All Christians, and especially Lutherans, have been well served by Dr. Martin Luther’s Small Catechism. It explains in clear and simple language what we believe, teach, and confess as Christians. You can find an online copy here. It is simple enough for a child to understand and deep enough for even the most intelligent to learn something new. Since it is drawn directly from Holy Scripture, we sometimes call it the “Layman’s Bible.” It serves as a great outline for what we believe, teach, and confess…
The Ten Commandments
The ten commandments are God’s perfect will for our lives. This is how He made us to work. If you look at societies over time, they have enforced laws that look very similar to God’s Ten Commandments. This shows that God’s Law is written on our heart. But because we are conceived and born in sin, the law written on our heart is unclear and imperfect. God’s Holy Spirit convicts us of sin through the Ten Commandments. God’s law is perfect and wise and eternal. Our problem with God’s Law is not the perfect law, but our sinful hearts. God be praised, He does not leave us in our sin, but sent Jesus to save us from our sin. God washes us clean in Holy Baptism and gives us the gift of His Holy Spirit. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Christians look to God’s Law to show them how to serve their neighbor in love.
The Apostle’s Creed
The Apostle’s Creed reveals to us who God is and what He has done for us, continues to do for us, and will do for us. God the Father created and sustains the world with His mighty power. He sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to pay for the sin of the entire world. He sends His Holy Spirit so that Christians are given the gift of repentance and faith in Jesus for His glory. God the Son, Jesus Christ, was born of a virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit, lived a perfectly righteous life, and gave Himself over to crucifixion for the sins of the world. He ascended to the right hand of God to rule and reign forevermore. He will come again in judgment: eternal life for all who believe and are baptized, and eternal death for all who disbelieve in Him. God, the Holy Spirit, creates living faith in His chosen people, cleanses them from their sin, and makes them holy before God their Father.
The Lord’s Prayer
Christians pray. The Second Commandment: “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God” teaches us to call upon God “in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.” Jesus teaches us the perfect prayer (Matthew 6:5-15; Luke 11:1-13). We tend to only think of “daily bread” needs in our prayer because we are selfish and short-sighted. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we know that every word is pleasing to our Father in heaven and that we have prayed for everything we need in this life and the life to come. This provides us great comfort in the midst of a tear-stained life.
Holy Baptism is a wonderful gift from God where He washes us clean from all our sin and gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:16; John 3:3,5; Titus 3:5-8; Romans 6:4; Acts 2:38). God is the actor in Holy Baptism. We are the recipients in Holy Baptism. God combines water with His Word and applies it to poor, miserable sinners to create a people for Himself whom He chose before the foundation of the World. This is the incredible comfort found in Baptism.
Confession and Absolution
The battle for your body and soul is waged in your conscience. All men, women, and children are sinners and have committed many sins. Too many to count. The wages of sin is death, even eternal death. The only remedy for sin is forgiveness of sins. Jesus is the spotless Lamb of God who paid for the sin of the world through His once-and-for-all atoning sacrifice. God delivers the fruit of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice to the sinner with the incredible gift of Holy Absolution. It cleanses us from our sin and purifies our conscience. Christians struggle with their sin until their deathbed. God gives the gift of Holy Absolution so that we might win the struggle against sin, death, and the devil and finally receive the final reward of eternal life in Christ.
The Lord’s Supper
Many seek Jesus outside of the ways that He commanded. Many seek Jesus in their emotions or heart or intellect. Yet Jesus is found only in His Word. God combines His Word with the visible elements of bread and wine to give us His very own Body and Blood for the forgiveness of sins and strengthening of our faith. You might call it the “visible” Word. Life is messy and you have real enemies in the devil, the world, and even your old sinful nature. Jesus knows your weakness and gives you Himself. Jesus is present in, with, and under the bread and wine. When you believe the Words of Institution in the Lord’s Supper, you receive the wonderful gift of the forgiveness of your sins.
Daily prayers provide the ebb and flow of the Christian life focused on Jesus Christ and centered upon His Word. Morning prayer sets your heart upon God first thing in your day. Asking a blessing and returning thanks during meals remind you that God provides your daily bread because He loves you. Evening prayer reminds you that your belong to Jesus and He has covered all your sin with His blood. These keep you focused on Jesus and all that He has done for you.
Table of Duties
You have various stations in life according to the three estates of family, church, and civil life. In each estate, or sphere of life, you have certain duties and responsibilities before God and man. The Table of Duties lists many passages of Scripture that detail these duties and responsibilities. It gives concrete expression to what the love of Christ looks like in our day to day lives. Another way to think about the Table of Duties is that it gives concrete examples of what the Ten Commandments look like in practice. In this way, our neighbor is served with the love of Christ.
Christian Questions with Their Answers
Dr. Martin Luther prepared twenty questions to prepare a Christian to participate in the Lord’s Supper. Many look for Jesus all over the place, especially in their heart and emotions and circumstances. These places are unreliable, at best. But Jesus promises to be in the Lord’s Supper in person where He gives His own body and blood for the forgiveness of sins and strengthening of faith. But Jesus warns us that those who participate in the Lord’s Supper who do not discern the body and blood of Jesus will receive the Lord’s body and blood in “judgment on himself.” (1 Corinthians 11:29-30) These questions help you prepare so that you receive the Lord’s Supper in a worthy manner, which is a manner of repentance and belief in the words of Jesus.