Dear Saints of Grace Congregation,
In our blessed Book of Confessions for the Lutheran Church, better known as the Book of Concord, the Large Catechism is found right after the Small Catechism. One may wonder why there had to be two catechisms in the first place. Isn’t one enough? Well, let’s see what Martin Luther’s thought are in this regard.
We find two prefaces in the Book of Concord; the first one is a preface by Luther which he wrote in 1530 and specifically addresses pastors; it is the lengthier of the two. The second preface is the original brief preface by Luther based on one of his sermons from 1529. Between these two, the reason for a second catechism comes forth.
We must remember that when Luther decided to go out into the country and perform what were called visitations he found out that the members of the congregations were quite uneducated. He also found out that the pastors weren’t strong in their doctrinal understandings either. The pastors in some churches were so doctrinally lazy that they couldn’t even recite the Lord’s Prayer from memory!
Luther writes in the longer preface, “It is not for trivial reasons that we constantly treat the catechism and exhort and implore others to do the same, for we see that unfortunately many preachers and pastors are very negligent in doing so and thus despise both their and this teaching. Some do it out of great learnedness, while others do so out of pure laziness and concern for their bellies... Oh, these shameful gluttons and servants of their bellies are better suited to be swineherds and keepers of dogs than guardians of souls and pastors... What they need, however, is to become children and begin to learn the ABC’s, which they think they have long since outgrown.”
So Luther reveals how he not only wanted the congregational members to become stronger in the Christian faith through the use of the Small Catechism, but also the preachers and pastors through the Large Catechism. Luther had seen how they were carrying themselves as though they were self-righteous and secure by simply being preachers and pastors. He knew that the devil would see his opportunity and have his way with these preachers and pastors. Luther writes, “Nothing is so powerfully effective against the devil, the world, the flesh, and all evil thoughts as to occupy one’s self with God’s Word, to speak about it and meditate upon it...”
The Large Catechism was written for preachers and pastors to learn how to teach the chief parts of the Christian faith to the students and the congregational members. It is therefore just as important for any of us who are the head of the household to read this catechism and continue the practice of teaching it to our loved ones. By doing so we are keeping them strong in the faith and equipped to take on, and defeat, the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh through a constant study of God’s Word.
So, again, at the behest of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther, the Book of Concord (built upon God’s Holy Scripture, which endures forever) proves to be a must read for us Lutherans to remain steadfast in our own Confession of the one true faith.
With you IN Christ!