From the Word: 13 And one of the elders answered me saying, “Who are these who are covered in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 And I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are those coming out of the great oppression, and who have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:13–14)
From the Confessions: The Small Catechism
The Third Article
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church,* the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen
What does this mean?
I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him; but the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in the true faith. In the same way, he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and preserves it in unity with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church, he daily forgives abundantly all my sins and the sins of all believers; and at the last day, he will raise me and all the dead and will grant everlasting life to me and to all who believe in Christ. This is most certainly true!
*or “holy Christian Church” (“catholic” here refers to the fellowship of all believing Christians)
Pulling It Together: The Holy Spirit sanctifies me; I do not sanctify myself. He consecrates me by giving me what I need for what he expects of me, and by forgiving me every moment of the day for my various sins, and finally, overarching all else, sealing me with himself (Rev 7:3–4). The Holy Spirit sanctifies me, therefore, not just by giving me spiritual gifts, but in giving me the most precious gift of all: faith in Christ. This bequeathed faith is the Spirit’s seal on me. By means of it, he equips me to believe daily that God really does completely forgive all my sins.
This life therefore, is that great oppression or tribulation or distress (Rev 7:14) in which I must daily depend upon Jesus through faith. Such faith is a washing of this fleshly robe, a renewed and glistening covering in Christ himself (Gal 3:27). By his grace, faith in Christ brings me through life—whatever it may bring—arrayed in a fashion fit and acceptable to the Father.
Prayer: Wash me, O Lord, and I will be pure as snow. Amen.
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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.