of blasphemies against God and of unrighteous teaching, and the devil keeps tethered in these bonds those who are wise and righteous in the sight of the world. In other persons, grosser vices manifest themselves. But since Christ was given to us to remove both these sins and punishments, and to destroy the kingdom of the devil, sin, and death, the benefits of Christ cannot be recognized unless we understand our evil. For this reason, our preachers have diligently taught about these subjects, having delivered nothing novel. Instead, they have set forth Holy Scripture and the judgments of the holy Fathers.

Pulling It Together: Sin is a far more serious problem than most people realize or want to admit. In our day (at least in much of European and American societies), many people seem to think that if they ignore sin or call it something other than evil that it will go away. With such rationalizations, they imagine that there will also be no consequence for their thoughts and actions. This is largely a cultural issue. In ever-increasing ways, it is culture that informs us about what is wrong. Whereas this misinformation has certainly bled over into today's church, the problem at the time of the Reformation was more obviously religious. There were two problems regarding sin that the Reformers addressed. One, as already mentioned, the church no longer regarded sinful nature, the defects and inclination toward evil, as sin. Two, the church taught that both these inclinations and the things that they did admit to be sin could be countered by their own actions.

The teaching of Scripture however, even in its opening chapters, shows that because of the original sin of Adam's and Eve's disobedience, humanity is enslaved to sin, death, and the dominion of Satan. There is nothing people can do to free themselves from these consequences of human nature. The Lutherans confessed that only Christ can set us free from the bonds of sin, death, and the devil. Furthermore, they insisted that Christ's benefits could not be comprehended without a proper understanding of human depravity. There was nothing new or different in their doctrines, for these were the instructions of both the Bible and the Church Fathers.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord Jesus, for delivering me from this bondage to sin and death. Amen. 

The biblical focus in this five-session VBS series, Rebekah & Her Family, comes from the Book of Genesis. God's hand is seen at work throughout the story — from Rebekah’s being chosen as a bride for Isaac, through the birth and lives of their twin sons, Esau and Jacob.  The story illustrates how God remains faithful to his promise, despite our sin, and that God's power can actually change our lives!

Sola’s Versatile Budget Series is a simple and flexible educational Vacation Bible School curriculum designed especially for small churches, house churches, and mission congregations. The flexible format works well for groups with limited budgets, or in situations where the ages and number of students may vary from session to session. Unlike more elaborate and expensive VBS kits, this book is meant to serve as an “all-in-one” teacher’s resource. The worksheets and handouts it contains can be reproduced according to local needs. Each book in the Versatile Budget Series focuses on a particular character from the Bible, bringing together several stories on a common theme. Resources and ideas are provided for gathering time, music, activities, games, and refreshments — allowing just a few adult leaders to host a week of Vacation Bible School.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a239.html Wed, 19 May 21 00:00:00 -0500

Colossians 3:5–10

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Original Sin 

But if the adversaries will contend that the fomes is an adiaphoron, not only many passages of Scripture but the entire Church will contradict them. Even though perfect agreement may not be reached, who ever dared to say that these matters were adiaphora, namely: to doubt God's wrath, God's grace, or God's Word, to be angry at the judgments of God, to be provoked because God does not immediately deliver one from afflictions, to murmur because the wicked enjoy a better fortune than the upright, to be urged on by wrath, lust, the desire for glory, wealth, and so forth? And yet godly men, as appear in the Psalms and the prophets, acknowledge these things in themselves. But in the schools they have borrowed notions from philosophy, that natural passions make us neither good nor evil, neither deserving of praise nor blame. They postulate that nothing is sin unless it is voluntary. These notions were expressed among philosophers with respect to civil righteousness, but not with respect to God's judgment. With no discretion they add the opinion that human nature is not evil. In its proper place we do not disagree with this but it is not right to twist it into an excuse of original sin. Nevertheless, these notions are read in the works of scholastics, who inappropriately mingle philosophy and social ethics with the gospel. Nor were these matters only disputed in the schools, but as usually occurs, were carried from the schools to the people. And these persuasions prevailed and suppressed the knowledge of Christ's grace by nourishing confidence in human strength. This is why Luther, wishing to declare the magnitude of original sin and of human infirmity, taught that these remnants of original sin in human nature are not in their substance adiaphora, but that they require the grace of Christ so that they will not be imputed against us, and, likewise, the Holy Spirit for their mortification.

Pulling It Together: As we have seen, part of the confutation or refutation of the Augsburg Confession was a disagreement with the Lutherans about what has been called, up until now, concupiscence. Today, Melancthon names it with the Latin word, fomes. This is just another way to say evil inclination. The Lutherans contended that this inclination is itself part of our nature. Furthermore, they insisted that this was not a matter of indifference, or adiaphoron. Not only do the Scriptures teach otherwise, so do the Church Fathers. Even if people do not act upon these fomes or lusts, even the inclination and desire being present both indicates and is a sinful nature. A sinful nature is not holy or righteous. It is sinful, no matter how we try to whitewash the tomb of this body of flesh (Rom 7:24). We sense the evils that are just under the skin, such as valuing money and all other securities more highly than God, so that trusting this fleshly security, we imagine that God's wrath against sin is not as serious as it truly is. We come to the point where we no longer call sin what it is: sin. And in doing so, we imagine we have beguiled God with our nonsensical notions, when we have only fooled ourselves.

If the people believe, as they were being (and still are being) taught, that their natural inclination toward evil is not in itself sin, that this is a matter of no concern, then why should they trust in God's grace? Or if it is thought that once baptized, this sinful disposition supposedly disappears or does not matter, then what chance is there of Christians putting to death their worldly impulses? So, Luther took a stand where people had begun to lose a sense of their need for God and his grace. He rightly taught that concupiscence or fomes is also sin. He only followed the teachings of the Fathers and the Apostles. For Paul, writing to Christians, said, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you... On account of these the wrath of God is coming” (Col 3:5-6).

Prayer: Lord, by your grace, help me mortify in myself that which is displeasing and sinful in your sight. Amen. 

 

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a238.html Tue, 18 May 21 00:00:00 -0500

Matthew 5:27–30

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Original Sin 

But they contend that concupiscence is a punishment, and not a sin, while Luther maintains that it is sin. It has been cited above that Augustine defines original sin in connection with concupiscence. If there is anything wrong with this explanation, let them quarrel with Augustine. Besides Paul says, “I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet” (Rom 7:7). He also says, “I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members” (Rom 7:23). These testimonies cannot be overthrown by sophistry. For they clearly call concupiscence sin, which nevertheless, is not imputed to those who are in Christ, even though by nature it is a matter worthy of death if it is not forgiven. This, beyond all controversy, is what the Fathers believed. For in a long discussion, Augustine refutes the opinion of those who thought that concupiscence in people is not a fault, but an adiaphoron, such as the color of the body or ill health is said to be an adiaphoron.

Pulling It Together: It was not only those who penned the confutation who did not consider concupiscence, lust or the inclination and desire to sin, an actual sin in and of itself. Other Reformers thought the same thing. They used the word sin only with regards to a thing done. The Lutherans spoke in those terms too, but they were careful to note that original sin deals not only with what people do, but with the human nature that causes them to sin. Jesus also cut to the point, calling human nature itself sinful. One need not transgress by physical action to have committed a sin. Just thinking about the sin is itself a sin (Matt 5:28). Jesus sees the sin but the Lutherans' adversaries did not see lust as sin or a flaw in nature that is deserving of death and condemnation. They called it adiaphoron, something that is neutral, that one could be indifferent about, that made no more difference than the color of ones' skin. However, this was clearly not the position of Scripture, Jesus, or of the Church Fathers. Nor was it the view of the Lutherans, who along with Scripture, Jesus, and the Fathers, were not neutral toward concupiscence. They called it a sin that deserved death and damnation—unless it is forgiven by God for Christ's sake.

Prayer: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Amen.

The biblical focus in this five-session VBS book, Moses and the Great Escape, is found in the Old Testament book of Exodus. God has a grand plan for humankind — a plan he enacts through the Hebrew people. He created Moses to be instrumental in this plan.

Sola’s Versatile Budget Series is a simple and flexible educational Vacation Bible School curriculum designed especially for small churches, house churches, and mission congregations. The flexible format works well for groups with limited budgets, or in situations where the ages and number of students may vary from session to session. Unlike more elaborate and expensive VBS kits, this book is meant to serve as an “all-in-one” teacher’s resource. The worksheets and handouts it contains can be reproduced according to local needs. Each book in the Versatile Budget Series focuses on a particular character from the Bible, bringing together several stories on a common theme. Resources and ideas are provided for gathering time, music, activities, games, and refreshments — allowing just a few adult leaders to host a week of Vacation Bible School.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a237.html Mon, 17 May 21 00:00:00 -0500

Ezekiel 36:25–27

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Original Sin 

Here our adversaries complain against Luther because he wrote that, "Original sin remains after baptism." They add that this article was justly condemned by Leo X. But His Imperial Majesty will find a clear slander at this point. For our adversaries know in what sense Luther intended his remark that original sin remains after baptism. He has always written that baptism removes the guilt of original sin, although the “material,” of the sin, as they call it, remains, that is, concupiscence. He even added reference to the material that the Holy Spirit, given through baptism, begins to kill concupiscence by creating new desires in people. Augustine also speaks in the same way: “Sin is remitted in baptism, not in such a manner that it no longer exists, but so that it is not imputed.” Here he confesses openly that sin exists, in the sense that it remains, although it is not imputed. This view was so agreeable to those who succeeded him that it was cited in the Decrees. In Against Julian, Augustine says, “The Law, which is in the members, has been annulled by spiritual regeneration, and remains in the mortal flesh. It has been annulled because the guilt has been remitted in the Sacrament, by which believers are born again; but it remains, because it produces desires, against which believers struggle.” Our adversaries know that this is what Luther believes and teaches. Since they cannot renounce the message, they pervert his words instead, in order to crush an innocent man with their ruse.

Pulling It Together: It is too easy to protest against Leo and the Catholics, or against Luther and the Lutherans. That would be misdirection if what we mean to do determines what the Scripture teaches us with regard to original sin. We have discovered that we are born with a nature full of unrighteousness. God gives us the sacrament of baptism to cleanse us from our sinful nature. He cleanses us with his word of promise in the water but he does even more cleansing. In baptism, he gives us a new heart; he begins to create in us a clean heart or spirit. In other words, with baptism, God begins to move in us, urging us toward his will. We contend with sinful desires long after baptism but the Holy Spirit helps us in our struggle. The God within us now gives us right desires and the strength to overcome—even if that strong desire is to ask his forgiveness when we fall in the fight. 

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for forgiving me and for giving me a new heart for you. Amen. 

The biblical focus of Mary, Martha & Many Faithful Women, a five-session VBS book is found in the gospels. Through the eyes of sisters, Mary and Martha, we get a look at the ministry of Jesus. We see him as both human and as God. Along with some of Jesus' other female friends, we follow Jesus to the cross where he suffered a horrendous death to pay the price for our sins. From the darkness of the cross, we join the women at the tomb with Mary Magdalene as the mystery and victory of Easter morning unfold.

Sola’s Versatile Budget Series is a simple and flexible educational Vacation Bible School curriculum designed especially for small churches, house churches, and mission congregations. The flexible format works well for groups with limited budgets, or in situations where the ages and number of students may vary from session to session. Unlike more elaborate and expensive VBS kits, this book is meant to serve as an “all-in-one” teacher’s resource. The worksheets and handouts it contains can be reproduced according to local needs. Each book in the Versatile Budget Series focuses on a particular character from the Bible, bringing together several stories on a common theme. Resources and ideas are provided for gathering time, music, activities, games, and refreshments — allowing just a few adult leaders to host a week of Vacation Bible School.

More from the Versatile Budget Series

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a236.html Sun, 16 May 21 00:00:00 -0500

Psalm 116:12–13

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Original Sin 

Therefore, we do not handle original sin any differently than Scripture or the Church catholic. We have cleansed from corruptions and restored to light the most important declarations of Scripture and of the Fathers that had been obscured by the sophistical disputes of modern theologians. For it is clear from the subject itself that modern theologians have not noticed what the Fathers meant when they spoke of this defect. Knowledge of original sin is necessary because the magnitude of the grace of Christ cannot be understood unless our sickness is recognized. The entire righteousness of humans is absolute hypocrisy before God unless we acknowledge that our heart is naturally destitute of love, fear, and confidence in God. For this reason the prophet says, “For after I had turned away I repented; and after I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh” (Jer 31:19). Likewise, “I said in my haste, all men are liars,” that is, not thinking correctly concerning God (Psa 116:11).

Pulling It Together: This lengthy response to the confutation (and there is a good deal yet to go) is all to show that the Lutherans taught the same thing about original sin as the Scripture and the Church. Yet they wanted to be specific about what the lack of original righteousness means, since it had become more a matter of academic debate than something readily understood in the churches. This special treatment was necessary not only as an answer to their adversaries. They taught the same thing in the Lutheran churches so that their people could truly know their need of and have a desire for Christ. The inexpressibly great treasure of divine favor and grace that the gospel offers is lost to people who do not comprehend their need of God. As Christ says, “Those who are well have no need of a physician” (Matt 9:12; Mark 2:17). We must first understand that we are all miserable sinners who are in a state of disgrace with God. The Spirit will not force someone to drink who believes there is no thirst. Thanks be to God that when the need is appreciated and grace is believed, there is nothing for us to do but drink deeply and call upon the name of the Lord.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for doing everything necessary to save me from my original nature. Amen. 

The biblical focus of The Adventures of Paul, a five-session VBS book, is the life of the Apostle Paul, using lessons from the Book of Acts. Here Scripture tells the story of a serious man named Saul who worked to silence Christianity—until the risen Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus and changed his life. With his new name Paul, this one who had persecuted the Church went on to become one of the greatest apostles. 

The price of the book includes permission to reproduce the worksheets and handouts for local use. For smaller churches in a "one-room schoolhouse" setting, only one book is necessary. For churches with multiple grade levels and individual classes, we suggest that each teacher have a copy of the curriculum book.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a235.html Sat, 15 May 21 00:00:00 -0500

May 15, 2021

1 Corinthians 2:14–16

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Original Sin 

These views also agree with Scripture. Paul sometimes expressly regards it as a defect. “The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1Cor 2:14). Elsewhere, he sees concupiscence “at work in our members to bear fruit for death” (Rom 7:5). We could cite more passages relating to both parts of our definition but the matter is so obvious that there is no need of further evidence. Besides, the intelligent reader will be able to easily determine that being without the fear of God and without faith are more than actual guilt. They are abiding defects in our unrevived nature.

Pulling It Together

We too often consider sin something we do. It is more than what we do; sin is the reason we do the things we know to be sinful. We sin because we are full of sin. This is what Charles Wesley referred to in his hymn, “Jesus, Lover of My Soul,” when he wrote, “I am all unrighteousness.” The doctrine of original sin points out both the defect in and the very inclination of our nature. The doctrine does not state that we are born sinning but that we are born in sin (Psa 51:5). It does not take us long to get around to sinning but this is not what the doctrine teaches is wrong with us even at birth. As such, the doctrine also instructs us why everyone sins and so, why everyone is in need of the Savior. Borrowing from Wesley's hymn again: In God there is plenteous grace to be found—grace to cover all our sin. Our helpless souls hang on God alone for help. He is not only willing to save us; he has saved us entirely and renewed our minds, our natures. We are now capable to both love God and desire the good.

Prayer: Revive and enlighten my mind today so that I may love you with a thankful heart. Amen. 

Connections Magazine features articles that connect Lutherans to the Word. Martin Luther’s Small Catechism provides the inspiration for confessional, biblical content, delivered in a stylish, readable design.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a234.html Fri, 14 May 21 00:00:00 -0500

Matthew 6:25–33

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Original Sin 

Therefore, we have correctly expressed both defects in our description of original sin: not being able to believe, fear, and love God, and concupiscence, which seeks carnal things contrary to God's Word. That is, it seeks not only the pleasure of the body, but also carnal wisdom and righteousness, trusting in these as good things while despising God.

Not only the ancient theologians, but also the more recent ones—at least the wiser ones among them— teach the same thing about original sin, namely, these defects that I have listed and concupiscence. Aquinas writes, “Original sin is the loss of original righteousness, and with this an inordinate disposition of the parts of the soul. Therefore it is not pure loss, but a corrupted temperament.” Bonaventure says: “When the question is asked, 'What is original sin?' the correct answer is that it is unchecked concupiscence. The correct answer is also that it is want of the necessary righteousness. In either of these answers, the other is included.” Hugo has the same opinion, saying that original sin is ignorance in the mind and concupiscence in the flesh. He indicates that when we are born, we have an ignorance of God—unbelief, distrust, contempt, and hatred of God. When he mentions ignorance, he includes all of these.

Pulling It Together: Original sin is the inability to seek God and his righteousness. What we are left with is the inordinate ability to seek after the things of the flesh. We are naturally anxious about having the basic things of life, and having them in plenty. God wants these things for us too, and he provides them. But because it is in our nature to not trust God, we scramble after these lesser things. Instead of trusting God for our basic needs, they become excessive desires that rule our time and energies.

Being so ruled, we believe ourselves to be the providers of all good things. Why should our powers be relegated to food and drink, to clothing and shelter? Surely, the sin of origin whispers, you can also create great wisdom to guide your lives, and a moral code that is as good or even better than having a god. This is nothing more than the love of self and the hatred of God. Our depravity does more than ask, “Who needs God?” We insist.

Yet, God comes to us when we are in this state. While we were buried in our self-centered sin, Jesus died for us (Rom 5:8). The Spirit of Christ speaks to this condition, showing us that we are dead in our sins and transgressions (Eph 2:1). He calls us beyond the deadly ignorance that has fooled us into believing that we provide for our lives. He demands that we live under God's rule and righteousness, trusting him instead of ourselves, not only for these lesser things but also for righteousness and salvation. 

Prayer: Help me to trust in you, Good Shepherd, to guide me to all good and needful things. Amen. 

The Wise & The Foolish is a nine-session Bible study that focuses on Jesus' "people parables" — or what might be described as discipleship parables. These are the character stories that focus on the nature of discipleship and what it means to be a wise and faithful follower of Jesus.

Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a233.html Thu, 13 May 21 00:00:00 -0500

Ephesians 4:20–24

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Original Sin 

This is the substance of the definition found in the writings of Augustine, who usually defines original sin as concupiscence. He means that concupiscence replaced the loss of righteousness. Because our diseased nature cannot fear and love God and believe in God, it seeks and loves carnal things instead. It either scorns God's judgment when self-satisfied, or hates it when terrified. So, Augustine includes both the defect and the grievous habit that takes the place of righteousness. However, concupiscence is not only a physical corruption, but also an evil turning with the higher powers toward carnal things. Those who ascribe to the human condition a concupiscence that is not entirely destroyed by the Holy Spirit and simultaneously, a love for God above all things do not comprehend what they are claiming.

Pulling It Together: The original sinful nature that we are all born with must be drowned in baptism (Rom 6:3). Thereafter, since the flesh is so comfortable in its old clothing, there must follow a daily and even a continual putting off of that old self. We must put on the new self that is created in the image or likeness of God. The new self of the inner person, not that old person you are on the outside, is being renewed each day (2 Cor 4:16). Through faith, we put off the old and put on the new, reminded by the Holy Spirit of what happened in baptism. This renewal of the mind stands in stark contrast to the way we once lived. Now, instead of evil desires, we have a hunger and thirst for righteousness that is satisfied in Christ (Matt 5:6). As long as we are in this flesh, we are not yet perfect (Phil 3:12). So, we must constantly renew our minds through faith. That we even have this new desire, is an indication that the Spirit of God is at work within us.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, remind me to rely upon your righteousness as I strive to live today in a newness of life. Amen. 

SEED: Sola's Electronic Education Database
Building on the pattern and format of Sola's Sunday Schoolhouse curriculum series, Sola Publishing has added an online resource component to its education materials. This new web-based resource provides teachers with tools to build a Sunday School program and lead classes, with original resources printed in full color!

 

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a232.html Wed, 12 May 21 00:00:00 -0500

Colossians 3:5–10

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Original Sin 

Irenaeus and Ambrose interpreted the image of God in that way, the latter saying many things to this effect, but especially: “That soul is not in the image of God in whom God is not always present.” Paul shows in the Epistles that the image of God is the knowledge of God, righteousness, and truth (Eph 5:9; Col 3:10). Peter Lombard was not afraid to state that original righteousness is the very likeness of God implanted in people by God. These opinions of the ancients that we reference do not disagree in any way with Augustine's interpretation of the image of God.

So when the ancient definition is that sin is the lack of righteousness, it not only denies obedience of the low human powers (that people are corrupt in body and the basest and lowest faculties), but also denies the knowledge of God, confidence in God, the fear and love of God—or certainly the power to produce these affections (any light in the heart that creates a love and desire for such concerns). Even the theologians teach in their schools that these are not produced without certain gifts and the assistance of grace. In order that the matter may be understood, we call these gifts the knowledge of God, and fear and confidence in God.

It is clear from these facts that the ancient definition says precisely the same thing that we state about human nature, by denying fear and confidence toward God—not only the acts, but also the gifts and power to produce these acts (not only that we are unable to do or achieve any perfectly good work but that we do not have a good heart toward God, one that truly loves God).

Pulling It Together: Some background may be helpful. The Church Fathers were those whose theological writings were most influential in the early Church. Irenaeus (early first century) and Ambrose (late fourth century) were two of those fathers of the Church. The former was a second-generation student of the Apostle John, having learned from John's disciple, Polycarp. Irenaeus was a bishop and respected apologist (defender of the faith), writing at length against heresies, especially against Gnosticism Ambrose was also a bishop of the Church. His writings refuted Arianism and influenced Augustine. It is no wonder that Augustine's interpretation agreed with Irenaeus and Ambrose, particularly the latter.

Not only did these two Church Fathers consider the image of God to be his nature, even Lombard, who was one of the scholastics whom the Lutherans cared little for (and this is putting it mildly), clearly stated the same. The ancient teaching of the Church about the “image” or “likeness of God” is certain. Its definition of sin is just as definite. Sin is a lack of righteousness and even the desire or ability to achieve anything perfectly good with regard to God. Therefore, the image of God that was in the creation of Adam and Eve was the “original righteousness” of a fearing, loving, and trusting knowledge of God. These, along with the power to live a life that reflects God's image, were stamped upon their being. That likeness of God, because of Adam's sin, is no longer part of human nature.

This is why Paul teaches us to put off the old self, the person created in Adam's image. We are charged with putting on the new self, the one recreated, reborn in God's image. By his grace, we have been given the likeness or nature of God and therefore, are now enabled to desire and to do good toward God and one another because of the love of God that has been revived in us through faith in Jesus Christ. 

Prayer: Enable whatever I do today, Father, in word or deed, to be done in the name of my Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Introduce young students to the Church through this five-week series titled Welcome to Church. Click here for the Table of Contents and a sample session.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a231.html Tue, 11 May 21 00:00:00 -0500

Genesis 1:26–27

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Original Sin 

These were the reasons why we mentioned concupiscence in our definition of original sin, and denied that man's natural ability could fear and trust in God. We wished to indicate that original sin also contains these conditions: ignorance of God, contempt for God, being destitute of the fear of God and trust in him, and inability to love God. These are the chief flaws in human nature, conflicting especially with the first table of the Decalogue.

We have said nothing novel. The ancient definition, properly understood, expresses precisely the same thing: "Original sin is the absence of original righteousness" (a lack of the first purity and righteousness in Paradise). But what is righteousness? The scholastics wrangle about philosophical questions but do not explain what original righteousness is. In the Scriptures, righteousness comprises not only the second table of the Decalogue (regarding good works in serving people), but the first table too, concerning the fear of God, faith, and the love of God. Therefore original righteousness was to include not only an even adjustment of the body, but also these gifts: a quite certain knowledge of God, fear of and confidence in him, or at least the righteousness and power to yield these affections to him. (For the greatest feature in that noble first creature was a bright light in the heart to know God.) Scripture testifies to this, saying that, “God created man in his own image” (Gen 1:27). What else can this mean other than people were given a wisdom and righteousness that comprehended God, and in which God was reflected, that is, they were given the gifts of the knowledge of God, the fear of God, confidence in God, and so forth?

Pulling It Together: Melancthon probably did not expect push-back on the doctrine of original sin, and so, he provided an article of a few sentences in the Augsburg Confession. As the Lutherans' opponents wished to quibble, Melancthon furnished them a far lengthier defense to chew on. In doing so, he makes two points. The first is that the quibblers have done little more than pick, failing to provide their own definition of original sin. The second point is that the Lutheran definition, which he provides with a variety of illustrations and explanations, is actually the ancient definition of the Church. The Lutherans are doing nothing novel here, that should be distrusted.

He simply states the definition and then, provides a fuller explanation. Original sin is the complete lack of the original righteousness that was given humanity. It was originally within the nature of people to know God and to fear and love and trust him. Furthermore, it was natural that people would be like him, reflecting certain qualities of God, because they were made “in his image.” This noble nature is now lacking in people. Lutherans confess that lack in human nature to be original sin. This means that people, in and of themselves, do not know God. Furthermore, they cannot fear, love, and trust in God through either the natural power or inclinations with which they are born.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for causing me to be born again with your Spirit, for giving me a nature that longs for you. Amen. 

Experiencing Real Living guides the student in God's Word and nurtures key elements of faith. A picture diagram at the the beginning of each chapter assists the student in "seeing" the topic clearly. The series can be used to cover the over-arching biblical themes of creation, fall and redemption, or as a 12-week overview of the themes of the Catechism. It would serve especially well for leading an adult confirmation program. The volume is spiral bound for ease in use.

Teacher's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a230.html Mon, 10 May 21 00:00:00 -0500

Psalm 14:1–3

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Original Sin 

If by nature, people are able to love God above all things by their own strength, as the scholastics confidently affirm, then what is original sin? What need is there of the grace of Christ if we can be justified by our own powers of righteousness? What is the need of the Holy Spirit if human strength can, by itself, love God above all things and fulfill God's commandments? Is there anyone who cannot see what preposterous thoughts our adversaries entertain? They acknowledge the lighter diseases in the nature of man but not the more severe. Yet Scripture admonishes us of these everywhere, and the prophets constantly complain (Psa 5:9; 13:1-6; 14:1-3; 36:1; 140:3) of carnal security, of the contempt of God, of hatred toward God, and of similar faults that are born with us. For Scripture clearly says that all these things are not blown at us, but that we are born with them. But after the scholastics polluted Christian doctrine with philosophy concerning the perfection of nature (the so-called light of reason), and ascribed to free will and resultant acts more than was sufficient, and taught that men are justified before God by philosophic or civil righteousness (which we also confess to be subject to reason and in a measure, within our power), they could not see the inner impurity of human nature. For this cannot be determined except by the Word of God, which the scholastics do not frequently employ in their discussions.

Pulling It Together: By means of reason, one may understand that without the doctrine of original sin, God must be considered rather foolish. Why would he send his Son to redeem people who were capable of redeeming themselves? Why would Christ then send the Helper when humanity needed no assistance? Scripture teaches, however, the extreme nature of our malady. We are lost altogether and cannot reason our way to God. Nor are we able to work our way into grace and righteousness. We are born in this condition; it is our nature—and in our nature. There is, therefore, nothing that any of us can do, by natural powers, to justify ourselves. We are all corrupt; no one does good because no one is able to do good. This is evident in Scripture, which the Lutherans charged that their opponents rarely used.

Prayer: Lord, help me hear you in your Word. Amen. 

Saints and Sinners

Volume 1: Witnesses to the Faith

A Seven-Session Bible Study on New Testament Characters

By Dr. Dan Lioy, PhD

All those who believe and trust in Jesus as their Savior are both saints and sinners. The same was true of the people in Holy Scripture.

By virtue of our baptism into Christ, we are made holy by his saving grace. This is not something we do on our own, but something that is imputed to us by Jesus. At the same time, we are plagued by that age-old sin that makes us want to be in control of our own lives. As those who are called by God to follow Jesus in obedient discipleship, we, like many before us, have been called to be witness to God's saving grace in Jesus Christ.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a229.html Sun, 09 May 21 00:00:00 -0500

Psalm 1:1–2

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Original Sin 

We have not only used the term concupiscence but have also said that the fear of God and faith are wanting. This was added because the scholastic teachers also, not sufficiently understanding the definition of original sin that they received from the Fathers, lessen the sin of origin. They contend that the fomes (or inclination to sin) is a blemished quality of the body, and with their typical ineptness, ask whether this defect was derived from an infection in the fruit or from the breath of the serpent, and whether it can be cured with medicine. With such questions they have suppressed the main point. Therefore, when they speak of the sin of origin, they do not mention the more serious faults of human nature like ignorance of God, contempt for God, having no fear and trust in God, hatred of God's judgment, flight from God (as from a tyrant) when he judges, anger toward God, despair of grace, and putting one's trust in fleeting things like money, property, friends, etc. The scholastics do not notice these symptoms though they are completely contrary to the Law of God. In fact, they ascribe to human nature an unimpaired strength for loving God above all things and for fulfilling his commandments “according to the substance of the act.” They fail to recognize that they are saying things that are contradictory to one another. For what else is it, if in one's own strength, one is able to love God above all things, and to fulfill his commandments, than to have original righteousness?

Pulling It Together: The Lutherans used the same terminology as the scholastics, at least when speaking of original sin, but they meant something else than the scholastics seemed to be saying. Scholasticism was a school of critical thinking in medieval universities that valued artful argument above all things. The better the inference to logic, the truer they considered the matter. Thus, the inference was made that if original sin was simply a disease then a medical treatment could be the answer. This approach strangles the voice of Scripture. It relegates the real point and problem to a place of silence. If artful reasoning is to be depended upon, then we may expect to end up anywhere. Indeed, the scholastics failed to recognize that they had reasoned themselves into a corner by inferring that human nature was capable, by itself, to love God and keep his commandments. By their reasoning, original sin had become a sort of original righteousness.

This would not stand with the Lutherans. Sin could not, of course, be righteousness. Nor was original sin to be understood as some malady that people could conquer with a little more industry. Not only did the symptoms point to something more pernicious, so did the Scripture. And the Word of God—not artful reasoning— was always to be their final authority.

Prayer: O Lord my God, bless my meditation in your word today. Amen. 

You Can Understand the Old Testament: Its Message and Its Meaning by Dr. James C. Bangsund is an introduction to, and overview of, the Old Testament, exploring its meaning and its message. The book begins with the sometimes contentious question of why (and whether) the Old Testament is "old," and then moves into introductions to each of its major sections. Individual overviews and discussions of each book of the Old Testament are provided along with helpful maps, tables, and charts, as well as complete indexes of subject matter, biblical texts cited, and Hebrew words noted in the discussion. The book is aimed at students of the Bible, whether members of church congregations, pastors, or students in college or seminary.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a228.html Sat, 08 May 21 00:00:00 -0500

Ephesians 2:1–5

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Original Sin 

Some contend that original sin is not a corruption in human nature, but only bondage, or a condition of mortality (not an innate evil nature, but only a blemish or imposed burden) that those descended from Adam suffer because of the guilt of another (namely, Adam's sin), instead of any depravity of their own. They add that no one is condemned to eternal death on account of original sin, just as those born of a bond-woman are slaves and bear this condition without any natural blemish, but because of the circumstances of their mother (while they are born without fault of their own and therefore, original sin is not an innate evil, but just a defect and burden that we bear since Adam, but that we are not on that account personally in sin and inherited disgrace). To show that this impious opinion is displeasing to us, we mentioned "concupiscence," and with the best intention, explained it with the term "diseases," that "the nature of men is born corrupt and full of faults." The entire person, not a part, in his entire nature is born in sin as with a hereditary disease.

Pulling It Together: We discover that we are sinners from a very early age. Every one of us is known to walk in sin, and so, Scripture teaches that we are dead in our trespasses. This corruption of human nature skips no one. It is not as though this were some habit that every soul ever born learned from others. Everyone is born with a sinful nature and therefore, inherits the same condemnation as all others naturally born. Because of original sin, we are—every one of us—children who deserve the wrath of God. We not only have the inclination to sin, we are corrupt from the start, born in sin. This does not mean that we are headed toward a life of sin; it means that we are already living in sin.

But God being rich in mercy, and loving humanity with a great love, sent his Son to save us from our sinful birth. This is why Jesus tells us that we must be born again (John 3:3). We must be reborn with a new nature, one that is alive instead of already dead. In Christ alone, by the grace of God, we are saved from the old life of sin and reborn to new life.

Prayer: Thank you, God, for giving me new birth into a living hope through Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Amen. 

One For All is a nine-session Bible study that explores the center of the Christian faith by focusing on the unique and exclusive promise of Jesus. It examines not only the claims that Christ made about himself in Scripture but the claim that the Lord makes on our lives as well. By focusing on the Gospel message of salvation in Christ alone, the study seeks to show how God makes us a part of His mission to the whole world, and how "the love of Christ urges us on because we are convinced that one has died for all."

Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a227.html Fri, 07 May 21 00:00:00 -0500

1 Corinthians 3:18–21

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Original Sin 

We will show later more fully that our description agrees with the usual and ancient definition. First, we must show our design in preferring to use these words. In their schools, the adversaries confess that "the material," as they call it, "of original sin is concupiscence." So, in framing the definition, concupiscence should not be omitted, especially now, when some philosophize about original sin in a manner unbecoming teachers of religion. They speak about this natural, wicked desire in terms of heathen philosophy rather than according to God's Word, or Holy Scripture.

Pulling It Together: One of the slogans of the Reformation was (and continues to be) “Sola Scriptura.” Those Latin words mean “Scripture alone.” The idea behind that motto is that the Bible, the written word of God, may be relied upon as a sufficient guide and last word on truth. This is why the Lutherans returned to the Bible over and over again as documentation for what they taught. This was the custom of the prophets and apostles too. They wrote 80 times between the books of Joshua and 1 Peter, “It is written.” This was ample explanation for a variety of positions.

This will be the insistence of the Lutherans too. What is written in the Bible? They were not interested in philosophy so much as they were in what the Bible had to say on a matter. What Aristotle or Plato had to say was always subordinate to the Word of God. Even the Church Fathers were reliable only in as much as they agreed with Scripture. A proper understanding of original sin, therefore, will rely upon “sola Scriptura” as the final word.

Prayer: Lord, let me live today by what is written in your Word. Amen. 

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.

Part 1  • Pt 1 Leader's Guide  • Part 2  • Pt 2 Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a226.html Thu, 06 May 21 00:00:00 -0500

Colossians 3:4–6

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Original Sin

It is quite evident that such subtleties have originated in the schools, not in the council of the Emperor. But although this sophistry can be very easily refuted; yet, in order that all decent folk may understand that we teach nothing absurd on this matter, we ask that the German Confession be examined first. This will free us from the suspicion of novelty. For there it is written: Weiter wird gelehrt, dass nach dem Fall Adams alle Menschen, so natuerlich geboren werden, in Suenden empfangen und geboren werden, das ist, dass sie alle von Mutterleibe an voll boeser Lueste und Neigung sind, keine wahre Gottesfurcht, keinen wahren Glauben an Gott von Natur haben koennen. (It is further taught that since the Fall of Adam all men who are naturally born are conceived and born in sin, i.e., that from their mother's womb, they all are full of evil desire and inclination, and can have by nature no true fear of God, no true faith in God.) This passage testifies that we deny to those conceived according to carnal nature not only the acts of fearing and trusting in God but also the power or gifts to do so. For we say that those naturally born have concupiscence and cannot produce true fear and trust in God. What fault can be found in this? Indeed, we imagine that we have sufficiently vindicated ourselves to respectable people. For in this sense the Latin passage denies the power to human nature—even to infants. Specifically, it denies the gifts and power to produce fear and trust in God. In adults, beyond this innate evil disposition of the heart, it also denies the acts. So when we cite concupiscence, we mean not only the acts or fruits but the constant inclination of our nature that does not cease as long as we are not born anew through the Spirit and faith.

Pulling It Together: A young family lives across my street and yesterday, the little boy brought their heavy trash can down the driveway to the street. His father was already teaching this seven- or eight-year-old some family responsibility. He will probably grow up, being able to care for his own family, providing all the good they need, including properly teaching his own children. We are quite capable of doing some good in this world, once taught to do so.

Yet Lutherans teach that original sin is a lack of power to do good because of a proclivity for evil. By good, we mean a righteousness of life that excludes sin. In our natural beings, we lack the power of such good. We may learn to take out the trash but even the finer acts of our lives are polluted with sin (Isa 64:5–6). This sinful nature is inherited, part of the basic human constitution. It skips no one.

More to the point, though we may learn to do some basic, good things, we are born incapable—and remain unable—of fearing, loving, and trusting God. Therefore, throughout life, we scramble after our lusts. The unceasing disposition to fulfill these natural desires remains in us until we are reborn through the work of God's Spirit and faith (John 3:5–7).

Prayer: Holy Father, set my heart and mind on the things above, not on the things of this earth. Amen. 

The Basics of the Christian Faith is an edition of the catechism that is aimed at seekers, visitors, and those that may not come from a Lutheran background. It is recommended for use in outreach, as a visitor welcome gift, or in new member packets. 

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a225.html Wed, 05 May 21 00:00:00 -0500

Psalm 51:3–5

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Original Sin 

The adversaries approve of the second article concerning original sin, but in such a way that they, nevertheless, criticize the definition of original sin, which we incidentally mentioned. Right away, His Imperial Majesty will discover that the writers of the Confutation were lacking not only in judgment but also in honesty. Where we simply desired to examine those things which original sin includes, they framed a discriminatory interpretation by craftily distorting a statement that has nothing in it which in itself is wrong. As a result, they say that to be without the fear of God and without faith is actual guilt. Therefore they deny that it is original guilt.

Pulling It Together: Lutherans teach that original sin is actual sin, not merely the inclination to sin. The result is that we are naturally without the fear of God, without trust in God, and with all the lusts of this life. Lutherans do not say that original sin is these specific things, but that these things are sinful outcomes and evidences of the corruption that is within us from the outset. The sins we commit indicate a deeper problem. The very first sin one commits points to that deeper, original corruption of being. Original sin is not a specific sin such as not fearing God, or not trusting in him, or desiring unlawful things. It is not the commission of a particular sin but the depraved condition, the diseased state of the natural person, that is itself sin.

Therefore, “we confess that we are in bondage to sin.” Our depravity is not just in the thinking, saying, and doing of wrong things; nor is it only in leaving them undone. We are enslaved to such behavior from the start because we are “brought forth in iniquity”—all of us. This corruption of our nature is hereditary (Rom 5:12).

Prayer: Thank you, God, for meeting my sin and guilt with your boundless mercy and grace. Amen. 

Sola Scriptura: The Norm of Faith is a study about how the Word informs and guides our understanding of what Scripture says. In other words, what the Bible means based on what it does. In terms of how we come to articulate our faith and our doctrinal teachings, to speak of Scripture as the "norm" of faith means that it is the standard against which our theology and proclamation are measured.

Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a224.html Tue, 04 May 21 00:00:00 -0500

Matthew 28:17–20

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning God

Our adversaries approve of the First Article of our Confession, in which we declare that we believe and teach that there is one divine essence, undivided, etc., and that nevertheless, there are three distinct persons, of the same divine essence, and coeternal: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We have always taught and defended this article. We believe that it has sure and firm testimonies in Holy Scripture that cannot be overthrown. We constantly assert that those who think otherwise are outside of the Church of Christ; they are idolaters and insult God.

Pulling It Together: The Church in Rome believed the same thing about God's nature that Lutherans believed. Yet, as we shall soon see, there was much in the Lutheran Confession at Augsburg that they found disagreeable. It is good that we may live together in unity (Psa 133:1) on this Article.

Jesus declared that his followers are to go into all the world, baptizing and teaching. He said that they are to do so in the name. The word “name” is singular—not only in English but in the original Greek as well. Although they are to go in the singular name, three names are given: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Christians are to go into the world in the one name of the three. Lutherans and Roman Catholics confess that this is God. We believe from Scripture that the name of God given by Jesus is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. From these verses in Matthew and from many other evidences in Scripture, we believe that God is Trinity, one divine essence of three persons. 

Prayer: Help me believe the mystery that your Word affirms, Lord. Amen. 

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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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a223.html Mon, 03 May 21 00:00:00 -0500

Colossians 2:1–7

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

From the Preface

We commend our cause to Christ, who in time will judge these controversies. We pray he will look upon the afflicted and scattered churches, and bring them back to godly and perpetual concord. So, if the known and clear truth is trampled underfoot, we will resign this cause to God and Christ in heaven, the Father of orphans and the Judge of widows and of all the forsaken, who we know will rightly judge and pass sentence upon this cause. Lord Jesus Christ, it is your holy gospel; it is your cause. Look upon the many troubled hearts and consciences, and maintain and strengthen in your truth your churches and little flocks who suffer anxiety and distress from the devil. Confound all hypocrisy and lies, and grant peace and unity, so that your glory may advance, and your kingdom, strong against all the gates of hell, may continually grow and increase.

Pulling It Together: The Church in Rome replied to the Lutheran's Augsburg Confession with what is called the Confutation. However, the Lutherans were not permitted to have a copy or to know what was contained therein, except that they agree to three things. They must not publish it, or reply to it, and must agree with it wholesale and unseen. They could not accept those conditions and relied upon notes taken at a public reading of the Confutation. Later, Melancthon also saw a copy and finished the Lutheran Defense that would never be accepted by the emperor. It seemed the Romanists had won the day. Nevertheless, the Defense of the Augsburg Confession was enthusiastically received by the Lutherans, further strengthening their beliefs. Since they had been rooted and built up in Christ and established in the faith, what could they do but trust in God and continue walking in the Lord?

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, give me strength through your Word that I may continue to walk with you in thanksgiving. Amen. 

This "Thank You" card by Ad Crucem includes 1 Corinthians 1:4. The 5"x7" card is printed on premium paper at a G7 and Green Certified USA facility. Each card is protected with a plastic sleeve and includes a bookmark, gift tag, and envelope.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a222.html Sun, 02 May 21 00:00:00 -0500

Colossians 4:6

From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Power of Bishops – Conclusion

These are the chief articles that are considered controversial. Although we might have spoken of more abuses, we have set forth the chief points in order to avoid undue length. The rest may be readily judged in relation to these. There have been many complaints about indulgences, pilgrimages, and the abuse of excommunications. The parishes have been troubled in many ways by the dealers in indulgences. Pastors and monks have disputed continuously about parish authority, the hearing of confessions, funerals, sermons on special occasions, and countless other matters. We have passed over issues of this sort so that the chief points, having been briefly set forth, might be readily understood. Nothing has been said or cited to the reproach of anyone. Only those things that we thought were necessary to mention have been enumerated so that it might be understood that we have received no doctrine or ceremonies that are against Scripture or the Church. For it is clear that we have been diligent to prevent new and ungodly doctrines from creeping into our churches.

We desire to present the above articles in accordance with the edict of Your Imperial Majesty, in order to present our Confession and allow people to see a summary of the doctrines of our teachers. If there is something that anyone might desire in this Confession, we are ready, if God is willing, to present fuller information according to the Scriptures.

Your Imperial Majesty’s most humble, obedient servants,

John, Duke of Saxony, elector
George, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach
Ernest, Duke of Lüneburg
Philip, Landgrave of Hesse
John Frederick, Duke of Saxony
Francis, Duke of Lüneburg
Wolfgang, Prince of Anhalt
The Mayor and Council of Nuremberg
The Mayor and Council of Reutlingen

Pulling It Together: There can be endless debate on religious and political topics. 500 years ago, the Lutherans were embroiled in both. It was the Emperor who ordered the Lutherans to set forth their differences with the Church in Rome. He did so to promote order in the empire since their protest had gathered support and shaken society. In order to stay on-task, the Lutherans answered the summon with compact clarity of purpose. In all these articles, the Lutherans kept to the principal point that people are saved by the grace of God through faith alone (Eph 2:8). All of these articles have reflected on that chief point. Though they could have listed more of their concerns, they kept them contained to these seven articles on abuses. They gave a ready answer for the hope within them (1Pet 3:15) with gracious restraint (Col 4:6), always giving God the glory for his grace through Christ our Lord.

Prayer: Lord, create in me a sincere heart, a respectful tongue, and a ready answer for the hope within me. Amen. 

The Sola Online Worship Resource (SOWeR) includes hundreds of hymns and songs for use in worship, organized by season and theme, available in full score, lead sheets, image files, and text only. These include popular hymns and songs, as well as new hymns from the lectionary texts and set to familiar tunes.

SOWeR is a lectionary-based web resource for Scripture lessons, lectionary inserts, children's bulletins, devotionals, text studies, prayers, hymn-planning, graphics, and much more! Join the hundreds of congregations that have discovered how simple, flexible, and useful SOWeR is for worship planning and sermon preparation. This brochure will answer more questions about SOWeR. Call 1-888-887-9840 to order a yearly subscription. 

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a221.html Sat, 01 May 21 00:00:00 -0500

Acts 5:27–29

From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Power of Bishops

Bishops might easily encourage people's obedience if they would not insist upon traditions that cannot be kept with a good conscience. They command celibacy, admitting no one to the ministry unless they swear that they will teach this doctrine. Our churches do not ask that the bishops restore concord at the expense of their honor, though this would be proper for good pastors to do. They ask only that they would relax unfair burdens that are new and have been received contrary to the custom of the Church. There may once have been good reason for some of these ordinances, yet they are not suitable to this time. However, it is obvious that some ordinances were the wrong idea. So it would be fitting of the bishops to correct them now, since such a modification would not disturb the unity of the Church. Many human traditions have been changed in process of time, as the Canons themselves show. If it is impossible to obtain a moderation of those rules that cannot be kept without sin, we are bound to follow the apostolic rule that commands us to “obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

Peter forbids bishops to be lords, and to be domineering over the churches (1Pet 5:3). While it is not our intent to take authority from the bishops, we do ask that they allow the gospel to be purely taught, that they relax those few observances that cannot be kept without sin. If they will not make this concession, let them imagine how they will give account to God for obstinately furnishing a cause for schism.

Pulling It Together: The Lutherans would not back down when it came to the unmistakable teaching of the gospel. The keeping of rules would never do—not when it was said that by doing so, God's grace could be earned. What difference did it make that the Church said so? God says otherwise. Scripture is clear. The grace of God is a thing given to people without their having lifted a finger to merit divine favor. Keeping man-made promises adds nothing to the promises of God. The regulations of bishops is an insult to Christ who abolished the law of commandments declared in ordinances (Eph 2:15). So the Lutherans asked only that the aim of the gospel be considered when it came to traditions and regulations in the churches. When a tradition could not be observed without offending the Christian conscience, they made it clear that their churches would obey God instead of that tradition of men. They also made it known that they saw an approaching division that could be avoided by removing the veneer of deceitful traditions, and returning to the pure teaching of the gospel. 

Prayer: Lord Jesus, make the pure word of your gospel come alive in me. Amen. 

The Sola Online Worship Resource (SOWeR) also includes bulletin templates. There are word processing templates for both communion and non-communion services. There are also templates for Sola, LBW, and Reclaim service settings. SOWeR is a lectionary-based web resource for Scripture lessons, lectionary inserts, children's bulletins, devotionals, text studies, prayers, hymn-planning, and much more! Join the hundreds of congregations that have discovered how simple, flexible, and useful SOWeR is for worship planning and sermon preparation. This brochure will answer more questions about SOWeR. Call 1-888-887-9840 to order a yearly subscription. 

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a220.html Fri, 30 Apr 21 00:00:00 -0500

Index of Scripture graphics

  Click for a recording of today's Sola Devotion.

1 Corinthians 10:23–30

From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Power of Bishops

The Apostles taught that one should abstain from blood (Acts 15:20) but who observes that tradition now? They who do not keep that teaching, do not sin. Not even the Apostles wished to burden consciences with such bondage, only forbidding it for a time, to avoid offense. For in this decree, as always, we must consider the aim of the Gospel.

Scarcely any Canons are kept with exactness, and many go out of use each day even among those who are the most zealous advocates of traditions. Consciences cannot be helped unless this moderation is observed: that we may keep Church rules without considering them necessary, and even if these traditions are disregarded, no harm is done to consciences.

Pulling It Together: Legalism demands that we keep as law even those things that were never intended to be law. Ancient customary matters of hair, dress, jewelry, food, drink, and other minutia become the focus for some people. “Do this! Don't do that!” preoccupies their attentions and energies. This is not the goal of the gospel. Jesus nor the apostles ever intended for a new set of laws to replace the Mosaic law. Though we may keep some rule so that the conscience of another is not injured, our own conscience should be free from offense. Christ has set us free from the keeping of endless rules and regulations (Gal 5:1–12). Now we are freed to turn our attention to God, waiting with hope and giving thanks for all things.

Prayer: Holy God, I give you thanks for all of the good things you have provided for me. Amen. 


The Sola Online Worship Resource (SOWeR) also includes liturgies and services for your use. There are ready-to-copy settings for Holy Communion, services, services of the Word, Vespers, occasional services, funerals, and seasonal services. SOWeR is a lectionary-based web resource for Scripture lessons, lectionary inserts, children's bulletins, devotionals, text studies, prayers, hymn-planning, and much more! Join the hundreds of congregations who have discovered how simple, flexible, and useful SOWeR is for worship planning and sermon preparation. 

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a219.html Thu, 29 Apr 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Romans 1:16–17

From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Power of Bishops

There are dumfounding debates concerning alteration of the law, ceremonies of the New Testament, and changing the Sabbath day. All of these have sprung from the false belief that the Church should have services like the Jewish Levitical ones, and that Christ commissioned the apostles and bishops to devise new ceremonies of legalism that are necessary for salvation. These errors crept into the Church when the righteousness of faith was not clearly taught. Some contend that keeping the Lord's Day is not God's command but ought to be treated as though it were a divine order, going so far as to dictate how much work is lawful on the Lord's Day. What else are such debates than the entrapment of consciences? For although they try to modify the traditions, there can never be any real change as long as the opinion continues that they are necessary. Indeed, this opinion will always persist where the righteousness of faith and Christian liberty are unknown.

Pulling It Together: It is no wonder that people think one has to do something to make God happy. This is the way with religion. We imagine that God must be appeased and that religious people must do the pacifying. But Christianity is very different. Though we have driven God to righteous outrage, he has appeased himself. God gave himself as the sacrifice for the sin of the world. Scripture tells us that no more sacrifice is necessary (Heb 10:14). Yet, how could we think this was even possible? If God has made the perfect sacrifice, do we then presume to come after him with ceremonies and laws that will complete his “attempt” to satisfy his own requirements? There is, of course, nothing for us to add. No new laws or ceremonies will satisfy God and make the satisfier righteous before him. Why is this the case? This is so because God has already done it; he has satisfied not only his own holy and just requirements but he has also made righteous those who could never satisfy his demands. This is the good news, that God has graciously and powerfully provided “salvation to everyone who believes.” We should not be ashamed of this gospel difference. God has done the doing, and there is nothing we need to do but live by faith in the righteousness given to us by God.

Prayer: Lord, help me to live by the faith that your righteousness is all I need. Amen. 


The Sola Online Worship Resource is a lectionary-based web resource for Scripture lessons, lectionary inserts, children's bulletins, devotionals, text studies, prayers, hymn-planning, and much more! Join the hundreds of congregations who have discovered how simple, flexible, and useful SOWeR is for worship planning and sermon preparation. 

"SOWeR is the first place I go every week to start thinking about my sermon." —Pastor William Maki, Zion Lutheran Church, St. Marys, OH

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a218.html Wed, 28 Apr 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Hebrews 10:19-25

From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Power of Bishops

It is the same with the Lord's Day, Easter, Pentecost, and other holy days and rituals. Those who think that it was by the authority of the Church that the observance of the Sabbath was changed to the Lord's Day are mistaken. Scripture has abolished the Sabbath day, teaching that since the Gospel has been revealed, all the ceremonies of Moses may be eliminated. Still, because it was necessary to appoint a certain day for the people to know when to assemble, the Church designated the Lord's Day for this purpose. This was done with the additional reason that people would have an example of Christian liberty, and might understand that keeping the Sabbath or any other day is not necessary.

Pulling It Together: The Large Catechism regards the Sabbath as “an entirely external matter, like the other regulations of the Old Testament associated with particular customs, persons, times, and places.” Christ has set us free from these kinds of regulations. One day is no better than any other. The day on which Christ arose is a wonderful choice for gathering together and for resting from our usual labors. But does the Lord's Day replace the Sabbath as a Christian commandment? It does not. We ought to be worshiping daily but we observe the Lord's Day as a time when we may assemble together for mutual edification (Rom 14:19), hearing and talking with each other about God's Word, receiving the sacraments, praying, singing, and otherwise praising God and giving thanks together. It is surely God's intention that we do so, since the pattern has long been with God's people, the apostles taught us to assemble, and the early Church observed their teaching. Yet, it is no longer a law, since Christ satisfied the demands of the law for us.

None of these things are done among us because we believe that in doing them, or by doing them on the right day, we are keeping the law and therefore, being made righteous with God. Instead, we freely gather together because we are thankful to God for his gifts and righteous presence in our lives. As the great Day of our Lord approaches, we should be together as much as possible so that we are encouraged in the faith and moved to love and other good works for Christ's sake.

Prayer: Lord, as the Day draws near, help me hold fast the confession of my hope in you. Amen. 


Reading and Discussion of Luther's Catechisms is a more challenging study series based on assigned readings from the Book of Concord and related Scripture texts. Each study is comprised of eight sessions, plus an optional introductory session, each presented in a question and discussion format. 

Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a217.html Tue, 27 Apr 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Romans 11:1–6

From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Power of Bishops

Then how are we to think of Sunday and similar rituals in the Church? We answer that bishops or pastors may make ordinances so that there is order in the Church. However, these regulations may not be said to merit grace or make satisfaction for sins, or that consciences be bound to consider them as necessary services, or to think that it is a sin to break them if they offend no one. So Paul ordains that women should cover their heads in the congregation (1 Cor 11:5) and that people speak one at a time in the church (1 Cor 14:30), etc.

The churches should keep such rules for the sake of love and peace, so long as no one offends another. In this way, all things are done in the churches with order and without confusion (1 Cor 14:40; cf. Phil 2:14). Yet consciences should not be burdened to think that these regulations are required for salvation, or to judge that they sin when they break them without giving offense to others. For no one will say that a woman sins by going out in public with her head uncovered, if no one is offended.

Pulling It Together: In our congregations, we have constitutions that are meant to provide for good order. These constitutions are lengthy lists of rules for how a church operates so that things are done in a fair and uniform manner. My congregation's constitution states that the Church Council will provide an annual review of the membership roster. The first two years that I was pastor there, the Council did not address this task. Did they fall from grace? Of course not. Last year, they carefully reviewed the roster and even made some calls, asking folks to return to worship and the life of the church. Bravo! But did their work on the Council make satisfaction for their sins? Certainly not. Did their pastor threaten their salvation those first two years if they did not review the roster? Obviously not, since he is still their pastor.

It is perfectly fitting for a congregation to develop rules for how things are done in the church. And it is perfectly wrong to say that one earns God's grace by keeping those rules. God's grace is never received “on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace” (Rom 11:6).

Prayer: Lord, help me trust in you alone for salvation. Amen. 


Schoolhouse for Year C

Sola Publishing’s Sunday Schoolhouse series is a flexible Sunday School curriculum focusing on the priority of God’s Word. The emphasis in the series is on teaching Bible stories, with multiple presentations of the story built in to each lesson. The “one room schoolhouse” approach allows for children of varying ages and grade levels to meet together. The Sunday Schoolhouse series is designed with the particular needs of small churches, mission congregations, and house churches in mind. See a flyer with a description of this series HERE.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a216.html Mon, 26 Apr 21 00:00:00 -0500

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2 Timothy 3:1–9

From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Power of Bishops

If bishops have the right to to ensnare consciences by burdening churches with infinite traditions, why does Scripture so often prohibit to make, and to listen to, traditions? Why does it call them "doctrines of devils" (1Tim 4:1)? Did the Holy Spirit warn of these things in vain?

Since it is in opposition to the Gospel to make ordinances as necessary for meriting grace, it follows that it is not lawful for any bishop to institute or demand such services. For it is necessary that the doctrine of Christian liberty be preserved in the churches, namely, that the bondage of the Law is not necessary to justification, as the apostle writes: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal 5:1). It is necessary that the chief article of the gospel be preserved, that we receive grace freely through faith in Christ, not from certain observances or acts of worship devised by people.

Pulling It Together: There are some who sin by having faith in the things that they do. There are others who are not content with this but must have a following, leading others astray from a knowledge of the truth. This should not be a strange revelation, for the Word expressly warns us that this will occur. People will leave the faith, leave Christ, following deceitful spirits. The most deceitful spirit is self, that being righteous is something you do. Righteousness is given to us through faith in Christ. So, there is nothing more deceitful than the doctrine that says that the grace of God through faith is inadequate. “Shoulder this yoke; do that service, or your faith will not be enough!” some insist. Though service will come with God's guidance, it is not necessary for salvation or to be deserving of God's grace. It only shows that you have faith (James 2:18). God's grace is free to all; we need not shoulder the yoke of new services to acquire his blessing. Jesus said that his yoke is light and restful (Matt 11:30). Believe. Have faith—in Christ—not in yourself, in your keeping of rules and regulations that Christ has already satisfied in the cross. 

Prayer: Help me be faithful to you, Lord, and show me how to be of service to you today. Amen. 


Combining the message of salvation in Christ with personal witness, this booklet uses John 3:16 as the model for telling the message of Jesus. The Gospel in Miniature is a Lutheran guide for evangelism. 

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a215.html Sun, 25 Apr 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Matthew 15:10–20

From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Power of Bishops

Where did the bishops obtain the right to lay these traditions upon the Church and ensnare consciences when Peter forbids putting a yoke upon the neck of the disciples (Acts 15:10), and Paul says that the power given him was for edification, not destruction (2 Cor 13:10)? Why, therefore, do they increase sins with these traditions?

There are clear testimonies in Scripture that prohibit the creation of traditions that have the intent of meriting grace or are necessary for salvation. Paul says, “Let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a sabbath. If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, 'Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch' (referring to things which all perish as they are used), according to human precepts and doctrines” (Col 2:16-22)? Also, in Titus 1:13-14 he openly forbids traditions: “Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, instead of giving heed to Jewish myths or to commands of men who reject the truth.” Christ himself says of those who require human traditions: “Let them alone; they are blind guides” (Matt 15:14). He rejects such services, saying “Every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up” (Matt 15:13).

Pulling It Together: The Church has no need of more rules and traditions. The law which is in place through the Scripture is more than sufficient to make people aware of their sinful condition. The grace of God that answers the law with finality needs no contrived grace of people, even if they are bishops who concoct such practices. Bishops have no right to burden the Church with obligations of false righteousness, for these increase sin, burdening people with their new laws instead of trusting the merit of Christ alone.

This was not a novel position by the Lutherans; it had always been the clear declaration of Scripture. So, they were compelled by the Word of God to insist that regulations and ceremonies that pretended to promise God's grace were doing the opposite. Jesus forewarned the Church about human traditions, as did Paul. The Lutherans were simply being faithful to the teaching of Christ and his apostles. What else could they do but take a firm stand on the grace of God that comes through faith in Christ alone?

Prayer: Holy Spirit, keep me in God's grace today, for the sake of Christ my Lord. Amen. 


By What Authority is a book that confronts churches who no longer believe their own message. It is about the end of traditional Christianity as practiced in modern times—not a futuristic end, but an end already accomplished, or partially accomplished, in a majority of countries, cities, and churches. Strange as it seems, many Christians haven't noticed. But others were so concerned they've gathered in these pages the wisdom of alert pastors, theologians, laity, young seminarians, and evangelicals. They all have a story to tell you in their own voices. and it's a story so urgent and timely it opens your eyes in ways few might imagine. 

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a214.html Sat, 24 Apr 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Colossians 2:16–19

From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Power of Bishops

Again, the authors of traditions act contrary to the command of God when they teach it is sinful to disregard traditions about foods, days, and such things. They burden the Church with bondage to the law, as if, in order to merit justification, there ought to be a Levitical service which God had supposedly committed to the Apostles and bishops. Some have written that this is what occurred, and popes seem to be misled in some measure by the law of Moses. So they make it mortal sin to do manual labor on holy days when it offends no one, to omit the canonical hours, to eat certain foods that supposedly defile the conscience. They teach that fasting appeases God, and that in a reserved case, sin cannot be forgiven except by the authority of him who reserved it, when even the Canons speak only of maintaining the penalty, yet not the guilt.

Pulling It Together: The issue for the Lutherans was not whether one should, for example, fast during Lent or observe a service of worship beyond the Lord's Day. Their protest was that it was being taught by the Church that such deeds settled the matter of our sin with God. What is more difficult: to set up a new system of works that Church folks must do in order to be righteous before God, or to have a wholehearted trust in God? The former is not only difficult; it is impossible. Any system of law is impossible to keep (Acts 15:10). The latter is even more difficult, though it requires no effort on our part. As challenging as simple faith may be, it is far more beneficial to the soul. It is hard to believe that God really forgives poor sinners like us simply because he loves us. Yet we are called to believe exactly this: that because of his great mercy, he gives his grace to all. Who in his wildest imaginings could have conceived such a thing? And so, we devise ways to conciliate God when he has already reconciled himself. It is understandable. Nevertheless, the Lutherans like the once legalistic apostle, warned against systems of service that claim we earn our way to God. They taught that the Church must hold fast with faith to the Head, to Christ alone. Then, the body, the Church, is brought in tow.

Prayer: Lord, help me seek the things that are above, putting my trust in you while I remain here on earth. Amen. 


Examining Our Core Beliefs explains in straight-forward terms the core of what we believe—from a biblical, theological, historical, and confessional point of view. A 30-page study guide is included in the back of the book.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a213.html Fri, 23 Apr 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Galatians 3:1–3

From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Power of Bishops

If bishops have any other power or jurisdiction in the hearing and judging of certain cases such as matrimony or tithes, they have this authority by human right. When bishops fail in their duties, princes are bound even against their will to dispense justice to their subjects for the maintenance of peace. Additionally, it is disputed whether bishops, or pastors, have the right to introduce ceremonies in the Church, to make laws concerning meats, holy days, and grades—that is, orders of ministers, etc. Those who give this right to the bishops refer to the testimony of John: “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:12-13). They also refer to the example of the Apostles, who commanded to abstain from blood and from things strangled (Acts 15:29). They refer to the Sabbath day as having been changed into the Lord's Day, which they see as being contrary to the Decalog. There is no example in which they make more fuss than that concerning the changing of the Sabbath day. They say that the Church's power is so great that it can even dispense with one of the Ten Commandments.

Concerning this question, Lutherans teach that bishops have no authority to decree anything against the gospel. Canon Law teaches the same thing (Dist. IX). It is against Scripture to establish or require the observance of any traditions, if the point of the observance is making satisfaction for sins, or earning grace and righteousness. When we endeavor to merit justification by such observances, Christ's merit suffers injury. It is clear that because of trust in traditions, they have greatly increased in the Church. The doctrine of faith and the righteousness of faith have meanwhile been restrained. Gradually more holy days have been created, more fasts appointed, new ceremonies and services in honor of saints instituted—all because the authors of such things thought that by these works they were earning grace. Therefore, the Penitential Canons increased, of which we still see some traces in the satisfactions.

Pulling It Together

No bishop or pastor should create any tradition that promises people God's grace. Nor should the people be threatened with God's disfavor when they do not obey these human inventions. Yet this is precisely what happened in the Church leading up to the Reformation. When we insist that man-made ceremonies and rules reconcile God and justify sinners, we not only mislead people, we belittle the saving work of Christ's death. One modern illustration will make this clear. Some preachers these days promise their followers that God will bless them financially if they will send in an offering of a particular amount of money. This is often called a seed gift. If one plants the seed, they say, God will grow the plant. In other words, if a donation of the right amount is given, God will be pleased to multiply it back to the giver. People then give, trusting that this earns God's favor to the degree that he will now prosper them. This is bad enough, though I am unaware of any of these preachers threatening people's souls if they do not give. Yet the Church at the time of the Reformation was telling people if they did not keep certain ceremonies, which by the way, brought in vast sums to the Church, that their souls were in danger. Obviously, this was and remains today a successful strategy for raising lots of money. Yet, bilking people is the least troublesome concern here. What is far worse is that people are taught to trust these strategies for God's favor and salvation.

Lutherans teach that God's mercy and grace comes only through faith in Christ's work on the cross. We receive God's grace freely through faith, not through works of the flesh. Therefore, Lutherans also teach that bishops—pastors—have no right to promise God's grace through any means other than what God himself has ordained and instituted in Scripture. 

Prayer: Help me, God, to fully trust in Christ Jesus, who alone can save me. Amen. 


Some of the best-known instances of Jesus' teaching come in what we know as his parables. Through these teaching-stories, Jesus describes the experience of faith in the kingdom of God. The Wise & the Foolish is a Bible study that focuses entirely on Jesus' "people parables"—or what might better be descirbed as discipleship parables. These are the character stories that focus on the nature of discipleship and what it means to be a wise and faithful follower of Jesus. This nine-session Bible study is intended for use by women's and men's groups, or for other small group fellowships gathering around the Word of God.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a212.html Thu, 22 Apr 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Galatians 1:6–10

From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Power of Bishops

If bishops have any secular power, they do not possess it by virtue of being bishops commissioned by the Gospel, but by human law received from kings and emperors for the civil administration of their properties. This, however, is not the office of the gospel.

Therefore, when the question concerns the power of bishops, civil authority must be distinguished from that of the Church. Again, according to the Gospel, by divine right, there belongs to the bishops, those to whom has been committed the ministry of the Word and the Sacraments, no power except to forgive sins, to judge doctrine, to reject doctrines contrary to the gospel, and to exclude from the communion of the Church ungodly people, whose wickedness is evident. This is done simply by the Word, without human force. By necessity and by divine right, congregations must obey bishops as the gospel teaches: “He who hears you hears me” (Luke 10:16). However, when they teach or ordain anything contrary to the gospel, then congregations are commanded by God not to obey. “Beware of false prophets” (Matt 7:15). “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed” (Gal 1:8). “For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth” (2Cor 13:8). The power which the Lord has given bishops is “for building up and not for tearing down” (2 Cor 13:10). Canon Laws command the same (Part II, Question 7, Priests and Sheep). Augustine also write in the Letter Against Petilian: “Neither must we submit to Catholic bishops if they chance to err, or hold anything contrary to the Canonical Scriptures of God.”

Pulling It Together: The jurisdictions of Church and State must be kept separate. If a bishop has secular power, it was conferred by the government, not by divine agency. The Church does not give such power to any bishop, for that is not a function of the gospel. According to Scripture, beyond preaching and teaching the Word of God and administering the Sacraments, the office of bishop includes these powers: forgiving sins, judging doctrine, rejecting heresy, and excluding the ungodly from the communion of the Church. In these matters, congregations are to obey God through the bishop. If a bishop strays from the gospel, congregations are charged by God not to obey that bishop, obeying instead the gospel that bishops are commissioned to keep for the building up of Christ's Church. 

Prayer: Lord, keep me steadfast in your Word today and all days. Amen. 


A Reading and Discussion of the Augsburg Confession is a more challenging study series based on assigned readings from the Book of Concord and related Scripture texts. Each study is comprised of eight sessions, plus an optional introductory session, presented in a question and discussion format. The Leader's Guide that accompanies this study is a resource for those facilitating group discussion, or may serve as a reader's commentary for those who are studying the Book of Concord on their own.

Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a211.html Wed, 21 Apr 21 00:00:00 -0500

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John 18:33–36

From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Power of Bishops

Therefore, the powers of the Church and secular government must not be confused. The power of the Church has its own commission to teach the gospel and to administer the Sacraments. Let it not occupy the office of another, nor switch the kingdoms of this world, nor abolish the laws of civil rulers, nor get rid of lawful obedience, nor interfere with judgments concerning civil ordinances or contracts. Let it not dictate laws to civil rulers concerning the order of the Commonwealth. As Christ says, “My kingship is not of this world” (John 18:36) and “who made me a judge or divider over you” (Luke 12:14)? Paul also says, “But our commonwealth is in heaven” (Phil 3:20) and “the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds” (2Cor 10:4).

This is how our teachers separate the duties of these two powers, insisting that both be honored and acknowledged as gifts and blessings of God.

Pulling It Together: Perhaps a bishop would desire to rule in secular matters so that justice and fairness would be certain. He might also think that if he made the laws, then God's will would be accomplished. But this is not the way of Christ's Church. Instead, the Church prays that God's will would be done (Matt 6:10). We do not make his will happen; God does. Some might say that this spiritual approach accomplishes little, if anything. Better, they say, to enter the political arena and get things done. In God's truth, these things are better left to the secular authorities that God has ordained. The Church has been charged with other matters: to preach the Word, administer the Sacraments, and pray. Though it may not feel like it, these have been and continue to be the instruments of greatest effect. More good is accomplished by the Church faithfully and sincerely praying our Lord's prayer than we can imagine. Powers are kept at bay and the kingdom of Christ is advanced every time we pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Prayer: Heavenly Father, make your name holy in my life and advance your kingdom, making your will to be fulfilled here on earth like it is in heaven. Amen. 



Lord, Teach Us to Pray is a eight-session curriculum on prayer intended for youth. Based on the themes of the Lord’s Prayer, it uses a Bible Study format, with each lesson including multiple Scripture texts along with the related section of Luther’s Small Catechism. A section entitled “About Prayer” teaches students helpful items about a solid prayer life and a prayer assignment for the coming week. A major goal of this material is to help kids experience prayer, and practice it in a variety of ways. 

Teacher's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a210.html Tue, 20 Apr 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Mark 16:15–16

From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Power of Bishops

Lutherans teach that, according to the gospel, the power of the keys, or of the bishops, is the commandment to preach the Gospel, to remit and retain sins, and to administer the sacraments. For with this commandment Christ sends forth his apostles. “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:21, 23). “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15).

This power of the keys is exercised only by teaching or preaching the gospel and administering the sacraments to many or to individuals according to their calling. By this power, eternal things—not bodily things—are granted, such as eternal righteousness, the Holy Spirit, and eternal life. These things come only by the ministry of the Word and Sacraments, as Paul says. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith” (Rom 1:16). Therefore, since this power of the Church grants eternal things, and is exercised only by the ministry of the Word, the Church does not interfere in civil government any more than the art of singing interferes with civil government. For secular authorities deal with affairs that are different than those that pertain to the gospel. Civil authorities do not defend souls but, using the sword and social control, it defends body and property against demonstrable injuries, restraining people in order to preserve civil justice and peace.

Pulling It Together: The power of the keys is as clear as the plain commissioning of the gospel. Preach! Inherent to the proclamation of the gospel is the administration of God's grace through his sacraments. In both Holy Baptism and Holy Communion, God's grace is demonstrated in physical ways that encourage and sustain the Church. His grace is present since these gifts declare and deliver his mercy and forgiveness. The sacraments, and therefore, the message of God's forgiveness, are the pure proclamation of God's Word. In these things is the true power of God on earth. Why then, would a bishop wish to water down the Church's authority with secular governance? The Church is commissioned with the proclamation of God's forgiveness and eternal life so that people may know Christ's peace forever. Secular authority controls people so that there is civil peace during our brief time on earth. Lutherans confess that God has ordained these powers, both spiritual and secular, the power of the keys and of government, to operate independently so that people may know both spiritual and temporal peace. 


Brave Queen Esther focuses on the story of a young Jewish girl named Esther, who was raised by her older cousin Mordecai after the death of her parents. Set in a time when people of faith were suspect in the eyes of the surrounding culture, the story illustrates the values of integrity and honesty. It shows how being faithful to God, caring for one another, and standing up for what we believe, can help us through times of fear and doubt.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a209.html Mon, 19 Apr 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Luke 20:19–26

From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Power of Bishops

There has been great controversy concerning the power of bishops, in which some have gracelessly confused Church and secular powers. Great wars and uprisings have resulted from this error, while the bishops, emboldened by the power of the Keys, have instituted new kinds of worship and burdened consciences with reservation of absolution and forced excommunication. They have also attempted to transfer the kingdoms of this world and to take the empire from the emperor. These wrongs have long since been rebuked in the Church by learned and godly men. This is why our teachers were obligated for the sake of people's consciences to explain the difference between the power of the Church and the power of the sword. They have taught that because of God's commandment, both are to be honored and respected as the chief blessings of God on earth.

Pulling It Together: The Scripture gives the Church and its pastors the power to preach the Word of God, to administer the sacraments, and to remit and retain sins. This gives the Church great authority but restrains it from exercising any rightful power in civil affairs. Put in plain terms, the Church has power in spiritual matters. The State is left to deal with all else. Both Church and State overreach when they enter into the affairs of the other. When the Church, for example, usurps the office of secular government and wields it to control people, they have overstepped the boundaries of Scripture. The Church has no right to wield civil powers in an effort to conform people's consciences and actions. The Spirit of God does this, using the authority of his Word to do so. The Church has been given great spiritual power and has no need to employ earthly force in its affairs. So, Lutherans confess that God has provided both spiritual and governmental authorities, and that both are to be respected within their spheres of influence. 

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me this day and always to yield my heart to you while living peacefully with my neighbors. Amen. 


This edition of the Luther's Small Catechism is specifically designed to go with the Sola Confimation Series. The 2010 Sola/ReClaim Edition* is a faithful word-for-word translation from Luther's German Catechism. It also includes the section on the Office of the Keys, added later to Luther's Catechism.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a208.html Sun, 18 Apr 21 00:00:00 -0500

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James 1:1–4

From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession

Concerning Monastic Vows

There are examples recorded of men forsaking marriage and the administration of the Commonwealth by hiding themselves in monasteries. They call this fleeing from the world to seek a kind of life more pleasing to God. They did not understand that God should to be served by obeying commandments that God has given instead of commandments invented by people. The good and perfect kind of life is one that is commanded by God. It is necessary to warn men about these things.

In earlier times, Gerson rebuked the error of the monks concerning perfection. He declared that it was a new assertion in his day to claim that the monastic life was a state of perfection.

There are many ungodly opinions inherent in the vows, namely, that they justify, that they constitute Christian perfection, that they keep the counsels and commandments, that they have works of supererogation. Since they are false and empty, monastic vows are null and void.

Pulling It Together: God's will is that we would perform our normal duties of life faithfully and sincerely. In other words, we must not run from life, hoping that a deal we make with God will somehow make us perfect. The love of God is perfected in us by keeping the word, by keeping the faith, by steadfastly believing in the Lord Jesus Christ (1 John 2:5). Christians do not fear damnation, and therefore have no reason to flee our responsibilities. We may continue being parents, teachers, government officials, or any other calling of life without fear of judgment. Though these good vocations come with all the trials inherent to life, we are to remain steadfast, believing that God has called us to faithfulness, despite these trials. We are not called to perform any extra works that promise perfection and grace. These are empty promises. For all who call on the name of the Lord, despite our situations in life, will be saved (Rom 10:13) .

Prayer: Lord, help me consider trials a joy because they cause me to turn to you instead of fleeing from life. Amen. 


The Sola Music Series offers simple collections of easy-to-play worship music, including new songs and arrangements of old favorites. Based in a confessional theology and a respect for the historical and sacramental liturgy, these resources do not require a high level of musical expertise. Written in a simple and straight-forward style, these songs are intended for congregations that would like to explore a less formal musical style in worship, while still maintaining the integrity of the traditional order of worship. Such music would fit into what is sometimes referred to as "contemporary" or "blended" worship, without necessarily requiring a full band of experienced musicians and singers to lead the songs. Providing lead sheets for guitar and vocals, along with full scores for piano, Sola Publishing grants to those who purchase this volume the permission to reproduce words and music of the songs within for local congregational use.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a207.html Sat, 17 Apr 21 00:00:00 -0500

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1 Timothy 4:1–5

From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession

Concerning Monastic Vows

The teachings and the true service of God are concealed when men hear that only monks are in a state of perfection. For Christian perfection consists in fearing God with the whole heart, and yet to have great faith in him, trusting that for Christ's sake we have a God who has been reconciled, and are able to ask of God and to expect his help in all things that are to be done, according to each person's calling. Meanwhile, each person is able to see to his own calling, being diligent in outward good works. True perfection and service of God are in these things. They do not exist in celibacy, or in begging, or in dark apparel. However, the people conceive many corrupting opinions from the false accolades of monastic life. They hear celibacy praised beyond measure; therefore their consciences are troubled because they are married. When they hear that only beggar monks are perfect, they believe that they, themselves, sin by keeping their possessions and doing business. They hear that it is a simply the advice of the gospel to not to seek revenge, so some are not afraid to take revenge in private life since they hear that it is only counsel instead of a commandment. Others believe that a Christian cannot rightly hold a civil office or be a magistrate.

Pulling It Together: What is there to do when the advice one gets at Church is in conflict with the gospel? First of all, we should not be surprised. Scripture warns us that there will be deceitful spirits and that there will be factions in the Church so that we may know what is true (1Cor 11:19). Paul specifically names those who will “forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods" (1Tim 4:3). Yet, people are misled even more by saying that such abstentions will earn righteousness and grace and reconcile God. Second, our response should be to continue doing what God has called us to do. In whatever calling of life God has placed you, do it with all your heart as if you were doing that job for the Lord (Col 3:23). Leaving job and family for some isolated place, removed from the cares of the world, is not God's answer. Indeed, he calls us to go into the world with the gospel (Matt 28:19-20). But whatever you do, do not think it earns you God's grace. He gives his grace freely to all those who fear and love him, no matter their station in life.

Prayer: Father, help me to know the truth of your Word. Amen.


Many Gifts, One Lord considers grace in relation to the gifts of the Holy Spirit in order to show that the grace of God is free to flow with all those gifts without causing division and disharmoney in the body of Christ. It is interesting that we really never seem to tire of gifts. Sad to say many go through life not even aware that they have specific gifts; which could not only be a blessing to themselves but to others. 

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a206.html Fri, 16 Apr 21 00:00:00 -0500

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1 John 2:1–6

From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession

Concerning Monastic Vows

It cannot be denied that the monks have taught that they were justified and merited forgiveness of sins by their vows and observances. Yet they invented even greater absurdities, saying that they could give others a share in their works. If anyone should be inclined to enlarge on these things with malicious intent, more could be cited that even monks are ashamed of now. Beyond this, they persuaded men that the services they fabricated produced a state of Christian perfection. What can be made of this than assigning justification to works? It is no small sin in the Church to put before the people a service devised by humans and without the commandment of God, and to teach that such service justifies. For the righteousness of faith, which ought to be the chief teaching in the Church, is obscured when these wonderful, “angelic” forms of worship, with their display of poverty, humility, and celibacy, are put on stage.

Pulling It Together: Christ is the sole player in our perfection. He has made satisfaction and atonement for our sins. We can add nothing to his perfect work on the cross. So, perfection consists in keeping the faith despite one's lot in life. We are called to keep his commandments, not ones that we construct. He commands us to follow him, to believe, to keep the faith where we live, not in some special location apart from real life. When we do this, we keep his word, and the love of God is perfected in us. So, we can see that anyone may follow Christ. Mothers, fathers, children, civil servants, teachers, doctors, attorneys, police, and all other people may follow our Lord in faith without leaving their calling in life. There is no more perfect service to God than to follow him where you are.

Prayer: Help me to follow you faithfully today, Lord, for your sake. Amen. 


Be the unique "you" Jesus is calling you to be. Seek, discover, and incorporate the Lord's call into all of life...family, work, neighborhood, world, and the gathering of believers. Discover how the Lord equips with His Spirit and power so that you can be the "church" in action. Custom Designed – Reflection Guide is a practical and interactive spiritual journal integrating Scripture, teaching, personal reflection exercises, conversation, and prayer.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a205.html Thu, 15 Apr 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Galatians 5:1–6

From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession

Concerning Monastic Vows

But it is obvious that monks have taught that their services make satisfaction for sins—that they merit justifying grace. What else is this than to diminish the glory of Christ and to obscure and deny the righteousness of faith? Therefore the vows commonly taken have been godless, and consequently, are void. For a vow taken against the commandment of God, is not valid. Even the Canon says that no vow should bind men to wickedness. Paul says, “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace” (Gal 5:4). Therefore, those who want to be justified by their vows are cut off from Christ and they fall from grace. For those who ascribe justification to vows attribute to their own works that which properly belongs to the glory of Christ.

Pulling It Together: To say that one may do something—anything—that could earn God's grace is an insult to the gospel of our Lord. The Lutherans pointed out this fallacy in the monasticism practiced at the time of the Reformation. Paul exposed the same sort of wickedness in his time when he taught against the slavery of circumcision, of the alleged necessity of keeping the law in order to enjoy God’s mercy and grace. However, there are the same claims made by human institutions in our own day. These also revile the good news of Christ. For there is nothing we might do, from merely thinking good thoughts to keeping strict religious practices, that makes God love us. He loves us for Christ's sake. Period. He imputes to us the righteousness of Christ because he chooses to do so, not because we make it happen. This is what Lutherans confess: that we are saved by faith through the grace of God alone. Nothing else must ever be added.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, open my eyes to the truth of your word alone. Amen. 


Letters to a Young Christian is a ten-session Bible Study iIn the biblical letters of First and Second Timothy. It is recommended for high school youth groups as well as for Sunday School classes with young adults, focusing on the Word of God at work in our modern lives. 

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a204.html Wed, 14 Apr 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Romans 8:1–4

From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession

Concerning Monastic Vows

Finally, even though the violation of a vow might be condemned, it does not follow that the marriages of these persons must be dissolved. Augustine denies that they ought to be dissolved in Marriage Matters, and although others disagreed, his authority is not lightly to be esteemed. Although God's command concerning marriage delivers many from their vows, yet our teachers introduce another argument concerning vows to show that they are void. For every service of God chosen by men to earn justification and grace but that is not ordained and commanded by God, is wicked. Christ says, “In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men” (Matt 15:9). Paul teaches everywhere that righteousness is not to be sought in ceremonies and acts of worship that are devised by men, but that righteousness comes by faith to those who believe that they are received of God through grace for Christ's sake.

Pulling It Together: The Lutherans believed that marriages could not be annulled by monastic vows. Indeed, the opposite is the case: marriage vows annul monastic obligations. Nearly a thousand years earlier, Augustine came to the same conclusion. Yet this is not the chief reason why monasticism should be overturned. If a contract is entered into because of false promises, that agreement is invalid. This was the case with monasticism, for that vow was based upon earning God's grace through an austere lifestyle. This is plainly a gilded assurance, for we cannot do anything that merits God's favor. Even if a service is truly rendered unto God, yet while imagining that the religious service acquires righteousness with God, that act of worship is in vain. God is not gracious to us because we are good folks, go to church, feed the poor, forfeit all our worldly goods, or enter a religious vocation. God freely acquits us of our sin through faith in him to do so. He forgives us for Christ's sake alone—not by our religious practices, no matter how strict or sincere they may be. Since there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ, there is no need to earn his forgiveness, even if we were able to do so.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for not giving me what I deserve, but instead granting me mercy because of your immeasurable love. Amen. 


In Harmony with the Word is an eight-session Bible Study focusing on Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, from Matthew 5-7. It is written at an introductory level, to be led by a lay leader or pastor in a small-group question and discussion format. The study would serve as an excellent resource for monthly women's group meetings, or in an informal small-group setting.

Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a203.html Tue, 13 Apr 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Matthew 19:10–12

From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession

Concerning Monastic Vows

Second, why do our opponents magnify the vow when they have nothing to say about whether it is possible, freely obligated, and chosen spontaneously and deliberately? It is well-known to what extent people have the power to remain celibate for their whole lives, and how few there are who have taken the vow spontaneously and deliberately. Young women and men, before they are able to judge for themselves, are persuaded, and sometimes even induced, to take the vow. Consequently, it is not fair to insist so rigorously on their pledge, since it is against the nature of a vow to take it without spontaneity and deliberation.

Most canonical laws cancel vows made before the age of fifteen, for before that age there does not seem sufficient ability to make a decision that affects an entire life. Another Canon acknowledges human weakness more by forbidding a vow before the age of eighteen. But which of these two Canons should we adopt? The majority have an excuse for leaving the monasteries, because they have taken the vows before reaching these ages.

Pulling It Together: When the Apostle Paul was a grown man, able to make decisions as to whether or not to be married, he seems to have chosen to remain unmarried so that his time could be devoted to the kingdom of God (1 Cor 7:6-7). Some people seem suited for single life. Nevertheless, they must adopt it for themselves; it cannot be forced upon them. Those who had taken oaths prematurely could be released from their obligations. Church laws made concession for this if they had made their oathes before being either 15 or 18 years of age. As this was the case for most people in monasteries, they were pressured to remain obligated, so as to keep the monastic system in place. The Lutherans were more concerned for the individual than the institution, insisting that only those who were able and willing to do so should remain in a state of sexual abstention. This is consistent with the teaching of Christ, who said, "Not everyone can receive this saying... Let the one who is able to receive this receive it" (Matt 19:11-12).

Prayer: Lord, help me to keep those vows that I have made to you, so that you may be glorified in my life. Amen. 


Connections Magazine features articles that connect Lutherans to the Word. Martin Luther's Small Catechism provides inspiration for confessional, biblical content, delivered in a stylish, readable design. Subscribe today.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a202.html Mon, 12 Apr 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Ecclesiastes 5:1–7

From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession

Concerning Monastic Vows

Now, if the obligation of vows could never be changed for any reason whatever, the popes would never have granted dispensations. For no one may annul an obligation that is founded on God's law. That is why popes have wisely decided that leniency is to be observed in this obligation, and therefore we read that many times they have released people from vows. The King of Aragon, who was called back from the monastery, is well known, and there are also examples in our own times. Now, if dispensations have been granted for the sake of securing temporal interests, it is far more proper that they be granted for the benefit of distressed souls.

Pulling It Together: The practice of religion can be insincere and downright hypocritical. Even our devotion can be disingenuous when it is focused on self instead of God. So we should watch our step and guard our words. Church is not only a place of ceremony, duty, and ministry; it is where the Word of God is taught. So we should be careful to listen instead of speaking bold and reckless words, for it is difficult to break a promise. Nonetheless, some promises must be broken. When God's word and order are at stake, promises should be reconsidered in the light of God's law. They ought to have been thought through in accordance with the Lord's teaching at the start, but better late than never. In terms of monastic vows, even popes have understood that these vows must sometimes be rescinded. Lutherans do not take vows lightly, but we consider first and foremost the state of a person's soul, since this is God's concern. It is sometimes a benefit to the human soul to release someone from a promise, even if he thought he had made his vow to God. With one's mouth, many may be led into sin, so we should not make hasty promises. When those promises must be broken and we confess our sin, God is faithful and just to forgive (1John 1:9).

Prayer: Merciful God, grant to me today the grace of being quick to listen and slow to speak. Amen. 


A Listening Bible: Letters from Jesus in the Written Word, by Glen S.R. Carlson, helps you take time to LISTEN to what Jesus is saying to you from Romans to Jude (softcover; 692 pages). 

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a201.html Sun, 11 Apr 21 00:00:00 -0500

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1 Corinthians 7:1–5

From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession

Concerning Monastic Vows

First, concerning marriage, Lutherans teach that it is lawful for those who are not suited for celibacy to marry, since vows cannot annul God's order and commandment. “Because of the temptation to immorality,” the commandment of God is that “each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband” (1 Cor 7:2). It is the commandment, as well as the creation and order of God, that moves those to marry who are not excepted by a singular work of God, according to the text: “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Gen 2:18). Therefore, those who obey the command and order of God do not sin.

What objection can be raised to this? People may praise the obligation of a vow as much as they wish, yet they cannot annul the commandment of God. The Canons teach that vows are not binding against the decision of the Pope. How much less binding then are vows that are against the commandments of God.

Pulling It Together: The Lutherans at Wittenberg allowed those under vows to marry. Some had been placed under monastic orders by their families, and others by their own ignorance. Not only was the temptation toward immorality very great when celibacy was the duty of those who were not suited for that lifestyle, but the very order of God's creation and command were broken by these vows. Since the garden, God's order has been that man should not be alone. The Apostle Paul teaches that each person should marry, and in so doing, avoid sin. Who could object to that motivation? We might respect people who are called to such a lifestyle, as it gives them very much time for ministry and even contemplation. Yet, when this vow becomes compulsion and a striving against God's order and authority, human traditions are no longer valid. 

Prayer: I rejoice with gladness and give glory to you, O Lord, for the marriage of the Lamb is coming. Amen. 


Sola has certificates for all your services (Baptism, Baptismal Sponsor, First Communion, Confirmation, Marriage, and Membership). Sola Certificates are printed in color on heavyweight parchment paper, with a matching envelope to go with each certificate. The traditional 'half-sheet' size is perfect for inclusion in a picture album or scrapbook.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a200.html Sat, 10 Apr 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Philippians 3:12–21

From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession

Concerning Monastic Vows

People were made to believe that monasticism was even better than baptism, that it was more meritorious than other vocations such as magistrates and pastors who serve their calling in accordance with God's commands, without any man-made services. These things cannot be denied, for they are written in their own books. Furthermore, a person who had been ensnared by a monastery learned little of Christ. Once monasteries were schools of theology and other subjects profitable to the Church, where pastors and bishops were educated. This is no longer the case. It is needless to rehearse what is known to all. Formerly they came together to learn; now they pretend that it is a kind of life instituted to earn grace and righteousness. They even preach that it is a state of perfection, putting it far above all other vocations ordained of God. We have explained this without hateful misrepresentation, so that our position may be understood.

Pulling It Together: The Apostle Paul admits that he is not perfect, but struggling against his flesh (Rom 7:15). He presses on toward the goal of completeness, in spite of his imperfect state (Phil 3:14). This is a life that shares in Christ's love (Matt 5:48) and suffering and resurrection (Phil 3:10). It is the life that celebrates the death of the old person in Christ's own death through baptism. In this way, we become like him in his death (Phil 3:10). He had no confidence in the flesh (Phil 3:3) and by this, he lists human associations and religious zeal. Yet these are the very things the Church taught would produce human perfection. The apostle trusted in Christ alone for perfect righteousness—that he would be found in Christ, not having a righteousness of his own but “that which comes through faith in Christ.” The things we do are worse than rubbish (Phil 3:8), especially when we expect them to garner any worth with God. Lutherans confess that what Christ has done for us is of such surpassing value that we are declared righteous by our faith in him alone.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me to live in your righteousness today, and so, press on toward the goal even when I fail and fall flat. Amen. 


Views of Baptism is written for a range of readers including the parent or sponsor about to baptize a child, the adult who wants to understand baptism more fully, and the professional teacher or preacher who needs the truth about baptism stated simply but backed by careful research. This books explores three views of baptism: the individual-centered view, the means-of-grace view, and the Roman Catholic view. It includes a description of how Christian baptism came to us in stages from its Jewish roots. A question and answer section addresses specific matters often raised when people contemplate baptism.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a199.html Fri, 09 Apr 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Matthew 5:33–37

From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession

Concerning Monastic Vows

What is taught by Lutherans concerning monastic vows is better appreciated by remembering what has been the state of the monasteries, and how things were done each day in those monasteries contrary to the Canons. In Augustine's time the monasteries were voluntary. Later, when Church discipline was corrupted, monastic vows were established for the purpose of restoring discipline, as if it were a prison.

Besides vows, many other traditions were gradually created and laid upon many before the lawful age. Though they were of sufficient age, they were unable to judge their own abilities and entered monastic life through ignorance. Once ensnared, they were compelled to remain even though the Canons could have freed some. This was more often the case in nunneries than monasteries, even though more consideration should have been afforded the weaker sex. This hardship displeased many good people before now, seeing that boys and girls were thrown into convents to keep them alive. They saw the regrettable results of this system—the scandals, and burdening of consciences. They were grieved that the authority of the Canons was utterly despised and ignored. It is well known that even more considerate monks were displeased with the persuasion added to these evils in former times. They were taught that monastic vows were equal to baptism, earning forgiveness of sins and righteousness with God. They added that the monastic life merited even greater things, because it kept not only the commandments but also the counsel of the gospels.

Pulling It Together: The ancient teaching is that we should not make false promises. The teaching of Christ goes further: “Do not take an oath at all.” The monastic system of the Church was based upon making just such an oath—often for others, instead of by the person being bound by the promise. Children who could not be cared for by a family, were taken to monasteries and there they were compelled to stay even after they had reached an age when they might make a different choice for themselves. This was bad enough, but it was not the key issue.

The idea that one could earn favor with God permeated the Church. Monastic vows was one more example of this doctrine of works. The monastic life had become a means of grace rivaling baptism. By keeping this vow, it was thought that one would earn saving worth with God. Conversely, by breaking the oath, one's salvation was considered uncertain. By this alone were people deceived and ensnared. But the greater trap was in believing that they could earn God's grace at all. Again, one cannot earn what is freely given by God (Eph 2:8). When one lives by his own promise instead of the promises of God, he has lost the correct focus. One becomes absorbed with himself and the promise once made, instead of God and his promises. But to believe in God and live by his promises is a life of forgiveness and grace.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me speak the truth and live by your promises. Amen. 

 


Custom Designed presents guided questions, ancient wisdom, and insightful diagrams for understanding your unique individuality, recognizing God’s guiding hand, and even grappling with two of life’s more practical yet significant questions: “Who am I?” and “What am I to do?”

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a198.html Thu, 08 Apr 21 00:00:00 -0500

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2 Timothy 1:8–14

From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Distinction of Meats

Nevertheless, Lutherans have retained many traditions that are conducive to good order in the Church, such as the Order of Lessons in the Mass and the chief holy days. People are informed, however, that such observances do not make them righteous before God, and that it is not a sin if they are omitted without causing offense. Such liberty in human ceremonies was not unknown to the Fathers. In the East they kept Easter at another time than at Rome. Because of this diversity, the Romans accused the Eastern Church of schism, though they were admonished by others that such customs do not need to be everywhere alike. Irenaeus says: “Diversity concerning fasting does not destroy the harmony of faith.” This kind of diversity does not violate the unity of the Church, as Pope Gregory suggests in Dist. XII. In the Tripartite History, Book 9, many examples of different ceremonies are collected, and the following statement is made: It was not the mind of the Apostles to enact rules concerning holy days, but to teach faith and love.

Pulling It Together: Lutheran worship is well-known for being traditional, often in form but always in terms of those things that contribute to good order. The Lectionary and the celebration of major feast days are only two examples given in the Article. Our people are taught that these things are helpful, though not required, and certainly not necessary for justification with God. Therefore, some freedom of customs must be allowed. This is nothing unique to Lutherans; it has been the way of Christianity since the early Church. So while Lutherans confess the righteousness of faith alone, they nevertheless keep those practices that are a benefit to the Church. This is a sound formula that promotes the standard of faith and love in Christ's Church.

Prayer: My Savior, help me be faithful in the Church you have built. Amen. 


    

The Sola "Word of Life" Series is a resource for those looking to develop small groups built around the Word of God. This model of small-group ministry is an excellent tool for evangelism since it is rooted in prayer and Scripture. Its primary focus is to empower those who believe in Jesus Christ to be comfortable sharing their faith and inviting others to experience a transformed life in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Meant for use in Small Group gathering, each of the six sessions in each book is based on a primary Scripture text, with intentional time for reflection. There are questions, prayer, faith sharing, and mini-evangelism case-studies. The series would be helpful for those involved in starting a Bible study fellowship, house church, or mission congregation. They may also be used by established congregations to aid in establishing a small group ministry.

• Unit 1   • Unit 2   • Unit 3

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a197.html Wed, 07 Apr 21 00:00:00 -0500

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1 Corinthians 9:24–27

From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Distinction of Meats

Our teachers are accused of opposing bodily discipline, as Jovinian did. But the opposite is true, as may be learned in the writings of our teachers. As concerning the cross, they have always taught that it is fitting for Christians to bear afflictions. For being crucified with Christ is genuine, devout, and sincere self-denial.

Additionally, they teach that every Christian should bring the flesh under control through fasting and other disciplines. In this way, they might overcome temptation to sin. Yet they do not teach that we earn grace or make satisfaction for sins through such efforts. Bodily discipline ought to be urged at all times—not only on a few predetermined days. Christ commands, “But take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life.” (Luke 21:34) He also teaches that some temptations are only dealt with by prayer and fasting. (Matt 17:21) Paul says, “I pommel my body and subdue it.” (1Cor 9:27) He clearly shows that he was disciplining his body in order to bring it under control, not to merit forgiveness of sins but to prepare it for spiritual things and for the fulfilling of his calling. Therefore, we do not condemn fasting in and of itself, but instead the traditions that imperil the conscience by demanding the honoring of certain days and foods as necessary to the Christian life.

Pulling It Together: In the fourth century, Jovinian, a one-time monk and ascetic (one who practiced severe self-discipline), wrote against celibacy and some other monastic traditions. Indeed, he praised the virtues of marriage and was therefore branded a heretic. Some called him the precursor of Luther and other Reformers. It is easy to see why Lutherans were lumped into his supposedly heretical category. Yet it is an unfair criticism since Lutherans taught bodily discipline. Prayer and fasting were staples of Lutheran exhortation. The difference was, as it always was for the Lutherans, that they did not regard discipline of the flesh and other Church traditions as necessary for salvation. They taught that such works did not earn favor with God, confessing instead that God's favor is promised to those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Help me, Lord, to live this day in such a manner that brings you glory. Amen. 

Receive these daily Sola Devotions by email. Write mryman@solapublishing.com with "Subscribe" as your subject. To unsubscribe, send an email to the same address with "Unsubscribe" as your subject.

In Prayer as Joy, Prayer as StruggleBraaten explores many types of prayer, including thanksgiving, confession, praise, wrestling, petition, intercession, listening, and hope. He also explores what it means when the answer to prayer is "no" and how we experience prayer in times of doubt. In each chapter, he uses and extended biblical example of prayer and also provides the text of prayers we can use in our own practice. For all who seek joy in prayer, even as we struggle, Braaten offers an engaging personal and pastoral reflection on the ways we pray.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a196.html Tue, 06 Apr 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Acts 16:25–31

From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Distinction of Meats

So, the Lutherans have taught that we cannot merit grace or be justified by the observance of human traditions, and that we must not think of such observances as necessary acts of worship. They supply these evidences from Scripture. Christ defended the Apostles who had not observed the usual tradition (Matt 15:3) that pertained to a matter not unlawful, but indifferent, yet had a certain affinity with the purifications of the Law. He added, “In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men” (Matt. 15:9). Therefore, he does not consider them obligatory. Then he adds that it is “not what goes into the mouth defiles a man, but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man” (Matt. 15:10). Paul teaches, “The kingdom of God is not food and drink” (Rom. 14:17). “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a sabbath” (Col. 2:16). If you are dead with Christ from the principles of the world, why are you subject to regulations like, “Touch not, taste not, handle not!” as though you are living in the world? Peter says, “Now therefore why do you make trial of God by putting a yoke upon the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will” (Acts 15:10). Here Peter forbids the burdening of consciences with many rituals, either of Moses or of others. Paul calls the prohibition of meats a doctrine of devils (1 Tim. 4:1, 3), for it is against the Gospel to establish or to do such works for the purpose of earning grace, or to suppose that without such acts Christianity could not exist.

Pulling It Together: The position of the Lutherans is based on Scripture. Our Lord guarded the right of his disciples to disregard religious traditions. Paul vigorously taught against the notion that the kingdom of God was based on food and drink, or certain holy days or ceremonies. How we interact with the physical has nothing to do with the spiritual life. We have died with Christ in God (Col 3:3); how dare we now seek to be alive through performing human traditions? Peter says that we try God's patience when we demand the keeping of traditions. These practices worry and bind the conscience that Christ would reassure and liberate. Paul calls these obligations the devil's doctrines. God's grace cannot be earned or increased by keeping Church customs. So, Lutherans confess that we are saved by the grace of Christ alone, as the Scriptures teach. We add nothing to this: belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Prayer: Father, console my heart with the plain good news: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” Amen. 


By What Authority is a book that confronts churches who no longer believe their own message. The book shows how Christians have departed from the biblical faith, and what can be done about it.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a195.html Mon, 05 Apr 21 00:00:00 -0500

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2 Corinthians 11:1–6

From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Distinction of Meats

Lutherans have not taught about these things harshly or with a dislike of the ecclesiastical office, as some contend. Because of a misunderstanding of Church traditions, there was great need to warn the churches of these errors. For the Gospel compels us to teach the doctrine of grace and the righteousness of faith in the churches. These principal doctrines cannot be understood if people think that they earn grace by observances of their own choice.

Pulling It Together: The Lord insists that we teach his Word with patience and clarity. We must take a firm stand on matters of doctrine, for people's souls hang in the balance. Such was the case for the Lutherans in Wittenberg. God had reminded them of his grace and they would have been derelict in their calling had they simply gone on teaching religious traditions as the way to keep the Christian faith. Their churches were being deceived by traditions, imagining that they could somehow merit what can never be earned. God's grace is given—never attained by the things we do or how we do them. Saving righteousness is given through faith in Christ. Teaching this doctrine was hardly insurrection; it was faithful reformation of the Church that the Lutherans loved.

Prayer: Lord, keep me steadfast in your Word. Amen. 


The Wise & The Foolish is a nine-session Bible study that focuses entirely on Jesus' "people parables"—what might be described as Discipleship Parables. These are the character stories that focus on the nature of discipleship and what it means to be a wise and faithful follower of Jesus. 

Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a194.html Sun, 04 Apr 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Micah 6:6–8

From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Distinction of Meats

Thirdly, traditions have brought great danger to consciences, for it was impossible to keep all of the traditions, yet people believed them to be necessary acts of worship. Gerson writes that many fell into despair, and that some even took their own lives, knowing that they were unable to satisfy these demands, while never hearing anything about the comfort of the righteousness of faith and grace. We see that the summists and theologians conclude that moderation is needed so as to ease consciences, yet they do not sufficiently unshackle, sometimes constraining consciences even more. They have been so occupied with understanding these traditions, that schools and sermons have no leisure to touch upon Scripture, and find the more profitable teachings like faith, the cross, and hope. This is why Gerson and some other theologians have criticized these strivings after traditions for keeping attention from a better kind of doctrine. Augustine also forbids that people's consciences should be burdened with such traditions, and prudently advises Januarius that they are of no consequence.

Pulling It Together: “They can't see the forest for the trees” is a saying that could easily be applied to the Church. What difference does it really make whether the Bible is carried into the sanctuary in just the right manner, so long as the Word of God is read? Who cares if the pastor is robed according to someone's rules, as long as the law and grace of God is proclaimed so that consciences are warned and comforted? Does it really matter that one keeps the Commemorations of Augustine or Luther? These are matters of indifference that the Church still affords too much time and energy.

Our attentions are to be given to weightier concerns (Matt 23:23) that are more profitable to what truly matters to God. How can people know that God loves them when they fear for their souls because they failed in some particular tradition? If they worry that they have forgotten to confess a particular sin, is their focus now upon themselves or upon the one who forgives sin? There are too many trees in the way of our view of God.

When traditions keep us from seeing anything other than our ability to keep them, those traditions have failed us. Too often these trees prevent us from seeing the things that benefit us, such as grace, faith, the cross of Christ, and the hope that we have in him alone, but will never have in the keeping of traditions. 

Prayer: Lord, let me see you so that I may follow you. Amen. 


A Thirty-Day Walk through Luther's Small Catechism is a devotional book that follows the sections of Martin Luther's Small Catechism, and is designed for daily reflection on the Scriptures and the faith that we believe. Guiding the reader through a journey of Law to Gospel, the devotions are meant to show readers not only their need for grace, but where that grace is found in Jesus Christ. The book is not only meant as a basic daily devotional and prayer resource, it also serves as a brief overview of the themes of the Catechism.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a193.html Sat, 03 Apr 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Matthew 15:1–9

From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Distinction of Meats

Secondly, these traditions have obscured the commandments of God, because they have been placed far above God's commands. Christianity has come to be wholly considered as people having a spiritual and perfect life through the correct observances of certain holy days, rites, fasts, and liturgical clothing. Meanwhile the commandments and callings of God are without honor: that the mother bears and looks after her children, that the father provides for and rightly raises them, that the prince governs the commonwealth. These are considered worldly and imperfect works, far below those glittering traditions. This error greatly torments devout consciences which are grieved that they are held in an imperfect state of life like marriage, the office of magistrate, or other civil work. On the other hand, they esteem the monks and their kind, falsely imagining that the traditions of such men are more acceptable to God.

Pulling It Together: The kingdom of God is not in the doing of things but in believing what has been done. There is nothing wrong, of course, with following God's law and keeping his commandments. Christians keep God's commands but they do not believe that religious acts elicit God's mercy. God loves us with a perfect love. It is not something that we arouse in him. He is love (1 John 4:8), therefore he loves us. The reason that we love him and each other is because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). There is nothing that we can do to make him love us more or less. So Lutherans confess that traditions of the Church ought not to be our focus, nor should we esteem those who keep those traditions as better than other Christians. Instead, we are to faithfully and thankfully attend to the callings to which God has called each of us, and believe that we are doing the highest good in raising families and looking to the needs of others. Still, these are not the things that save but instead, they are the responses of people who believe that, because of God's great love, they are saved by faith in Christ alone.

Prayer: Lord, help me fulfill my calling in life for your sake. Amen. 


Come, Worship the Lord (Sola Music Series, Vol I) The Sola Music Series offers simple collections of easy-to-play worship music, including new songs and arrangements of old favorites. Based in a confessional theology and a respect for the historical and sacramental liturgy, these resources do not require a high level of musical expertise. Written in a simple and straight-forward style, these songs are intended for congregations that would like to explore a less formal musical style in worship, while still maintaining the integrity of the traditional order of worship. Such music would fit into what is sometimes referred to as "contemporary" or "blended" worship, without necessarily requiring a full band of experienced musicians and singers to lead the songs. Providing lead sheets for guitar and vocals, along with full scores for piano, Sola Publishing grants to those who purchase this volume the permission to reproduce words and music of the songs within for local congregational use. This book includes music from "The Holy Cross Setting" available with a SOWeR subscription.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a192.html Fri, 02 Apr 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Romans 14:14–19

From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Distinction of Meats

It has been the general view of the people and those teaching in the churches, that making Distinctions of Meats and similar traditions of men are works that earn grace—that these works are able to make satisfactions for sins. Therefore, new ceremonies, orders, holy days, and fasts were established daily. The teachers in the churches demanded these works as a service necessary to merit grace, greatly terrifying people's consciences if they failed to perform any of these things. This view of traditions has caused much damage in the Church.

First, the doctrine of grace and of the righteousness of faith has been rendered unclear. This is the chief part of the Gospel, and ought to stand out as the most prominent in the Church, in order that the merit of Christ may be well known, and that faith which believes that sins are forgiven for Christ's sake be exalted far above works. This is why Paul also lays the greatest emphasis on this article, laying aside the Law and human traditions, in order to show that Christian righteousness is something other than such works—in other words, faith which believes that sins are freely forgiven for Christ's sake. But this doctrine of Paul has been almost wholly suppressed by traditions, which have produced the opinion that by making distinctions in meats and similar services, we earn grace and righteousness. In teaching repentance, faith was not mentioned. Instead only works of satisfaction were prescribed as repentance.

Pulling It Together: The phrase “distinction of meats” is only one aspect of what this article is dealing with, and includes a variety of abuses resulting from human traditions that would supersede the grace of God. The Lutherans insisted that they were under no such obligation to satisfy God since we are not forgiven by our works but instead, for Christ's sake alone. Justification with God is through faith in Christ's work, never by religious deeds. Religious distinctions obscure the doctrine of grace by faith. Therefore, Lutherans confess that righteousness is a free gift of God through faith in Christ, not from the keeping of human laws. 

Prayer: Increase my faith in you, Lord, for your sake. Amen.


For centuries, the Apostle Paul's letters have instructed Christians in the faith. His epistles teach us right theology, remind us repeatedly of the centraility of the good news of God's grace expressed best in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and relentlessly encourage us to follow and serve our God with passion. The Letters of Paul looks at all but one of Paul's 13 epistles and seeks to get at the heart of each one so that his message may inspire new hope, faith, and love in us today.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a191.html Thu, 01 Apr 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Psalm 19:12–13

From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession

Concerning Confession

Lutherans teach that an enumeration of sins is not necessary, that consciences not be burdened with anxiety by trying to tally all sins. It is impossible to recount all sins, as the psalmist insists: “But who can discern his errors” (Psa 19:12)? Jeremiah also asserts: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it” (Jer 17:9)? If no sins were forgiven except those recited, consciences would never find peace, for there are very many sins that they neither realize nor remember. The ancient writers also declare that an enumeration is not necessary. Chrysostom is quoted in the Decrees: “I do not say to you, Make a display of yourself nor accuse yourself before others; but be persuaded by the prophet who said, 'Commit your way to the LORD' (Psa 37:5). Confess your sins in prayer before God, the true Judge. Confess your sins with the memory of your conscience, not with the tongue.” The Gloss (Decretum, Concerning Confession) admits that Confession is of human origin; it is not commanded by Scripture but instead, ordained by the Church. Nevertheless, because of the great benefit of absolution, and because it is otherwise useful to the conscience, Confession is retained among us. 

Pulling It Together: No one can remember or even be aware of all of his sins, so the sort of confession that demands a litany of every last sin is hopeless. Trying to do so will produce a miserable person, overburdened under the weight of both his sins and the Church's demands. Moreover, the ancient Church never required this kind of confession to begin with. Therefore, Lutherans use confession to console the guilty conscience. When sinners hear the words of absolution, their minds turn from sin to Christ. They are so overjoyed that God forgives them that their focus goes outward and no longer inward. They praise God for his mercy instead of worrying that they have forgotten some other sin for which this imaginary, angry god of theirs will hold them accountable. We confess that the Lord is merciful and eager to forgive sinners. Therefore, it is enough that one confesses he is a sinner, and perhaps names some specific sin that haunts his conscience. Having confessed in this manner, his heart is ready to hear the comforting words of forgiveness from our Lord. This is why Lutherans have retained confession in their churches: so that Christians may believe the words, “Almighty God, in his mercy, has given his Son to die for us and, for his sake, forgives us all our sins.”

Prayer: Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen. 


Learning About Confession - Teacher's Guide guides leaders in teaching the meaning of Confession and Forgiveness according Luther's guidance in the Small Catechism. The student book, Learning About Confession is recommended for the Sixth Grade Level. Each week focuses on a specific Bible story that illustrates the theme, with additional references from Scripture and Luther's Small Catechism - Children's Version. With a healthy balance of Law and Gospel, lessons emphasize the connection between repentance and forgiveness, and how the promise of God’s forgiveness changes our lives.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a190.html Wed, 31 Mar 21 00:00:00 -0500

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John 20:21-23

From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession

Concerning Confession

Lutherans have not abolished confession in their churches since it is not fitting to give the body of the Lord unless people have been examined and absolved. Our people are carefully taught about faith in the absolution, where formerly there was great silence. They are taught that they should highly value absolution, it being the voice of God, and pronounced by his command. The power and the beauty of the Keys is taught, reminding Christians of the great consolation it brings to anxious consciences. We also instruct that God requires faith to believe this absolution as the voice of heaven, and that only by faith in Christ does one truly obtain and receive the forgiveness of sins. Until now, penance was liberally applied, while faith and the merit of Christ and the righteousness of faith was never mentioned. On this point, our churches cannot be blamed. Even those who disagree with us concede that the doctrine concerning repentance has been made very clear by our teachers.

Pulling It Together: From the beginning, confession was considered necessary by the Lutherans. Both the Small and Large Catechisms of Luther provide instruction about how to make confession. We teach that people must confess their sins before receiving Holy Communion. And they must be forgiven. While the word of absolution or forgiveness is spoken by bishops and pastors, it is God who forgives. The pastor speaks for God as taught by Jesus (John 20:22-23), reminding poor sinners that God hears their confession and forgives them. They must trust that this word of absolution comes from God. No works of penance or satisfaction are required. Faith in the final work of Christ's sacrifice for sin is sufficient. In this way, Lutherans teach people to focus upon Christ, not upon themselves, their sins, or their efforts to satisfy God.

Prayer: Increase, O Lord, my faith in your forgiveness and love of sinners. Amen.


Learning About Confession teaches the meaning of Confession and Forgiveness according to Luther's guidance in the Small Catechism. It is recommended for the Sixth Grade Level. Each week focuses on a specific Bible story that illustrates the theme, with additional references from Scripture and Luther's Small Catechism - Children's Version. With a healthy balance of Law and Gospel, lessons emphasize the connection between repentance and forgiveness, and how the promise of God’s forgiveness changes our lives.

Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a189.html Tue, 30 Mar 21 00:00:00 -0500

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1 Corinthians 11:33-34

From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Mass

Since the Mass is a Sacrament for those present, we celebrate it each holy day, and also on other days when worshipers gather. This is not a new custom in the Church, for the Fathers before Gregory make no mention of any private Mass. Yet they speak very much of the common Mass, or the Communion. Chrysostom says that the priest stands at the altar, inviting some to the Communion and keeping back others. The ancient Canons show that one priest administered the Mass to the other priests and deacons. The Nicene Canon states, “Let the deacons after the priests, according to their order, receive the Holy Communion from the bishop or another priest.” Paul commands us concerning the Communion: “My brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another” (1Cor 11:33).

In the Mass we follow the example of the Church, taken from the Scripture and the Fathers. So we are confident that it cannot be condemned, especially since public ceremonies, for the most part are retained. Only the number of Masses has been reduced because of many serious abuses. In former times, even in those churches most frequented, the Mass was not celebrated every day. The Tripartite History (Book 9, ch 33) shows that in Alexandria, every Wednesday and Friday the Scriptures were read, and the doctors expounded upon them, and all things were done except the solemn rite of Communion.

Pulling It Together: Holy Communion is a benefit for those gathered. It is not to be served to those who are not present or to unbelievers or the dead. When the Church gathers for worship, Communion is celebrated with proper order. Communion is not a potluck that feeds the belly. It is a means of grace in which people are assured that they receive the forgiveness of sins. Lutherans follow the ancient practices of the Church, as indicated by Scripture and the early Church Fathers, so that the focus of Communion is retained on holy days. 

Prayer: Help me focus on what you have done and continue to do for me, Lord, not on what I do for you. Amen. 


My New Bible is a five-session study for use in Sunday School at the presentation of the Holy Scriptures to elementary students. It introduces them to the layout and contents of their new Bible, shows them how to identify books and find verses, and gives them an overview of the major parts of Scripture

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a188.html Mon, 29 Mar 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Luke 22:14-20

From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Mass

Scripture also teaches that we are justified before God through faith in Christ, when we believe that our sins are forgiven for Christ's sake. Scripture does not allow that the Mass takes away the sins of the living and the dead by the outward act, as this would mean that justification results from the work of Masses, instead of by faith.

Instead, Christ commands us, “Do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19) Therefore, Lutherans confess that the Mass was instituted so that the faith of those who use the Sacrament would remember what benefits they receive through Christ, and as a result, that their anxious consciences be encouraged and comforted. For to remember Christ is to remember his benefits—that they are truly offered to us. It is not enough to simply remember the history, for the Jews and the ungodly can remember. The Mass is to be used to this end: that the Sacrament (Communion) be administered to them that have need of consolation, as Ambrose says: “Because I always sin, I am always bound to take the medicine.” Therefore this Sacrament requires faith, and without faith, it is used in vain.

Pulling It Together: When you approach the altar, you ought to ask, “What am I doing here?” The answer, of course, is that your Lord has called you to his table. You might think that you are unworthy to eat from his hand. Nevertheless, he has called you—commanded you. Take. Eat. As often as you do, you remember that he gave his body and that you must receive this grace by faith in Christ alone. He then commands, take and drink—all of you. Then you may remember that Jesus shed his blood, not only for the whole world, but also for you, the one now drinking who knows that he is undeserving.

The Sacrament is not about us; it is all about the one who has called us to eat and drink. The one who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29) gives us himself and commands us to receive him. We do this partaking by remembering what he did, surely, but also by believing that this meal has the greatest value. In it is God's grace and mercy, the forgiveness of sins, for you. There is the comforting remembrance: that you are forgiven through the grace of God alone, and not by anything that you bring to the table—as if you had anything of value to offer. 

Prayer: Thank you, God, for providing the true bread of heaven, your Son, Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen. 


Crossways International is now a part of Sola Publishing.

The original Crossways® series is our most comprehensive course, designed for adults and mature youth who want to work through the Scriptures in detail. The series leads students on an unforgettable journey through all 66 books of the Bible, as well as the Apocrypha. The Crossways® series is usually taught over a two-year period, with 30 units studied each year. The course may be done as a whole, or individually in six sections of ten units each.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a187.html Sun, 28 Mar 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Hebrews 10:8-14

From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Mass

The demand for Private Masses has greatly increased because of the thought that Christ, by his passion, made satisfaction only for original sin, and had instituted the Mass as an offering to be made for daily sins. The result is the common opinion that the Mass takes away the sins of the living and the dead by the outward act. Then it was disputed whether one Mass said for many was worth as much as private Masses for individuals. This brought about innumerable Masses whereby people wished to obtain from God all that they needed. Meanwhile, faith in Christ, and true worship were forgotten.

Our teachers have warned that these opinions depart from the Holy Scriptures and also diminish the glory of the passion of Christ. His passion was an offering and satisfaction, not for original guilt only, but also for all other sins, as it is written, “We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Heb 10:10) It is also written, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” (Heb 10:14) It is an unprecedented innovation in the Church to teach that by his death Christ made satisfaction only for original sin and not for all other sin also. May everyone understand that this error has been rebuked for good reason.

Pulling It Together: It was believed that the Mass was an additional sacrifice that atoned for people's sins—indeed, not just the sins of the living but the dead as well. Because the Church had come to accept that Christ's death only atoned for Original Sin, daily sins were not covered by his death. New Masses, it was thought, needed to be said for these sins—whether ordinary or mortal. It was further questioned whether corporate or individual Masses might be more efficacious. This resulted in Private Masses being purchased by persons for individual redemption. The real consequence, however, was that the focus of worship was no longer faith in Christ but instead, trust in the work of the Mass done at a person's behest.

As this belief is philosophical, not scriptural, Lutherans confess that the Mass is a Sacrament for all sin, and for public usage. Holy Communion does not belong to those who can afford it, but to the whole Church. This was not only the ancient practice of the Church Fathers but that of the Church in Apostolic times. Then and now, the one offering of Christ alone sanctifies and redeems poor sinners from both original and subsequent sin.   

Prayer: I thank and praise you, Lord, for your precious gift of grace. Amen. 


This booklet teaches the meaning of Holy Communion according to the pattern of Luther's Small Catechism and is recommended for the Fifth Grade Level. Each week focuses on a specific Bible story that illustrates the theme, with additional references from Scripture and Luther's Small Catechism - Children's Version. Lessons emphasize the sacramental promise of the forgiveness of sins conveyed to us in the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. This booklet was designed to be used as a Sunday School unit, or for classes to prepare students for their First Communion.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a186.html Sat, 27 Mar 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Acts 8:18-23

From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Mass

The bishops were not ignorant of these abuses, and if they had corrected them, there would now be less discord. By their own collusion, they permitted many corruptions to creep into the Church. Now, when it is too late, they complain of the troubles of the Church, when this disturbance developed simply because of abuses that were so apparent that they could no longer be suffered. There have been great dissensions concerning the Mass—the Sacrament. Perhaps the world is being punished for tolerating these sacrileges of the Mass in the churches for so many centuries by the very men who were both able and obligated to correct them. For in the Ten Commandments it is written, “The LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain” (Exod 20:7). But since the beginning of the world, nothing that God ever ordained seems to have been so abused for the sake of revenue as the Mass.

Pulling It Together: It is bad enough when people who know better turn a blind eye to the truth. It is worse when they do so for financial reward. This was a leading problem facing the Church, not only at the time of the Reformation but for hundreds of years prior to the reform efforts of the Lutherans. Doctrine should be rightly taught and for the right reason. The Church's pastors are called to teach the pure Word of God, no matter how difficult due to either current social convention or long-standing neglect of error in the Church itself. They must do so without coercion or profit. Purchasing the Sacrament for personal merit with God is an erroneous handling of God's Word, but urging others to do so, when one knows better, is reprehensible. Invoking the name of the Lord for false practice and profit was a deliberate misuse of the second commandment. The Reformers would tolerate this obvious abuse of the Sacrament no longer, and exhorted the rest of the Church to cease merchandising the gift of God.

Prayer: Lord God, correct the false intents of my heart and make me guiltless through your righteousness. Amen. 


This booklet teaches the Ten Commandments according to the pattern of Luther's Small Catechism and is recommended for the Third Grade Level. Each week focuses on a specific Bible story that illustrates the theme, with additional references from Scripture and Luther's Small Catechism - Children's Version. Lessons emphasize a Lutheran understanding of God's Word as both Law and Gospel, calling for faithful obedience and showing the need for Christ's forgiveness and grace.

Teacher's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a185.html Fri, 26 Mar 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Ephesians 2:4-7

From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Mass

It is evident that for a long time it has been the public and grave complaint of upright people that the Mass has been profaned by using it for financial gain. It is well known how widespread this abuse is in the churches, as Masses are said for fees or stipends for the privileged, and how many celebrate them contrary to the Canons by doing so privately. Paul admonishes those who deal unworthily with the Eucharist when he says, “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord” (1Cor 11:27). Therefore, when our priests were reproved concerning this sin, Private Masses were discontinued among us, as scarcely any Private Masses were celebrated except for the sake of profit.

Pulling It Together: The Mass, or Holy Communion, was being bought and sold in the days of the Reformation. It was thought that one could purchase a Mass to be said for himself as a way of earning some merit with God. Further, the Mass had come to such a sad place that priests were hired to say Masses for the dead, that God's wrath toward them would be appeased. Since the grace of God is a gift, freely given because of his immeasurably kind mercy toward us, private Masses were discontinued by the Lutherans. Lutherans administer the means of grace without cost to all believers, for that price has been paid by Christ alone through his death (1Cor 6:20; 7:23) for the whole world (John 3:16).

Prayer: Thank you, Jesus, for paying the price for my sin, through your death. Amen. 


Examining Our Core Beliefs explains in straightforward terms, the core of what we believe—from a biblical, theological, historical, and confessional point of view. A 30-page study guide is included in the back of the book. 

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a184.html Thu, 25 Mar 21 00:00:00 -0500

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1 Corinthians 11:27-32

From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Mass

Our churches are falsely accused of abolishing the Mass. The Mass is maintained among us and celebrated with the highest reverence. Nearly all of the usual ceremonies are also preserved, other than that the parts sung in Latin are interspersed here and there with German hymns. These have been added to teach the people. Ceremonies are needed so that the uneducated be taught what they need to know about Christ. Paul commanded, as does human law, that the church employ a language understood by the people (1Cor 14:2-9). The people, as many as are able, partake of the Sacrament together. This increases the reverence and devotion of public worship. For none are admitted except they are examined first. The people are also taught about the dignity and use of the Sacrament that it brings great consolation to anxious consciences so that they may learn to believe God and to expect and ask of him all good things. In this respect, they are also instructed about other and false teachings concerning the Sacrament. Such use of the Sacrament in worship pleases God and nourishes true devotion toward God. Therefore, it does not appear that the Mass is celebrated more devoutly among our adversaries than among us.

Pulling It Together: Lutherans celebrate Holy Communion often—many of our churches communing each Lord's Day. We do so with order and reverence, beginning with the acknowledgment that we all sin (1John 1:8-9), then continuing with self-examination and confession of our sins. After this preparation, we hear the word of the Lord: that he entirely forgives us of all our sins. After prayer, hymns, reading of Scripture, and the proclamation of God's Word, Holy Communion is received by all who desire God's grace. This pleases God, for it is his will that we receive his grace in necessary proportion (Eph 4:7). And we sinners need his grace very much indeed.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for giving your power to make me a child of God. Amen. 


Learning About Communion teaches the meaning of Holy Communion according to the pattern of Luther's Small Catechism, and is recommended for the Fifth Grade Level. Each week focuses on a specific Bible story that illustrates the theme, with additional references from Scripture and Luther's Small Catechism - Children's Version. Lessons emphasize the sacramental promise of the forgiveness of sins conveyed to us in the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. This booklet was designed to be used as a Sunday School unit, or for classes to prepare students for their First Communion.

Teacher's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a183.html Wed, 24 Mar 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Genesis 2:18, 21-24

From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Marriage of Priests

There has been common complaint concerning the examples of priests who were not virtuous. This is why Pope Pius is reported to have said that there were certain causes why marriage was taken away from priests, but that there were far weightier ones why it ought to be given back, as Platina writes. Since our priests wished to avoid these open scandals, they married and taught that it was lawful for them to do so. Paul says that to avoid fornication, every man should have his own wife, and that it is better to marry than to burn. (1Cor 7:2, 9) Christ says that all men cannot receive this saying, where he teaches that not all men are fit to lead a single life (Matt. 19:11), for God created man for procreation. (Gen 1:28) It is not in a man's power, without an uncommon gift and work of God, to alter this intent of creation. Many have confessed that no good, honest, chaste life, no Christian, sincere, upright conduct has resulted in the attempt; but instead, alarming, fearful unrest and torment of conscience has been felt by many until the end. Therefore, those who are not fit to lead a single life ought to marry. For no man's law, no vow, can annul the commandment and ordinance of God. For these reasons, our clergy teach that it is lawful for them to marry.

Priests were married men in the ancient Church. Paul says that a bishop should be the husband of one wife. (1Tim 3:2) In Germany, four hundred years ago for the first time, priests were forcefully compelled to lead a celibate life. These priests put up such resistance that the Archbishop of Mainz, when about to publish the Pope's decree concerning this matter, was almost killed in the uproar raised by those enraged priests. Not only were marriages forbidden for the future, but also existing marriages were forcibly ended, contrary to all divine and human laws, contrary even to the Canons themselves, made not only by Popes, but by notable Synods. God-fearing and intelligent people in high station are also known to have frequently expressed misgivings that enforced celibacy and social control of marriage (which God himself has instituted) has never produced good results, but has brought on many great and evil vices and much iniquity. Seeing that, as the world is aging and man's nature is gradually growing weaker, it is well to ensure that no more vices steal into Germany.

God ordained marriage to be a correction of human infirmity. The Canons themselves say that the old disciplines ought to sometimes be relaxed in latter times because of the weakness of men. We wish it were relaxed also in this matter. It should be expected that the churches will one day lack pastors if marriage continues to be forbidden.

While the commandment of God is in force, and since the custom of the Church is well known, and because impure celibacy causes many scandals, adulteries, and other crimes deserving the punishments of just magistrates, it is incredible that in nothing is more cruelty exercised than in the forbidding of marriage to priests. God has given his commandment to honor marriage. By the laws of all well-ordered commonwealths—even among the heathen—marriage is most highly honored. But now, priests are cruelly put to death, contrary to the intent of the Canons, for no other reason than marriage. Paul calls it a doctrine of devils that forbids marriage (1Tim 4:3). This is easily understood when the law against marriage is enforced with such penalties. But as no law of man can annul the commandment of God, so neither can it be accomplished by vows. Therefore, Cyprian counsels that women who are not able keep the chastity that they have promised, should marry. “But if they be unwilling or unable to persevere, it is better for them to marry than to fall into the fire by their lusts. They should certainly give no offense to their brethren and sisters.” (Book I, Epistle XI) Even the Canons show some leniency toward those who have taken vows before the proper age, as has generally been the case.

Pulling It Together: Desiring to be free of the scandal of unchaste priests, Melancthon and the other Lutherans took wives. Luther held out until his brothers had all married. Then, he too took a wife, a former nun by the name of Katherine. She became everything God intended in marriage. She was in all ways Luther's helpmate and better half (Gen 2:18, 24).

The Lutherans knew that legislating celibacy as a cure for impropriety did not address the real nature of the transgressions of impious priests, nor had it been shown to yield the expected results. More importantly, enforced celibacy is man's answer, not God's. The Lord's intention and institution is marriage. If one wishes to remain unmarried so that the focus of hours and energies is ministry, one may certainly do so, but not under compulsion and not by vow. Later, if it is discerned that one is not fit for single life, one may marry with God's blessing.

Prayer: Lord of love, thank you for your gift of marriage. Amen. 


Marriage - As Christ Loved Us is a set of card, bookmark, gift tag, and envelope. (Limited Quantities in Stock)

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a182.html Tue, 23 Mar 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Matthew 26:26-28

From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession

Concerning Both Kinds in the Sacrament

In our churches, the laity are given both elements in the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, because the Lord has commanded, “Drink of it, all of you.” (Matt 26:27) If someone says that this only applied to Christ's disciples or to priests, Paul offers an example (1Cor 11:27) in which it appears that the whole congregation received both kinds. This usage has long been the pattern in the Church. Cyprian (Epistle 57.2) and Jerome bear witness that this was the practice in the Church, Jerome writing, “The priests administer the Eucharist, and distribute the blood of Christ to the people.” Pope Gelasius commanded that the Sacrament not be divided (dist. 2, Concerning Consecration). Only relatively recent custom divides the usage. It is not known when or by whose authority, it was changed, although Cardinal Cusanus mentions the time when it was approved. It is evident that any custom introduced against the commandments of God must not be allowed, as the Canons witness (dist. III., cap. Veritate, and the following chapters). Nevertheless, this custom has been received, not only against the Scripture, but also against the old Canons and the ancient practice of the Church. Therefore, if any preferred to receive both kinds of the Sacrament, they ought not to have been compelled to offend their consciences by doing otherwise. Since the division of the Sacrament does not agree with Christ's own institution, we have discontinued the procession of the Sacrament.

Pulling It Together: The command of Christ is clear: all Christians—not simply the clergy—should drink the cup of our Lord. He does not deny his body and blood to anyone who would receive him by faith. This has been the practice of the Church from the time of the institution of the Supper by our Lord. When we begin to change the plain meaning of God's Word or remove words that offend us, we offend God and are condemned by the very words we omit. We might reason that the blood is surely present in the Lord's body, and that therefore the bread is sufficient for the laity. This misses the point; it is not our place to argue what Christ has instituted. So, Lutherans take a stand with the Scripture and with Christ, offering both bread and wine to all the faithful.

Prayer: Thank you, Jesus, for giving me all of you. Amen. 


The Sacraments is a ten-week study, including sessions on Baptism, Communion, and the Office of the Keys. The Bible Study lessons in The Sacraments series emphasize the connection between Old and New Testaments, by drawing on sacramental themes foreshadowed in familiar Old Testament stories, and how the promises of God "for you" are expressed and fulfilled in Christ.

Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a181.html Mon, 22 Mar 21 00:00:00 -0500

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1 Corinthians 16:13-14

From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession

Corrected Abuses

Our churches do not object to any article of the faith in the Church catholic. We have only eliminated some abuses that are new, and which have been mistakenly accepted by the corruption of the times. These are counter to the intent of the Canons, and so, we pray that Your Imperial Majesty would graciously hear both what has been changed, and the reasons why the people were not compelled to observe those abuses against their conscience. Your Imperial Majesty should not believe those who have spread slander among the people in order to stir up hatred against us. Having already provoked the minds of good people, they now strive to cause disorder. Your Imperial Majesty will undoubtedly find that our doctrine and ceremonies are not so intolerable as these ungodly and malicious men represent. Besides, the truth cannot be gathered from common rumors or the insults of enemies. Still, it may readily be determined that nothing would better maintain the dignity of ceremonies, nor nurture reverence and pious devotion among the people more than if the ceremonies were observed rightly in the churches.

Pulling It Together: Melancthon was ready to list the abuses that had crept into the Church over the years. But first, he emphasized again that Lutherans were part of that great communion of saints of the Church catholic since apostolic times. But corruptions had begun to creep into the Church. Reform was badly needed so that people's hearts could again be comforted by the mercy of God in Christ. As these reforms began, they were met with the harshest criticism: that the reformers were heretics. Hatred based on rumor and slander was stirred up against the Lutherans. Even still, facing the great power of both religion and government, the Lutherans made their stand. Exercising virtues of Christian maturity, they remained strong in the face of great power, ready to state with conviction the articles that lie ahead. 

Prayer: Help me stand your ground, Lord, so that your name will be glorified in all the earth. Amen. 


The English Standard Version Pew Bible containing the Old and New Testament is an affordable durable Bible, designed for regular church use. Hardcover black with black print.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a180.html Sun, 21 Mar 21 00:00:00 -0500

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1 Corinthians 1:10-13

From the Confessions: The Chief Articles of Faith in the Augsburg Confession

Conclusion of Part One

This is a fairly comprehensive account of the doctrine preached and taught in our congregations. As can be seen, there is nothing that varies from the Scriptures, or from the Church catholic, or from the Church of Rome as known from its writers. This being the case, they judge harshly who insist that our teachers should be regarded as heretics. There is, however, disagreement on certain abuses, which have crept into the Church without proper authority. Yet even in these, if there were some difference, there should be gentleness on the part of bishops to bear with us by reason of the Confession which we have now reviewed. Even the Canons are not so severe as to demand the same rites everywhere. The rites of all churches have never been the same at any time, although, among us, in large part, the ancient rites are diligently observed. It is a false and malicious charge that all the ceremonies and traditions have been abolished in our churches. Still, it has been a common complaint that some abuses were connected with the ordinary rites. Those that could be approved with a good conscience have been corrected to some extent.

Pulling It Together: Before going on Melancthon offered a closing summary of the Augsburg Confession up to this point. He restated what was said earlier in the articles, that Lutheran doctrine is based firmly upon the Scripture. Since it has been shown that the Church Fathers also agreed with their teachings, it must be noted that the Wittenbergers were also in accord with the whole Church. The Church in Rome should note that the principal differences between it and the Church in Wittenberg were over matters of tradition and ceremony. These issues should be handled with Christian kindness and love, as befits brothers in the faith. The Lutherans had already shown their willingness and desire to correct some of these, as far as the Word of God and conscience had allowed.

The emphasis of the Confession remains upon Christ rather than tradition, in the authority of God instead of human invention. The Lutherans have shown in their Confession thus far that they did not object to any article of faith that the Church had believed since its earliest days. Their protests were against newer practices and teachings that had crept into usage without the authority of Scripture. These will be treated one-by-one, as we move toward the conclusion of the Augsburg Confession.

Prayer: Hold me, Lord; embrace and keep me from all missteps and forgive me of my sins. Amen. 


Sola Publishing - “Faith Group” Video Bible Studies'

Lost and Found - Lost in Ourselves and Found in Christ

by As We Go Ministries, Inc

Christians often think or speak of "the lost" as those who do not know or believe in God. The Bible, however, shows how easy it is for all people, believers or not, to get lost from God by getting caught up in ourselves and our own agendas.

Martin Luther, following St. Augustine, described the sinner as incurvatus in se, as "curved in on oneself." Looking to ourselves for righteousness or spiritual peace will lead us only into pride or despair. It takes the external word of the Gospel to draw us into a saving relationship with God in Christ.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a179.html Sat, 20 Mar 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Romans 8:31-34

From the Confessions: The Chief Articles of Faith in the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Worship of the Saints

Concerning the worship of saints, Lutherans teach that the saints of old should be remembered so that we may imitate their faith and good works, as is our calling. This is similar to the Emperor following the example of David by defending the empire from Turkish invasion. For both are kings. But the Scripture does not teach the invocation of saints, nor to ask the help of saints. It declares that we have Christ alone as Mediator, Atonement, High Priest, and Intercessor (1Tim 2:5-6). We are to pray to him who has promised that he will hear our prayer. He approves as highest worship that we call upon him in all of our afflictions. “If any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous,” etc (1 John 2:1).

Pulling It Together: Lutherans encourage an old tradition: imitate those who imitate Christ (1Cor 4:16; 11:1). We hold up the lives of the saints as models of faith to be followed. But we do not venerate the saints or pray to them. Scripture exhorts us to pray to God, for he is the one who both wants to hear our prayers and is able and willing to answer them. He graciously gives us all good things (Rom 8:32), interceding before his Father on our behalf (Rom 7:26; 8:34; Heb 7:25). Since God is for us, who could possibly prevail against us? For that matter, who could secure for us anything more than the one who sits at the right hand of his Father? Besides this, both Scripture and our doctrine of justification by faith forbid the work of any other to eclipse the honor that belongs to Christ alone. 

Prayer: You alone are God, so to you I lift up my prayers, giving thanks that you both hear and are eager to dispense your mercy and grace. Amen. 


Kinderbeten is a compelling story touching on the exercise of free religion, the religious wars in Europe, the roots of Evangelicalism, the supernatural, and more, all wrapped up in a religious revival which began not through a charismatic revivalist or any adult at all, but rather found it's origin with children aged four to fourteen. The children became pawns in a controversy between political and religious opponents. Indulge your curiosity and read the remarkable story about the King of Sweden and the 1707-08 Children's Revival in Silesia, a tale of hope and prayer.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a178.html Fri, 19 Mar 21 00:00:00 -0500

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John 15:1-5

From the Confessions: The Chief Articles of Faith in the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Good Works 

Therefore, it may be readily seen that this doctrine ought not to be rejected for prohibiting good works, but should be commended because it shows how we are enabled to do good works. For without faith, human nature can not do the works of the First or of the Second Commandment. Without faith, we do not call upon God, expect anything from God, or bear the cross, but instead we seek and trust our own labors. Consequently, as there is no faith and trust in God, lusts and human inclinations rule the heart. This is the reason Christ said, “Apart from me you can do nothing,” (John 15:5) and the Church sings:

Lacking Thy divine favor,
There is nothing found in man,
Naught in him is harmless.

Pulling It Together: The doctrine of justification by faith does not rule out doing good works. Rather, it shows us how we are able to do good works. Left to our own devices, we would not even do the beginning of the commandments. We would not love God with our whole hearts, nor our neighbors as ourselves. We might try to be religious, but after enough failing in this endeavor, we would give up—or worse, become self-righteous in our devout behavior. We would either despair of our inability or become conceited by our aptitude for the task. Either way, we would do so without God's help, neither caring for, nor expecting God's assistance. Without faith, works become a trap. With the Spirit's help, we abide in the Vine who is Christ and little by little bear more and more fruit for him. This happens without our exertions but instead, because we are connected to the source of life. Though we fail often, we continue to abide because we trust in him, not in our produce. 

Prayer: Live through me, Lord, so that I may be productive in your kingdom. Amen. 


A Reading and Discussion of the Augsburg Confession is written in easy-to-understand language but is a challenging study series based on assigned readings from the Book of Concord and related Scripture texts. Each study is comprised of eight sessions, plus an optional introductory session, each presented in a question and discussion format. Click here to see the Table of Contents and a sample session.

Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a177.html Thu, 18 Mar 21 00:00:00 -0500

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James 2:14-22

From the Confessions: The Chief Articles of Faith in the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Good Works 

We teach that it is necessary to do good works because it is the will of God—not that we should trust them to earn God's grace. Forgiveness of sins is only received through faith with nothing else added. When faith is received through the Holy Spirit, hearts are renewed and given new affections, so that we want to do good works. Ambrose says, “Faith is the mother of a good will and right doing.” Without the Holy Spirit, our efforts are full of ungodly motivations, and our hearts are too weak to do works which are good in God's sight. In any case, our works are in the power of the devil who moves people to a variety of sins, to ungodly opinions, and even to open crimes. We see this in the philosophers, who tried to live upright lives but could not succeed, descending into public sins. This is the life of those without faith and the Holy Spirit, who govern themselves only by their own strength.

Pulling It Together: Faith is completed or fulfilled in our good works. One may say that she believes in God but if she left her brother hungry or threadbare would anyone suspect she was a member of the family of God? This is not a living faith. Living faith produces good works. In the end, the two are inseparable. One cannot claim to have faith, and another claim to have works. Faith is demonstrated by works. But we must be very careful to understand that these good works have earned us no favor in God's sight. He simply expects people of faith to bear good fruit so that his name will be honored and praised by people everywhere (Psa 48:10).

Prayer: May our lives bring you thanks and praise, O Lord our God. Amen. 


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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a176.html Wed, 17 Mar 21 00:00:00 -0500

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John 3:16-17

From the Confessions: The Chief Articles of Faith in the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Good Works 

Now those who know that they have a Father who is gracious toward them through Christ, truly know God. Since they recognize that God cares for them, they call upon him, knowing that they are not like the heathen who do not have a loving Father. Because devils and the ungodly are not able to believe this article concerning the forgiveness of sins, they regard God as an enemy, hate him, do not call upon him, and expect no good from him. Augustine also teaches that, instead of that sort of knowledge that even the ungodly possess, faith is accepted in the Scriptures as that confidence in God which consoles and encourages the terrified conscience.

Pulling It Together: Lutherans teach that God loves all people. Indeed, he loves us so much that he sent his own Son to bring eternal life to everyone who believes in the Son (John 3:16). His limitless love brings peace and comfort, even to the souls of those who know that they are sinners. As a result, believers are able to call upon God as a loving Father, one who cares about their troubles and forgives their sins. God is no longer regarded as a wrathful enemy, as those think who do not believe in God as Father. This faith in God is not produced by believing that there is a god (James1:19) but by trusting in the only God who loves and forgives. This is the true, biblical faith that yields comfort and support to all, where once there was worry and fear.

Prayer: Thank you, Father, for loving me with an everlasting love. Amen. 


We live in a culture in which "knowing" is frequently associated with an accumulation of details and facts. But what is the meaning of "knowing" in the terms of a close relationship with our heavenly Father? The objective of this The Ultimate Intimacy is learning that knowing the Father is not so much about details and facts as it is realizing the various ways the Lord has to make himself known to us in a personal way. The result is that each day and moment become a marvelous, mysterious adventure of experiencing his great love for us.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a175.html Tue, 16 Mar 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Philippians 3:1-11

From the Confessions: The Chief Articles of Faith in the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Good Works 

Until now, consciences were plagued with the doctrine of works because they did not hear the consolation from the gospel. Conscience drove some into the desert or into monasteries, hoping to earn grace through monastic life. Some devised other works as a way to earn God's grace and make satisfaction for their sins. Therefore, there was a great need to revive teaching the doctrine of faith in Christ, so that anxious consciences would not be without consolation but that they might know that grace, forgiveness of sins, and justification are obtained only by faith in Christ.

The term "faith" does not mean a mere knowledge of history, which even the ungodly and the devil know. Faith believes, not merely the history but also, the effect of the history—namely, this article: the forgiveness of sins. In other words, that we have grace, righteousness, and forgiveness of sins through Christ.

Pulling It Together

Our works are always questionable. Does one do enough, for the right reason, and so forth? Therefore, the conscience cannot be consoled as it will debate with itself as to whether one has become good enough for God. However one may try, she will never be good enough. The balance over against one's sin will always leave a person lacking in the reconciliation of the perfectly righteous God. Still, many try to gain some confidence with God by their own efforts. They devise plans to satisfy an angry God, not believing that God loves them and sent his own Son to satisfy their great deficiency.

So we must redouble our efforts to teach the doctrine of justification by faith in Christ alone. This is the article that consoles the troubled conscience. Yet, we must go beyond head knowledge and teach Christians to completely trust God. Grace, righteousness, and the forgiveness of sins is given to us freely through Christ. Lutherans confess this divine gift and do not compel the Church to satisfy God in any other way than to believe the gospel. Everything we would do to earn God's grace is rubbish, refuse, and dung. 

Prayer: Lord, help me to trust in you alone so that I might gain Christ and his righteousness. Amen. 


Personalities of Faith is a ten-session Bible study for youth. The goal of the series is to encourage young people to commit themselves to follow Jesus in discipleship by becoming "personalities of faith." By showing biblical examples of people who have followed—or failed to follow—God's call, participants will be prepared to better follow the Lord in their own lives.

Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a174.html Mon, 15 Mar 21 00:00:00 -0500

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Romans 15:8-13

From the Confessions: The Chief Articles of Faith in the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Good Works 

Although this doctrine is scorned by the inexperienced, nevertheless God-fearing and anxious consciences find that it brings the greatest consolation, since the conscience cannot find rest through any works, but only through faith, when it takes the sure ground that for Christ's sake one has a reconciled God. For example, Paul teaches, “Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom 5:1) This doctrine should be applied to the struggle of the terrified conscience. Indeed, it can not be understood apart from that struggle. Therefore, inexperienced and worldly people judge poorly concerning this matter, imagining that Christian righteousness is nothing but civil and philosophical goodness.

Pulling It Together

This paragraph in the Confession considers two things: that being good will not bring peace to the restless heart, and that what does console is trust in God's promise of mercy through Jesus Christ. Some disagree, saying that works must be added to faith or God is not reconciled. Scripture says otherwise but consider that those who try the route of good deeds find that their hearts are still afraid. They wonder if God forgives all of their sins if they do not perform enough of the right kinds of acts. They are troubled, questioning if their salvation is guaranteed when they continue to sin, perhaps doing so by feeling proud of their deeds?

When one tries to reconcile God through good works, the conscience still trembles. One must put aside trust in self, and trust in Christ alone for righteousness before God. Nowhere in Scripture does it tell us to turn to ourselves and find peace. Nowhere are we instructed that by trying harder and doing better that we will then know peace and hope. Christ alone is the hope of all people, his reconciling sacrifice only being received by faith. 

Prayer: Increase my hope, Lord, for I trust in you alone. Amen. 


The Spiritual Realms: A Bible Study on Heaven and Hell and Places Beyond this World

By Rev. Steven E. King

"We believe in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen." (Nicene Creed)

The Spiritual Realms is a nine-session Bible Study series on Heaven and Hell and places beyond this world. Specifically, the study looks at the many “place names” that are found throughout Scripture, referring to spiritual realms of existence that underlie and comprise the universe God created. This Bible Study series is a challenging one, in that it explores realities of existence beyond what we know and experience every day.

The study not only addresses matters of life, death, heaven and hell, it steadfastly affirms that Jesus Christ is at the center of all these things. Our ultimate faith and hope rest in Christ’s death and resurrection for our sake. We live in faith by the biblical promise that: “God raised the Lord, and will also raise us up by his power.” (1 Corinthians 6:14)

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a173.html Sun, 14 Mar 21 00:00:00 -0600 Click for larger image

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Acts 15:5-11

From the Confessions: The Chief Articles of Faith in the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Good Works 

Paul addresses the doctrine concerning faith everywhere in his writings. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God,” etc. (Eph 2:8)

No one may argue that a new interpretation of Paul has been invented by us, since this entire matter is supported by the testimonies of the Fathers. Augustine, in many volumes, defends grace and the righteousness of faith, over against the merits of works. Ambrose, in his De Vocatione Gentium, and elsewhere, teaches the same. For in De Vocatione Gentium he says, “Redemption by the blood of Christ would become of little value, neither would the preeminence of man's works be superseded by the mercy of God, if justification, which is wrought through grace, were due to the merits going before, so as to be, not the free gift of a donor, but the reward due to the laborer.”

Pulling It Together

The doctrine of justification by faith is not a Lutheran innovation. We are not alone in our understanding of the Scripture. Even in the earliest days of the Church, it was taught by the Apostles Peter and Paul that we should not burden people with religious expectations so that they might be saved. It is sufficient for salvation that one believes the word of the gospel. This means that we are not saved by religious works, rituals, or good deeds—but by God's grace alone. The Church Fathers agree with the apostles, as they should. Although The Calling of the Gentiles is now known to be written by another in Ambrose's name, this ancient work that was received by the Church testifies to the doctrine of faith alone. Augustine does the same in The Spirit and the Letter, as well as many of his other writings. Lutherans are hardly alone in the long history of the Church when they insist that people everywhere are justified with God by faith alone.

Prayer: Father, thank you for the grace of your Son, delivered to my heart by your Spirit. Amen. 

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.

Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a172.html Sat, 13 Mar 21 00:00:00 -0600

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John 14:1-6

From the Confessions: The Chief Articles of Faith in the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Good Works 

Since the doctrine concerning faith, which ought to be the chief teaching of the Church, has been neglected so long, as it must be admitted that there has been a great silence in sermons about the righteousness of faith, while only a doctrine of works was preached in the churches, our teachers have instructed the churches concerning faith as follows:

First, that our works cannot appease God or earn forgiveness of sins, grace, and justification. We obtain this only by faith when we believe that we are received into favor for Christ's sake, who alone is our Mediator and propitiation (1Tim 2:5) in order that the Father may be reconciled through him. Therefore, whoever believes that he earns grace through his works, despises the merit and grace of Christ, and seeks a way to God without Christ—by human strength, even though Christ said of himself: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6).

Pulling It Together: Faith trusts in Christ alone for salvation. This must be preached in all the churches since it is the teaching of Scripture and because this doctrine consoles Christians (Rom 5:1). When one tries to satisfy God and conscience through works and virtues, both are disappointed. The Apostle Paul plainly teaches: "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Eph 2:8-9). If anyone would boast in works, let him boast in the work of Christ (1 Cor 1:31; 2 Cor 10:17). Human effort will always fall short of that which satisfies God, and that one thing that satisfies God is the work of his Son. So, let us have faith in the way of God who is Christ alone.

Prayer: Thank you, God, for saving me, for I am unable to save myself. Amen. 


Saints and Sinners Volume 1: Witnesses to the Faith

A Seven-Session Bible Study on New Testament Characters

By Dr. Dan Lioy, PhD

All those who believe and trust in Jesus as their Savior are both saints and sinners. The same was true of the people in Holy Scripture.

By virtue of our baptism into Christ, we are made holy by his saving grace. This is not something we do on our own, but something that is imputed to us by Jesus. At the same time, we are plagued by that age-old sin that makes us want to be in control of our own lives. As those who are called by God to follow Jesus in obedient discipleship, we, like many before us, have been called to be witnesses to God's saving grace in Jesus Christ.

This seven-session study is the first in a three-part series on Saints and Sinners in the New Testament who were powerful witnesses to the faith in Christ. May this study of saints and sinners enrich your understanding of life with Christ and encourage you in discipleship. 

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a171.html Fri, 12 Mar 21 00:00:00 -0600

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Matthew 5:14-16

From the Confessions: The Chief Articles of Faith in the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Good Works 

Our teachers are falsely accused of forbidding good works. Yet their published writings on the Ten Commandments and other writings establish that they have purposelessly taught well about this topic as it relates to daily life and its duties, that all are to be occupied in pleasing God. Previously, little had been taught on this matter. Childish and unnecessary matters, such as particular holy days, fasts, religious orders, pilgrimages, the honoring of saints, the use of rosaries, monasticism, and such dominated sermons. Since our adversaries have been admonished on these matters, they are now unlearning them, and do not preach such unprofitable topics like they once did. They now speak of faith, when before there had been silence on this theme. They are teaching that we are justified not by works only, but by both faith and works. This new stance is more tolerable than the former and affords more comfort than their previous teachings.

Pulling It Together: The Lutheran emphasis on justification by faith alone was attacked by those who insisted on being cleared of their sins by religious acts alone. Those who insisted that God's favor was earned instead of freely given through the merits of Christ's cross claimed Lutherans taught that good works are unnecessary. That was hardly the case. To be sure, Lutherans taught that good works were not required for salvation; God's grace alone justifies without a person adding a single virtuous act. Nevertheless, as good works flow out of pure faith, the Christian does good works to bring God glory but not to earn his grace.

As a result of the firm Lutheran stance on this chief article, the rest of the church began to understand the need for faith, though they did not teach that faith alone justifies. In those churches, faith and works were combined as necessary for grace. This view may bring more comfort to a beleaguered conscience than simply trying and failing to be a good person, but unassailable peace comes to those who hope in Christ alone.

Prayer: Whatever good you assist me in doing, Lord, may it bring you glory. Amen. 


Consider the Years: A Thirteen-Session Bible Study for Mature Christians

by Rev. Brad Hales

As the subtitle indicates, this Bible study was written for mature Christians. That is, it bears in mind the unique perspective of those who have seen many years in their relationship with God and may wonder how faith can speak anew to their daily lives. The study offers thirteen brief sessions on issues seniors must navigate, emphasizing how God's Word can bring strength and comfort in the unknown.

This study has been printed in a larger typeface than other Sola Bible studies. The questions offered for discussion focus on Scripture texts that address some particular concerns of older Christians.

 

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a170.html Thu, 11 Mar 21 00:00:00 -0600

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Romans 1:18-25

From the Confessions: The Chief Articles of Faith in the Augsburg Confession

The Cause of Sin

Lutherans teach that God created and preserves every good thing. The cause of sin however, is the will of the devil and those people who, without the help of the Holy Spirit, are determined to turn from God. They rely on their sinful nature, as Christ said of the devil: “He speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

Pulling It Together: God did not determine that there would be sin and evil in the world. Nevertheless, it is within his will that we may sin. God did not create evil. Rather he created all things good. In the beginning, when he spoke creation into existence, he concluded that, “It was very good” (Gen 1:31). Yet, because of our human nature, we easily turn away from God, intent on having things our way. It is our wills that resolve to not do good; and this we call sin. Further, we are enticed to do the wrong thing, the sinful thing, by the father of lies and disobedience, the devil (John 8:44). Without the aid of God's Spirit, we are hell-bent (Gen 6:5).

Prayer: Lord, help me to choose the good for your sake. Amen. 


Connections Magazine features articles that connect Lutherans to the Word. Martin Luther's Small Catechism provides inspiration for confessional, biblical content, delivered in a stylish, readable design. Subscribe today.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a169.html Wed, 10 Mar 21 00:00:00 -0600

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1 Corinthians 2:14-16

From the Confessions: The Chief Articles of Faith in the Augsburg Confession

Free Will

Concerning free will, Lutherans teach that people have liberty to choose civil righteousness and those things subject to general reason. But without the Holy Spirit, one has no power to achieve the righteousness of God, that is, spiritual righteousness, since “the natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God.” (1 Cor. 2:14) This righteousness happens in the heart when the Holy Spirit is received through the Word. These things are said in as many words by Augustine in his Hypognosticon, Book III: “We grant that all men have a free will, free, inasmuch as it has the judgment of reason; not that it is thereby capable, without God, either to begin, or, at least, to complete aught in things pertaining to God, but only in works of this life, whether good or evil. 'Good' I call those works which spring from the good in nature, such as, willing to labor in the field, to eat and drink, to have a friend, to clothe oneself, to build a house, to marry a wife, to raise cattle, to learn diverse useful arts, or whatsoever good pertains to this life. For all of these things are not without dependence on the providence of God; yea, of Him and through Him they are and have their being. 'Evil' I call such works as willing to worship an idol, to commit murder, etc.”

Lutherans reject the Pelagians and others who teach that we are able to love God above all things and keep his commandments by the power of human nature alone, without the grace of the Holy Spirit. Although our nature is able to do the outward work, (to keep the hands from theft and murder,) it cannot initiate the inward motions, such as the fear of God, trust in God, chastity, patience, etc.

Pulling It Together: Suppose a person decided to look for a new job today. Does he have the freedom of will to choose this pursuit? Yes, he does. With natural, human reason he is able to discern that he is not happy with his current occupation and choose one that is better suited to him. But suppose that someone decided that today is the day he will become righteous. Is he able to choose the righteousness of God without the aid of the Spirit? No, he is not. He cannot, for this is not something within the realm of human reason. He does not comprehend that he needs a righteousness outside of himself. Logic will never bring him to this conclusion. This righteousness is comprehended “through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.” (Rom 3:22) Even this faith is “a gift from God.” (Eph 2:8) A person is incapable of bestowing the gift of faith upon oneself. We cannot choose this ultimate good of faith and the righteousness of God that comes by faith alone.

This is precisely why we are determined to make a case for our being good without the aid of God. The Pelagians teach this, saying that when people are born that they are without sin. They further instruct that if folks just work hard enough, have strong enough wills, that they can continue through life without sin. To make matters even worse, they say that this can be accomplished without the help of God. Lutherans reject such ideas, noting that our works are so much rubbish, unable to attain to the righteousness of God. (Phil 3:8)

Instead, Lutherans confess that they are entirely dependent upon God's grace from start to finish. We love and fear God by the activity of God's Spirit, not because we choose to do so. We are made right with God by his grace, not by our decisions or efforts. We may be good citizens of earth, but will never be fit for the kingdom of God until we become people of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. (1Cor 2:14-15)

Prayer: Holy Spirit, help me believe and do those things which bring you glory. Amen. 


Speaking for Christ: Everyday Evangelism through the Promise of Forgiveness

by Rev. Hugh Brewer and the Rev. Dr. Steven E. King

"Speaking for Christ" is a Bible study on evangelism and what it means to share the message of Jesus in our everyday life. It approaches the subject by focusing on how God uses us to be his ambassadors and drives to the heart of the reason Jesus came into the world, to reconcile the world to himself through the proclamation of repentance and forgiveness of sins.

The study spotlights Scripture passages related to what Lutherans call "The Office of the Keys" — that is, the power Jesus gave his disciples to announce the forgiveness of sins in his name. This is a calling and authority Christ has granted to the whole church and it is foundational to the saving message of the Gospel itself.

 

 

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a168.html Tue, 09 Mar 21 00:00:00 -0600

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1 Corinthians 15:50-57

From the Confessions: The Chief Articles of Faith in the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Christ's Return for Judgment

Lutherans also teach that on the Last Day (John 6:40) of the world, Christ will appear for judgment, and will raise all the dead. He will give eternal life and everlasting joys to the faithful and elect, but will condemn unbelievers and the demons to the hell of eternal punishment.

They condemn the fanatics, who think that those condemned with the demons will not suffer punishment. They also condemn those who are now spreading certain Jewish opinions, that before the resurrection of the dead the godly shall take possession of a kingdom of the world, the ungodly being conquered.

Pulling It Together

Again, the theme of the Reformers in Wittenberg was faith. The standard of salvation and eternal life for Lutherans is always faith in God, not the lack of it nor of a reward for good works. On the Day of the Lord, Christ will return to judge both the living and all who have ever lived. Believers will be set apart for the eternal joys of heaven with God. Unbelievers will be condemned to an eternity of torment and separation from God. Only those who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved from this damnation (Joel 2:32).

Contrary to what was being taught by some in the days of Luther (and is now being taught among even some Lutherans), Lutheran Christians do not believe that unbelievers will be saved along with the righteous. They also do not teach that an earthly, Christian kingdom will be established before Christ's return. The Lord's “kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).

Prayer: Praise and honor is due to you, O Lord, for your just judgments. Amen. 


Come, Lord Jesus answers the many questions that arise when modern readers look into the book of Revelation. In this book readers will come to understand the first-century context in which Revelation was written—and readers will join the holy choir in looking forward to the fulfillment of God's plan, offering our own invitation: "Come, Lord Jesus."

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a167.html Mon, 08 Mar 21 00:00:00 -0600

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Romans 13:1-7

From the Confessions: The Chief Articles of Faith in the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Civic Government

Concerning civic or secular government, the Lutherans teach that lawful civil ordinances are good works of God, and that it is right for Christians to hold a public office, to sit as judges, to judge matters by imperial and other existing laws, to award just punishments, to engage in just wars, to serve as soldiers, to make legal contracts, to hold property, to make an oath when required by the magistrates, to marry, and to be given in marriage.

They condemn the Anabaptists who forbid these civic offices to Christians. Christian perfection is the fear of God, and true faith, so they also reject those who teach that sanctification happens through such things as forsaking government offices. For the gospel teaches an eternal righteousness of the heart. The gospel does not destroy the state or the family, but demands that they be preserved as ordinances of God, and that charity be practiced in such ordinances. As a result, Christians are obligated to obey their own magistrates and laws except when commanded to sin. In such cases, they ought to obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:29)

Pulling It Together

Scripture urges us to pray for those who rule over us. (1Tim 2:1-3) God has instituted good government. It is his servant for our good. The laws of the land, in so much as they agree with the Word of God, are to be obeyed. So that such laws are made and carried out in harmony with divine law, Christians are permitted to be involved in civic affairs. When required by law, they may swear to tell the truth, make contracts, be in the military, and hold public offices.

The gospel and the Church of Christ work in cooperation with all that God has established. Even so, there are some denominations that teach their people to have no involvement in government, that such refusals safeguard sanctification. But Lutheran Christians teach that Christian perfection does not come from doing (or not doing) any human work. Our righteousness has nothing to do with our works, but with what Christ has done for us on the cross.

Prayer: Bless, O Lord, our public servants, the government, and all those who protect us. Uphold and strengthen them in every good deed. Amen. 


Experiencing Real Living guides the student in God's Word and nurtures key elements of faith. A picture diagram at the beginning of each chapter assists the student in "seeing" the topic clearly. The series can be used to cover the overarching biblical themes of creation, fall and redemption, or as a 12-week overview of the themes of the Catechism. It would serve especially well for leading an adult confirmation program. The volume is spiral bound for ease in use.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a166.html Sun, 07 Mar 21 00:00:00 -0600

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Galatians 4:8-11

From the Confessions: The Chief Articles of Faith in the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Church Traditions.

Concerning traditions in the Church, they teach that those should be observed which may be observed without sin, and which are profitable for peace and good order in the Church, such as certain holy days, festivals, and the like.

Nevertheless, people are informed that consciences should not to be burdened by these traditions, as if such observances were necessary for salvation.

They are also instructed that human traditions instituted to appease God, to earn grace, and to make satisfaction for sins, are opposed to the gospel and the teaching of faith. Therefore vows and traditions concerning food, days, and so forth, that are observed to earn grace and to make satisfaction for sins, are useless and contrary to the gospel.

Pulling It Together: The Church calendar is filled with special days for worship. March 7 is a feast day for Saints Perpetua and Felicity. Hardly any Lutheran congregations know of this festival, let alone gather to worship on the occasion. (In case you're wondering, they were two Christian martyrs who lived in the early church in Africa. Theirs is a story that is very interesting and inspiring!)
Still, we observe many special days that we have found beneficial to our faith, such as the commemoration of the Baptism of Our Lord or Good Friday. On the first occasion, we dress the altar in white; on the latter we use black. Suppose it were taught that Christians must observe these days by being in a service of worship. Now imagine that each festival must be celebrated by the pastor wearing a chasuble of the correct color for the church year. Speculate further that on these days, one must fast or make a special effort to feed the poor. Each of those things might be beneficial in the teaching of the gospel, but to make them a law of salvation rejects Christ. Keeping certain days, eating (or not eating), making the sign of the cross, remembering one's baptism at the font, and a host of other traditions and ceremonies are just that: traditions. Each of these traditions may be helpful but to demand them for salvation or as ways to earn God's favor is harmful.

The human heart must constantly be reminded that Christ is the end of the law (Rom 10:4). There are “profitable” things that we retain, such as fasting during Lent, but to make fasting during this season a law and obligation is contrary to the gospel. Because there were so many holy days, Luther once quipped that he wished there were no festivals other than Sundays. It is no burden for a pastor to officiate at one more service, or to preach the gospel at yet another assembly. But when those days, foods, and other traditions take the focus off of Christ and make of them new laws to win God's favor, they become “weak and beggarly” (Gal 3:9, RSV) customs that are not profitable for the people of God.

Prayer: Keep me free this day as I remember the gospel, for you are God who brought us out of the house of slavery. Amen. 


Not My Will, But Yours: A Bible Study on the Bound Will explores the theme of human bondage seen throughout Scripture. From the Old Testament examples of people held in slavery whom God came to set free, to the New Testament examples of Jesus healing illnesses and casting out demons, we witness the Lord’s power of deliverance. Ultimately, all these stories point to the greatest act of God’s redemption in the cross, where Christ rescued us from our captivity to the powers of sin, death, and the devil.

Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a164.html Sat, 06 Mar 21 00:00:00 -0600

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Ephesians 4:11-16

From the Confessions: The Chief Articles of Faith in the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Ecclesiastical Order

Of Ecclesiastical Order they teach that no one should publicly teach in the Church or administer the Sacraments unless he be regularly called.

Pulling It Together

The Lutherans did not profess that ordination was a sacrament. That would make of the office something of merit that demanded God's grace. They did however, believe that God had established the office of ministry by calling some to be pastors and teachers, and others to fulfill various duties of orderly ministry as they were called by God. God does not call all to these responsibilities, as some of the more radical wings of the Reformation taught. He calls “some” (Eph 4:11) so that the whole Body of Christ may be equipped for ministry, each to his own calling. This Article forbids anyone not duly called by God and the Church to the office of ordained ministry to exercise God-given authority to preach and administer the Sacraments. In so doing, Article 14 seeks to maintain good order in the Church of Christ. 

Prayer: Father, establish your Church according to your Word so that she may be rightly ordered to bring you glory. Amen. 


The Minor Prophets in Sola's "Old Places, New Faces" series is a twelve lesson study that peeks at each of the dozen books we call the minor prophets, books that are often forgotten or neglected. Yet, their messages are deeply relevant for today's believers. The prophetical books contain God's call upon His followers of every century. These exhortations are either calls to positive actions that honor God or warnings to stop attitudes and behaviors that dishonor Him. As we rediscover these profound words, we will be reminded of what it means to follow and obey God, as well as be challenged to live a life that glorifies God in greater and more significant ways.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a163.html Fri, 05 Mar 21 00:00:00 -0600

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1 Corinthians 11:23–26

From the Confessions: The Chief Articles of Faith in the Augsburg Confession

Of the Use of the Sacraments.

Of the Use of the Sacraments they teach that the Sacraments were ordained, not only to be marks of profession among men, but rather to be signs and testimonies of the will of God toward us, instituted to awaken and confirm faith in those who use them. Wherefore we must so use the Sacraments that faith be added to believe the promises which are offered and set forth through the Sacraments.

They therefore condemn those who teach that the Sacraments justify by the outward act, and who do not teach that, in the use of the Sacraments, faith which believes that sins are forgiven, is required.

Pulling It Together

In the first two centuries of the Church, it was rumored that Christians were cannibals since when they met on their Lord's Day, they ate his flesh and drank his blood. This notion was corrected by explanations of the Gospel given by Justin Martyr and other defenders of the faith. These days, many are well aware of what Christians do when they gather, though they likely still do not understand Holy Communion.

When we “eat this bread and drink the cup,” we declare our Lord's death among ourselves. It is a way that we recall what he did for us in dying for our sins. We remember that he established this holy meal as way to remember not only what he did, but also to look forward to the day when we will eat and drink with him again at the marriage supper of the Lamb in heaven (Rev 19:9). Yet, Holy Communion is more than profession of our faith.

We confess whenever we eat and drink that Christ is truly present in the bread and wine. Therefore, the gift of Christ's Body and Blood may only be received in faith. It is not mere religious observance. Instead, it is God working through his Supper to enliven and establish our faith through continued grace. For from his fullness we continue to receive grace upon grace (John 1:16).

Prayer: Holy God, increase your grace in me for the sake of your Son. Amen. 


Sola First Communion Certificates are printed in color on heavyweight parchment paper, with a matching envelope to go with each certificate. The traditional 'half-sheet' size is perfect for inclusion in a picture album or scrapbook.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a162.html Thu, 04 Mar 21 00:00:00 -0600

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Colossians 1:9-14

From the Confessions: The Chief Articles of Faith in the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Repentance

Of Repentance they teach that for those who have fallen after Baptism there is remission of sins whenever they are converted and that the Church ought to impart absolution to those thus returning to repentance. Now, repentance consists properly of these two parts: One is contrition, that is, terrors smiting the conscience through the knowledge of sin; the other is faith, which is born of the Gospel, or of absolution, and believes that for Christ's sake, sins are forgiven, comforts the conscience, and delivers it from terrors. Then good works are bound to follow, which are the fruits of repentance.

They condemn the Anabaptists, who deny that those once justified can lose the Holy Ghost. Also those who contend that some may attain to such perfection in this life that they cannot sin.

The Novatians also are condemned, who would not absolve such as had fallen after Baptism, though they returned to repentance.

They also are rejected who do not teach that remission of sins comes through faith but command us to merit grace through satisfactions of our own.

Pulling It Together

Some people in the church thought (and currently think) that if someone lapsed in their faith but repented that they were now beyond forgiveness. Others thought it impossible to fall from grace. Others believed that they could become perfect in this life, never sinning again. An elderly woman in a small North Carolina town came close to this kind of perfection in her pastor's eyes. When she insisted that she no longer sinned, the pastor realized she was not so perfect after all. Still others believed that the only way one's sins could be canceled was to somehow work them off.

Lutherans reject all of those positions since they hold fast to God's grace alone. If one falls into sin and even refuses to believe for a time but by the grace of God repents of this grievous sin, we profess that person is not only forgivable but forgiven, and freely announce to him the forgiveness his sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. We do not impose upon them any acts whereby they either prove or earn their contrition. When such a person is absolved, peace occupies his heart, and good works are sure to follow. We confess that God's grace is freely available to sinners both before and after baptism, and should be just as freely declared to all repentant persons.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I will always be a sinner for I can never seem to free myself from its clutches, so instead, I entrust the care of my soul to your mercy and grace. Amen. 


SOWeR, the Sola Online Worship eResource, is a lectionary-based subscription program that helps pastors and congregations plan for worship. Lectionary Scripture inserts, plain text (RTF) files of the readings and prayers for easy copying and pasting, color and monochrome bulletin art, reproducible children’s bulletins & puzzles, worship planning pages, Prayers of the Church, devotionals formatted for copying on bulletin blanks, text studies, gospel word search puzzles, PowerPoint Templates, and more are provided for each Sunday and Major Feast. The SOWeR subscription also gives access to bulletin templates, additional and new liturgies and services, hymns and music, as well as original hymn texts based on the Lectionary and set to familiar tunes. 

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a161.html Wed, 03 Mar 21 00:00:00 -0600

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James 5:13-20

From the Confessions: The Chief Articles of Faith in the Augsburg Confession

Of Confession 

Of Confession they teach that Private Absolution ought to be retained in the churches, although in confession an enumeration of all sins is not necessary. For it is impossible according to the Psalm: Who can understand his errors? Ps. 19:12.

Pulling It Together: Forty years ago, a few friends teased another friend about several of his quirks. They got under his skin, and he blurted out, “Well, I'm just glad Jesus died for all of my sins!” That was a quick exchange that got to the point and silenced his friends. We all have too many sins to remember, let alone confess them all. It cannot be done. Luther tried and wore out his confessor with his efforts, leaving confession with less peace than when he started. Still, the Lutherans declared that private confession should be practiced in the church. We would do well to take it more seriously today.

Confession can be good for the soul. Generally, this is the case when a particular, perhaps difficult sin needs to be confronted squarely so that one might be healed. Repeated sin weighs on a person's conscience and eventually the whole person; it can sometimes lead to illness (Deut 28:58-62) and in such cases, confession is God's way that leads to forgiveness and health. That said, the Lutheran focus is always on declaring God's grace. We direct the Christian conscience to the mercy of God instead of proscribing methods for satisfying God. Routine recitation of countless sins becomes an effort to win God's favor. God already favors believers, so they should be reminded of his grace. In confession, this happens in private and public Absolution, when God silences the law by announcing his forgiveness to poor sinners like us.

Prayer: Thank you, God, for forgiving me of all my sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 


In Prayer as Joy, Prayer as StruggleBraaten explores many types of prayer, including thanksgiving, confession, praise, wrestling, petition, intercession, listening, and hope. He also explores what it means when the answer to prayer is "no" and how we experience prayer in times of doubt. In each chapter, he uses an extended biblical example of prayer and also provides the text of prayers we can use in our own practice. For all who seek joy in prayer, even as we struggle, Braaten offers an engaging personal and pastoral reflection on the ways we pray.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a160.html Tue, 02 Mar 21 00:00:00 -0600

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John 6:50–59

From the Confessions: The Chief Articles of Faith in the Augsburg Confession

Of the Lord's Supper

Of the Supper of the Lord they teach that the Body and Blood of Christ are truly present, and are distributed to those who eat the Supper of the Lord; and they reject those that teach otherwise.

Pulling It Together

Though there are volumes that could be written about the Lord's Supper, this article concerns itself with making one statement. That statement is in response, again, to Lutherans being identified by Eck with those Reformers who taught that the elements of Holy Communion are merely representative of Christ's body and blood. What Melancthon sought to make clear with this confession is that Lutherans believe Christ is truly present in the sacrament. To press the point further, Christ's true body and blood are really in the elements of bread and wine. In Holy Communion there are not just bread and wine but also the body of blood of Jesus Christ. Though these remind us of Christ's death, they are more than mere symbols that arouse a thankful memory. The doctrine of the real presence of Christ will be covered in the articles that lie ahead of us. For now, in the tenth article, the Lutherans only and plainly confess that Christ's body and blood are truly present in his supper. His body and blood are also conveyed as true food and true drink to those who receive the sacrament. Those who receive the bread and wine really partake of the body and blood of Christ. Those who taught differently, were rejected by the Lutherans.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord Jesus, for being truly present to me in your Supper. Amen. 


Learning About Communion teaches the meaning of Holy Communion according to the pattern of Luther's Small Catechism, and is recommended for the Fifth Grade Level. Each week focuses on a specific Bible story that illustrates the theme, with additional references from Scripture and Luther's Small Catechism - Children's Version. Lessons emphasize the sacramental promise of the forgiveness of sins conveyed to us in the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. This booklet was designed to be used as a Sunday School unit, or for classes to prepare students for their First Communion.

Teacher's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a159.html Mon, 01 Mar 21 00:00:00 -0600

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1 Peter 3:18–22

From the Confessions: The Chief Articles of Faith in the Augsburg Confession

Of Baptism

Of Baptism they teach that it is necessary to salvation, and that through Baptism is offered the grace of God, and that children are to be baptized who, being offered to God through Baptism are received into God's grace.

They condemn the Anabaptists, who reject the baptism of children, and say that children are saved without Baptism.

Pulling It Together

Lutherans confess that baptism is “necessary for salvation.” Because Johann Eck, a German defender of Roman Catholicism, tried to lump Lutherans in with more radical players in the Reformation such as the Anabaptists who did not believe in the baptism of children, Melancthon asserted that Lutherans also believed children were to be recipients of God's grace along with adults. As there is no way to receive God's grace without baptism, strictly speaking from Scripture, they condemned the idea that children—or anyone else—received grace without baptism.

This is the thrust behind the doctrine of the baptism of children. Just as Scripture does not give an example of children being baptized (outside of entire households being baptized and that in such cases children may have been included [Acts 16:33]), there is no teaching against it. There is teaching however, to baptize and that baptism saves (1Pet 3:21). So, we confess what the Scripture does say: baptism is needful for salvation.

Prayer: Thank you, God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for saving me according to your mercy. Amen. 


Views of Baptism is written for a range of readers including the parent or sponsor about to baptize a child, the adult who wants to understand baptism more fully, and the professional teacher or preacher who needs the truth about baptism stated simply but backed by careful research. This book explores three views of baptism: the individual-centered view, the means-of-grace view, and the Roman Catholic view. It includes a description of how Christian baptism came to us in stages from its Jewish roots. A question and answer section addresses specific matters often raised when people contemplate baptism.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a158.html Sun, 28 Feb 21 00:00:00 -0600

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From the Word: 1 Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples 2 saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, 3 so do and observe whatever they order, but not the works they do. For they say, but do not act. 4 Yes, they bundle backbreaking burdens, and set them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with their finger. 5 For they do all their works to be seen by other people. They make their phylacteries broad, and lengthen their tassels, 6 and love the highest position at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7 and greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called Rabbi by the people. 8 But do not ye called Rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And do not call anyone on earth your father, for you have one Father who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called teachers, for you have one Teacher, the Christ. (Matthew 23:1–10)

From the Confessions: The Chief Articles of Faith in the Augsburg Confession

What the Church Is

Although the Church properly is the congregation of saints and true believers, nevertheless, since in this life many hypocrites and evil persons are mingled therewith, it is lawful to use Sacraments administered by evil men, according to the saying of Christ: The Scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat, etc. (Matt 23:2). Both the Sacraments and Word are effectual by reason of the institution and commandment of Christ, notwithstanding they be administered by evil men.

They condemn the Donatists, and such like, who denied it to be lawful to use the ministry of evil men in the Church, and who thought the ministry of evil men to be unprofitable and of none effect.

Pulling It Together: Today's reading from the Confessions underscores both justification by the grace of God alone (Article IV), and the means of grace (Article VII) mentioned before. The Confessions make it clear that God offers his grace without the assistance of perfect people. He accomplishes this through the preaching of the gospel and his word of promise in water, wine, and bread. The Church is that assembly where God perfectly bestows his grace, not a place where holy men do it for him. Just as God does not need, nor does he use, a person's virtues to bring her to saving faith, he does not require so-called "good" people to deliver his grace or make it valid in a congregation. As grace does not depend upon perfect people to preach and administer the sacraments, imperfect and even evil men cannot nullify the promise of God.

The Donatist controversy mentioned in this article is a case in point. Followers of Bishop Donatus insisted that the sacraments, especially baptisms, administered by those who had bowed to persecution and had seemed to deny the faith were now invalid. This would mean that God's grace depended upon sinless humans. But we confess that it is the Spirit who is the administrator of God's grace. Though the church and its officers be ever so imperfect, as pastors are sinners along with the rest, God's grace is not restrained. Our eyes must be ever upon the giver of grace, not the pastor who speaks the words of God's promise. It is God who washed us, gave his body, and shed his blood—not a pastor. It is the Spirit who speaks the Word of Christ to human hearts—not the one in the pulpit. So, Lutherans confess that the holy, catholic Church is that assembly where the gospel and the sacraments are rightly handled, however imperfect the bishop or pastor be who preaches and presides.

Prayer: Thank you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for baptizing me and keeping me in your grace. Amen. 

The Sacraments is one of four books in the Sola Confirmation Series and serves as a simple and practical resource for teaching the biblical Word of God according to the traditional pattern of Martin Luther’s Small Catechism. Each book in the series may be used as the basis for a “come as you are” small group Bible study, as a student book for home school or independent study programs, or as a classroom tool and homework resource as part of an existing confirmation program. 

Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a157.html Sat, 27 Feb 21 00:00:00 -0600

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From the Word: 25 Husbands, love your wives even as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 in order to sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 to present to himself a glorious church, without stain or blemish or any such thing, so that she would be holy and unblemished. (Ephesians 5:25–27)

From the Confessions: The Chief Articles of Faith in the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Church

Lutherans also teach that the one holy Church will continue forever. The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the gospel is rightly taught and the sacraments are rightly administered.

For there to be true unity in the Church, it is enough to agree on the doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments. It is not necessary that human traditions like rites or ceremonies, that are institutions of men, should be the same everywhere. For Paul teaches, “One faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all,” etc. (Eph 4:5-6)

Pulling It Together

The Lutherans may have seemed suspect to the Church in Rome because of their belief in justification by faith alone. Perhaps they were perceived as a group intent on destroying the Church. It was quite the opposite. Still, it begs the question: How would one go about destroying what Christ said he would build (Matt 16:18)? The Church has never been in our hands. We should rather think that because of Christ's word, the Church will “continue forever”—in spite of us. So, it becomes important for us to understand what the Church truly is.

Building on the confession of “the communion of saints” in the creed, and that God imputes righteousness through faith (Article IV), Melancthon is emboldened to state that the Church is a “congregation of saints.” The Church is that assembly of all those whom Christ has made righteousness through his grace alone. Again, the Church is not in our hands. He makes his people saints without their assistance. But Church is not merely an assembly. Though we may do other things under the banner of “The Church,” we are not really the Church unless two things occur. The gospel must be correctly taught to the congregation of saints and the sacraments must be rightly administered. We confess that where these two “outward marks” are faithfully observed is the holy, catholic Church.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord Jesus, for making me one with you in your Body, the Church. Amen. 

Pastor Kent Groethe's study of the Book of Acts, Acts - Old Places, New Facesfocuses on the life of the early church as a model for church life today. The message and power of the church today needs to be revitalized and renewed by the power of God's Spirit, just as it was in the early church.

Other books in the "Old Place, New Faces" series

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a156.html Fri, 26 Feb 21 00:00:00 -0600

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From the Word: 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious, being sexual immorality, impurity, wantonness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, strife, jealousy, fits of fury, selfishness, discord, factions, 21 envyings, drunkenness, intemperance, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you previously, that they who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 And those who are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its inclinations and cravings.

25 If we live by the Spirit, let us likewise walk with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become proud, provoking one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5:18–25)

From the Confessions: The Chief Articles of Faith in the Augsburg Confession

Concerning New Obedience

Also, they teach that this faith is bound to bring forth good fruits, and that it is necessary to do good works commanded by God, because of God's will, but that we should not rely on those works to merit justification before God. For remission of sins and justification is apprehended by faith, as also the voice of Christ attests: "When ye shall have done all these things, say: We are unprofitable servants" (Luke 17:10). The same is also taught by the Fathers. For Ambrose says: It is ordained of God that he who believes in Christ is saved, freely receiving the remission of sins, without works, by faith alone.

Pulling It Together: The Augsburg Confession clearly states that works are excluded from justification. Nothing is needed for our justification before God except the work of his Son Jesus Christ on the cross (Gal 2:16; Eph 2:8–9; Rom 3:28; 4:5). Nevertheless, the Lutherans also wished it to be known that justification by faith did not negate the command of God for his people to do good works. However, these acts of charity and obedience are a result of faith—not a requirement for justification. Those who have faith must be obedient to God and therefore they will do good works. They can do no other, for real faith is a living faith, full of the fruit of the Spirit. Those who are enlivened by faith, live by the Spirit and so, they will also keep in step with the Spirit who is the author of all good.

Prayer: O God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, open my heart and my hands, that I may willingly do good and bring you glory. Amen. 

The Cross and the Crown is an eight-session study in Lutheran Basics, using the word "sola" to get the big picture right: that salvation is all God's doing.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a155.html Thu, 25 Feb 21 00:00:00 -0600

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From the Word: 5 For Moses writes that the man who does the righteousness of the law shall live by doing so. 6 But the righteousness of faith says this: “Do not say not in your heart, ‘Who shall ascend into heaven?’—that is, to bring Christ down—7 “or, ‘Who shall descend into the abyss?’”—that is, to bring Christ up from the dead. 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth, and in your heart—that is, the word of faith that we preach. 9 For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord is Lord of all, blessing all who call upon him. 13 For, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how will they believe in him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? 15 And how will they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

16 But not all have obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:5–17)

From the Confessions: The Chief Articles of Faith in the Augsburg Confession

Of the Ministry

That we may obtain this faith, the Ministry of Teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Ghost is given, who works faith; where and when it pleases God, in them that hear the Gospel, to wit, that God, not for our own merits, but for Christ's sake, justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ's sake.

They condemn the Anabaptists and others who think that the Holy Ghost comes to men without the external Word, through their own preparations and works.

Pulling It Together: The faith that justifies always springs from the word of God. Real faith does not happen because one decides to believe or because one disciplines herself to be a holy person, or as the result of any other personal or religious preparation. I speak here of an actual faith, the kind that puts no hope at all in one's efforts. Faith is effected by the Spirit, who always does so in concert with the word. He never brings faith apart from the word—though we often hear of people claiming that he has done so. Without God revealing what faith is and in whom to have faith, our beliefs are spread across the spectrum, from silly to sublime and all to no eternal good. Yet when the Spirit works in his word through baptism, communion, and preaching, people are brought to faith apart from any efforts or virtues of their own. We confess that this is the way God has determined to bring people to saving faith: by the Holy Spirit working through the Word for Christ's sake.

Prayer: Holy Spirit, fill me with wisdom and grace from your word so that Christ is always glorified in me. Amen. 

Baptism – Dove and Shell    A card, bookmark, gift tag, and envelope set that proclaims the truth of Baptism: Word and Water are a sacrament to wash away our sins. This set is a keepsake that will remind the recipient of their baptism, and provide the comfort of assurance of salvation for all who believe in the finished work of Jesus Christ.

Sola carries an assortment of greeting cards.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a151.html Wed, 24 Feb 21 00:00:00 -0600

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Romans 3:21-31

From the Confessions: The Chief Articles of Faith in the Augsburg Confession

Of Justification.

Also they teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for Christ's sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ's sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight (Romans 3 and 4).

Pulling It Together

It sounds as though a sixteenth century Lutheran wrote the words but they were penned by the Apostle Paul and inspired by the Holy Spirit in the first century. “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Rom 3:28). There is no mingling of the two. Justification—God regarding a person good, righteous, holy—does not happen because once one has faith, she adds works. Works have nothing to do with justification. It is a gift from God, initiated by his grace, received by faith in Christ's work on the cross, and attributed to believers apart from any work or merit other than those of Christ. The satisfaction for sins—justification—was done on the cross. It does not depend upon the actions of sinners like us. Indeed, when we confess justification through faith (Eph 2:8-9), we are saying, in effect, that when God looks at poor sinners like us, he sees Christ who died for sinners. Those same sinners are now credited with the righteousness of Jesus Christ, and thus, they are saints in the truest sense of the word. They are saints by God's doing, not their own.

Prayer: Gracious God, help me this day to do your will out of gratefulness for your great salvation through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen. 

A Reading and Discussion of the Augsburg Confession is written in easy-to-understand language but is a challenging study series based on assigned readings from the Book of Concord and related Scripture texts. Each study is comprised of eight sessions, plus an optional introductory session, each presented in a question and discussion format. Click here to see the Table of Contents and a sample session.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a150.html Tue, 23 Feb 21 00:00:00 -0600

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John 20:30-31

From the Confessions: The Chief Articles of Faith in the Augsburg Confession

Article III: Of the Son of God.

Also they teach that the Word, that is, the Son of God, did assume the human nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary, so that there are two natures, the divine and the human, inseparably enjoined in one Person, one Christ, true God and true man, who was born of the Virgin Mary, truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, that He might reconcile the Father unto us, and be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for all actual sins of men.

He also descended into hell, and truly rose again the third day; afterward He ascended into heaven that He might sit on the right hand of the Father, and forever reign and have dominion over all creatures, and sanctify them that believe in Him, by sending the Holy Ghost into their hearts, to rule, comfort, and quicken them, and to defend them against the devil and the power of sin.

The same Christ shall openly come again to judge the quick and the dead, etc., according to the Apostles' Creed.

Pulling It Together

Here we see treated many of the details about the second Person of the Trinity that we covered in our devotions on the three ecumenical creeds. To be as certain as they could be that the Church in Rome understood that the Lutherans were orthodox, they continued to confess key doctrines at Augsburg. So far, there are none where they would disagree. There is nothing about the Son here but what is common among orthodox churches.

By the powerful conception of the Spirit, the Son took human form in the womb of the virgin. While taking human form, the Son maintained his divinity and as such, we say that the Son now has a dual nature. These are indivisible, one person with a dual nature or hypostasis, a shared existence. This God-man suffered, was crucified, died, and was buried. In doing so, he righted our relationship to God. He accomplished this by reconciling both our inherent, original sin, as well as all our subsequent sins.

After doing this great work of redemption, Jesus descended into hell. In rising from the dead, it should be noted that Jesus is no longer in hell either. He has conquered for us, not only sin and death but also hell itself. After this, he ascended to heaven where he took his rightful place with the Father, reigning over all of creation. From this position of authority, Christ also separates himself in holiness all those who believe. He does this by sending his own Holy Spirit into the lives of believers to bring new life, peace, governance, and protection against the power of sin and the devil.

As though this was not enough, the work of Christ does not end with these great accomplishments. He is returning to this world. When he does, he will do so openly, in the sight of all. No one will miss his great appearance when he will judge in righteousness both those alive and all who ever lived. All of this is concisely confessed in the Apostles' Creed.

Prayer: Lord, help me stand still before your presence, leading a life of quiet confidence in your grace, through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen. 

Who is Jesus? is a five-session study, meant to serve as an introduction to what the Bible says about Jesus Christ—who he is and what it means to trust in him as Savior and Lord.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a149.html Mon, 22 Feb 21 00:00:00 -0600

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Galatians 3:21-27

From the Confessions: The Chief Articles of Faith in the Augsburg Confession

Of Original Sin

Also they teach that since the fall of Adam all men begotten in the natural way are born with sin, that is, without the fear of God, without trust in God, and with concupiscence; and that this disease, or vice of origin, is truly sin, even now condemning and bringing eternal death upon those not born again through Baptism and the Holy Ghost.

They condemn the Pelagians and others who deny that original depravity is sin, and who, to obscure the glory of Christ's merit and benefits, argue that man can be justified before God by his own strength and reason.

Pulling It Together

The Lutherans of old wanted to make it clear at Augsburg that they were sinners. Indeed, they wished it understood that they believed all people since Adam (Rom 5:12) were in this condition from the very beginning of their lives. Otherwise, some might somehow live a perfectly sinless life, if only for a short time, before dying and therefore, have no need for a Savior. Why then would it be said that Jesus had died for the whole world when some had been sinless? There is no hope of this ever happening—no matter how precious some may think they or a family member might be. Sin has imprisoned us all (Gal 3:22); no one is free of its hold, even from the moment of birth. Thus, a rebirth is required. Indeed, a death (or baptism) and a rebirth, a resurrection to a newness of life (Rom 6:4) is needed.

Lutherans today, also wish to make it clear that they are sinners, captive to sin from the outset. We can do nothing to set ourselves free. We need a Savior; we need Christ, whom the Father sent to die for us and for our redemption. There are ancient and modern followers of Pelagius who taught and teach there was no need for the Father to have sent his Son, that humans are quite capable of moral perfection through the exertion of their own wills. They dismiss the need for God's grace. We confess the exact opposite: that we are poor and wretched sinners from the start, dead in our trespasses and denied the kingdom of heaven unless born again of the water and the Spirit. (John 3:3-5)

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, I praise you, the only one sent from the Father to save the world—and even me. Amen. 

The Sola Electronic Education Database 

Can be used at church, or accessed at home by families of subscribing congregations!

Sola Publishing has added an online resource component to its education materials called SEED: the Sola Electronic Education Database. This new subscription-based resource provides teachers with tools to build a Sunday School program and lead classes, with original resources printed in full color! The year's curriculum provides a full Bible overview — from Genesis to Revelation — with a collection of online media for each lesson, including artwork, video presentations, teaching ideas, crafts, and more! 

https://www.solapublishing.com/about-seed

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a148.html Sun, 21 Feb 21 00:00:00 -0600

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2 Corinthians 13:11-14

From the Confessions: The Chief Articles of Faith in the Augsburg Confession

Article I: Of God.

Our Churches, with common consent, do teach that the decree of the Council of Nicaea concerning the Unity of the Divine Essence and concerning the Three Persons, is true and to be believed without any doubting; that is to say, there is one Divine Essence which is called and which is God: eternal, without body, without parts, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, the Maker and Preserver of all things, visible and invisible; and yet there are three Persons, of the same essence and power, who also are coeternal, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. And the term "person" they use as the Fathers have used it, to signify, not a part or quality in another, but that which subsists of itself.

They condemn all heresies which have sprung up against this article, as the Manichaeans, who assumed two principles, one Good and the other Evil: also the Valentinians, Arians, Eunomians, Mohammedans, and all such. They condemn also the Samosatenes, old and new, who, contending that there is but one Person, sophistically and impiously argue that the Word and the Holy Ghost are not distinct Persons, but that "Word" signifies a spoken word, and "Spirit" signifies motion created in things.

Pulling It Together

Because it is central to the Christian faith, the doctrine of God will continually be treated. It is covered in the creeds so that we know who God truly is and are therefore not led astray after false gods. The Confession offered at the Diet of Augsburg was designed to show that the Lutheran churches were doctrinally sound, orthodox, of the Church catholic. Orthodoxy begins with a right understanding of God. Having provided straightforward examples about the nature of God in the first paragraph, the Lutherans then showed their understanding by providing heretical models of what God is not.

The Lutherans, like the Roman Catholics, did not follow the teachings of Mani, a gnostic who claimed special knowledge outside of Scripture about what he considered the two eternals of light and dark, therefore dismissing what the Bible teaches about a creator, as well as the incarnate God. Neither did they espouse the teachings of Valentinus, who taught that unbelievers perished but that basic believers would have a lower level of salvation, while those believers who had received his special knowledge would receive a higher level of salvation. The Lutherans also dismissed outright any group who did not hold the three, distinguishable Persons of the Godhead as true. Therefore, the Lutherans considered heretical the Arians, since they taught that Christ was a created being, the Eunomians who could make no sense of the Trinity, the monotheistic Mohammedans, and any other group who did not profess the Trinity. The Lutherans were confessing at Augsburg that they believed of God what the Scriptures say, regardless of whether they could reason their way to the doctrine.

Prayer: Most gracious God, who raised your Church through the pure witness of your word, continue to enlighten her in that same word of truth through Jesus Christ her Lord. Amen. 

I Am Who I Am is a six-week study that explores what it means to “not take the name of the LORD your God in vain” (Exod 20:7), while at the same time trusting the promise in Christ that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21).

Leader's 'Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a147.html Sat, 20 Feb 21 00:00:00 -0600

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From the Word: 13 And who is he who can harm you if you are zealous for that which is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, blessed are you. Do not fear them, nor be troubled, 15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to give a defense to each person who asks you for a reason about the hope that is in you. Yet do so with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better, if that should be the will of God, that you suffer for doing good rather than for doing evil. (1 Peter 3:13-17)

From the Confessions: sections ten and eleven of the Preface to the Augsburg Confession

...we, with the Princes and friends aforesaid, here before Your Imperial Majesty, our most clement Lord are prepared to confer amicably concerning all possible ways and means, in order that we may come together, as far as this may be honorably done, and, the matter between us on both sides being peacefully discussed without offensive strife, the dissension, by God’s help, may be done away and brought back to one true accordant religion; for as we all are under one Christ and do battle under Him, we ought to confess the one Christ, after the tenor of Your Imperial Majesty’s edict, and everything ought to be conducted according to the truth of God; and this it is what, with most fervent prayers, we entreat of God.

Pulling It Together

Luther had been declared an outlaw by the emperor in 1521 at the Diet (or assembly) of Worms. Though his teachings were now forbidden in the empire, the teachings of Luther and other Wittenberg reformers were sent throughout the parishes of Saxony for a systematic reformation of the church. These teachings, of course, were challenged by Roman Catholic theologians who placed the Wittenberg reformers in the same grouping as unorthodox critics of the church. This gave the effect of making the Wittenberg contingent appear outside the church catholic. Philip Melancthon, Luther’s colleague at Wittenberg, drafted a defense of the Wittenbergers’ orthodoxy, drawing from a number of other documents by the reformers. This confession, or testimony, was adopted by nine German dukes, princes, and mayors, and presented to the emperor at Augsburg in 1530.

The Emperor Charles had called the Diet of Augsburg in an effort to have a unified Christian empire meet the threat of the expanding Ottoman Empire. That these documents were to be presented by all of the electors, princes, municipalities, and estates attests to the political aspiration of the diet. That there would be unity in understanding the one true faith was the hope of The Augsburg Confession.

Christians ought to hope for unity, beginning to do so by considering how they agree on matters of the faith. After all, they are called to fellowship together in Jesus Christ our Lord (1Cor 1:9-10). Christians are also to be ready to defend the faith (1 Per 3:15), even if it is in confessing it to one another. Yet, they are to do so with gentleness and with respect. To that end, it may be very helpful in our time to imagine that we are giving our defense to an emperor.

Prayer: Help me to honor you, Jesus, as Lord in my heart, my words, my life. Amen. 

Of One Mind and Purpose is a six-session study examines the unique way in which the Bible describes being united in Christ. It explains how God’s Word can either divide people or bring them together in faith, showing how the relationship we have with one another in the Church comes through Christ alone.

Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a146.html Fri, 19 Feb 21 00:00:00 -0600

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Revelation 20:11–15

From the Confessions: The Athanasian Creed

He will come again to judge the living and the dead. At his coming all people shall rise bodily to give an account of their own deeds. Those who have done good will enter eternal life, those who have done evil will enter eternal fire. This is the catholic faith. One cannot be saved without believing this firmly and faithfully.

Pulling It Together

There is a lot being confessed in the closing of the Athanasian Creed. At first blush, it might seem to some that a salvation of works is being advocated. That interpretation would contradict the rest of the creed. “He suffered death for our salvation.” We did not suffer, nor have we done anything to merit our own redemption. It is the free gift of God (Rom 6:23). The Scriptures say so, as do the creeds. So, it cannot be, and is not, what the ancient Church confessed.

We are saved by the grace of God (Eph 2:8) but will still give an account of our lives (Rom 14:12). Do we think that all will bow the knee to Christ but us? Everyone will stand before the judgment seat of God. There will be no more finger-pointing and blaming of others. Each will bear his own load (Gal 6:5). Everyone is expected to follow Jesus, and that means a denying of self, of taking up the cross. There is no other way to follow Jesus. Therefore, when Jesus returns, he will repay each according to what he has done—whether or not he has borne his cross (Matt 16:27). All of this denying and taking up is not to prove you are deserving of salvation. It does however, show that you are a follower of Christ. Jesus said, “He who abides in me bears much fruit.” (John 15:5)

So in the end, at Christ's coming, “every one must stand on his own feet; his own personal faith is demanded, he will give an account for himself...” (The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, Luther’s Works, vol 36, p 49) Those who followed Jesus will, of course, have done some good, been forgiven for their sin, and “will enter eternal life,” their names having been written in the book of life (Rev 20:15). Those who did not believe will have committed the worst evil of all and will enter that place of eternal denial, regret, and fire (Rev 20:14). This is the belief of the whole Church and the faith that we confess.

Prayer: Lord, help me follow you, die in you, and live in you forever. Amen. 

From Death to Life examines what happens when people die. In this book, the words of the Holy Bible, and others like Martin Luther, will speak to you, tell you the truth, and give you words of comfort, so that you too can have the sure and steadfast anchor of the soul.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a145.html Thu, 18 Feb 21 00:00:00 -0600

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From the Word: 1 First of all, therefore, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings, be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. 3 This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4who would have all people be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5For there is one God and one mediator between God and people, a man, Christ Jesus, 6who gave himself as a ransom for all, the testimony at the proper time. (1 Timothy 2:1–6)

From the Confessions: The Athanasian Creed

He suffered death for our salvation. He descended into hell and rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

Pulling It Together

Because the Athanasian Creed expressly states the unity of Christ's two natures, it is appropriate to think again on who it is who died for us, and rose, and ascended. When the Word became flesh (John 1:14), he did not do so for a time—namely for about 33 years. Jesus remains both God and man; he retains this dual nature and it is important that he does.

When Jesus rose from the dead, he still had a body. “Touch me,” he said to his disciples (Luke 24:39). Christ is still both God and man even after the ascension, as it teaches us in Scripture. It is not a spirit who mediates between God and man. It is the one who is both God and man who mediates for us, “the man Christ Jesus” (1Tim 2:5).

The Small Catechism also—even though teaching from the Apostles' Creed that does not deal explicitly with the dual nature—teaches us that the ascended Christ is “true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary.”

Why is this all so important? It is important because you are human. Jesus conquered sin, death, and even hell—as a man, so that these things have no power over people of faith. Because the man Christ Jesus rose from the dead, you too will rise (Rom 6:5). Likewise, because the man Christ Jesus ascended, you too also will ascend. It is no stunning achievement that God went up into heaven. That humans may now do so, is predicated on a human being there, to begin with, and that man we confess is God, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Give me the strength and courage and peace to live a life pleasing in the sight of God my Savior. Amen. 

The Sola Online Worship eResource (SOWeR) provides so many resources that it is hard to list them all. One of those resources is a section of bulletin templates that subscribers may use along with SOWeR's color and monochrome artwork to easily create beautiful and useful bulletins. Templates are provided for basic Communion and non-communion services, Ash Wednesday service, midweek Lenten services, LBW Communion and non-communion services for each setting, Reclaim Communion and non-communion services for each setting, and Sola Holy Cross Communion and non-communion service settings.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a144.html Wed, 17 Feb 21 00:00:00 -0600

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From the Word: 1 Corinthians 4:1–6

From the Confessions: The Athanasian Creed

Although he is God and man, he is not divided, but is one Christ. He is united because God has taken humanity into himself; he does not transform deity into humanity. He is completely one in the unity of his person, without confusing his natures. For as the rational soul and body are one person, so the one Christ is God and man.

Pulling It Together

How can we begin to understand through human reasoning the dual nature of Christ? We cannot wrap our minds around it, though perhaps a little more easily than we can think on the Trinity itself. Jesus is man and divinity at once. This is what Scripture attests and we would do well to leave it there. So, what does the Word say? What is written?

“The Word became flesh” (John 1:14). “In [Christ] the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col 2:9). “Though he was in the form of God...born in the likeness of men” (Phil 2:7). “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same...” (Heb 2:14).

The Son of God took human body but remained God. His divinity remained though he was clothed in flesh. He did not set aside his divinity to become a man for a time. He was and is both divine and human. He is forever God and man, sitting at the Father's right hand and reigning triumphant over sin and death. There is not a part of him that is human and another part that is God, as though he were oil and water in the same glass. His two natures are completely unified in the one person, Jesus Christ. Jesus is a whole person like us, having a body, soul, and spirit. Yet, at the same time, he is the divine Word of God, or Logos (John 1:1). He is not two beings, a god and a man somehow in a kind of symbiosis. Nor is he some kind of compound or complex organism, made by the joining of two beings, but no longer quite human or divine as a the result. We confess that he is God and man, undivided, one Christ. 

Prayer: Fill me with your grace, O God, that throughout this day I may delight in your praise through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen. 

This edition of Luther's Small Catechism is specifically designed to go with the Sola Confirmation Series. The 2010 Sola/ReClaim Edition* is a faithful word-for-word translation from Luther's German Catechism. It also includes the section on the Office of the Keys, added later to Luther's Catechism.

This pocket edition features quotations from the English Standard Version (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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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a143.html Tue, 16 Feb 21 00:00:00 -0600

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Colossians 2:8–15

From the Confessions: The Athanasian Creed

It is necessary for eternal salvation that one also faithfully believe that Jesus Christ became flesh. For this is the true faith that we believe and confess: That our Lord Jesus Christ, God's Son, is both God and man. He is God, begotten before all worlds from the being of the Father, and he is man, born in the world from the being of his mother—existing fully as God, and fully as man with a rational soul and a human body; equal to the Father in divinity, subordinate to the Father in humanity.

Pulling It Together

The issue of the Athanasian Creed is not only that we rightly understand the Trinity of God but that we correctly understand the dual nature of Jesus Christ. If one believes that a man named Jesus died for her outside of an ancient city thousands of years ago, but believes that he was simply a man, then it profits her nothing. For no man can die for another and it pay his sin debt (Rom 6:23) to God. It is necessary to believe that the man Jesus was God in the flesh—otherwise you miss the point of it all.

Because Jesus was conceived by the Spirit, not by a man, he was able to live a perfect life, never sinning as we do. Nor was he corrupted by original sin, passed on to the rest of us through Adam's transgression (Rom 5:12). Therefore, being perfectly guiltless, he became an acceptable sacrifice to God for the sins of the world. His human blood was necessary for redemption, as the shedding of innocent blood is required by the law for the forgiveness of sin (Heb 9:22). Because he is God Jesus was able to redeem the sin of everyone (not just his own, which was unnecessary at any rate since he was sinless), so long as he satisfied his law too. Being both man and God, he satisfied the demand of the law and his desire for grace toward us. Though he was fully God, Jesus being fully human too, submitted to the will of his Father (Matt 6:10; Luke 22:42), dying for us as only he could do.

Prayer: Thank you, God, for canceling my record of debt, nailing it to the cross. Amen. 

Sola’s Confirmation workbook, The Lord's Prayer, is designed to be a small group Bible study, student book for home school or independent study programs, or as a classroom tool and homework resource as part of an existing confirmation program.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a141.html Mon, 15 Feb 21 00:00:00 -0600

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1 Corinthians 1:18–21

From the Confessions: The Athanasian Creed

The Father was neither made nor created nor begotten; the Son was neither made nor created, but was alone begotten of the Father; the Spirit was neither made nor created, but is proceeding from the Father and the Son. Thus there is one Father, not three fathers; one Son, not three sons; one Holy Spirit, not three spirits. And in this Trinity, no one is before or after, greater or less than the other; but all three persons are in themselves, coeternal and coequal; and so we must worship the Trinity in unity and the One God in three persons. Whoever wants to be saved should think thus about the Trinity.

Pulling It Together: Notice how the creed repeats itself. As Paul says, repetition is good for us (Phil 3:1). We need to hear the difficult teachings many times before we begin to understand. So we hear again that each of the three Persons of the Trinity are uncreated. This time, it is refined a bit, just to be sure we do not mistake the meaning. There are not three fathers, or three sons, or three spirits. There is one of each and those three are one God. Next, we hear a very valuable, direct statement in the creed. No doubt this statement is present because people wondered about “begottenness” and procession. Did these words in the Nicene Creed indicate that the Father was first and the Son and the Spirit came after him? The Athanasian Creed makes it very clear: “in this Trinity none is before or after other.” But is the Father somehow greater than his Son, the Spirit less than the Father and Son from whom he proceeds? “None is greater or less than another.” The oneness of the Trinity is to be worshiped because this is God. And each of the three in the Unity is to be worshiped, for each is God.

The final sentence for our consideration today is surely in reference to those who hold to the heresies that the creed addresses. Certainly, God alone will judge persons but they would be wise to know who God is if they would depend upon him. It is not that one must say “amen” to the Athanasian Creed in order to be saved. Faith in the God whom the creed names, however—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—is very necessary to salvation.

Prayer: Lord of heaven and earth, enlighten my understanding of you. Amen.

All those who believe and trust in Jesus as their Savior are both saints and sinners. The same was true of the people in Holy Scripture.

By virtue of our baptism into Christ, we are made holy by his saving grace. This is not something we do on our own, but something that is imputed to us by Jesus. At the same time, we are plagued by that age-old sin that makes us want to be in control of our own lives. As those who are called by God to follow Jesus in obedient discipleship, we, like many before us, have been called to be witnesses to God's saving grace in Jesus Christ.

This seven-session study is the first in a three-part series on Saints and Sinners in the New Testament who were powerful witnesses to the faith in Christ. May this study of saints and sinners enrich your understanding of life with Christ and encourage you in discipleship.  https://www.solapublishing.com/saints-and-sinners-vol.-1-participant-_A-5010

 

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a140.html Sun, 14 Feb 21 00:00:00 -0600

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Romans 11:33–36

From the Confessions: The Athanasian Creed

For the Father is one person, the Son is another, and the Spirit still another. But the deity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, equal in glory, coeternal in majesty. What the Father is, the Son is, and so is the Holy Spirit. Uncreated is the Father; uncreated is the Son; uncreated is the Spirit. The Father is infinite; the Son is infinite; the Holy Spirit is infinite. Eternal is the Father; eternal is the Son; eternal is the Spirit. And yet there are not three eternal beings, but one who is eternal; as there are not three uncreated and unlimited beings, but one who is uncreated and unlimited. Almighty is the Father; almighty is the Son; almighty is the Spirit; and yet there are not three almighty beings, but one who is almighty. Thus the Father is God; the Son is God; the Holy Spirit is God. And yet there are not three gods, but one God. Thus the Father is Lord; the Son is Lord; the Holy Spirit is Lord. And yet there are not three lords, but one Lord. As Christian truth compels us to acknowledge each distinct person as God and Lord, so catholic religion forbids us to say that there are three gods or lords.

Pulling It Together: When reading the Bible, it is easy enough to see that there is a personal God called the Father. He interacts with people in many of the same ways that we do. Again, it is easy to regard Jesus as a person when reading the gospels, but it takes a more careful reading to notice that he is God, on the level of the Father, even though he tells us that he is. On first reading, one may not notice that the Holy Spirit is also the personal God. Once one has noticed that each is honored as Lord, that all three are regarded as personal, and that each Person is called God, it may take still longer before we notice that there is only one God.

Once we have seen this, we struggle. How can it be that there are three Persons but only one God? We try to make sense of it through human and earthly analogies but of course, all of them fall short of the glory who is God. We try to make sense of it, using reason alone. But reason cannot make sense of the Triune God. Nevertheless, when we read the Scripture, we learn that the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are each uncreated, infinite, and eternal, and each is the almighty Lord God. Further, we are taught by the Word itself that what one is, so is the other and that all three are one. It is not that they are so similar that it seems like they are one. They are one God. Yet they are three Persons.

As we confess the three, distinct persons of the one God, let us also admit our limitations. Being merely human, we cannot fully understand God. We have been given a divine gift, a revelation from God of who he is. In Scripture, he has revealed himself to us, but in ways that we cannot fully grasp. This is to be expected. Who could fathom the depths of divinity, and the divine still be God? Though acknowledging that we cannot fully comprehend, we may still believe what the Lord has revealed of himself.

Prayer: Open my mind and my heart, Lord, that I may believe through the Scripture what I cannot fully comprehend. Amen. 

Since Lent is quickly approaching... 

Will You Betray Me? is a five-part drama series focuses on “betrayal” as a central theme. Written in a direct and edgy style, the monologues feature biblical characters that (knowingly or unknowingly) contributed to the betrayal and death of Jesus.  

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a139.html Sat, 13 Feb 21 00:00:00 -0600

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John 14:6–13

From the Confessions: The Athanasian Creed

Now this is the catholic faith: we worship one God in trinity and the Trinity in unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the divine being.

Pulling It Together

The faith of the whole Church is based in whom we believe. We cannot know what to believe until we know who commands our belief. It stands to reason that we will never follow Jesus until we know it is Jesus whom we follow. Jesus said, “whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do” (John 14:12). This is the catholic faith, that we know Christ, and in knowing him, know the Father who sent him (John 14:7), and the Spirit whom they sent. All right doctrine springs from this, so it is essential to correct faith that we rightly understand the Trinity of God.

We do not worship the Father alone, for in worshiping him, we also glorify the Son and the Holy Spirit. We do not worship only Christ or Spirit, for the one is of the other—even though they are distinct from one another. They are different Persons but the same substance—the same Godness. The Son is the same form (Phil 2:6) of being as the Father and the Spirit. He is the exact likeness of God (Col 1:15). Each Person of the Trinity is the one, pre-existent God. They cannot be separated in their Godness, their God-essence, though we know them in their Persons.

The more one tries to explain the mystery of the Trinity, the more dangerous the explanations can become. The conciseness of the Athanasian Creed is therefore very helpful. We confess God as the Trinity of One. Though three Persons, God is the same substance or essence or divine form of being. 

Prayer: Help us believe in the one who, without your grace, is beyond believing. Lord, help us believe in you. Amen. 

The Basics of the Christian Faith is an edition of the catechism that is aimed at seekers, visitors, and those that may not come from a Lutheran background. It is recommended for use in outreach, as a visitor welcome gift, or in new member packets.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a138.html Fri, 12 Feb 21 00:00:00 -0600

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John 20:24–29

From the Confessions: The Athanasian Creed

Whoever wants to be saved should above all cling to the catholic faith. Whoever does not guard it whole and inviolable will doubtless perish eternally.

Pulling It Together

One may not take the Bible in hand and come up with any set of assertions and doctrines that suit a fancy. There is far too much of that going around today. The latest theological craze attracts the spiritually distracted like deer to headlights. The more glaring and wilder, the better. What difference does it make, since they will likely be chasing a new idea within the month? If you would be saved, you must confess what the Church has confessed for ages. The faith that the Church has affirmed is saving faith. Otherwise, it is a fashion, a trend that will not stand the test of time—or eternity.

Furthermore, one may not take bits of the faith to heart and discard the parts that seem too difficult or disagreeable. One may not say that Trinity is a hard doctrine and because it does not make sense, chuck it out. Of course, it is difficult; it is about God. God is not reasonable. He is inscrutable but that does not make him unbelievable. What does his revelation of himself teach you—no matter how hard the saying? That is what you must believe with your whole heart.

The faith that the Church throughout history has believed is what you must believe—and the whole of it—or else risk salvation.

Prayer: Save me, Lord, and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise. Amen. 

We Still Believe is a Bible study resource reflecting on key themes in the biblical Lutheran doctrine that are at risk in the Church today. It is offered in the hope that it will inspire individuals and congregations to examine the core beliefs of traditional Lutheranism and how these beliefs apply to our own present context. Written in a question and discussion style by Pastor Steven King, the participant's book includes an introduction to and copy of the faith statement known as the Common Confession.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a137.html Thu, 11 Feb 21 00:00:00 -0600

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Luke 24:44–45

From the Confessions: The Athanasian Creed

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt, he shall perish everlastingly.

And the catholic faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost is all one: the glory equal, the majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Ghost uncreated. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three Eternals, but one Eternal. As there are not three Uncreated nor three Incomprehensibles, but one Uncreated and one Incomprehensible. So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Ghost almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties, but one Almighty. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords, but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by Himself to be God and Lord, So are we forbidden by the catholic religion to say, there be three Gods or three Lords.

The Father is made of none: neither created nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created, but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son: neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is before or after other; none is greater or less than another; But the whole three Persons are coeternal together, and coequal: so that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshiped. He, therefore, that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.

Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe faithfully in the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right faith is, that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man; God of the Substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man of the substance of His mother, born in the world; Perfect God and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood; Who, although He be God and Man, yet He is not two, but one Christ: One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking the manhood into God; One altogether; not by confusion of Substance, but by unity of Person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and Man are one Christ; Who suffered for our salvation; descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead; He ascended into heaven; He sitteth on the right hand of the Father, God Almighty; from whence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. At whose coming, all men shall rise again with their bodies, and shall give an account of their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil, into everlasting fire.

This is the catholic faith; which except a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved.

Pulling It Together: The Athanasian Creed is so named because Athanasius of Alexandria (296-373AD) had been considered its author. That is not the case, though it is uncertain who wrote the creed. What is certain is that the Church catholic believes what the Athanasian Creed says first, about the Trinity and then more specifically, about Christ. These statements are provided in a systematic manner, providing the Church with a more developed understanding of the Trinity than we get in either the Apostles' or the Nicene Creeds. This doctrine of the Trinity and its persons rightly understood and believed, is necessary for salvation, as we will see as we look into this creed over the next week or so.

Prayer: Blessed Holy Trinity, open my mind to understand the Scripture. Amen.

Portraits of Jesus is a nine-session Bible study that explores the "I AM" statements given to us by Jesus himself. In comparing Jesus' words with related Scripture in both the Old and New Testaments, the study provides a well-rounded look at the center of our faith in Christ.

Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a136.html Wed, 10 Feb 21 00:00:00 -0600

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1 John 5:10–13

From the Confessions: The Nicene Creed

“the life of the world to come”

Pulling It Together

We confess that there is an eternal life prepared for God's people in heaven. Everlasting life is a free gift from God (Rom 6:23). Jesus was sent by his Father so that we might not perish but by believing in what Jesus has done for us, live with him forever (John 3:16). There is nothing else that the believer wants more than this unceasing time with God. We may hope to see a departed family member in heaven, but for the true believer, there is no greater longing than to be with God. The only way to have either in the life to come is to know God here first (John 17:3).

This is critical, for there are many who will say that they were Christians or believed in God or were good people, and somehow, therefore, deserve to be in heaven. Such people will be disappointed because they will not be given what they never wanted to begin with. What God offers in the life to come is himself. Those who did not desire him here will not want him there either. “Do not be deceived. God is not mocked” (Gal 6:7). Only through wholehearted belief in God's promises, bought and paid for by Christ's death and resurrection, and guaranteed by his Spirit, may one hope to receive the inheritance of eternal life in heaven with God.

This eternal life to come is what Christians confess—because it is promised by Jesus.

Prayer: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I praise and thank you for everything you have done to make an eternal home for me with you in heaven. Amen. 

Three Keys to What Lutherans Believe is a three-session introduction to themes in Lutheran theology. By focusing on key biblical concepts, it demonstrates the primary themes that Lutherans emphasize in thinking about the Christian faith and the teachings of Scripture. The study may be particularly suited to new member classes, adult baptismal or confirmation instruction, or for use with young adults. For use in shorter sessions, leaders may choose to divide each lesson into two parts to create a six-week study.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a135.html Tue, 09 Feb 21 00:00:00 -0600

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1 Corinthians 15:12–19

From the Confessions: The Nicene Creed

“I look for the resurrection of the dead.”

Pulling It Together

The confession of resurrection is as important as that of the divinity of Christ or of creation or of any other item in our creed. Without the resurrection, the rest of the creed falls apart. No wonder it is attacked. We confess the resurrection of Christ, saying in the second article, “and the third day He rose again.” Now we are adding that we believe in our own resurrection. We must believe in our own resurrection or we nullify the resurrection of our Lord. Paul is logical when he says that if the dead are not raised, then even Christ is not raised. Luther helps us look at it in another logical but spiritual way, saying that because we are the Body of Christ and Christ the Head, one may not be raised without the other. If the Head is raised, so goes the Body, and vice versa. “If we were not going to rise from the dead, it would follow that Christ also had not risen from the dead. But since Christ is risen from the dead, as we preach and believe, it follows that we must also rise from the dead” (Luther’s Works, vol. 58, p 103).

Therefore, just as in all else, it also follows that Jesus rose from the dead for our sake. He did not rise from the dead for his own sake but so that we might be raised from the dead. He came down from heaven to earth for our sake, became incarnate for our sake, suffered for our sake, was crucified and died and was buried for our sake, and was resurrected for our sake. All these things he did for us and for our salvation.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for giving me the hope of resurrection from the dead. Amen.

Combining the message of salvation in Christ with personal witness, The Gospel in Miniature is a Lutheran guide for evangelism. 

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a134.html Mon, 08 Feb 21 00:00:00 -0600

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Ephesians 4:1–6

From the Confessions

The Nicene Creed: “I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins.”

Pulling It Together

The “one baptism” into which we are baptized is Christ's baptism. His baptism is our own; it is why he was baptized: to fulfill all righteousness—even ours. Jesus was not baptized for his own benefit; he was baptized for our sake. Because we were baptized into Christ Jesus, we were baptized into his death (Rom 6:3). This is how we are now dead to sin. Just as Jesus brought the sin of the world to bear on the cross, he brought the sin of every sinner to the water. He did not bring his own sin to the Jordan, for he was sinless. Jesus bore your sin and mine and the sin of every sinner who has lived and will ever live, and washed it away in baptism. Whoever believes in Jesus and is baptized into his death has this remission of sins. For that was the purpose of his baptism. Therefore, we confess that the baptism of Christ into which we are baptized is the only baptism of any effect on sins.

Prayer: Lord, help me always remember that I am baptized into your death and am therefore alive with you forever. Amen.

Learning About Baptism teaches the meaning of Holy Baptism according to the pattern of Luther's Small Catechism, and is recommended for the First Grade Level. Each week focuses on a specific Bible story that illustrates the theme, with additional references from Scripture and Luther's Small Catechism - Children's Version. Lessons focus on Baptism as a promise from God, emphasizing the power of God's Word in the Sacrament to create faith and repentance in our daily life.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a133.html Sun, 07 Feb 21 00:00:00 -0600

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Galatians 6:11–18

From the Confessions

The Nicene Creed: “And I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.”

Pulling It Together

We believe in the Church established by God, not a church established by Luther (as if Luther ever started a church). Nor do we believe in the churches or denominations begun by any other parties. The Church of God is first, catholic, including other assemblies so long as they are apostolic. “We believe one, holy, catholic church in all ages, from the beginning of the world until the end of the world” (Luther’s Works, vol 2, p 228). “The Israel of God” spans the Old Testament and the New; it is comprised of Jews and Gentiles, so long as they are in Christ (Gal 3:28).

We confess a Church united in its apostolic doctrines and practices, one that is orthodox, rightly teaching the Word and observing the sacraments. Though it gathers behind a variety of signage, it assembles under the banner of Christ. The Church is apostolic in that it has what the Church has had since the time of the apostles: a right devotion to Christ's Word. “Where the Word is not, even though the titles and the office are there, the church is not, because God is not there either” (ibid. p 229).

As to this catholic and apostolic Church, we believe in only one such Church and that it is holy. Though there be many denominations, so long as they are in Christ, they are in his one Church. They are a holy people, a kingly priesthood of all believers called and gathered by God to proclaim the excellencies of Jesus Christ (1 Pet 2:9-10). This is the Church in which we confess to believe.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for baptizing me into Christ's death, thereby killing my old nature, and making me fit for your Church on earth and in heaven. Amen.

The Sola Online Worship eResource (SOWeR) provides so many resources that it is hard to list them all. One of those resources is a growing section of liturgies and services that subscribers may use. These are ready-to-print service booklets like the Sola Scriptura Setting (a spoken liturgy for Holy Communion). 

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a132.html Sat, 06 Feb 21 00:00:00 -0600

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2 Samuel 23:1–4

From the Confessions

The Nicene Creed: “who spake by the Prophets...”

Pulling It Together

Luther teaches (Luther’s Works, vol 15, p 275) us that in his last words, David spoke of the Holy Trinity, that there were three Speakers talking by him or through him. Moved by the Spirit of the Lord, the God of Israel, and the Rock of Israel, David was inspired to allude to a matter that he likely did not fully comprehend. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit, as part of the Three, spoke through David—and through all of the prophets too. No word of prophecy, understood or not, came through anyone without the inspiration of God's Spirit (2 Pet 1:21). “All Scripture is inspired by God” (2 Tim 3:16, RSV). It is breathed out by God, and blown into the prophet. This is the work of the Spirit of God, the one whose very name is used to forge the word “inspire.” Jesus ascribes to the Spirit even his own ministry of proclamation (Luke 4:18). By the Spirit's anointing, all of the prophets taught what they breathed in from God. By the same Spirit, we confess what we have received by the prophets and the apostles and the Lord himself.

Prayer: Holy Spirit, inspire me to confess the word of Christ and his apostles and prophets. Amen.

This link gives you eight weeks of free samples from the many resources provided for each Sunday of the church year. These resources are provided for each Sunday in the lectionary as well as by entire seasons. They include worship planning pages, lesson inserts, prayers, text studies, hymn suggestions cross-referenced in five Lutheran hymnals, puzzles, children's bulletins, editable bulletin templates for various settings of the liturgy, preformatted, copy-ready liturgies, inserts, and orders of worship for regular and occasional services, simplified hymn music for piano and guitar, as well as original hymn lyrics based on the gospel readings for specific Sundays, that are set to familiar hymn tunes.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a131.html Fri, 05 Feb 21 00:00:00 -0600

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Genesis 1:26–28

From the Confessions

The Nicene Creed: “who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified...”

Pulling It Together: The Holy Spirit, like the Son and the Father, is by nature the eternal God. He is uncreated, existing from all eternity. He is an entirely different person from the Father and the Son, but he is not a different God than them. Instead, he is altogether equal to them in an undivided, eternal substance. That is what the faith teaches from the Holy Scriptures. We are not coming up with some strange, new interpretation of the Scripture but simply confessing what the Word of God says about the Holy Spirit.

As God, the Holy Spirit, along with the Father and the Son, is worshiped and honored by the one, true Church everywhere throughout time. This is the basic fabric of our faith; it is the skeleton of our creeds. Without all three persons of the Trinity, the cloth is rent, the structure does not hold together. The Scriptures teach the plurality of the One God since the time of Moses. We simply confess what has always been held by the Israel of God. (Gal 6:16)

Prayer: Help me, Holy Spirit, not so much to comprehend as to believe and confess your word, so that I may in time, by your gracious will, come to understand the incomprehensible. Amen. 

I Am Who I Am is a six-week study that explores what it means to “not take the name of the LORD your God in vain” (Exod 20:7), while at the same time trusting the promise in Christ that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21).

Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a130.html Thu, 04 Feb 21 00:00:00 -0600 Click for online jigsaw.

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John 15:26–27

From the Confessions: The Nicene Creed

“Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son...”

Pulling It Together: The so-called procession of the Son from the Father, and the Spirit from the Father and the Son, has nothing to do with hierarchy within the Trinity. Confessing that the persons of the Trinity proceed from each other is in part simply saying that they are one. The Holy Spirit has equal share in glory with the Son, as well as the Father. Together, they are one God. Each is deity; and they are together one divinity, for they come from each other.

We are also confessing what the Scripture states clearly. Jesus said, “For I proceeded forth and came from God” (John 8:42, KJV). So we understand that the Son proceeds from the Father. Later, John writes, “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me” (John 15:26, KJV). The Spirit proceeds from the Father and is sent by the Son. We do not bicker over the words “proceeds” and “sent.” Instead, “We maintain...that there is a plurality in God characterized by an undivided essence and an inseparable unity” (Luther’s Works, vol 2, p 227). The Spirit was not birthed, but proceeds from the Father and the Son in eternity, even as Jesus comes from the Father in eternity. Though one proceeds from another, they are undivided in their essence; they are inseparably one. In Luther's words again: “The Son is from the Father, the Holy Spirit is from both, and nevertheless it is one God” (“Sermon for the Sunday in Christmastide”). This we believe and confess.

Prayer: Thank you, Jesus, for sending your Spirit to help us in this earthly life. Amen.

The Power of Lent is a series of lenten dramas pairing two characters each week from the story of Jesus' Passion; bearing witness to what they saw, heard, and felt. Each pair of biblical characters reflects upon a similar theme for the week, showing how the same events brought about very different reactions to Jesus and his identity.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a129.html Wed, 03 Feb 21 00:00:00 -0600

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2 Corinthians 3:12–18

From the Confessions: The Nicene Creed

“And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life...”

Pulling It Together: We have considered the Holy Ghost, or Spirit, in the Apostles' Creed. A few more words about God's Spirit are added to the Nicene Creed. He is called Lord. Too often, the Holy Spirit is thought of in a disembodied manner. No wonder, when we think of ghost and spirit the way we do. We think of him little better, if at all, when we reckon him to be merely a heavenly force. The Holy Spirit is as personal as Jesus and as relational as the Father. God's Spirit is somebody. He is the third person of the Trinity. He is rightly called Lord, since he is just as much our master and benefactor as the Father and the Son.

The Nicene Creed also calls the Holy Spirit the Giver of Life. Scripture speaks of all three persons of the Trinity creating life. The Spirit gave life to Jesus in the womb of Mary. It is Christ's Spirit within us that produces newness of life. He is indeed the Lord and Giver of Life. But all this is meant to say, between the lines, that the Spirit is a person, one of three persons we confess as God.

Prayer: Bless you, Lord Christ, for sending the Spirit Lord to indwell us and give us new life. Amen.

Did you know about the free stuff? Here are dozens of free Sunday School resources from Sola Publishing that include games, crafts, and projects. These resources are tied to Sola's three-year Sunday Schoolhouse Series.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a128.html Tue, 02 Feb 21 00:00:00 -0600

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Isaiah 9:2–7 

From the Confessions: The Nicene Creed

“whose kingdom shall have no end.”

Pulling It Together

Since God himself is eternal, his kingdom also remains forever. Within any kingdom, including God's heavenly kingdom, are its citizens, the king's subjects. The citizens of the kingdom of heaven are both angelic and human. So they too will have no end, since they dwell in an eternal kingdom. That is the logic of the matter. Then there is the promise. A child was born, a son was given. He is the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. His kingdom, his government, will never end; it will only increase forever. We know that all of this has been done by God for us and to his glory. Because we have been set free from sin by our great Prince, we have been sanctified and justified (1 Cor 6:11) and are being renewed day by day (2 Cor 4:16) to the end result that we have eternal life in the kingdom of Christ Jesus our Lord.

Prayer: Thank you, God, for the free gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus my Lord. Amen.

In Harmony with the Word is an eight-session Bible Study that focuses on Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, from Matthew 5-7. It is written at an introductory level, to be led by a lay leader or pastor in a small-group question and discussion format. The study would serve as an excellent resource for monthly women's group meetings or in an informal small-group setting.

Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a127.html Mon, 01 Feb 21 00:00:00 -0600

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2 Corinthians 5:16–21

From the Confessions: The Nicene Creed

“...and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again with glory to judge the quick and the dead.”

Pulling It Together

Again, we see the additional statement that Christ did all that he did “for us.” Though it is mentioned here only in regards to crucifixion, earlier it is stated that the reason he came down from heaven was for us. We cannot expect to say it in every instance in the creed but it can be said here. He was born for us. He became man for us. He was crucified for us. He suffered for us. He was buried for us. He rose from the dead for us. He ascended to the right hand of the Father for us. And he will come again in power and great glory for us. When he returns, he will judge the dead as well as the living. This too, we confess he will do for us. For though we too will be judged, we will be found righteous by virtue of Christ having become sin for us. For our sake, Christ switched positions with sinners, so that they would be new creations, reconciled to God.

Prayer: I praise you, Lord Jesus, for all you have done for us. Help me to understand just how great a thing it was that you accomplished in your life, death, resurrection, and ascension. And help me to live the new life you have given me, by being your ambassador to others. Amen.

Sola’s Confirmation workbook, The Lord's Prayer, is designed to be a small group Bible study, student book for home school or independent study programs, or as a classroom tool and homework resource as part of an existing confirmation program.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a126.html Sun, 31 Jan 21 00:00:00 -0600 Click for larger image

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Matthew 10:34–39

From the Confessions

The Nicene Creed: “by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried”

Pulling It Together: We have covered most of this in our look at the Apostles' Creed. However, there is something new here. Note the words, “who for us men, and for our salvation.” The only God, existing as Father, Son, and Spirit, sent himself into this world he created (John 3:16) and he did so for our sake (2 Cor 5:21). He did not come to earth on vacation as a Greek god would or to wreak mayhem as a Norse god might. The Son of God became the Son of Man for our benefit, and did so simply because of his Father's great love for us. He came to earth on a mission. It was not to make earth a better or nicer place, or even to bring peace (Matt 10:34). He came to earth for our salvation.

We confess this in the Nicene Creed, and it is good that we do so; otherwise we would be creating all sorts of reasons that Jesus came among us, mostly driven by whatever social agenda we might be impelled by this year. The creed pulls us back to reality, to God, to Christ's mission. Jesus did not come to make us feel good, to give us more stuff, or to fulfill our dreams. He came to save us, to bring us into a corrected and eternal relationship with God. Our confession calls us back to this reality.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord God, for saving the world. Amen.


Check out Sola’s Confirmation workbook, The Sacraments, designed to be a small group Bible study, student book for home school or independent study programs, or as a classroom tool and homework resource as part of an existing confirmation program.

Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a125.html Sat, 30 Jan 21 00:00:00 -0600 Click for larger image

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Colossians 1:15–20

From the Confessions

The Nicene Creed: “begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father.”

Pulling It Together

Here we see a straightforward denial of the Arian heresy: Jesus is “not made.” If there was any uncertainty about the definition of the word begotten, here is the clarification: “not made.” The Son of God is not a created being, like angels or humans. To better understand the relationship of the Father and the Son, we say that Jesus is begotten of the Father. This is not the same thing as being born. The Son of Man was born; the Son of God was not born. The Son of God simply is. He is eternal, existing before all creation. We confess that Jesus is begotten of the heavenly Father so it is understood that he had no earthly father and that there is an eternal relationship between the Father and the Son.

We also claim in this confession, that the Son is of one substance with the Father. The Spirit, the Son, and the Father are one substance or essence, yet three persons. So, we confess and assert with strong voice and faith that Jesus, being of that same, one substance with the Father and Spirit, is God of God, true God of true God.

Prayer: Thank you for creating all things, Lord, and for recreating me. Amen.


Pilate's Investigation is a five-part series designed for use during Lent. Each of the dramas feature Pontius Pilate, seeking to learn the identity of the mysterious figure who has been brought to him for judgment. Scripture texts are assigned for each of the dramas, along with notes for the actors.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a124.html Fri, 29 Jan 21 00:00:00 -0600 Click for larger image

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John 5:15-18

From the Confessions: The Nicene Creed: Very God of very God...

Pulling It Together

These days, we say, “true God of true God,” and rightly so, since “very” used to be used as truly or true. The Latin word from which we derive the English word “very” is verus which means “true.” We still think this way, even if we do not realize we do so. If we say something is very blue, we mean it is truly blue. Just so, when we confess that Jesus is very God, we mean that he is the true God. And when we say that he is true God of true God, we simply mean that he is truest of true, the highest form of he who is verily God.

In responding to the Arian heresy, these superlatives were important. There is, of course, no other God to be truer than, so “true God of true God” emphasizes the doctrine that Jesus is not a created being but is truly God.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me to hear your word and believe. Amen.


SOWeR, the Sola Online Worship eResource, is a lectionary-based subscription program that helps pastors and congregations plan for worship, with Scripture Inserts, readings and prayers for easy copying and pasting for each Sunday of the year. 

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a123.html Thu, 28 Jan 21 00:00:00 -0600 Click for larger image

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Revelation 21:22–25

From the Confessions: The Nicene Creed

Light of Light

Pulling It Together

“God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). He is the source of the light, thus we say that he is the light. The light that is God is generated by his glory. This speaks to his holiness, since there can be no darkness or evil in his light.

Jesus is not a reflection of this light. He is the light. He is the “true light” (John 1:9). He is that “joyous light of glory” whom we confess as God. As he is by definition, “God of God,” he is by description, “Light of Light.” The psalmist declares that God is such bright light that in his light we are able to see light. The normal light of day is as darkness in the glory of God. Jesus shows us the light of God, not by reflecting his light but by being the light—by being God, who is light. Thus, we confess that Jesus is Light of Light.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, bring your light to bear on the darkness in my life. Amen.


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Of One Mind and Purpose is a six-session study examines the unique way in which the Bible describes being united in Christ. It explains how God’s Word can either divide people or bring them together in faith, showing how the relationship we have with one another in the Church comes through Christ alone.

Leader's Guide

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a122.html Wed, 27 Jan 21 00:00:00 -0600 Click for larger image

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Philippians 2:5–11

From the Confessions: The Nicene Creed

God of God

Pulling It Together: Jesus has always been God. This did not happen when he was born of the virgin, or when he died on the cross, or when he rose from the dead, or when he ascended to the Father. He has always been and always will be God. Jesus is God, as the Father and the Spirit are God, and they are together God. He is the very essence of what it is to be God. He is the pith of divinity.

Though the Son of God was born of a woman and became for us the Son of Man, he remained God. We say that he is God incarnate, or God in the flesh. Though he became a man, he remained wholly God. Just as he has never ceased being God, he never began to be God. He has always been God with the Father and Holy Spirit. Together, they are God and Jesus is God of this Triune God.

Prayer: Jesus, I bow before you, my Lord and my God. Amen.


The Power of Lent is a series of lenten dramas pairing two characters each week from the story of Jesus' Passion; bearing witness to what they saw, heard, and felt. Each pair of biblical characters reflects upon a similar theme for the week, showing how the same events brought about very different reactions to Jesus and his identity.

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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/lessons-in-the-lutheran-confessions/a121.html Tue, 26 Jan 21 00:00:00 -0600 Click for larger image

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John 1:1–4, 14–18

From the Confessions: The Nicene Creed: And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds...

Pulling It Together

In response to the Arians again, the Nicene Creed specifies that the Son of God is begotten of the Father before all worlds—before anything was created. In other words, the Son is eternal, as John testifies in his gospel. The Son of God is not a created being, even one of a higher nature than man, but instead is himself the Creator. John testifies to this also. All things were made by him—and he is not a made being. He has simply been, existi