Thursday of Week 27
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AP XXIV 13-24, Of the Mass (continued)
13] If we are to say only as much as is necessary, the case has already been stated. For no sane man can approve that pharisaic and heathen opinion concerning the opus operatum. And nevertheless this opinion inheres in the people, and has increased infinitely the number of masses. For masses are purchased to appease God’s wrath, and by this work they wish to obtain the remission of guilt and of punishment; they wish to procure whatever is necessary in every kind of life [health, riches, prosperity, and success in business]; they wish even to liberate the dead. Monks and sophists have taught this pharisaic opinion in the Church.
14] But although our case has already been stated, yet, because the adversaries foolishly pervert many passages of Scripture to the defense of their errors, we shall add a few things on this topic. In the Confutation they have said many things concerning “sacrifice,” although in our Confession we purposely avoided this term on account of its ambiguity. We have set forth what those persons whose abuses we condemn now understand as a sacrifice. Now, in order to explain the passages of Scripture that have been wickedly perverted, it is necessary in the beginning to set forth what a sacrifice is. 15] Already for an entire period of ten years the adversaries have published almost infinite volumes concerning sacrifice, and yet not one of them thus far has given a definition of sacrifice. They only seize upon the name “sacrifices” either from the Scriptures or the Fathers [and where they find it in the Concordances of the Bible, apply it here, whether it fits or not]. Afterward they append their own dreams, as though indeed a sacrifice signifies whatever pleases them.
What a Sacrifice Is, and What Are the Species of Sacrifice
Now, lest we plunge blindly into this business, we must indicate, in the first place, a distinction as to what is, and what is not, a sacrifice. To know this is expedient and good for all Christians. 16] Socrates, in the Phaedrus of Plato, says that he is especially fond of divisions, because without these nothing can either be explained or understood in speaking, and if he discovers any one skilful in making divisions, he says that he attends and follows his footsteps as those of a god. And he instructs the one dividing to separate the members in their very joints, lest, like an unskilful cook, he break to pieces some member. But the adversaries wonderfully despise these precepts, and, according to Plato, are truly κακοί μαγείροι (poor butchers), since they break the members of “sacrifice,” as can be understood when we have enumerated the species of sacrifice. 17] Theologians are rightly accustomed to distinguish between a Sacrament and a sacrifice. Therefore let the genus comprehending both of these be either 18] a ceremony or a sacred work. A Sacrament is a ceremony or work in which God presents to us that which the promise annexed to the ceremony offers; as, Baptism is a work, not which we offer to God, but in which God baptizes us, i.e., a minister in the place of God; and God here offers and presents the remission of sins, etc., according to the promise, Mark 16:16: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. A sacrifice, on the contrary, is a ceremony or work which we render God in order to afford Him honor.
19] Moreover, the proximate species of sacrifice are two, and there are no more. One is the propitiatory sacrifice, i.e., a work which makes satisfaction for guilt and punishment, i.e., one that reconciles God, or appeases God’s wrath, or which merits the remission of sins for others. The other species is the eucharistic sacrifice, which does not merit the remission of sins or reconciliation, but is rendered by those who have been reconciled, in order that we may give thanks or return gratitude for the remission of sins that has been received, or for other benefits received.
20] These two species of sacrifice we ought especially to have in view and placed before the eyes in this controversy, as well as in many other discussions; and especial care must be taken lest they be confounded. But if the limits of this book would suffer it, we would add the reasons for this division. For it has many testimonies in the Epistle to the Hebrews and elsewhere. And 21] all Levitical sacrifices can be referred to these members as to their own homes [genera]. For in the Law certain sacrifices were named propitiatory on account of their signification or similitude; not because they merited the remission of sins before God, but because they merited the remission of sins according to the righteousness of the Law, in order that those for whom they were made might not be excluded from that commonwealth [from the people of Israel]. Therefore they were called sin-offerings and burnt offerings for a trespass. Whereas the eucharistic sacrifices were the oblation, the drink-offering, thank-offerings, first-fruits, tithes.
22] Thus there have been in the Law emblems of the true sacrifice. But in fact there has been only one propitiatory sacrifice in the world, namely, the death of Christ, as the Epistle to the Hebrews 10:4 teaches: It is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. And a little after, of the obedience and will of Christ, 10:10: By the which will we are sanctified by the offering of the body 23] of Jesus Christ once for all. And Isaiah interprets the Law, in order that we may know that the death of Christ is truly a satisfaction for our sins, or expiation, and that the ceremonies of the Law are not; wherefore he says, Is. 53:10: When Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He will see His seed, etc. For the word employed here, asham, signifies a victim for transgression; which signified in the Law that a certain Victim was to come to make satisfaction for our sins and reconcile God, in order that men might know that God wishes to be reconciled to us, not on account of our own righteousnesses, but on account of the merits of another, namely, of Christ. Paul interprets the same word asham as sin, Rom. 8:3: For sin (God) condemned sin, i.e., He punished sin for sin, i.e., by a Victim for sin. The significance of the word can be the more easily understood from the customs of the heathen, which, we see, have been received from the misunderstood expressions of the Fathers. The Latins called a victim that which in great calamities, where God seemed to be especially enraged, was offered to appease God’s wrath, a piaculum; and they sometimes sacrificed human victims, perhaps because they had heard that a human victim would appease God for the entire human race. The Greeks sometimes called them καθαρματα and sometimes περιψηματα. Isaiah and Paul, therefore, mean that Christ became a victim, 24] i.e., an expiation, that by His merits, and not by our own, God might be reconciled. Therefore let this remain established in the case, namely, that the death of Christ alone is truly a propitiatory sacrifice. For the Levitical propitiatory sacrifices were so called only to signify a future expiation. On account of a certain resemblance, therefore, they were satisfactions redeeming the righteousness of the Law, lest those persons who sinned should be excluded from the commonwealth. But after the revelation of the Gospel and after the true sacrifice has been accomplished they had to cease; and because they had to cease in the revelation of the Gospel, they were not truly propitiations, since the Gospel was promised for this very reason, namely, to set forth a propitiation.
(…to be continued)
Today’s reader: Matthew Johnson
Matthew Johnson is a Lutheran layman living and working in Lockport, NY. He hopes you enjoy listening to the Lutheran Confessions.