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Posts Tagged ‘Luther’s catechisms’

The title of this article is from search terms for this blog.  Someone was wanting to know the reason for the order of the Catechisms by Dr. Martin Luther.  It is a good question.

The 6 Chief Parts of the Small and Large Catechisms, by Dr. Martin Luther are:

1.  The Ten Commandments

2.  The Apostle’s Creed

3. The Lord’s Prayer

4. The Sacrament of Holy Baptism

5.  Confession and Absolution

6.  The Sacrament of the Altar

They are in that order for a specific reason:  Law, then Gospel.  In Dr. Luther’s conclusion of the Ten Commandments in The Large Catechism:

Thus we have the Ten Commandments, a compendium of divine doctrine, as to what we are to do in order that our whole life may be pleasing to God, and the true fountain and channel from and in which everything must arise and flow that is to be a good work, so that outside of the Ten Commandments no work or thing can be good or pleasing to God, however great or precious it be in the eyes of the world.

When one applies for a job, the employer will tell the prospective employee what is expected of her.  It is that simple, so also with the Lord.  His commandments show us the way to please the Lord.  Any “work or thing” outside of the Commandments is not pleasing to God.  If I worked at McDonald’s, I would be fired if I fried up some vegetarian burgers and called such a “Big Mac”.  Dr. Luther’s teaching on each of the commandments is also a compendium of each one, both negative (what we should not do) and positive:  what we are to do.  

At the beginning of the 2nd Chief Part, Luther points out we have a difficult time in keeping the 10 Commandments: to say the least!  So Luther taught in the introduction to the 2nd Chief Part, The Creed the reason for the next 5 chief parts:

Thus far we have heard the first part of Christian doctrine, in which we have seen all that God wishes us to do or to leave undone. Now, there properly follows the Creed, which sets forth to us everything that we must expect and receive from God, and, to state it quite briefly, teaches us to know Him fully.    And this is intended to help us do that which according to the Ten Commandments we ought to do. For (as said above) they are set so high that all human ability is far too feeble and weak to [attain to or] keep them. Therefore it is as necessary to learn this part as the former in order that we may know how to attain thereto, whence and whereby to obtain such power.   For if we could by our own powers keep the Ten Commandments as they are to be kept, we would need nothing further, neither the Creed nor the Lord’s Prayer.

So next we have Gospel:  the Apostle’s Creed and the Lord’s Prayer.  Next we have the means of grace by which the Lord gives us His Word of promise fulfilled in Jesus Christ. We read God’s perfect will for us in the 10 Commandments and next His perfect Way to keep the 10 Commandments in the person, word and work of Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God.

One last note:  Law:  1st Chief Part, Gospel: parts 2-6.  There are more chief parts of the Gospel than the Law! This shows how much help we sinners need from our dear Lord and He has!

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