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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law part 34

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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. 

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