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From the Confessions: The Smalcald Articles – part 28
Let it be publicly preached that the Mass is a human deception, and may be neglected without sin, that no one will be condemned for not observing it. One may be saved in a better way without the Mass. I predict that the Mass will then collapse by itself, not only among the rude, common people, but also among all pious, Christian, reasonable, God-fearing hearts—particularly when they hear that the Mass is a dangerous thing, fabricated and invented without the will and Word of God.
Pulling It Together
Justification is the thing around which all else circles. Look to any doctrine or practice of a church and observe how a person is justified to God. You will soon enough see whether that teaching or ritual is heresy or not. Does the praxis teach the apostolic faith, or has it shifted to human inventions, to heresy? In this case of the Mass, Luther is concerned about just this: justification. If the Mass centers around a fiction—indeed, a lie—then, is it truly the Lord’s Supper, a holy communion? If it is not, then it may be avoided without concern. There is a better way; that way being the Lord’s Supper, wherein one believes on Jesus Christ through faith and freely receives God’s grace and the forgiveness of sin. But if one has come to a sacrifice that frees us from our sins, then justification is not free at all. The Roman Mass was an activity that was said to merit the forgiveness of sins. Holy Communion is something remarkably other, in which we freely receive forgiveness from him whose merit affords it for us. “It is finished” (John 19:30). We can add nothing to Christ’s “finished.”
Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for your free gifts through Christ. Amen.
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