From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning the Marriage of Priests
Misunderstanding the law of Moses, many heretics have treated marriage with contempt, but celibacy with extraordinary admiration. Epiphanius complains that by commending this, the Encratites subdued gullible minds. They abstained from wine—even in the Lord’s Supper; they abstained from the flesh of all animals, surpassing even the Dominican friars who eat fish. They also abstained from marriage; and this gained the principal admiration. They thought that they merited more grace by these works, these services rather than by using wine, meat, and marriage. These seemed to be profane and unclean matters that could scarcely please God, even though not altogether condemned.
Pulling It Together: These false teachings come about by not understanding the principal teaching of the New Testament, the one from which all good doctrine springs, and the central tenet of the Lutherans. That principal belief is that we are saved by God. Yet there are those who disagree. Those who think that they save themselves will come up with exhaustive lists of things that must be done. Denominations who imagine that people can be holy, will devise any number of ways to sanctify themselves. There are even folks—some who call themselves Lutheran—who would tell you that they are saved by God’s grace, yet will still give you things you must do in order to be justified to God.
What can a human being do that will make him right with God? I can think of nothing. Still, let us try. Does going to church get you right with God? No; worship is what keeps you oriented to the one who justifies you to himself. Does reading the Bible make you right with God? Again, no; the Scripture makes you aware of how unholy you are, while revealing the one who makes you holy in spite of yourself. Hopefully, you get the idea.
This is a matter of choosing the correct interrogative. Think of justification in terms of “who” instead of “what.” It is not what you must do but who must do it for you. What can you do? Nothing. Who has done it for you? Christ alone. So why must monks and priests be celibate instead of enjoying the good gift of God in Christian marriage? Because they are thinking of “what” instead of “who.”
Prayer: Keep me ever focused, Lord, upon you. Amen.
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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.