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Confessions: Apology XXIV 16-34

by PastorMinton on August 1st, 2016

Introduction:

Between the Lutherans and the Roman Catholics, there is a great deal of ink spilled over the sacrificial nature of the Lord’s Supper. But what is a sacrifice? How is the Lord’s Supper NOT a sacrifice? Melanchthon begins to explain below.

Text:

[Now, lest we plunge blindly into this business, we must indicate, in the first place, a distinction as to what is, and what is not, a sacrifice. To know this is expedient and good for all Christians.] Socrates, in the Phaedrus of Plato, says that he is especially fond of divisions, because without these nothing can either be explained or understood in speaking, and if he discovers any one skilful in making divisions, he says that he attends and follows his footsteps as those of a god. And he instructs the one dividing to separate the members in their very joints, lest, like an unskilful cook, he break to pieces some member. But the adversaries wonderfully despise these precepts, and, according to Plato, are truly kakoi mavgeiroi (poor butchers), since they break the members of “sacrifice,” as can be understood when we have enumerated the species of sacrifice. Theologians are rightly accustomed to distinguish between a Sacrament and a sacrifice. Therefore let the genus comprehending both of these be either a ceremony or a sacred work. A Sacrament is a ceremony or work in which God presents to us that which the promise annexed to the ceremony offers; as, Baptism is a work, not which we offer to God, but in which God baptizes us, i.e., a minister in the place of God; and God here offers and presents the remission of sins, etc., according to the promise, Mark 16:16: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. A sacrifice, on the contrary, is a ceremony or work which we render God in order to afford Him honor.

Moreover, the proximate species of sacrifice are two, and there are no more. One is the propitiatory sacrifice, i.e., a work which makes satisfaction for guilt and punishment, i.e., one that reconciles God, or appeases God’s wrath, or which merits the remission of sins for others. The other species is the eucharistic sacrifice, which does not merit the remission of sins or reconciliation, but is rendered by those who have been reconciled, in order that we may give thanks or return gratitude for the remission of sins that has been received, or for other benefits received.

These two species of sacrifice we ought especially to have in view and placed before the eyes in this controversy, as well as in many other discussions; and especial care must be taken lest they be confounded. But if the limits of this book would suffer it, we would add the reasons for this division. For it has many testimonies in the Epistle to the Hebrews and elsewhere. And all Levitical sacrifices can be referred to these members as to their own homes [genera]. For in the Law certain sacrifices were named propitiatory on account of their signification or similitude; not because they merited the remission of sins before God, but because they merited the remission of sins according to the righteousness of the Law, in order that those for whom they were made might not be excluded from that commonwealth [from the people of Israel]. Therefore they were called sin-offerings and burnt offerings for a trespass. Whereas the eucharistic sacrifices were the oblation, the drink-offering, thank-offerings, first-fruits, tithes.

[Thus there have been in the Law emblems of the true sacrifice.] But in fact there has been only one propitiatory sacrifice in the world, namely, the death of Christ, as the Epistle to the Hebrews 10:4 teaches: It is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. And a little after, of the [obedience and] will of Christ, 10:10: By the which will we are sanctified by the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And Isaiah interprets the Law, in order that we may know that the death of Christ is truly a satisfaction for our sins, or expiation, and that the ceremonies of the Law are not; wherefore he says, Is. 53:10: When Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He will see His seed, etc. For the word employed here, asham (greek),signifies a victim for transgression; which signified in the Law that a certain Victim was to come to make satisfaction for our sins and reconcile God, in order that men might know that God wishes to be reconciled to us, not on account of our own righteousnesses, but on account of the merits of another, namely, of Christ. Paul interprets the same word asham as sin, Rom. 8:3: For sin (God) condemned sin, i.e., He punished sin for sin, i.e., by a Victim for sin. The significance of the word can be the more easily understood from the customs of the heathen, which, we see, have been received from the misunderstood expressions of the Fathers. The Latins called a victim that which in great calamities, where God seemed to be especially enraged, was offered to appease God’s wrath, a piaculum; and they sometimes sacrificed human victims, perhaps because they had heard that a human victim would appease God for the entire human race. The Greeks sometimes called them kaqavrmata and sometimes periyhvmata. Isaiah and Paul, therefore, mean that Christ became a victim, i.e., an expiation, that by His merits, and not by our own, God might be reconciled. Therefore let this remain established in the case, namely, that the death of Christ alone is truly a propitiatory sacrifice. For the Levitical propitiatory sacrifices were so called only to signify a future expiation. On account of a certain resemblance, therefore, they were satisfactions redeeming the righteousness of the Law, lest those persons who sinned should be excluded from the commonwealth. But after the revelation of the Gospel [and after the true sacrifice has been accomplished] they had to cease; and because they had to cease in the revelation of the Gospel, they were not truly propitiations, since the Gospel was promised for this very reason, namely, to set forth a propitiation.

Now the rest are eucharistic sacrifices, which are called sacrifices of praise, Lev. 3:1f.; 7:11f.; Ps. 56:12f., namely, the preaching of the Gospel, faith, prayer, thanksgiving, confession, the afflictions of saints, yea, all good works of saints. These sacrifices are not satisfactions for those making them, or applicable on behalf of others, so as to merit for these, ex opere operato, the remission of sins or reconciliation. For they are made by those who have been reconciled. And such are the sacrifices of the New Testament, as Peter teaches, 1 Pet. 2:5: An holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices. Spiritual sacrifices, however, are contrasted not only with those of cattle, but even with human works offered ex opere operato, because spiritual refers to the movements of the Holy Ghost in us. Paul teaches the same thing Rom. 12:1: Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable, which is your reasonable service. Reasonable service signifies, however, a service in which God is known, and apprehended by the mind, as happens in the movements of fear and trust towards God. Therefore it is opposed not only to the Levitical service, in which cattle are slain, but also to a service in which a work is imagined to be offered ex opere operato, The Epistle to the Hebrews 13:15, teaches the same thing: By Him, therefore, let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually; and he adds the interpretation, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. He bids us offer praises, i.e., prayer, thanksgiving, confession, and the like. These avail not ex opere operato, but on account of faith. This is taught by the clause: By Him let us offer, i.e., by faith in Christ.

In short, the worship of the New Testament is spiritual, i.e., it is the righteousness of faith in the heart and the fruits of faith. It accordingly abolishes the Levitical services. [In the New Testament no offering avails ex opere operato, sine bono motu utentis, i.e., on account of the work, without a good thought in the heart.] And Christ says, John 4:23. 24: True worshipers shalt worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. God is a Spirit; and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth [that is, from the heart, with heartfelt fear and cordial faith]. This passage clearly condemns [as absolutely devilish, pharisaical, and antichristian] opinions concerning sacrifices which, they imagine, avail ex opere operato, and teaches that men ought to worship in spirit, i.e., with the dispositions of the heart and by faith. [The Jews also did not understand their ceremonies aright, and imagined that they were righteous before God when they had wrought works ex opere operato. Against this the prophets contend with the greatest earnestness.] Accordingly, the prophets also in the Old Testament condemn the opinion of the people concerning the opus operatum, and teach the righteousness and sacrifices of the Spirit. Jer. 7:22-23: For I spoke not unto your fathers, nor commanded them, in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices; but this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey My voice, and I will be your God, etc. How do we suppose that the Jews received this arraignment, which seems to conflict openly with Moses? For it was evident that God had given the fathers commands concerning burnt offerings and victims. But Jeremiah condemns the opinion concerning sacrifices which God had not delivered, namely, that these services should please Him ex opere operato. But he adds concerning faith that God had commanded this: Hear Me, i.e., believe Me that I am your God; that I wish to become thus known when I pity and aid; neither have I need of your victims; believe that I wish to be God the Justifier and Savior, not on account of works, but on account of My word and promise; truly and from the heart seek and expect aid from Me.

Ps. 50:13,15, which rejects the victims and requires prayer, also condemns the opinion concerning the opus operatum: Will I eat the flesh of bulls? etc. Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me. The Psalmist testifies that this is true service, that this is true honor, if we call upon Him from the heart.

Likewise Ps. 40:6: Sacrifice and offering Thou didst not desire; mine ears hast Thou opened, i.e., Thou hast offered to me Thy Word that I might hear it, and Thou dost require that I believe Thy Word and Thy promises, that Thou truly desirest to pity, to bring aid, etc. Likewise Ps. 51:16-17: Thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise. Likewise Ps. 4:5: Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust [hope, V.] in the Lord. He bids us hope, and says that this is a righteous sacrifice, signifying that other sacrifices are not true and righteous sacrifices. And Ps. 116:17: I will offer to Thee the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord. They call invocation a sacrifice of thanksgiving.

But Scripture is full of such testimonies as teach that sacrifices ex opere operato do not reconcile God. Accordingly the New Testament, since Levitical services have been abrogated, teaches that new and pure sacrifices will be made, namely, faith, prayer, thanksgiving, confession, and the preaching of the Gospel, afflictions on account of the Gospel, and the like.

And of these sacrifices Malachi 1:11 speaks: From the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same My name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto My name and a pure offering. The adversaries perversely apply this passage to the Mass, and quote the authority of the Fathers. A reply, however, is easy, for even if it spoke most particularly of the Mass, it would not follow that the Mass justifies ex opere operato, or that, when applied to others, it merits the remission of sins, etc. The prophet says nothing of those things which the monks and sophists impudently fabricate. Besides, the very words of the prophet express his meaning. For they first say this, namely, that the name of the Lord will be great. This is accomplished by the preaching of the Gospel. For through this the name of Christ is made known, and the mercy of the Father, promised in Christ, is recognized. The preaching of the Gospel produces faith in those who receive the Gospel. They call upon God, they give thanks to God, they bear afflictions for their confession, they produce good works for the glory of Christ. Thus the name of the Lord becomes great among the Gentiles. Therefore incense and a pure offering signify not a ceremony ex opere operato [not the ceremony of the Mass alone], but all those sacrifices through which the name of the Lord becomes great, namely, faith, invocation, the preaching of the Gospel, confession, etc. And if any one would have this term embrace the ceremony [of the Mass], we readily concede it, provided he neither understands the ceremony alone, nor teaches that the ceremony profits ex opere operato. For just as among the sacrifices of praise, i.e., among the praises of God, we include the preaching of the Word, so the reception itself of the Lord’s Supper can be praise or thanksgiving; but it does not justify ex opere operato; neither is it to be applied to others so as to merit for them the remission of sins. But after a while we shall explain how even a ceremony is a sacrifice. Yet, as Malachi speaks of all the services of the New Testament, and not only of the Lord’s Supper; likewise, as he does not favor the pharisaic opinion of the opus operatum, he is not against us, but rather aids us. For he requires services of the heart, through which the name of the Lord becomes truly great.

Another passage also is cited from Malachi 3:3: And He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering of righteousness. This passage clearly requires the sacrifices of the righteous, and hence does not favor the opinion concerning the opus operatum. But the sacrifices of the sons of Levi, i.e., of those teaching in the New Testament, are the preaching of the Gospel, and the good fruits of preaching, as Paul says, Rom. 15:16: Ministering the Gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, i.e., that, the Gentiles might be offerings acceptable to God by faith, etc. For in the Law the slaying of victims signified both the death of Christ and the preaching of the Gospel, by which this oldness of flesh should be mortified, and the new and eternal life be begun in us.

But the adversaries everywhere perversely apply the name sacrifice to the ceremony alone. They omit the preaching of the Gospel, faith, prayer, and similar things, although the ceremony has been established on account of these, and the New Testament ought to have sacrifices of the heart, and not ceremonials for sin that are to be performed after the manner of the Levitical priesthood.

Commentary:

The Roman theologians classify the Lord’s Supper as a “bloodless sacrifice.” In every religious context, a sacrifice is a work man does to please God. By this common definition, the Lord’s Supper is not a sacrifice. It is a memorial of a sacrifice, but it is not a sacrifice in itself. The Lord’s Supper brings us to remember Jesus’ sacrifice for us, but we do not sacrifice Jesus again. It is a sacrament where God brings Jesus’ body and blood to us through the bread and wine.

The idea of re-sacrificing Jesus each Sunday was one of the great issues Luther and Melanchthon had with Rome as the Reformation took form. Their biggest issue was that there are only two types of sacrifices: atoning sacrifices and eucharistic (thanksgiving) sacrifices. Rome called the Lord’s Supper another atoning sacrifice. But there is only one atoning sacrifice: Christ’s death on the cross.

There are many types of eucharistic sacrifices. The liturgy is filled with them: preaching the Gospel, singing praise, faith, prayer, confession of sins, bearing one another’s burdens. These sacrifices are deeds we do and present to God as we give Him thanks for the atoning sacrifice that takes away our sins and gives us everlasting life.

From → Confessions

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