Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | November 7, 2009

Quotes from Concord — Priests, OT Sacrifices, and Hebrews

53 The main proofs for our belief are in the Epistle to the Hebrews. Yet, the adversaries twist mutilated passages from this Epistle against us, as in this very passage, where it is said that every high priest is ordained to offer sacrifices for sins. Scripture immediately adds that Christ is the High Priest (Hebrews 5:5–6, 10). The preceding words speak about the Levitical priesthood and show that the Levitical priesthood was an image of Christ’s priesthood. The Levitical sacrifices for sins did not merit the forgiveness of sins before God. They were only an image of Christ’s sacrifice, which was to be the one atoning sacrifice, as we said before. 54 To a great extent the Epistle speaks about how the ancient priesthood and the ancient sacrifices were set up not to merit the forgiveness of sins before God or reconciliation, but only to illustrate the future sacrifice of Christ alone. 55 In the Old Testament, saints had to be justified by faith, which receives the promise of the forgiveness of sins granted for Christ’s sake, just as saints are also justified in the New Testament. From the beginning of the world all saints had to believe that Christ would be the promised offering and satisfaction for sins, as Isaiah 53:10 teaches, “when His soul makes an offering for sin.”

56 In the Old Testament, sacrifices did not merit reconciliation, except as a picture (for they merited civil reconciliation), but they illustrated the coming sacrifice. This means that Christ is the only sacrifice applied on behalf of the sins of others. Therefore, in the New Testament, no sacrifice is left to be applied for the sins of others, except the one sacrifice of Christ upon the cross.

57 Those who imagine that Levitical sacrifices merited the forgiveness of sins before God, and by this example require sacrifices in the New Testament that are to be applied on behalf of others in addition to Christ’s death, are completely mistaken. This imagination absolutely destroys the merit of Christ’s passion and the righteousness of faith, and it corrupts the doctrine of the Old and New Testaments. Instead of Christ, it makes for us other mediators and atonement makers out of the priests and sacrificers, who daily sell their work in the churches.

58 If anyone argues that in the New Testament a priest is needed to make offering for sins, this can only be said about Christ. The entire Epistle to the Hebrews confirms this explanation. In addition to Christ’s death, if we were to look for any other satisfaction that applies to the sins of others and so to reconcile God, this would be nothing more than to make other mediators in addition to Christ. 59 The priesthood of the New Testament is the Spirit’s ministry, as Paul teaches (2 Corinthians 3:6). So it has only Christ’s one sacrifice, which is enough and applies to the sins of others. Besides, this priesthood has no sacrifices like the Levitical order, which could be applied by the outward act (ex opere operato) to others. Rather, it offers the Gospel and the Sacraments to others, so that they may conceive faith and the Holy Spirit through them and be brought from death to life. So the Spirit’s ministry conflicts with the application of an outward act (opus operatum). The Spirit’s ministry is that through which the Holy Spirit is powerful in hearts. Therefore, this ministry is beneficial to others when it is powerful in them and regenerates and enlivens them. This does not happen by applying someone’s work to another.

60 We have shown why the Mass does not justify by the outward act (ex opere operato) and why, when applied to others, it does not merit forgiveness. This is because both conflict with the righteousness of faith. For it is impossible that sins should be forgiven and the terrors of death and sin be overcome by anything other than faith in Christ, according to Romans 5:1, “Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace.”

— The Apology, Article XXIV: The Mass, paragraphs 53-60 (Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, Reader’s Edition, CPH)

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