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From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning the Mass
For a start, it is a dishonor to the gospel to assert that a ceremony ex opere operato is a sacrifice that reconciles God, and makes satisfaction for sins without faith. It is horrible to attribute as much to the work of a priest as to the death of Christ. Then again, sin and death cannot be overcome unless through faith in Christ, as Paul teaches. “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:1). So, the punishment of purgatory cannot be overcome by the application of the work of another.
Pulling It Together
Ceremonies and rituals are nice. But a ceremony or a ritual is not fine in and of itself. For example, if I go through the motions of living with my wife but do not believe that she loves me, consider the relational benefits alone that are absent to me. I may offer my paycheck, my chores, and even eat at the same table. Yet, if I do not believe that she loves me, what real profit is there in what amounts to ritual ceremony? I may have a nice house, pay all the bills, and have a full belly, but it would be a sad and lonely existence.
I might also go to church, sing the hymns, put money in the plate, and go forward to eat and drink a bit of bread and wine. Yet, if I have no faith in God, and do not believe that he loves me, all I receive is some nice music in my ears—though it would not move my heart—the satisfaction of helping some people have a place to meet, and the feeling of a not very full stomach. (No wonder some folks cannot wait for Sunday lunch.) I may even develop some meaningful relationships with folks in the congregation. Of what use is any of that if I do not have a loving relationship with God?
Believing in my wife’s love provides me with enough to sustain us even if we have no house, food, or the other things that money buys. Believing that God loves me provides even more. Faith in him turns ceremony and ritual into something that moves my soul. When faith is added to the ceremony, God gives me the confidence that he forgives my sins; I enjoy peace with him; and I know that he will keep all his promises to me, including salvation and eternal life.
This saving faith is in the gracious work of our Lord alone, not the rituals of priests and pastors.
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for giving me faith in you. Amen.
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