Skip to comments."Inculcating the Reformation through Catechesis" (Sermon for Reformation Day, on Romans 3:19-28; John 8:31-36)
Posted on 10/24/2020 8:06:22 PM PDT by Charles Henrickson
Inculcating the Reformation through Catechesis (Romans 3:19-28; John 8:31-36)
First, let me tell you my title for this message. Its Inculcating the Reformation through Catechesis. Now the next thing I want to tell you is this: Dont let that title scare you off! Dont worry, Ill explain each of those terms: Inculcating the Reformation through Catechesis. So here we go.
The first one Ill explain is the Reformation. What is the Reformation? This term refers to the much-needed reforming of the church--straightening it out where it had gone wrong--the reforming movement undertaken by Martin Luther and his associates in the 1500s. That movement started by Luther was so monumentally important in the history of the church that now, every year on the last Sunday in October, we celebrate Reformation Day. And we Lutherans are the direct beneficiaries of what Luther began.
Why the last Sunday in October? Because it was on October 31, 1517, that a young theology professor named Martin Luther posted 95 Theses against the sale of indulgences on the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany. What Luther wrote there was just the start. Over the next several years, in papers and pamphlets, in debates and discussions, Dr. Luther taught and proclaimed the truth of the gospel over against the errors that had crept into the Roman Catholic Church. Called to appear before the emperor in 1521, and pressed to retract what he had written, Luther boldly declared: My conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.
What was the error that Luther exposed, and what was the truth that he proclaimed? The error was the medieval churchs notion that our works enter into our being justified before God. And the truth is the central gospel teaching that we are justified--that is, put right with God--not by anything that we do, but rather by what God has done for us in Christ. One of the passages that most led Luther to discover this truth was the portion of Romans 3 we heard earlier--in fact, you see it on the front of your bulletin. Romans 3:23-24: All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
You see, your works, your goodness, your keeping of Gods law, will never be good enough to plead your case before God on Judgment Day. No, you and I fall far short. For you and I have sinned. We have broken Gods commandments, repeatedly. And the judgment for that is death and eternal damnation. Your works wont save you.
But God has had mercy on us and sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to bear the load for us. Jesus did keep the law of God, perfectly. He always did the right thing, and did it as our representative, the one man who got it right, all the time, on behalf of all humanity. And even more amazingly, Jesus took the punishment that our sins deserve, bearing our sins into death, on the cross. Jesus shed his holy precious blood as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Thus God is being a just judge when he declares us sinners righteous for Christs sake. You are forgiven, you are free, you are redeemed from death, and righteous before God, by faith in Jesus Christ. Relying on your works wont cut it. Relying on Christ and his works is the only thing that will.
This is the gospel truth that revolutionized Luthers thinking. It is the truth that set him free. And once he discovered it, he wanted everyone else to know, too. Thats what set him on the road of Reformation. And by the early 1520s, it had become pretty clear in his mind. Luther could see what reforms in doctrine and practice were needed in the church. And Luthers writings and teaching were very influential across northern Europe. Many territories and their churches, many pastors and theologians, were aligned with this Reformation movement.
But by the mid-1520s heres what Luther was wondering: How are these gospel truths getting down to the local level? Sure, Luther and Melanchthon and their colleagues understood what ought to be done and taught to get Gods Word out straight and clear. But how was that filtering down to the average church member and average parish pastor? So in the mid-1520s, Luther and the other reformers undertook a visitation of the parishes in their territory. This way they could see how the truth of God was penetrating where error had prevailed for so long.
And what did Luther discover? Well, it was not good. The people didnt know any Christian doctrine, and they were living like pigs, as though the gospel didnt make any difference in their lives. And so thats where the catechism comes in. Luther saw that what was needed was a simple, accessible, handbook of the basics of the Christian faith, to impress the truths of the gospel on peoples hearts and minds.
In the preface to the Small Catechism, Luther reflects on what he observed in the visitations and how that impelled him to publish the catechism: The deplorable, miserable conditions which I recently observed when visiting the parishes have constrained and pressed me to put this catechism of Christian doctrine into this brief, plain, and simple form. How pitiable, so help me God, were the things I saw: the common man, especially in the villages, knows practically nothing of Christian doctrine, and many of the pastors are almost entirely incompetent and unable to teach. Yet all the people are supposed to be Christians, have been baptized, and receive the Holy Sacrament even though they do not know the Lords Prayer, the Creed, or the Ten Commandments and live like poor animals of the barnyard and pigpen.
This was an unacceptable situation. The catechism was designed to remedy this sorry state. Luther appeals to the pastors to help with this task: Therefore dear brothers, for Gods sake I beg all of you who are pastors and preachers to devote yourselves sincerely to the duties of your office, that you feel compassion for the people entrusted to your care, and that you help us accordingly to inculcate this catechism in the people, especially the young.
To inculcate this catechism: Ah, theres that word, inculcate. Its probably a word you havent used all that often. But its an excellent word to describe what the catechism does. It inculcates the faith. If you look up the word inculcate in the dictionary, youll find it defined something like this: to instill an attitude, idea, or habit by persistent instruction, or to teach and impress by frequent repetitions. And thats what the catechism does. By use of brief, easily remembered questions and answers, the catechism brings home the basics of the Christian faith and impresses them in your heart and mind, ready at hand, for you to put them into practice in your life.
Now you may have been catechized and confirmed years ago. But you will never outgrow the catechism. Theres nobody in this room who knows the Bible and the Christian faith as well as Dr. Luther. Yet listen to what he says: I act as a child who is being taught the catechism. Every morning--and whenever I have time--I read and say, word for word, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lords Prayer, the Psalms, and such. I must still read and study them daily. Yet I cannot master the catechism as I wish. But I must remain a child and pupil of the catechism, and am glad to remain so.
The Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lords Prayer, Baptism, Confession, the Lords Supper--these are the chief parts of Christian teaching. There are Daily Prayers, the Table of Duties, and a little exercise to help you prepare for the Sacrament. And while the words never change, you will change. You will hopefully be maturing in the faith and discovering new truths in these biblical teachings. And you will be encountering new situations in your life to which these teachings will speak. So you will never outgrow the catechism. It will serve as a roadmap for understanding the Scriptures and your handbook for daily Christian living.
So I encourage you to take advantage of the catechesis class that will be starting this week. This Tuesday, to be exact. Ill be offering this class two times on Tuesdays: one, at 3:30 at St. Matthew-Bonne Terre, and the other, at 6:30 at Grace-De Soto. If you cant make one on a given week, maybe you can make the other. And the classes will be recorded, if you cant make either time. Talk to me if youre interested, and I can give you more details. Ive taught the catechism many, many times, to youth and to adults, and it never fails: Even lifelong church members will tell me they have discovered new insights as they have gone through the catechism once again.
Brothers and sisters, our Lord Jesus Christ tells us in the Gospel reading today: If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. And this is what catechesis does. It is a way for you to abide in Jesus word, to continue in his precious gospel. As you abide in his word, you will grow as Jesus disciple, as his follower. And through Gods Word, the Holy Spirit will guide you into all truth, to know deep down the reality of what life is all about. It is about life with God, new life now and eternal life forever, through faith in Jesus Christ. This is the truth that sets you free. It sets you free from sin, death, and the power of the devil. This word of Christ is liberating, life-giving truth. So let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.
The catechism will help you with that. The catechism is designed to inculcate the wonderful gospel truths in your heart, in your mind, and in your daily living. It is a joyful thing. And this is why we are giving thanks to God for this great teaching tool today on Reformation Day, and kicking off our catechism class this week.
Lord, help us ever to retain
The Catechisms doctrine plain
As Luther taught the Word of truth
In simple style to tender youth.
Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it--the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show Gods righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
John 8:31-36 (ESV)
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. They answered him, We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, You will become free?
Jesus answered them, Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
Enjoyed the sermon.
I received an e-mail from Bible Visuals featuring their new book “The Refuge” which is a biographical story teaching children about Martin Luthers role in the Reformation https://biblevisuals.org/product/5760-the-refuge/
I used the link on their site to watch the video by the same name https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l2fq3T6EA-s
I do not think it is conincidence that your post is just after this one: Gay Unions: Pachamama Slayer Grills Pope...Alexander Tschugguel holds a banner in St. Peter's Square Tschugguel led a band of faithful Catholics from Castel Sant'Angelo — where the Catholic convert had dumped five Pachamama idols into the Tiber River during the Amazon Synod — to the Vatican in protest against the pontiff's repudiation of Catholic teaching
"Some years before the rise of the Lutheran and Calvinistic heresy, according to the testimony of those who were then alive, there was almost an entire abandonment of equity in ecclesiastical judgments; in morals, no discipline; in sacred literature, no erudition; in divine things, no reverence; religion was almost extinct. ( Cardinal Bellarmine: Concio XXVIII. Opp. Vi. 296- Colon 1617, cited in “A History of the Articles of Religion,” by Charles Hardwick, Cp. 1, p. 10,)
Much more, by the grace of God.
Why the last Sunday in October? Because it was on October 31, 1517, that a young theology professor named Martin Luther posted 95 Theses against the sale of indulgences on the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany.
You should know that this nailing is questioned (and attacked) by some since it it has sparse testimony, and with the 95 theses being mailed being the alternative, but overall being nailed is the most likely. Search beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com for most of anything of controversy re. Luther, as here.
The error was the medieval church’s notion that our works enter into our being justified before God. And the truth is the central gospel teaching that we are justified--that is, put right with God--not by anything that we do, but rather by what God has done for us in Christ.
Yet as Luther taught, works do justify one as being a believer, and the only faith that is counted for righteousness is one that is effectual, that effects obedience to God by the Spirit, contrary to typical Catholic attacks on sola fide:
faith is a living and an essential thing, which makes a new creature of man, changes his spirit... Faith cannot help doing good works constantly... if faith be true, it will break forth and bear fruit... where there is no faith there also can be no good works; and conversely, that there is no faith.. where there are no good works. Therefore faith and good works should be so closely joined together that the essence of the entire Christian life consists in both. if obedience and God's commandments do not dominate you, then the work is not right, but damnable, surely the devil's own doings, although it were even so great a work as to raise the dead... if you continue in pride and lewdness, in greed and anger, and yet talk much of faith, St. Paul will come and say, 1 Cor. 4:20, look here my dear Sir, "the kingdom of God is not in word but in power." It requires life and action, and is not brought about by mere talk. Works are necessary for salvation, but they do not cause salvation... faith casts itself on God, and breaks forth and becomes certain through its works... faith must be exercised, worked and polished; be purified by fire... it is impossible for him who believes in Christ, as a just Savior, not to love and to do good. If, however, he does not do good nor love, it is sure that faith is not present... where the works are absent, there is also no Christ... References and more by God's grace: http://peacebyjesus.net/Reformation_faith_works.html
Though a Christian my whole life I was little better than the Chinese rice Christian who would adopt the faith for a bowl of rice. That changed when I began to listen to Oklahoma Bible expert Les Felnick. I have learned so much. My faith is at last my Faith. My eternal thanks to Les and other apostles like him.
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