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Trinity College of Biblical Studies Chapel

 

 

THE SMALL CATECHISM

OF DR. MARTIN LUTHER
FOR ORDINARY PASTORS AND PREACHERS

[I] The Ten Commandments

IN THE PLAIN FORM IN WHICH THE HEAD OF THE FAMILY
SHALL TEACH THEM TO HIS HOUSEHOLD
1

The First

“You shall have no other gods.”2

2 What does this mean?

Answer: We should fear,3 love, and trust in God above all things.

The Second

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.”4

4 What does this mean?

Answer: We should fear and love God, and so5 we should not use his name to curse, swear,6 practice magic, lie, or deceive, but in every time of need call upon him, pray to him, praise him, and give him thanks.(tr-541)

The Third

“Remember the Sabbath day,7 to keep it holy.”

6 What does this mean?

Answer: We should fear and love God, and so we should not despise his Word and the preaching of the same, but deem it holy and gladly hear and learn it.

The Fourth

“Honor your father and your mother.”

8 What does this mean?

Answer: We should fear and love God, and so we should not despise our parents and superiors, nor provoke them to anger, but honor, serve, obey, love, and esteem them.

The Fifth

“You shall not kill.”

10 What does this mean?

Answer: We should fear and love God, and so we should not endanger our neighbor’s life, nor cause him any harm, but help and befriend him in every necessity of life.

The Sixth

“You shall not commit adultery.”

12 What does this mean?

Answer: We should fear and love God, and so we should lead a chaste and pure life in word and deed, each one loving and honoring his wife or her husband.

The Seventh

“You shall not steal.”

14 What does this mean?

Answer: We should fear and love God, and so we should not rob our neighbor of his money or property, nor bring them into our possession by dishonest trade or by dealing in shoddy wares, but help him to improve and protect his income and property.

The Eighth

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”

16 What does this mean?

Answer: We should fear and love God, and so we should not tell lies about our neighbor, nor betray, slander, or defame him, but should apologize for him, speak well of him, and interpret charitably all that he does.

The Ninth

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.”

18 What does this mean?

Answer: We should fear and love God, and so we should not seek by craftiness to gain possession of our neighbor’s inheritance or home, nor to obtain them under pretext of legal right, but be of service and help to him so that he may keep what is his.(tr-543)

The Tenth

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his ass,8 or anything that is your neighbor’s.”

20 What does this mean?

Answer: We should fear and love God, and so we should not abduct, estrange, or entice away our neighbor’s wife, servants, or cattle, but encourage them to remain and discharge their duty to him.

[Conclusion]

What does God declare concerning all these commandments?

Answer: He says, “I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

22 What does this mean?

Answer: God threatens to punish all who transgress these commandments. We should therefore fear his wrath and not disobey these commandments. On the other hand, he promises grace and every blessing to all who keep them. We should therefore love him, trust in him, and cheerfully do what he has commanded.

[II] The Creed

IN THE PLAIN FORM IN WHICH THE HEAD OF THE FAMILY
SHALL TEACH IT TO HIS HOUSEHOLD
9

The First Article: Creation

“I believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.”

2 What does this mean?

Answer: I believe that God has created me and all that exists; that he has given me and still sustains my body and soul, all my limbs and senses, my reason and all the faculties of my mind, together with food and clothing, house and home, family and property; that he provides me daily and abundantly with all the necessities of life, protects me from all danger, and preserves me from all evil. All this he does out of his pure, fatherly, and divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness on my part. For all of this I am bound to thank, praise, serve, and obey him. This is most certainly true.(tr-545)

The Second Article: Redemption

“And in Jesus Christ, his only son, our Lord: who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried: he descended into hell, the third day he rose from the dead, he ascended into heaven, and is seated on the right hand of God, the Father almighty, whence he shall come to judge the living and the dead.”

4 What does this mean?

Answer: I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, delivered me and freed me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with silver and gold but with his holy and precious blood and with his innocent sufferings and death, in order that I may be his, live under him in his kingdom, and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, even as he is risen from the dead and lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.

The Third Article: Sanctification

“I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.”

6 What does this mean?

Answer: I believe that by my own reason or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him. But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and preserves it in union with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church he daily and abundantly forgives all my sins, and the sins of all believers, and on the last day he will raise me and all the dead and will grant eternal life to me and to all who believe in Christ. This is most certainly true.

[III] The Lord’s Prayer

in the plain form in which the head of the family
shall teach it to his household
1

[Introduction]

1 “Our Father who art in heaven.”2

2 What does this mean?

Answer: Here God would encourage us to believe that he is truly our Father and we are truly his children in order that we may approach him boldly and confidently in prayer, even as beloved children approach their dear father.(tr-547)

The First Petition

“Hallowed be thy name.”

4 What does this mean?

Answer: To be sure, God’s name is holy in itself, but we pray in this petition that it may also be holy for us.

5 How is this done?

Answer: When the Word of God is taught clearly and purely and we, as children of God, lead holy lives in accordance with it. Help us to do this, dear Father in heaven! But whoever teaches and lives otherwise than as the Word of God teaches, profanes the name of God among us. From this preserve us, heavenly Father!

The Second Petition

“Thy kingdom come.”

7 What does this mean?

Answer: To be sure, the kingdom of God comes of itself, without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may also come to us.

8 How is this done?

Answer: When the heavenly Father gives us his Holy Spirit so that by his grace we may believe his holy Word and live a godly life, both here in time and hereafter forever.

The Third Petition

“Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

10 What does this mean?

Answer: To be sure, the good and gracious will of God is done without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may also be done by us.

11 How is this done?

Answer: When God curbs and destroys every evil counsel and purpose of the devil, of the world, and of our flesh which would hinder us from hallowing his name and prevent the coming of his kingdom, and when he strengthens us and keeps us steadfast in his Word and in faith even to the end. This is his good and gracious will.

The Fourth Petition

“Give us this day our daily bread.”

13 What does this mean?

Answer: To be sure, God provides daily bread, even to the wicked, without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that God may make us aware of his gifts and enable us to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.

14 What is meant by daily bread?

Answer: Everything required to satisfy our bodily needs, such as food and clothing, house and home, fields and flocks, money and property; a pious spouse and good children, (tr-549)trustworthy servants, godly and faithful rulers, good government; seasonable weather, peace and health, order and honor; true friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.

The Fifth Petition

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

16 What does this mean?

Answer: We pray in this petition that our heavenly Father may not look upon our sins, and on their account deny our prayers, for we neither merit nor deserve those things for which we pray. Although we sin daily and deserve nothing but punishment, we nevertheless pray that God may grant us all things by his grace. And assuredly we on our part will heartily forgive and cheerfully do good to those who may sin against us.

The Sixth Petition

“And lead us not into temptation.”

18 What does this mean?

Answer: God tempts no one to sin, but we pray in this petition that God may so guard and preserve us that the devil, the world, and our flesh may not deceive us or mislead us into unbelief, despair, and other great and shameful sins, but that, although we may be so tempted, we may finally prevail and gain the victory.

The Seventh Petition

“But deliver us from evil.”

20 What does this mean?

Answer: We pray in this petition, as in a summary, that our Father in heaven may deliver us from all manner of evil, whether it affect body or soul, property or reputation, and that at last, when the hour of death comes, he may grant us a blessed end and graciously take us from this world of sorrow to himself in heaven.

[Conclusion]

“Amen.”3

21 What does this mean?

Answer: It means that I should be assured that such petitions are acceptable to our heavenly Father and are heard by him, for he himself commanded us to pray like this and promised to hear us. “Amen, amen” means “Yes, yes, it shall be so.”(tr-551)

[IV] The Sacrament of Holy Baptism

IN THE PLAIN FORM IN WHICH THE HEAD OF THE FAMILY
SHALL TEACH IT TO HIS HOUSEHOLD
4

First

1 What is baptism?

2 Answer: Baptism is not merely water, but it is water used according to God’s command and connected with God’s Word.

3 What is this Word of God?

4 Answer: As recorded in Matthew 28:19, our Lord Christ said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Second

5 What gifts or benefits does Baptism bestow?

6 Answer: It effects forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and grants eternal salvation to all who believe, as the Word and promise of God declare.

7 What is this Word and promise of God?

8 Answer: As recorded in Mark 16:16, our Lord Christ said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”

Third

9 How can water produce such great effects?

10 Answer: It is not the water that produces these effects, but the Word of God connected with the water, and our faith which relies on the Word of God connected with the water. For without the Word of God the water is merely water and no Baptism. But when connected with the Word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a gracious water of life and a washing of regeneration in the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul wrote to Titus (3:5-8), “He saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life. This saying is sure.

Fourth

10 What does such baptizing with water signify?

12 Answer: It signifies that the old Adam in us, together with all sins and evil lusts, should be drowned by daily sorrow and repentance and be put to death, and that the new man should come forth daily and rise up, cleansed and righteous, to live forever in God’s presence.

(tr-553)13 Where is this written?

14 Answer: In Romans 6:4, St. Paul wrote, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

[V] [Confession and Absolution]

HOW PLAIN PEOPLE ARE TO BE TAUGHT TO CONFESS5

16 What is confession?

Answer: Confession consists of two parts. One is that we confess our sins. The other is that we receive absolution or forgiveness from the confessor as from God himself, by no means doubting but firmly believing that our sins are thereby forgiven before God in heaven.

17 What sins should we confess?

18 Answer: Before God we should acknowledge that we are guilty of all manner of sins, even those of which we are not aware, as we do in the Lord’s Prayer. Before the confessor, however, we should confess only those sins of which we have knowledge and which trouble us.

19 What are such sins?

20 Answer: Reflect on your condition in the light of the Ten Commandments: whether you are a father or mother, a son or daughter, a master or servant; whether you have been disobedient, unfaithful, lazy, ill-tempered, or quarrelsome; whether you have harmed anyone by word or deed; and whether you have stolen, neglected, or wasted anything, or done other evil.

21 Please give me a brief form of confession.

Answer: You should say to the confessor: “Dear Pastor, please hear my confession and declare that my sins are forgiven for God’s sake.”

“Proceed.”

22 “I, a poor sinner, confess before God that I am guilty of all sins. In particular I confess in your presence that, as a manservant or maidservant, etc., I am unfaithful to my master, for here and there I have not done what I was told. I have made my master angry, caused him to curse, neglected to do my duty, and caused him to suffer loss. I have also been immodest in word and deed. I have quarreled with my equals. I have grumbled and sworn at my mistress, etc. For all this I am sorry and pray for grace. I mean to do better.”

23 A master or mistress may say: “In particular I confess in your presence that I have not been faithful in training my children, servants, and wife to the glory of God. I have cursed. I have set a bad example by my immodest language and actions. I have injured my neighbor (tr-555)by speaking evil of him, overcharging him, giving him inferior goods and short measure.” Masters and mistresses should add whatever else they have done contrary to God’s commandments and to their action in life, etc.

24 If, however, anyone does not feel that his conscience is burdened by such or by greater sins, he should not worry, nor should he search for and invent other sins, for this would turn confession into torture;6 he should simply mention one or two sins of which he is aware. For example, “In particular I confess that I once cursed. On one occasion I also spoke indecently. And I neglected this or that,” etc. Let this suffice.

25 If you have knowledge of no sin at all (which is quite unlikely), you should mention none in particular, but receive forgiveness upon the general confession7 which you make to God in the presence of the confessor.

26 Then the confessor shall say: “God be merciful to you and strengthen your faith. Amen.”

27 Again he shall say: “Do you believe that this forgiveness is the forgiveness of God?”

Answer: “Yes, I do.”

28 Then he shall say: “Be it done for you as you have believed.8 According to the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Go in peace.”9

29 A confessor will know additional passages of the Scriptures with which to comfort and to strengthen the faith of those whose consciences are heavily burdened or who are distressed and sorely tried. This is intended simply as an ordinary form of confession for plain people.

[VI] The Sacrament of the Altar

IN THE PLAIN FORM IN WHICH THE HEAD OF THE FAMILY
SHALL TEACH IT TO HIS HOUSEHOLD
1

1 What is the Sacrament of the Altar?

2 Answer: Instituted by Christ himself, it is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine, given to us Christians to eat and to drink.

3 Where is this written?

4 Answer: The holy evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and also St. Paul, write thus: “Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night when he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, and when he had given thanks he gave (tr-557)it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you. This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’”2

5 What is the benefit of such eating and drinking?

6 Answer: We are told in the words “for you” and “for the forgiveness of sin.” By these words the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given to us in the sacrament, for where there is forgiveness of sins, there are also life and salvation.

7 How can bodily eating and drinking produce such great effects?

8 Answer: The eating and drinking do not in themselves produce them, but the words “for you” and “for the forgiveness of sins.” These words, when accompanied by the bodily eating and drinking, are the chief thing in the sacrament, and he who believes these words has what they say and declare: the forgiveness of sins.

9 Who, then, receives this sacrament worthily?

10 Answer: Fasting and bodily preparation are a good external discipline, but he is truly worthy and well prepared who believes these words: “for you” and “for the forgiveness of sins.” On the other hand, he who does not believe these words, or doubts them, is unworthy and unprepared, for the words “for you” require truly believing hearts.

1 Latin title: Small Catechism for the Use of Children in School. How, in a very Plain Form, Schoolmasters Should Teach the Ten Commandments to their Pupils.
2 The Nuremberg editions of 1531 and 1558 read: “I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other gods before me.” In some editions since the sixteenth century “I am the Lord your God” was printed separately as an introduction to the entire Decalogue. The Ten Commandments are from Exod. 20:2–17 and Deut. 5:6–21.
3 On filial and servile fear see Apology, XII, 38.
4 The Nuremberg editions of 1531 and 1558 add: “for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.”
5 On the translation of dass see M. Reu in Kirchliche Zeitschrift, L (1926), pp. 626–689.
6 For the meaning of “swear” see Large Catechism, Ten Commandments, 66.
7 Luther’s German word Feiertag means day of rest, and this is the original Hebrew meaning of Sabbath, the term employed in the Latin text. The Jewish observance of Saturday is not enjoined here, nor a Sabbatarian observance of Sunday; cf. Augsburg Confession, XXVIII, 57–60; Large Catechism, Ten Commandments, 79–82.
8 For “or his ox, or his ass” Luther’s German text reads “or his cattle.” The Latin text employs the fuller expression.
9 Latin text: How, in a very Plain Form, Schoolmasters Should Teach the Apostles’ Creed to their Pupils.
1 Latin title: How, in a very Plain Form, Schoolmasters Should Teach the Lord’s Prayer to their Pupils.
2 The “introduction” to the Lord’s Prayer was not prepared by Luther until 1531. It does not appear in the Latin text, which begins with the First Petition. The text of the Prayer is from Matt. 6:9–13.
3 The Nuremberg edition of 1558, and many later editions, inserted “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever” before “Amen.”
4 Latin title: How, in a very Plain Form, Schoolmasters Should Teach the Sacrament of Baptism to their Pupils.
5 In 1531 this section replaced the earlier “A Short Method of Confessing” (1529), WA, 30I: 343–45. Luther intended confession especially for those who were about to receive Communion.
6 Luther was here alluding to the medieval practice of confession; see also Smalcald Articles, Pt. II, Art. III, 19.
7 See article “General Confession” in New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, IV, 449. Cf. Smalcald Articles, Pt. III, Art. III, 13.
8 Matt. 8:13.
9 Mark 5:34; Luke 7:50; 8:48.
1 Latin title: How, in very Plain Form, Schoolmasters Should Teach the Sacrament of the Altar to their Pupils.
2 A conflation of texts from 1 Cor. 11:23–25; Matt. 26:26–28; Mark 14:22–24; Luke 22:19, 20. Cf. Large Catechism, Sacrament of the Altar, 3.
Tappert, T. G. 2000, c1959. The book of concord : The confessions of the evangelical Lutheran church. Fortress Press: Philadelphia

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