Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:13, "The greatest of these is love."...Paul, in this passage, properly speaks about the love toward one's neighbor and indicates that love is the greatest, because it has the most fruit. Faith and hope have to do only with God. But love has infinite offices outwardly toward humanity. Indeed, let us grant to the adversaries that love toward God and our neighbor is the greatest virtue, because the chief commandment is this: "You shall love the Lord your God" (Matthew 22:37). But how will they conclude from this that love justifes? They say, "The greatest virtue justifies." By no means! For just as the greatest or first, Law does not justify, so also the Law's greatest virtue does not justify. But the virtue that justifies recieves Christ, which brings to us Christ's merits, by which we recieve grace and peace from God. This virtue is faith. As it has often been said, faith is not just knowledge. But it is willing to receive or take hold of those things that are offered in the promise about Christ. Furthermore, this obedience toward God (i.e., to want to receive the offered promise) is no less a divine service (latreia) than is love. God wants us to believe Him and to receive from Him blessings. He delcares this to be true divine service.
Apology of the Augsburg Confession V (III) 104-107 (225-228).
V. 12 – Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. Our Lutheran Confessions reference only this one verse from Psalm 19 and it they reference six times! In the Articles on Confession in the Augsburg Confession and Apology it is stated that private Absolution should be retained in our churches but that consciences should not be burdened with worry about naming every sin. For it is impossible to recount all sins as Psalm 19:12 testifies (AC XXV – Confession). (Apology XI – Confession) It is clear that most sins we neither remember nor understand, according to Psalm 19:12, “Who can discern his errors?”
The Smalcald Articles – ART VII – states that The Keys – (forgiving sins and retaining sins) applies not only to gross and well-known sins, but also the subtle, hidden sins that are known only to God. As it is written, “Who can discern his errors?” FOC – ART I – says of Original Sin that the damage cannot be fully described (Psalm 19:12) It cannot be understood by reason, but only from God’s Word. We affirm that no one but God alone can separate human nature and this corruption of human nature from each other. This will fully come to pass through death, in the blessed resurrection – p. 475). FOC – SD – ART I – p. 512)
WHAT WE DON’T RECOGNIZE AND KNOW IN OUR REBELLION AGAINST GOD AND OUR MISSING THE MARK OF HIS HOLY WILL – GOD KNOWS – AND TAKES ACTION TO FORGIVE IN CHRIST! HIS BLOOD CLEANSES US FROM ALL SIN – EVEN THE BOATLOAD OF SINS THAT WE DO NOT REMEMBER OR UNDERSTAND! SWEETER THAN HONEY IS THAT MERCY! MORE TO BE DESIRED THAN FINE GOLD IS THAT GRACE POURED UPON US IN THE WORD MADE FLESH!
A narrow definiton will identify Protestants as those German princes who protested the Edict of the Diet of Speyer in 1529. By that edict, the Catholic majority of princes had sought to crush the reform movement by taking away from other princes the right to determine the religion in their regions. The evangelical princes protested and sought a unified political front against the Roman Catholic princes.
In the political sense, Lutheran princes were among those first Protestants. In the religious sense, however, Luther and his followers soon distinguished their confession from Zwingli, Calvin, and others chiefly over the Lord's Supper.
Thus, while dictionaries lump together all who sought to address the abuses of Rome as "Protestant," it is important to distinguish the political realities from the theological realities. If Protestant means all those denominations that teach a figurative or spiritual or symbolic view of the real presence, Lutherans are not Protestants.
"The Blessings of Weekly Communion" - CPH - pp. 174-175
The place of worship - our nave - our sanctuary - our altar - is not just symbolic of God's presence. By the promise of Jesus the place where we gather together in His Name is the place where He comes into our midst to serve us (Matthew 18:20). Where He is, the Father and the Holy Spirit are present as well! His presence calls for our reverence and our respect as Moses experienced in the wilderness - "Then he said, "Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground" (Exodus 3:5).
How do we take off our shoes to mark the holy ground of God's presence in the Divine Service? By invoking the presence of the Holy Trinity and speaking our "Amen" to His presence. By confessing our sin and receiving His holy Absolution. By giving reverent attention to His holy Word. By receiving in faith the holy body of Christ to eat and His holy blood to drink.
When it comes to the moment of the beginning and the end of the real presence, we don't pretend to determine that with watch in hand. The Lutheran view is that the consecrated bread is the body of Christ also when it lies on the altar or when the pastor holds it in his hand. It is not Scriptural to limit the real presence to the moment when the elements are orally received.
That is why the elements are treated as unique and holy not only until the last person has communed, but until the elements have been consumed. Since they were set apart by the words of the Risen Christ who has come into our midst to teach us and to feed us, they are used as He intends. The pastor and those assisting will take just a brief moment after the last person has communed to consume any that remains of the body and the blood that Jesus has set apart by His words of institution during that Divine Service. For the same reason the altar guild members treat with reverence the vessels in which the blood has been served to us. Not only the chalice, but also the individual glasses are rinsed with clear water and that water is placed on the ground. Then the vessels are cleaned more thoroughly for the next use.
God bless us all with reverent and joyful sense of the gifts that our heavenly Bridegroom comes to serve us His Bride. Amid all the passing treasures of this brief life - the treasures He bestows well up to eternal life (John 6).
Draw near and take the body of the Lord, And drink the holy blood for you out-poured;
Offered was He for greatest and for least, Himself the victim and hiimself the priest.
"God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:7). The one who does acts of mercy is to do so with cheerfulness (Romans 12:8).
The Greek word in both of these verses is hilarion (hilarious). The human heart cannot find such hilarity - such joy in giving - in itself! Gospel giving that is genuinely generous and genuinely joyous comes from a heart continually made new in Christ Jesus. Such hilarious giving pairs well with our singing of the Offertory in the Divine Service as we anticipate receiving the Lord's Supper - "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me..." The risen Lord who proclaims liberty to the captives is the one who comes to release us from captivity to greed and fear and what may seem like reasonable grumpiness when it comes to giving.
God loves a little hilarity! God also loves you! Christ gives cheerful geneorosity because He Himself is cheerfully generous with all the treasures of heaven!