The Content we Confess as Christians
Several weeks ago I began to make it a practice that in the morning as I sit in the living room on the couch I have my first cup of coffee along with reading through Luther’s Small Catechism and it’s explanation (Concordia House Publishing has this Edition here: http://tinyurl.com/yajpl5o3) This has become one of the precious times as I pray using Martin Luther’s Morning Prayer:
“I thank you, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray that You would keep me this day also from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life may please You. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.”
After prayer and reciting the Apostles Creed, Luther tells Christians to go on their way joyfully.
For me, as a new Lutheran, I decided that going on joyfully meant learning more about the faith handed down to us (Jude 1:3). Irenaeus, an Ancient Church Father, wrote in his work Against Heresies, We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith (AH 3.1.1).
Since the Bible is the ground and pillar of our faith, as Paul wrote to Timothy, “…the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth…” (1 Tim. 3:15) it is then wise to learn from the Church, since its founding, from those who remained faithful. Such is the reason for me to go through Luther’s Small Catechism, researching the scriptures referenced and studying the explanations for each section.
So we pray:
Blessed Lord, since You have caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning, grant that we may so hear them, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, You Son, our Lord, who live and regns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
As many know I have come from being Pentecostal/Charismatic to Reformed Baptist, then Dutch Reformed (Three Forms of Unity: Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism and Canons of Dordt) and now Lutheran.
The results are that there are many things I have had to UN-learn while learning (sometimes what seems for the first time ever) what the Bible plainly and actually says. There are days in which it feels like much of what I was taught is so stuck deep that it must be pulled up, root and all. Other times it feels like simple water washing away the chalk writings of some teaching and others still as if it is so etched in me that the mason must grind away at the false or erroneous teaching so that the truth may be engraved there. Sometimes there is the frustrating realization of, “Why didn’t I see that before!!!” and often, “I know I’ve read that time and time again, why does it make sense only now?”
Such is the process of God’s Holy Spirit, through His Holy Word working sanctification in the very understanding of His Written Word. While I am sometimes frustrated with both what I believed and taught, I have learned, most especially from the Ladies Bible Study at Faith Lutheran, that I only believed what I was taught and I was taught wrong so I shouldn’t beat myself up about it, just be grateful that God has brought me to a clearer understanding of His Word. They have taught me not only how to be gracious to others but also to myself at those times and that is one reason I am truly grateful for the friendship and love.
So now, as I begin to study from Luther’s Small Catechism I embark on this new, hopefully weekly, blog post titled: Coffee & Catechism. The goal is to write on those that are teaching me, clarifying teachings and strengthening me in the most Holy and True Faith which mean it may not be on every section, but we’ll see.
What is the Christian faith?
It is very interesting that Martin Luther begins with this question in the Introduction (if you’re following with the CPH 2017 version I’ll give page numbers), pg. 43:
“What is the Christian faith?”
The Christian faith is the confession that Jesus Christ is the world’s only Savior and Redeemer.
§ John 14:6: Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
§ Acts 4:12: There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.
§ 1 John 5:11-12: This is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
Note: Christian was first called ‘the Way’ (Acts 9:2; 24:14, 22). The term Christian was first used at Antioch (Acts 11:26). This question speaks of the content of the faith that we confess as Christians…
It is the Christian Faith
This first question carries quite the punch. First, note it is going to answer what the Christian faith is. This distinguishes the truths of Biblical and Historical Christianity from all faiths. This is not the subjective faith of those who may claim the name of Christianity but not actually believe what the Bible has to say about Jesus or the faith. Some think that if they just say they have faith but never delineate that this faith is in the One who is the way, the truth and the life, namely Jesus Christ, that they still have a “Christian” faith. I have known many who say they have “faith” but nevertheless do not believe the Christian faith. I’ve often called these smorgasbord faith (a smorgasbord is a meal with varying foods in which you pick and choose what you want to eat). This type of faith takes a little from this belief system and some from that and creates their own “faith” which is no faith at all for it cannot and does not save.
Here, Luther is distinguishing other faiths or belief systems from that of the Bible and Christianity. He marks out that it is the Christian faith which he will be defining.
It is a Confessional Faith
So what is it? The Christian faith is a CONFESSION.
We confess, (homolegeses Gk.) which means we profess a specific belief. We do not only believe in our hearts but we profess it outward with our mouths. But the question is What? What do we confess? What do we profess out loud to believe inwardly? κύριος Ἰησοῦς Jesus is Lord! As I wrote previously (see above), this is not a faith in faith. Nor is it a faith in stuff we made up. Neither is this faith a blend of things we liked from one belief system or religion and create our own. This faith believes and professes that Jesus, the one born to the Virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit, the One baptized in the Jordan who took on our sins in those blessed waters, the One who healed diseases, raised the dead and forgave sins, the One who was beaten, judged to be executed, nailed to a cross and buried in a tomb, the One who rose victoriously on the third day having conquered, for you and for me, sin, death and the devil. This is Jesus the Lord whom we confess to believe in and profess to others.
There is an interesting fact about this compound word: it is a legal statement term in Greek: Homolegeses means “to say the same thing,” “to agree in statement.” . The Apostle Paul, in Romans 10:9 says that we “confess” that Jesus is Lord. We are in agreement with the weight of the word being the same as that used in a court of law. We confess, testify to, agree to that which the Christian faith says about Jesus.
This is not a hidden faith or one we keep to ourselves. It is a professed faith in word and action. We are not keeping it a secret but professing what we believe to others. We profess this faith every time we join together in the Divine Service and recite the Apostles, Nicene or Athanasian Creeds. We profess this faith in Jesus Christ when we receive absolution from our sins and then partake of His True Body and Blood in the Lord’s Supper. We profess this faith when we greet one another with the Peace of the Lord. This is both personal confession of faith as well as a corporate faith. In fact, none of us believes unto ourselves. The Christian confession is from the multitude who believe, believed and have yet to believe.
Those who have this faith are never go it alone like some Lone Ranger Christian. This faith is a corporate faith; a body of believers who join together and confess Jesus Christ is Lord and corporately “call on the Name of the Lord” (Rom 10:13)!
That brings us to the content of this faith we confess and profess.
It is a faith with Content
What is that we believe?
9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:9–13 (ESV)
That Jesus is Lord! First, we believe Jesus to be the ruler, sustainer, creator and savior of the world. He is Lord. Second, we believe that God raised Jesus from the dead. He is not still in the tomb. His body was not stolen or hidden. He, in his physical body, was raised from the dead and lives forever more. This is what justifies us. He justifies us because He died for us and was raised “for our justification” as Paul says in Romans 4:25.
This is the content of our salvation:
--->Jesus said, I am the way…
--->Salvation is in no one else
--->Eternal Life is in His Son
We have eternal life because of this testimony. Not based on our testimony but on what we testify/confess to: Jesus is Lord, is the ONLY Way for Salvation and Eternal Life. This is the content we confess, we judicially attest to, profess, and state categorically that we believe.
There is no other who conquered death and reigns now eternally only Jesus of Nazareth. All other faiths founders are still in the grave decomposing and rotting away. Only Jesus who lived and died for the world rose again from the dead conquering sin, death and the devil. Only He alone is the Sole Savior of the World. This is the confession of the People of God from all time. This is the confession of His Church. Together we confess that Jesus is Lord, believing in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead and all who call upon Him will be saved.