Book of Concord for Saturday

Stained Glass

if you’re like me, you just don’t have enough time spent reading our Confessions. It’s OK- we’re here for you. What better time than the present to read some great theology? Saturdays and Sundays at SKL we’re going to post some goodies from the Confessions for you.

Dig in. Enjoy.

Article XV (VIII): Of Human Traditions in the Church.

1] In the Fifteenth Article they receive the first part, in which we say that such ecclesiastical rites are to be observed as can be observed without sin, and are of profit in the Church for tranquillity and good order. They altogether condemn the second part, in which we say that human traditions instituted to appease God, to merit grace, and make satisfactions for sins are contrary to the Gospel. 2] Although in the Confession itself, when treating of the distinction of meats, we have spoken at sufficient length concerning traditions, yet certain things should be briefly recounted here.

3] Although we supposed that the adversaries would defend human traditions on other grounds, yet we did not think that this would come to pass, namely, that they would condemn this article: that we do not merit the remission of sins or grace by the observance of human traditions. Since, therefore, this article has been condemned, 4] we have an easy and plain case. The adversaries are now openly Judaizing, are openly suppressing the Gospel by the doctrines of demons. For Scripture calls traditions doctrines of demons, when it is taught that religious rites are serviceable to merit the remission of sins and grace. For they are then obscuring the Gospel, the benefit of Christ, and 5] the righteousness of faith. [For they are just as directly contrary to Christ and to the Gospel as are fire and water to one another.] The Gospel teaches that by faith we receive freely, for Christ’s sake, the remission of sins and are reconciled to God. The adversaries, on the other hand, appoint another mediator, namely, these traditions. On account of these they wish to acquire remission of sins; on account of these they wish to appease God’s wrath. But Christ clearly says, Matt. 15:9: In vain do they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

6] We have above discussed at length that men are justified by faith when they believe that they have a reconciled God, not because of our works, but gratuitously, for Christ’s sake. It is certain that this is the doctrine of the Gospel, because Paul clearly teaches, Eph. 2:8, 9: By grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God; 7]not of works. Now these men say that men merit the remission of sins by these human observances. What else is this than to appoint another justifier, a mediator other than Christ? 8] Paul says to the Galatians 5:4: Christ has become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the Law; i.e., if you hold that by the observance of the Law you merit to be accounted righteous before God, Christ will profit you nothing; for what need of Christ have those who hold that they are righteous by their own observance 9] of the Law? God has set forth Christ with the promise that on account of this Mediator, and not on account of our righteousness, He wishes to be propitious to us. But these men hold that God is reconciled and propitious because of the traditions, and not because of Christ. Therefore they take away from Christ the honor of Mediator. 10] Neither, so far as this matter is concerned, is there any difference between our traditions and the ceremonies of Moses. Paul condemns the ceremonies of Moses, just as he condemns traditions, for the reason that they were regarded as works which merit righteousness before God. Thus the office of Christ and the righteousness of faith were obscured. Therefore, the Law being removed, and traditions being removed, he contends that the remission of sins has been promised not because of our works, but freely, because of Christ, if only by faith we receive it. For the promise is not received 11] except by faith. Since, therefore, by faith we receive the remission of sins, since by faith we have a propitious God for Christ’s sake, it is an error and impiety to declare that because of these observances we merit the remission of sins. 12] If any one should say here that we do not merit the remission of sins, but that those who have already been justified by these traditions merit grace, Paul again replies, Gal. 2:17, that Christ would be the minister of sin if after justification we must hold that henceforth we are not accounted righteous for Christ’s sake, but we ought first, by other observances, to merit that we be accounted righteous. Likewise Gal. 3:15: Though it be but a man’s covenant, no man addeth thereto. Therefore, neither to God’s covenant, who promises that for Christ’s sake He will be propitious to us, ought we to add that we must first through these observances attain such merit as to be regarded as accepted and righteous.

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