From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning the Mass
The Sacraments are not merely signs among people, but are signs of God’s will toward us. So, it is correct to define the New Testament Sacraments as signs of grace. There are two parts to a Sacrament: a sign and the Word. In the New Testament, the Word is the added promise of grace. The promise in the New Testament is the forgiveness of sins, as the text says: “This is my body which is given for you... This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:19 KJV). So, the Word offers the forgiveness of sins, while the ceremony is a picture or seal, as Paul calls it (Rom 4:11), of the Word making known the promise. Therefore, just as the promise is useless unless it is received by faith, a ceremony is useless unless faith is present, truly believing that the forgiveness of sins is offered in the Sacrament.
Pulling It Together
Even the feeling of peace—let alone genuine peace—is not held for long by the mere use of signs. A husband may buy his wife diamonds, flowers, and many other things, but if his word does not accompany them, it is difficult to believe for long that these are signs of his love. He must also promise his love for her; he must tell her that he loves her. Then the gifts, the signs, may mean something—if the wife takes him at his word.
We gain access to God’s grace through faith in his word: his promise to forgive us. True peace is not had in any other way. As long as you depend upon signs alone, you will want to add your own assurances, such as good works and ceremonies. Faith in God’s promise must be added.
Prayer: I believe you, Lord; help my unbelief. Amen.
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In Harmony with the Word is an eight-session Bible Study that focuses on Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, from Matthew 5-7. It is written at an introductory level, to be led by a lay leader or pastor in a small-group question and discussion format. The study would serve as an excellent resource for monthly women's group meetings or in an informal small-group setting.