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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
The Smalcald Articles – part 132

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Matthew 24:4–5

From the Confessions: The Smalcald Articles 

Part III, Article XIV. Concerning Monastic Vows.

Since monastic vows directly conflict with the first, chief article, they must be altogether abolished. It is they of whom Christ says, “I am the Christ,” etc (Matt 24:5, 23). He who makes a vow to live as a monk believes that he is entering a way of life that is holier than led by ordinary Christians. He aspires to earn heaven by his own works, not only for himself, but also for others. This denies Christ. They boast from their St. Thomas that a monastic vow is equal to Baptism. This is blasphemy.

Pulling It Together: Imagining that one’s deeds earn heaven is bad enough. The notion that one’s good deeds are more than enough for self, and that the overflow may be shared with others so that they gain heaven is blasphemous. This kind of Christ complex obscures and denies the saving work of Christ. If the good works of monks may spill over into your life and pack you off to heaven, who needs Jesus? More to the point, if anyone is able to obtain eternal life by his good works, then again, who needs Jesus? Be sure of it: a monk is not Christ; he cannot save you any more than he is able to save himself. Only Christ Jesus saves us to eternal life. This is the free gift of God (Rom 6:23) for all those who believe (John 3:16).

Prayer: I lift up the cup of salvation, O Lord, and give you thanks. Amen.

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