Thursday, December 4, 2008

Something I Wish I Had Done a Long Time Ago: Memorizing Luther's Small Catechism

Even though I was raised a Lutheran, and I've read the Lutheran confessions, in the past year or so it dawned on me that there is a treasure trove of wisdom that I have let just sit by the wayside. Perhaps it's because I now have no confessional liturgical worship service in my area to go to that this longing to know the Lutheran teachings better is getting stronger. It could also be that I've looked into enough other doctrines, and the Lutheran one is the one I think is the most reasonable. And, see how much credit I give myself. It is most definitely the Holy Spirit dragging me to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Well, part of my daily devotions includes the reading and praying of Luther's Small Catechism. I have only read it and studied it. However, because my parents left the then Lutheran Church in America (pre-Evangelical Lutheran Church of America)when I was in high school, my younger sisters were required to memorize it when they were confirmed. I remember being amazed and very jealous that they had mastered the entire catechism!

So, this post is my attempt to introduce the Small Catechism to my own family, and because we use both English and Japanese, each day I will post both languages. (So, if my page comes out in gobblety-gook to any readers who take a peek, that's the reason!) I hope to put both to memory.

Luther's Small Catechism has Six Chief Parts. The first part is The Ten Commandments. Most people think of these as rules to keep on God's good side. If we do these things, we'll make God happy and we'll have a good life. However, Scripture tell us that the reason for God's giving us His Law, is to show us our sin. In Galations 3 we read:

The Law and the Promise
15Brothers, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. 16The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say "and to seeds," meaning many people, but "and to your seed," meaning one person, who is Christ. 17What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. 18For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.
19What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator. 20A mediator, however, does not represent just one party; but God is one.

21Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. 22But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.

23Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. 24So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. 25Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.


Many consider The Ten Commandments as prohibitions. They think that God merely enjoys bossing humans about and forbidding them to do many things. But Luther goes into this with much more in mind than God's restricting our behavior. According to "All Theology Is Christology" How Does Every Passage of Scripture Reveal Christ? by David P. Scaer,
The strength of Luther's explanations of the Ten Commandments is not focusing on the negative behaviors forbidden to the Christian (hurting the neighbor), but on the good he is required to do: "help ... him in every bodily need." It is not a matter of refraining from gross idolatry; rather we should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.


Next time, I'll start posting The Small Catechism, Section 1, The Ten Commandments.

1 comment:

Paul McCain said...

Thanks for your post. May God bless you and your family as you study the Small Catechism. Next to the Bible, it is my favorite book!

God bless!

Pastor Paul McCain