Catechetical Refresher - The Christian Questions And Answers
This week's catechetical refresher comes to us from the pen of Pastor George Fyler, one of our Emeritus pastors. These are the question Lutherans normally review before going to Holy Communion. They can be found in your Synodical Catechism. They will refresh and renew you, and restore the joy of salvation to you. Thank you Pastor Fyler.
Please refer to your copy of Luther’s Small Catechism or pages 329 and 330 in Lutheran Service Book to review CHRISTIAN QUESTIONS WITH THEIR ANSWERS prepared by Dr. Martin Luther for those who intend to go to the Sacrament of the Altar. Note: These questions and answers are no child’s play, but are composed with great earnestness of purpose by Dr. Luther for both young and old. Let each reader pay attention and consider it a serious matter. Here is proper spiritual help and guidance for repentant sinners who seek God’s grace, mercy, forgiveness, life and salvation.
Why are these Questions and Answers so important? St. Paul wrote, “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup”(1 Cor. 11:28). Because, says Paul, “anyone who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord (v. 27), and anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks to his own judgement”(v. 29). The Lord’s Supper is a powerful medicine against sin. It is a gift from Jesus, given and shed for us, for the forgiveness of our sins. We receive the Sacrament with joy, not thoughtlessly or carelessly. Before eating and drinking His true Body and Blood, it is good to be prepared.
Therefore, to aid your preparation, these Christian Questions and Answers review your former catechetical instruction concerning what you believe and confess about who you are before God apart from Christ, and how you has been saved; also, that you know what the Sacrament of the Altar is, why you need it and desire it.
The pattern of questioning grows out of this foundational question and answer: “1. Do you believe you are a sinner? Yes, I believe it. I am a sinner.” Thus, your standing before God apart from Christ and your great need for His salvation are revealed. The Ten Commandments show you that you have not kept nor lived according to God’s will. You admit you have sinned against God. Repentant sinners are grieved that they have offended their God and separated themselves from His fellowship. You acknowledge that you deserve only wrath from God, death, and eternal condemnation. You know you cannot save yourself. Dead men cannot raise themselves from the dead. Sinners cannot make themselves righteous. If we are to be saved, God must do it.
Questions 5 and 6 direct you into the consoling scriptural truths which reveal the WHO? … WHAT? … WHERE? … WHEN? … WHY? … and HOW? of your salvation as explicated in the remaining Questions and Answers. Christian faith does not hope in salvation from anyone or anything other than Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Christian faith does not look to its own worthiness or works. It looks to Jesus on the cross and risen from the dead, for you, for the forgiveness of sins. There is only one God, the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is the Son who took on flesh, born of the Virgin Mary, who died for you and shed His blood for you on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins. The Father did not die for you. The Father did not become flesh, as did the Son, and so could not die. He “is God only, as is the Holy Spirit; but the Son is both true God and true man.” He died for you and shed His blood for you. You know this from the Holy Gospel, and particularly the words by which Jesus instituted the Sacrament, and what He gives by virtue of these words, namely, His true body and blood under the bread and wine.
Next Dr. Luther has you recite the Words of Institution. These words answer all the CHRISTIAN QUESTIONS: Who am I apart from Christ? How am I saved? What is the Sacrament and why do I need it? Here you learn that this bread is His body, the wine is His blood. Jesus gives it to real sinners, who are to take it and eat it, take it and drink it, for the forgiveness of sins. The sinner cannot make himself righteous. Here God makes you righteous with the righteousness of Jesus. These benefits are given to those who “discern the body,” as Paul says. The Words of Jesus in the Sacrament give faith to discern the body of Jesus under the bread, His blood under the wine. The Words of Jesus are the heart and center of the CHRISTIAN QUESTIONS WITH THEIR ANSWERS. They are the touchstone by which you examine yourself in preparation for the Supper.
Finally, there is also this: You eat and drink in remembrance of Jesus, and as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes (1 Cor. 11:26). Eating and drinking in remembrance of Jesus isn’t just an exercise in calling Him to mind, as if you’d forgotten. According to St. Paul, it is actually a participation in His body and blood (1 Cor. 10:16). And it is a confession to all present that Jesus died for your sins, and is risen, and lives and here places in your mouth His very body and blood for your life and salvation.
“16. Why should you remember and proclaim His death? First, so that you may learn to believe that no creature could make satisfaction for your sins. Only Christ, true God and man, could do that. Second, so you may learn to be horrified by your sins, and to regard them as very serious. Third, so that you may find joy and comfort in Christ alone, and through faith in Him be saved.
Christ died for you out of His great love for His Father and for you, to save you, and in the Supper He distributes all His saving benefits. This ought to drive you to the Sacrament often, for Christ commands this for your good and invites you to receive it;furthermore, you know that you need it. The body and blood of Jesus are the saving medicine for the wounded conscience and the broken heart, mind, body, and soul. So, what should you do if, upon self-examination, you do not hunger and thirst for this Sacrament, or feel your great need? First, Luther says, touch your body and see if you still have flesh and blood. Seeing that you do, “believe what the Scriptures say of it in Galatians 5 and Romans 7.” Second, look around and see if you’re still in the world, “and remember that there will be no lack of sin and trouble, as the Scriptures say in John 15-16 and in 1 John 2 and 5.” Third, remember that the devil will let you have no peace. “With his lying and murdering day and night,” he will not relent, “as the Scriptures picture him in John 8 and 16; 1 Peter 5; Ephesians 6; and 2 Timothy 2.” Perhaps a quick review of the above Scripture passages would be in order as part of your preparation.
Having thus examined yourself, you now know what you ought to know before receiving the Sacrament. You are a sinner condemned to death and hell, but Christ has saved you by His innocent suffering and death on the cross. He is risen from the dead, and in this Sacrament, He gives you the same body that was nailed to the cross for you, the same blood He shed for you. He does this for your forgiveness, life, and salvation. He gives you these gifts, hidden under bread and wine. The aim of this preparation is best summed up in Luther’s explanation of the Sacrament of the Altar: “that person is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: ‘Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.’” Therefore, thus believing, go joyfully to the altar, where Christ gives you Himself.
[Quotations from Luther’s Small Catechism (St. Louis: Concordia, 1986). Though authorship is attributed to Luther, the “Christian Questions with Their Answers” were appended to the 1551 edition of the Small Catechism, five years after Luther’s death.]
Rejoice thou, O my soul, thou espoused bride of Christ, for the time is fast drawing near that thou shalt be called to the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7); put on thy precious robes; take thou the wedding garment provided for thee, lest when He come in He find the unprepared to receive Him. That robe is the righteousness of thy spouse, Jesus Christ, which we put on in Holy Baptism; our own righteousness is so far from being the wedding garment that it is nothing less than filthy rags before God (Isa. 64:6). O let us greatly fear to come to that solemn marriage supper of the Lamb clad in the miserable and filthy garments of our own works; but clothe Thou us, O Lord, lest in that day we be found naked (2 Cor. 5:3).
[John Gerhard (1582-1637), “A Serious Preparation for the Holy Supper: Meditation 20” – Meditationes Sacrae (1606)]