Augsburg Confession, Article 24

Redeemer Ft. Wayne.bmp (610x351)AC XXIV: The Mass (Pt 1)

Our churches are falsely accused of abolishing the Mass. In fact, the Mass is retained among us and is celebrated with the greatest reverence. Almost all the customary ceremonies are also retained, except that German hymns, added for the instruction of the people, are interspersed here and there among the Latin ones. Ceremonies are especially needed so the unlearned may be taught. Paul prescribed that in Church, a language should be used that the people understand [1 Corinthians 14:2, 9]. All those who are able to do so receive the Sacrament together. This also increases the reverence and devotion of public worship, for no one is admitted unless he is first heard and examined. The people are also reminded about the dignity and use of the Sacrament, and the great consolation it offers to anxious consciences, that they may learn to believe in God and ask for and expect from Him all that is good. Such worship pleases God, and such use of the sacrament nourishes devotion to God. So it does not appear that the Mass is more devoutly observed among our adversaries than among us.


Rome’s Response (Pt 1)

First, it displeases us that they–opposing the practice of the entire Roman Church–perform churchly rites not in the Latin but in the German. They pretend that this is based on the authority of St. Paul, who taught that in the Church a language should be used that the people understand [1 Corinthians 4:19]. But if this were the correct understanding of St. Paul’s words, then why don’t they perform the entire Mass in German? Since the priest is a priest also of the entire Church, and not only to his particular congregation, does it not make sense that the priest celebrates the Mass in the Latin language in a Latin Church?


From our Apology

From this description of the state of our churches it is evident that we diligently maintain church discipline, pious ceremonies, and the good customs of the church. (Ap XV, 4)


  • What is the “Mass?”


  • What were Lutheran churches falsely accused of doing concerning the Mass?


  • Discuss: Why would we emphasize that we celebrate the Mass with “the greatest reverence?”


Hebrews 12:28: So, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful and worship God in reverence and fear in a way that pleases him.

  • What does Scripture and our Lutheran Confessions say how worship is to be conducted?


  • How does this apply to Divine Services that are not done in such a way?


  • Discuss: What did out Lutheran fathers refer to when they said, “Almost all the customary ceremonies are also retained”?


AC XXIV: The Mass (Pt 2)

However, for a long time there has clearly been a serious and public outcry that Masses were being shamefully profaned and devoted to make money [contra 1 Timothy 3:3]. Everyone knows how great this abuse is in all the churches. They know what type of men say Masses only for a fee or stipend, and how many celebrate these Masses contrary to the canon law. Paul severely threatened those who use the Eucharist unworthily. He said, “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy way will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord” [1 Corinthians 11:27]. That’s why, when our priests were instructed concerning this sin, private Masses were discontinued among us, since hardly any private Masses were held except to make money.

The [Roman] Bishops were not ignorant of these abuses. If they had corrected them in time, there would now be less dissension. By their own negligence, they let many corruptions creep into the Church. Now when it is too late, they begin to complain about these calamities in the Church, although the turmoil was brought about by these same abuses, which had become so obvious that they could no longer be tolerated.

There have been great disagreements about the Mass, concerning the Sacrament. Perhaps, the world is being punished for such long-continued profaning of the Mass, which has been tolerated in the Church for many centuries by the very men who could–and were obligated to–correct them. The Ten Commandments tell us: “The Lord will not acquit the one who takes His name in vain” [Exodus 20:7]. Since the beginning of the world, nothing of divine institution seems ever to have been so abused just to make money. 


Rome’s Response (Pt 2)

We censure, more than anything else, their discontinuing of private Masses … by this abrogation of Masses, worship of God is diminished, honor is withdrawn from the saints, the ultimate will of the Founder is overthrown and defeated, the dead deprived of the rights due them, and the devotion of the living withdrawn and chilled. We cannot and will not concede, nor tolerate, the abrogation of private Masses.


  • Discuss what a “private Mass” is.


AC XXIV: The Mass (Pt 3)

To all this was added the following line of thought, which greatly increased the number of private Masses. It states that Christ has by His death forgiven original sin, but He instituted the Mass as an offering for daily sins, both venial and mortal. From this opinion has arisen the common belief that the Mass takes away the sins of the living and the dead simply by performing the outward act. Then they began to debate on whether one Mass said for many people is worth as much as a special Mass said for individuals. That debate produced this endless proliferation of Masses.

Our teachers have warned that these opinions depart from the Holy Scriptures and take away what Christ achieved for us by His death. For the death of Christ was an offering and satisfaction, not only for original sin, but also for other sins. This is what the Epistle to the Hebrews says: “We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” [Hebrews 10:10] and, “By a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” [Hebrews 10:14].

Scripture teaches that we are justified before God through faith in Christ. Now, if the Mass takes away the sins of the living and the dead simply by performing the outward act, justification comes from the work of the Mass, and not from faith. Scripture does not allow this.


Rome’s Response (Pt 3)

The Mass does not abolish sins . . . but abolishes the punishment due because of sin…. Again, their insinuations that in the Mass Christ is not offered [as a sacrifice] must be altogether rejected, as condemned of old and excluded by the faithful…. St. Paul says in Hebrews 5:1, “Every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins.” … Ignatius, a pupil of St. John the Apostle, says: “It is not allowable without a bishop either to offer a sacrifice or to celebrate masses.” And Irenaeus, a pupil of John [Polycarp, RKF], clearly testifies that “Christ taught the new sacrifice of the New Testament, which the Church, receiving from the apostles, offers to God throughout the entire world.”


  • The Church of Rome is saying that the Church has always had the ____________ of the Mass.


Our Response in the Apology

We are perfectly willing for the Mass to be understood as a daily sacrifice, provided this means the whole Mass, the ceremony and also the proclamation of the Gospel, faith, prayer, and thanksgiving. Taken together, these are the daily sacrifice of the New Testament; the ceremony was instituted because of them and ought not be separated from them. Therefore Paul says (1 Corinthians 11:26), “As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death.” (Ap XXIV, 35)

When we use the term “sacramental,” that refers to God’s action to and for us. With such an understanding the sermon, the scriptures read during the service, the Lord’s Supper are all sacramental. When we use the term “sacrificial,” that refers to our action to toward others or to God. Thus, during the Divine Service, the singing of hymns, prayers, and our “amens” are all sacrificial.

  • How is the Lord’s Supper also “sacrificial” in that, when we celebrate it, we “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26)?


AC XXIV: The Mass (Pt 4)

Christ commands us to do this in His remembrance. The Mass was instituted that faith, on the part of those who use the sacrament, should remember what benefits are received through Christ, which should encourage and comfort anxious consciences. To remember Christ is to remember His benefits and realize that they are truly offered to us. It is not enough only to remember the history (for Jewish people and the ungodly also remember this). The Mass is to be used for the purpose of offering the Sacrament to those who need consolation. Ambrose said, “Because I always sin, I always need to take the medicine.”

Because the Mass if for the purpose of giving the Sacrament, we have Communion every holy day, and if anyone desires the Sacrament, we also offer it on other days, when it is given to all who ask for it. This custom is not new in the Church. However, the ancient Fathers before the time of Gregory [Pope 590-604] do not mention private Masses, but speak only of the common Mass. Chrysostom [347-407] says that the priest stands daily at the altar, inviting some to Communion and keeping others away. It appears from ancient council decisions that one person celebrated the Mass, and from the rest of the presbyters and deacons, received the body of the Lord. The Council of Nicea stated, “Let the deacons receive Holy Communion in order after the presbyters from the bishop or from a presbyter.” Concerning Communion, Paul also commands that one wait for another in order that there may be common participation [1 Corinthians 11:33].

Since the Mass among us follows the example of the Church, from the Scriptures and the Fathers, we are confident that it cannot be disapproved. This is especially so because we keep the customary public ceremonies, which are for the most part similar to the ones previously used. Only the number of Masses is different–and because of such great and clear abuses–it would certainly be good to limit them. In earlier times, even in churches attended the most often, Mass was not celebrated every day. The Tripartite History testifies (Book 9, Chapter 33): “In Alexandria, the Scriptures are read on Wednesday and Friday, and the teachers expound on them, and all things are done except for the solemn rite of Communion.”


Rome’s Response (Pt 4)

When we properly consider all these things, we must ask them to altogether annul and repudiate this new way of celebrating the Mass that they have devised … and to resume the primitive form for celebrating the Mass according to the ancient rite and custom of the churches of Germany and all Christendom, and to restore the abrogated masses …


  • What did Rome accuse us of doing concerning the Lord’s Supper?


  • According to AC 24, what is the purpose of the Mass?


  • Does this minimize the role or preaching or elevate the role of the Lord’s Supper?


Acts 20:7: On the first day of the week we came together to break bread.

  • This verse simply mentions something in passing. What is it?


  • The first of the week means what?


  • How often did the early New-Covenant Church celebrate the Lord’s Supper? Why?


  • When our Confessions refer to Chrysostom, who said, “The priest stands daily at the altar, inviting some to Communion and keeping others away,” what do we call this practice?


  • Whose responsibility is it to carry out this “inviting” and “keeping away”?



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