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This is the blog of the Campus Ministry of the Lutheran Church -- Missouri Synod at Luther College, Decorah, Iowa.
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Notes on Large Catechism -- First Commandment

A Study of
Luther's Large Catechism

as found in Concordia: the Lutheran Confessions, A Reader's Edition of the Book of Concord edited by Paul Timothy McCain, Second Edition, Concordia Publishing House, © 2006.


Opening Prayer:

The Law of God Is Good and Wise
By: Matthias Loy
The Law of God is good and wise
And sets His will before our eyes,
Shows us the way of righteousness,
And dooms to death when we transgress.
Its light of holiness imparts
The knowledge of our sinful hearts
That we may see our lost estate
And seek escape before too late.

To those who help in Christ have found
And would in works of love abound
It shows what deeds are His delight
And should be done as good and right.
But those who scornfully disdain
God’s Law shall then in sin remain,
Its terror in their ear resounds
And keeps their wickedness in bounds.

The Law is good; but since the fall
Its holiness condemns us all;
It dooms us for our sin to die
And has no pow’r to justify.
To Jesus we for refuge flee,
Who from the curse has set us free
And humbly worship at his throne,
Saved by his grace through faith alone.
        Hymn #579  from Lutheran Service Book

Historical setting: At creation God wrote his perfect law on the heart of man. Since the fall into sin, people still have consciences, but they are flawed and need direction by a special revelation of God’s will. On Mt. Sinai, God gave Moses the 10 commandments. During the reformation, Luther taught Christians how to use the 10 commandments (and the rest of the catechism) in regular, daily prayer and meditation. Consider the rough timeline below. To show how these events fit into the “big picture”, label the points for Moses and Luther.

Read “Part One” in the Large Catechism beginning on page 359 -361 of Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions.

1.  You may want to underline or highlight Luther’s answer to the question, “What does it mean to have a god?” (p. 359, #2)

2.   What does God mean when He says we are to have Him alone as our God?

3.  What does God want our attitude toward Him to be?  (p. 359, #4)

4. Look also at p. 332 and the meaning of the First Commandment in the Small Catechism.

5. Define “mammon” (p. 359, #6-7). See Matthew 6:24.

6. List and describe some popular false gods of our generation. How does the misguided heart feel toward each?

7.  What does God call sinners to do in regard to the 1st Commandment?  (p. 360, #13-15)

8   Luther states that “no people have ever been so corrupt that they did not begin and continue some divine worship.”(p. 360, #17). He then goes on to list some specific idols of past centuries (#18). List some more recent examples of idols of false religions.

Tree in Benin where sacrifices are made. Photo by Sandy Koch, 2002.

9.  Note what Luther calls “false worship and extreme idolatry. . .  which seeks help, consolation, and salvation in its own works (p. 360, #22). This is works righteousness or self-righteousness. List examples of this.

10. Why is it so difficult for human nature "to receive anything from God as a gift?"

10.   What should we expect from God? (p. 361, #24)

11. In our present time, our lunch is much farther from the field than it was in Luther’s time. How do you credit the hand of God giving you good as you receive your daily bread?

12.  “ the ways we receive good gifts through creatures are not to be rejected.” (p. 361, #27) How can we evaluate programs like government subsidies and entitlements in light of the first commandment?

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