As we move on from the Ten Commandments portion of Luther’s Small Catechism, we will look at two articles of the Apostles’ Creed and examine what they mean. We will use Law and Gospel to view these two parts of the Creed.
Article I: Creation—I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
What does this mean? I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them.
Law: Perhaps the greatest challenge Christians face in relation to the First Article of the Apostles’ Creed is the temptation to a sinful sense of ownership. All that we are, excepting sin, is God’s creation and therefore His property. Any claim that I belong to myself and can therefore treat my body as I wish is false and sinful.
Gospel: Not only does God still take care of the body He has given me but also He redeems it through the perfect life and innocent suffering and death of Jesus Christ. Not only did Jesus exercise perfect stewardship and successfully resist any temptation to sin against His body but also He surrendered it to the will of the Father.
He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil.
Law: Related to the above point regarding ownership, Christians struggle with stewardship, taking the attitude that what we own is the fruit of our own labor, industry, and ingenuity. In this way, we become selfish and sparing in what we give to those in need.
Gospel: God’s provision of all that we need for this body and life is based in the redemption of Jesus Christ. In Christ, God reconciled the world to Himself. He is lovingly disposed toward the world. What is more, Jesus conquered sin, death, and the power of the devil on the cross, and He now protects us from evil according to His perfect plan.
All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him. This is most certainly true.
Law: The sinner’s inclination is to assume that God’s provision reflects his or her own merit and worth. This makes sense as the sinful nature is self-centered and consuming. Were we actually judged on our merits, we would have only physical and everlasting death.
Gospel: It is the sinner’s comfort and peace that God’s provision is based rather on Jesus’ merit and worth. Our assurance is that God’s goodness is based on Jesus’ unchanging righteousness and perfect work on the cross.
Article III: 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.
What does this mean? I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.
Law: It is commonly, but no less falsely, taught and sung that sinners can and must make a decision for Christ and give their hearts to Jesus. Not only is this belief unbiblical but it also diminishes the devastating effect of the sinful nature on humanity and claims partial credit for the sinner’s salvation.
Gospel: God is good such that He works the sinner’s entire salvation, providing redemption through Jesus’ perfect life and innocent death on the cross and then bringing that Gospel to the sinner to create saving faith. What is more, the Spirit nurtures this faith in the believer until he or she is ushered into heaven.
In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers.
Law: The sinner vainly seeks peace and joy in anything this world has to offer, ignoring the gifts of God's Word and Sacraments.
Gospel: The Holy Spirit does His work through the Means of Grace—the Word and Sacraments, namely, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. In these Means of Grace, the Holy Spirit gives us Jesus, showing Him in the Word, teaching us of the kingdom of God, creating faith, strengthening that faith, and reminding us of Jesus’ forgiveness of sins. God would have us use these plentiful gifts regularly.
On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true.
Law: Like wayward sheep, Christians are apt to stray from the Gospel of Jesus Christ, watering down the teaching of the Bible, adopting false beliefs, and rejecting the work of the Holy Spirit. Above all else, the Lord would have us place our greatest hope in the return of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Gospel: Even as we stray, the Holy Spirit continues to seek us, convict us, and forgive our sins. When Christ returns He will give believers new, glorified bodies; we will see our Savior in the fullness of His glory; and all believers will spend eternity enjoying the presence of God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with the Church Triumphant.
Small Catechism quotations are from Luther’s Small Catechism, copyright © 1986 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Luther’s Small Catechism has been utilized as a simple way to teach the faith for centuries. Find the age-appropriate version to use in your classroom.