From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning the Number and Use of the Sacraments
Therefore Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and Absolution, which is the Sacrament of Repentance, are truly Sacraments. For these rites have God’s command and the promise of grace, which is the substance to the New Testament. For when we are baptized, when we eat the Lord’s body, when we are absolved, our hearts must be firmly assured that God truly forgives us for Christ’s sake. Through the Word and the rite, God moves hearts to believe and conceive faith at the same time, just as Paul says, “Faith comes from what is heard” (Rom 10:17). But just as the Word enters the ear in order to strike our heart, so the rite itself strikes the eye, in order to move the heart. The effect of the Word and the rite is the same, as Augustine said well, calling a sacrament “the visible word.” For the rite is received by the eyes, and is, as it were, a picture of the Word, signifying the same thing as the Word. Therefore the effect of both is the same.
Pulling It Together
We find in God’s gracious commands, in the sacraments, the essence of the New Testament. For these things must be received in faith. We must come before the Word with soft, believing hearts, trusting that God has called us to the font and the table in order to forgive and regenerate us.
In baptism, we see and feel the water, but must take hold of God’s promise with faith in order to believe that God is washing away our sins. In Holy Communion, we see and taste earthly bread and the wine, but must comprehend with faith that this is heavenly food, the body and the blood of the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
This goodwill of God is seen and heard in the sacraments, where grace is truly known, and through which God revives faith. We profess that his gift comes out the fullness of Christ, from whom we receive grace upon grace (John 1:16). His gift of grace is never-ending. We cannot reach the bottom of his stock, for his supply does not depend upon our goodness, but Christ’s goodness—upon our morality, but instead, Christ’s righteousness—upon our devotion, but rather, because God remains devoted to those who believe that, for Christ’s sake, God extends his grace to poor sinners. May our hearts remain soft and inclined to believe.
Prayer: Help me to see and believe, Lord, yet even to believe without seeing. Amen.
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