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From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning the Mass
As for outward appearances, church attendance is better among us than among our opponents. Helpful, clear sermons hold the audience, but neither the people nor the teachers have ever understood our opponents. The true adornment of the churches is godly, practical, and clear teaching, the devout use of the Sacraments, ardent prayer, and so forth. Candles, golden vessels, and similar adornments are fitting, but they are not the adornment that properly belongs to the Church. If our opponents make worship consist of such matters instead of the proclamation of the gospel, faith, and the struggles of faith, they are to be numbered among those whom Daniel describes as worshiping their God with gold and silver (Dan 11:38).
Pulling It Together
What is it that proclaims the gospel? That thing belongs in our services of worship. The Sacraments proclaim the gospel on the deepest level. “Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” clearly “speak” (Eph 5:19; Col 3:16) the good news of Christ among us. Prayers turn our attentions back to the source of faith. Whatever else is on display in our sanctuaries, our churches must be draped in plain, simple, clear preaching of the gospel. Anything among us that does not preach the gospel is just decoration.
The real beauty of the Church is the gospel. The Church exists to preach the gospel. If it is not preached there, it is a church in name only. The sign outside may say “Lutheran Church” but if the clear call to “repent and believe in the gospel” is not heard there, it is not a church. Jesus came preaching repentance and faith in the gospel of God. He then called men to follow him, that they might learn to do the same. He still calls people to be his disciples, and in following Jesus, both individuals and congregations are commissioned to proclaim his gospel.
Prayer: Teach me how to follow you, Lord. Amen.
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When we speak of the "Great Commission," we usually think of Jesus' words at the end of Matthew's Gospel. But there are actually several places in the New Testament that describe the commission we have been given to speak and act, bearing witness to the truth of the gospel message. All these biblical articulations convey the same charge and calling, but each adds something important to our appreciation and understanding of the mission to which we have been called.
The Great Commissions is a six-session Bible study drawing from all four Gospels, as well as the book of Acts and the writings of Paul, to focus on the calling that Jesus has given us and how it works in our everyday lives. Here is a sample PDF of the introduction and first chapter.