#56 The True Church Has The True and Ancient Keys

Third, nobody can deny that we have the true and ancient keys, and do not use them in any other way than to bind and loose sins, committed against the command of God. This we do in accordance with Christ’s institution [Matt. 16:19; John 20:23] and the practice of the apostles and the whole of Christendom until the present day. We have therefore one kind of keys and one common practice with the ancient church. Hence we are this same ancient church, or are, in any event, in it; for we make no new keys, we make no new laws, nor do we exclude kings and lords from, or admit them to, temporal power, but it is only sinners that we exclude from, or admit to, the kingdom of heaven. This we do just as the ancient church did at the Lord’s command, so that the papists libel us once more, indeed, slander us and in us make the ancient church, the apostles, and Christ himself heretical. (Luther’s Works, v.41, p.195-196)

Picture: Baptismal font at History Trinity Lutheran Church, Souland Market, St. Louis MO

#55 The True Church Has The Sacrament of the Altar

Second, nobody will deny that we have the holy sacrament of the altar, just as Christ himself instituted it and the apostles and the whole of Christendom have since practiced it. Thus we eat and drink with the whole of ancient Christendom from one table, and we receive with them the same one ancient sacrament; we have done nothing new or different. Consequently, we are one church with them, or as St. Paul says in I Corinthians 11 [10:17], “one body” and “one loaf” since we eat of one loaf and drink of one cup. So the papists cannot call us heretics or a new church, unless they first call Christ, the apostles, and the whole of Christendom heretics, as in truth they do, for we are one church with the ancient church, in one sacrament. (Luther’s Works, v.41, p.195)

Picture: Front gate to History Trinity Lutheran Church, Souland Market, St. Louis MO

#54 The True Church Has Holy Baptism

First, nobody can deny that we, as well as the papists, have received holy baptism and because of that are called Christians. Now baptism is not something new, invented by us in our own day, but it is the same ancient baptism instituted by Christ, in which the apostles and the early church and all Christians have been baptized. If then we have the same baptism as the original, ancient (and, as the creed says, “catholic,” that is, “universal”) Christian church, and are baptized in it, then we belong to the same ancient universal church; and they like us, and we like them, are baptized with one baptism; and therefore there is no difference between us as to baptism. But baptism is the first and most important sacrament, without which the others are all nothing, as they must admit. This is why the papists cannot truthfully call us a different or a new or a heretical church, since we are children of the ancient baptism, together with the apostles themselves and all of Christendom, Ephesians 4 [:5], “one baptism.” (Luther’s Works, v.41, p.194-195)

Picture:  The chalice has three scenes depicted on the cup and three on the base.  This one on the base is the Nativity scene.

#53 There are Two Kinds of Churches

For there are two kinds of churches stretching from the beginning of history to the end, which St. Augustine calls Cain and Abel. The Lord Christ commands us not to embrace the false church; and he himself distinguishes between two churches, a true one and a false one, in Matthew 7 [:15], “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing,” etc. Where there are prophets, there are churches in which they teach. If the prophets are false, so also are the churches that believe and follow them. We have been unable up to now to get the papists to willingly prove why they are the true church, but they insist that according to Matthew 18 [:17] one must listen to the church or be lost. Yet Christ does not say there who, where, or what the church is; only that where it is, it ought to be listened to. We confess and say that as well, but we ask where the church of Christ is, and who it is. We are concerned non de nomine, “not with the name” of the church, but with its essence.

It is just as if I asked a drunkard or a fool or someone half-asleep, “Tell me, friend, who or where is the church?” and he answered me, ten times over, nothing but, “One should listen to the church!” But how am I to listen to the church when I do not know who or where the church is? “Well,” they say, “we papists have remained in the ancient and original church ever since the time of the apostles. Therefore we are the true church, for we have come from the ancient church and have remained in it; but you have fallen away from us and have become a new church opposed to us.” Answer: “But what if I prove that we have remained faithful to the true ancient church, indeed, that we are the true ancient church and that you have fallen away from us, that is, the ancient church, and have set up a new church against the ancient one?” Let us hear that! (Luther’s Works, v.41, p.194)

Picture:  The chalice has three scenes depicted on the cup and three on the base.  This one on the base is the Pentecost scene.

#52 The Pope Is Not Over the Three Hierarchies

Now why should we have the blasphemous, bogus law or government of the pope over and above these three high divine governments, these three divine, natural, and temporal laws of God? It presumes to be everything, yet is in reality nothing. It leads us astray and tears us from these blessed, divine estates and laws. Instead, it dresses us in a mask or cowl, thereby making us the devil’s fools and playthings, who are slothful and no longer know these three divine hierarchies or realms. That is why we no longer want to put up with it, but acting in conformity with St. Peter’s, St. Paul’s, and St. Augustine’s teaching, want to be rid of it and turn the words of Psalm 2 [:3] against them, “Let us burst their bonds asunder, and cast their cords from us.” Indeed, we shall sing with St. Paul, “Even if an angel from heaven should preach a gospel contrary to that, let him be accursed” [Gal. 1:8]; and we shall say with St. Peter, “Why do you make trial of God by putting such a yoke upon the neck?” [Acts 15:10]. Thus we shall again be the pope’s masters and tread him underfoot, as Psalm 91 [:13] says, “You will tread on the lion and the adder, the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.” And that we shall do by the power and with the help of the woman’s seed, who has crushed and still crushes the serpent’s head, although we must run the risk that he, in turn, will bite us in the heel [Gen. 3:15]. To this blessed seed of the woman be praise and honor, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, to the one true God and Lord in eternity. Amen.  (Luther’s Works, v.41, p.177-178)

Picture:  The chalice has three scenes depicted on the cup and three on the base.  This one on the base is the Annunciation scene.

#51 The Three Hierarchies

These are the three hierarchies ordained by God, and we need no more; indeed, we have enough and more than enough to do in living aright and resisting the devil in these three. Just look only at the home and at the duties it alone imposes: parents and landlords must be obeyed; children and servants must be nourished, trained, ruled, and provided for in a godly spirit. The rule of the home alone would give us enough to do, even if there were nothing else. Then the city, that is, the secular government, also gives us enough to do if we show ourselves really obedient, and conversely, if we are to judge, protect, and promote land and people. The devil keeps us busy enough, and with him God gave us the sweat of our brow, thorns and thistles in abundance [Gen. 3:18–19], so that we have more than enough to learn, to live, to do, and to suffer in these two governments. Then there is the third rule and government. If the Holy Spirit reigns there, Christ calls it a comforting, sweet, and light burden [Matt. 11:30]; if not, it is not only a heavy, severe, and terrible task, but also an impossible one, as St. Paul says in Romans 8 [:3], “What the law could not do,” and elsewhere, “The letter kills” [II Cor. 3:6].  (Luther’s Works, v.41, p.177)

Picture:  The chalice has three scenes depicted on the cup and three on the base.  This one on the cup is the Resurrection scene.

#50 Schools are Second in Importance Only To The Church

In summary, the schools must be second in importance only to the church, for in them young preachers and pastors are trained, and from them emerge those who replace the ones who die. Next, then, to the school comes the burgher’s house, for it supplies the pupils; then the city hall and the castle, which must protect the schools so that they may train children to become pastors, and so that these, in turn, may create churches and children of God (whether they be burghers, princes, or emperors). But God must be over all and nearest to all, to preserve this ring or circle against the devil, and to do everything in all of life’s vocations, indeed, in all creatures. Thus Psalm 127 [:1] says that there are only two temporal governments on earth, that of the city and that of the home, “Unless the Lord builds the house; unless the Lord watches over the city.” The first government is that of the home, from which the people come; the second is that of the city, meaning the country, the people, princes and lords, which we call the secular government. These embrace everything—children, property, money, animals, etc. The home must produce, whereas the city must guard, protect, and defend. Then follows the third, God’s own home and city, that is, the church, which must obtain people from the home and protection and defense from the city.  (Luther’s Works, v.41, p.176-177)

Picture: The crucifixion scene on the cup

#49 If We Fail to Train Pupils, We Will Not Have Pastors

Above and elsewhere I have written much about the schools, urging firmness and diligence in caring for them. Although they may be viewed as something external and pagan, in as much as they instruct boys in languages and the arts, they are nevertheless extremely necessary. For if we fail to train pupils we will not have pastors and preachers very long—as we are finding out. The school must supply the church with persons who can be made apostles, evangelists, and prophets, that is, preachers, pastors, and rulers, in addition to other people needed throughout the world, such as chancellors, councilors, secretaries, and the like, men who can also lend a hand with the temporal government. In addition, if the schoolteacher is a godly man and teaches the boys to understand, to sing, and to practice God’s word and the true faith and holds them to Christian discipline, then, as we said earlier, the schools are truly young and eternal councils, which perhaps do more good than many other great councils. Therefore the former emperors, kings, and princes did well when they showed such diligence in building many schools, high and low, monastic schools and convents, to provide the church with a rich and ample supply of people; but their successors shamefully perverted their use. Thus today princes and lords should do the same, and use the possessions of the cloisters for the maintenance of schools and provide many persons with the means for study. If our descendants misuse these, we at least have done our duty in our day.  (Luther’s Works, v.41, p.176)

Picture:  The chalice has three scenes depicted on the cup and three on the base.  This one on the cup is the Lord’s Supper.

#48 We Observe Moderation in Human Ordinances

We will regard these externals as we do a christening robe or swaddling clothes in which a child is clad for baptism. The child is not baptized or sanctified either by the christening robe or by the swaddling clothes, but only by the baptism. And yet reason dictates that a child be thus clothed. If this garment is soiled or torn, it is replaced by another, and the child grows up without any help from swaddling clothes or christening robe. Here too one must exercise moderation and not use too many of these garments, lest the child be smothered. Similarly, moderation should also be observed in the use of ceremonies, lest they become a burden and a chore. They must remain so light that they are not felt, just as at a wedding no one thinks it a chore or a burden to conform his actions to those of the other people present. I shall write on the special fasts when I write about the plague of the Germans, gluttony and drunkenness, for that properly belongs in the sphere of temporal government.  (Luther’s Works, v.41, p.175)

Picture:  The chalice from historic Trinity Lutheran Church in Soulard Market, St. Louis, MO:  It “was made in Austria for a monastery in Spain.  During the Napoleonic Wars it somehow came into the possession of a Saxon prince, who gave it to the group when they left Germany for America in 1838” (from A Pictorial Souvenir).

#46 In Human Ordinances There Is Great Freedom to Change

Nevertheless, there should be freedom here: for instance, if we are unable, because of an emergency or another significant reason, to preach at six or seven, at twelve or one o’clock, on Sunday or Monday, in the choir or at St. Peter’s, one may preach at a different hour, day, or place, just as long as one does not confuse the people, but properly apprises them of such a change. These matters are purely external (as far as time, place, and persons are concerned) and may be regulated entirely by reason, to which they are altogether subject. God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit are not interested in them—just as little as they are interested in what we wish to eat, drink, wear, and whom we marry, or where we want to dwell, walk, or stand; except that (as was said) no one should, without reason, adopt his own way and confuse or hinder the people. Just as at a wedding or other social event no one should offend the bride or the company by doing something special or something that interferes, but one should join the rest, and sit, walk, stand, dance, eat, and drink with them. For it is impossible to order a special table for each individual, and also a special kitchen, cellar, and servant. If he wants anything, let him leave the table without disturbing the others. Thus here too everything must be conducted peacefully and in order, and yet there must be freedom if time, person, or other reasons demand a change; then the masses will also follow harmoniously, since (as was said) no Christian is thereby made any more or less holy.  (Luther’s Works, v.41, p.174)

Picture: St. John