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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
Concerning the Church part 28

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1 Timothy 4:1-5

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Church 

Paul even calls such opinions “doctrines of demons” (1 Tim 4:1). The will and advice of the apostles should therefore be derived from their writings, not simply their example. They observed certain days so that the people would know when to assemble, not because this observance was necessary for justification. They also observed certain other rites and orders of lessons when they assembled. The people retained some of the customs of the Patriarchs, which the apostles adapted to the history of the gospel, such as the Passover and Pentecost, so that they might pass down to posterity the memory of the most important subjects through both example and teaching. But if these things were handed down as necessary for justification, why then did the bishops change them in many ways? If they were matters of divine right, it would be unlawful for a human authority to alter them.

Pulling It Together

There is nothing wrong with celibacy or fasting or many other disciplines. Even in marriage, abstinence can be a good thing, if the couple agrees together to abstain for some spiritual purpose (1 Cor 7:5). The problem occurs when it is said that such things secure salvation or that justification comes by doing or not doing certain things. Beware when practices in the Church begin to bear weight on a person’s conscience. If one person crosses herself at the mention of the Trinity but another does not, it must not be taught that one is right and the other wrong, or that everyone must have the same practice. We should never burden the consciences of those who have come to know the truth and believe in Christ. We do so when we insist that they do or not do external things that have no bearing upon justification. 

Prayer: Lord, give me a thankful heart for all of the good things you have given. Amen.

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