Monday & Tuesday, Week 28
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AP XXIV 34-57, Of the Mass (continued)
34] Another passage also is cited from Malachi 3:3: And He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering of righteousness. This passage clearly requires the sacrifices of the righteous, and hence does not favor the opinion concerning the opus operatum. But the sacrifices of the sons of Levi, i.e., of those teaching in the New Testament, are the preaching of the Gospel, and the good fruits of preaching, as Paul says, Rom. 15:16: Ministering the Gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, i.e., that, the Gentiles might be offerings acceptable to God by faith, etc. For in the Law the slaying of victims signified both the death of Christ and the preaching of the Gospel, by which this oldness of flesh should be mortified, and the new and eternal life be begun in us.
But the adversaries everywhere perversely apply the name sacrifice to the ceremony alone. They omit the preaching of the Gospel, faith, prayer, and similar things, although the ceremony has been established on account of these, and the New Testament ought to have sacrifices of the heart, and not ceremonials for sin that are to be performed after the manner of the Levitical priesthood.
35] They cite also the daily sacrifice (cf. Ex. 29:38f.; Dan. 8:11f.; 12:11), that, just as in the Law there was a daily sacrifice so the Mass ought to be a daily sacrifice of the New Testament. The adversaries have managed well if we permit ourselves to be overcome by allegories. It is evident, however, that allegories do not produce firm proofs [that in matters so highly important before God we must have a sure and clear word of God, and not introduce by force obscure and foreign passages; such uncertain explanations do not stand the test of God’s judgment]. Although we indeed readily suffer the Mass to be understood as a daily sacrifice, provided that the entire Mass be understood, i.e., the ceremony with the preaching of the Gospel, faith, invocation, and thanksgiving. For these joined together are a daily sacrifice of the New Testament, because the ceremony [of the Mass, or the Lord’s Supper] was instituted on account of these things; neither is it to be separated from these. Paul says accordingly, 1 Cor. 11:26: As often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till He come. But it in no way follows from this Levitical type that a ceremony justifying ex opere operato is necessary, or ought to be applied on behalf of others, that it may merit for them the remission of sins.
36] And the type aptly represents not only the ceremony, but also the preaching of the Gospel. In Num. 28:4f. three parts of that daily sacrifice are represented, the burning of the lamb, the libation, and the oblation of wheat flour. The Law had pictures or shadows of future things. Accordingly, in this spectacle Christ and the entire worship of the New Testament are portrayed. The burning of the lamb signifies the death of Christ. The libation signifies that everywhere in the entire world, by the preaching of the Gospel, believers are sprinkled with the blood of that Lamb, i.e., sanctified, as Peter says, 1 Pet. 1:2: Through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. The oblation of wheat flour signifies faith, prayer, and thanksgiving in hearts. 37] As, therefore, in the Old Testament, the shadow is perceived, so in the New the thing signified should be sought, and not another type, as sufficient for a sacrifice.
38] Therefore, although a ceremony is a memorial of Christ’s death, nevertheless it alone is not the daily sacrifice; but the memory itself is the daily sacrifice, i.e., preaching and faith, which truly believes that, by the death of Christ, God has been reconciled. A libation is required, i.e., the effect of preaching, in order that, being sprinkled by the Gospel with the blood of Christ, we may be sanctified, as those put to death and made alive. Oblations also are required, i.e., thanksgiving, confessions, and afflictions.
Thus the pharisaic opinion 39] of the opus operatum being cast aside, let us understand that spiritual worship and a daily sacrifice of the heart are signified, because in the New Testament the substance of good things should be sought for [as Paul says: In the Old Testament is the shadow of things to come, but the body and the truth is in Christ], i.e., the Holy Ghost, mortification, and quickening. 40] From these things it is sufficiently apparent that the type of the daily sacrifice testifies nothing against us, but rather for us, because we seek for all the parts signified by the daily sacrifice. [We have clearly shown all the parts that belonged to the daily sacrifice in the law of Moses, that it must mean a true cordial offering, not an opus operatum.] The adversaries falsely imagine that the ceremony alone is signified, and not also the preaching of the Gospel, mortification, and quickening of heart, etc. [which is the best part of the Mass, whether they call it a sacrifice or anything else].
41] Now, therefore, good men will be able to judge readily that the complaint against us that we abolish the daily sacrifice is most false. Experience shows what sort of Antiochi they are who hold power in the Church; who under the pretext of religion assume to themselves the kingdom of the world, and who rule without concern for religion and the teaching of the Gospel; who wage war like kings of the world, and 42] have instituted new services in the Church. For in the Mass the adversaries retain only the ceremony, and publicly apply this to sacrilegious gain. Afterward they feign that this work, as applied on behalf of others, 43] merits for them grace and all good things. In their sermons they do not teach the Gospel, they do not console consciences, they do not show that sins are freely remitted for Christ’s sake; but they set forth the worship of saints, human satisfactions, human traditions, and by these they affirm that men are justified before God. And although some of these traditions are manifestly godless, nevertheless they defend them by violence. If any preachers wish to be regarded more learned, they treat of philosophical questions, which neither the people nor even those who propose them understand. Lastly, those who are more tolerable teach the Law, and say nothing concerning the righteousness of faith.
44] The adversaries in the Confutation make a great ado concerning the desolation of churches, namely, that the altars stand unadorned, without candles and without images. These trifles they regard as ornaments to churches. [Although it is not true that we abolish all such outward ornaments; yet, even if it were so, Daniel is not speaking of such things as are altogether external and do not belong to the Christian Church.] It is a far different desolation 45] which Daniel 11:31; 12:11, means namely, ignorance of the Gospel. For the people, overwhelmed by the multitude and variety of traditions and opinions, were in no way able to embrace 46] the sum of Christian doctrine. [For the adversaries preach mostly of human ordinances, whereby consciences are led from Christ to confidence in their own works.] For who of the people ever understood the doctrine of repentance of which the adversaries treat? And yet this is the chief topic of Christian doctrine.
Consciences were tormented by the enumeration of offenses and by satisfactions. Of faith, by which we freely receive the remission of sins, no mention whatever was made by the adversaries. Concerning the exercises of faith, struggling with despair, and the free remission of sins for Christ’s sake, all the books and all the sermons of the adversaries were silent [worse than worthless, and, moreover, caused untold damage]. 47] To these, the horrible profanation of the masses and many other godless services in the churches were added. This is the desolation which Daniel describes.
48] On the contrary, by the favor of God, the priests among us attend to the ministry of the Word, teach the Gospel concerning the blessings of Christ, and show that the remission of sins occurs freely for Christ’s sake. This doctrine brings sure consolation to consciences. The doctrine of [the Ten Commandments and] good works which God commands is also added. The worth and use of the Sacraments are declared.
49] But if the use of the Sacrament would be the daily sacrifice, nevertheless we would retain it rather than the adversaries, because with them priests hired for pay use the Sacrament. With us there is a more frequent and more conscientious use. For the people use it, but after having first been instructed and examined. For men are taught concerning the true use of the Sacrament that it was instituted for the purpose of being a seal and testimony of the free remission of sins, and that, accordingly, it ought to admonish alarmed consciences to be truly confident and believe that their sins are freely remitted. Since, therefore, we retain both the preaching of the Gospel and the lawful use of the Sacrament, the daily sacrifice remains with us.
50] And if we must speak of the outward appearance, attendance upon church is better among us than among the adversaries. For the audiences are held by useful and clear sermons. But neither the people nor the teachers have ever understood the doctrine of the adversaries. [There is nothing that so attaches people to the church as good preaching. But our adversaries preach their people out of the churches; for they teach nothing of the necessary parts of Christian doctrine; they narrate the legends of saints and other fables.] And 51] the true adornment of the churches is godly, useful, and clear doctrine, the devout use of the Sacraments, ardent prayer, and the like. Candles, golden vessels [tapers, altar-cloths, images), and similar adornments are becoming, but they are not the adornment that properly belongs to the Church. But if the adversaries make worship consist in such matters, and not in the preaching of the Gospel, in faith, and the conflicts of faith, they are to be numbered among those whom Daniel describes as worshiping their God with gold and silver, Dan. 11:38.
52] They quote also from the Epistle to the Hebrews 5:1: Every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. Hence they conclude that, since in the New Testament there are high priests and priests, it follows that there is also a sacrifice for sins. This passage particularly makes an impression on the unlearned, especially when the pomp of the priesthood [the garments of Aaron, since in the Old Testament there were many ornaments of gold, silver, and purple] and the sacrifices of the Old Testament are spread before the eyes. This resemblance deceives the ignorant, so that they judge that, according to the same manner, a ceremonial sacrifice ought to exist among us, which should be applied on behalf of the sins of others, just as in the Old Testament. Neither is the service of the masses and the rest of the polity of the Pope anything else than false zeal in behalf of the misunderstood Levitical polity. (They have not understood that the New Testament is occupied with other matters, and that, if such ceremonies are used for the training of the young, a limit must be fixed for them.]
53] And although our belief has its chief testimonies in the Epistle to the Hebrews, nevertheless the adversaries distort against us mutilated passages from this Epistle, as in this very passage, where it is said that every high priest is ordained to offer sacrifices for sins. Scripture itself immediately adds that Christ is High Priest, Heb. 5:5-6,10. The preceding words speak of the Levitical priesthood, and signify that the Levitical priesthood was an image of the priesthood of Christ. For the Levitical sacrifices for sins did not merit the remission of sins before God; they were only an image of the sacrifice of Christ, which was to be the one propitiatory sacrifice, as we have said above. 54] Therefore the Epistle is occupied to a great extent with the topic that the ancient priesthood and the ancient sacrifices were instituted not for the purpose of meriting the remission of sins before God or reconciliation, but only to signify the future sacrifice of Christ alone. 55] For in the Old Testament it was necessary for saints to be justified by faith derived from the promise of the remission of sins that was to be granted for Christ’s sake, just as saints are also justified in the New Testament. From the beginning of the world it was necessary for all saints to believe that Christ would be the promised offering and satisfaction for sins, as Isaiah 53:10 teaches: When Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin.
56] Since, therefore, in the Old Testament, sacrifices did not merit reconciliation, unless by a figure (for they merited civil reconciliation), but signified the coming sacrifice, it follows that Christ is the only sacrifice applied on behalf of the sins of others. Therefore, in the New Testament no sacrifice is left to be applied for the sins of others, except the one sacrifice of Christ upon the cross.
57] They altogether err who imagine that Levitical sacrifices merited the remission of sins before God, and, by this example in addition to the death of Christ, require in the New Testament sacrifices that are to be applied on behalf of others. This imagination absolutely destroys the merit of Christ’s passion and the righteousness of faith, and corrupts the doctrine of the Old and New Testaments, and instead of Christ makes for us other mediators and propitiators out of the priests and sacrificers, who daily sell their work in the churches.
(…to be continued)
Today’s reader: Trent de Marest
Trent is a husband, a father, and a schoolteacher. He serves as vicar at Our Saviour Lutheran Church in Baltimore, MD, under the Rev’d Fr Charles McClean. He and his wife Maritza are expecting the birth of their first child in early March.