Early Church Practice
The practice of Confirmation is not recorded in Scripture. Nowhere are we commanded to “confirm” people. However, Jesus, St. Paul, Peter, Moses and so many others commanded us to grow in the faith (Colossians 2:6-7), “continue in the things you have learned” (II Timothy 3:15-17), and put one’s faith into practice each day by any means possible (Deuteronomy 6:4ff.).
From the beginnings of the Christian Church adults and children were baptized and taught the Christian Faith as Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:18-20). At Pentecost, thousands were baptized in a single day (Acts 2). Scripture records many times when entire households were baptized. “Households” included not only family members, but all the families of servants living in her extensive household (Acts 16:14-15).
What Is Confirmation?
“Confirmation” is a rite developed by the Church. Lutherans do not hold it as a sacrament. At confirmation, a baptized person publicly “confirms” their faith at the Lord’s altar. Unbaptized persons are traditionally baptized at their time of their confirmation.
In every case, confirmation involves some form of instruction. Lutherans base their confirmation instruction on Luther’s Small Catechism. The oldest catechism still in use, Luther’s Small Catechism taught six essential areas of faith (“chief parts”). These include…
1) How Christians Live (The Ten Commandments)
2) Who God Is (The Apostles’ Creed)
3) How to Pray (The Lord’s Prayer)
4) How to Forgive and Be Forgiven (The Office of The Keys and Confession)
5) What Baptism Is (Holy Baptism)
6) What The Lord’s Supper Is and Does (The Lord’s Supper)
Lutheran Confirmation Today
There are many ways Lutherans conduct confirmation. Regardless of the method of instruction, the goal is always to provide a significant base for a growing faith.
As important as confirmation is, the ritual of confirmation is not as important as the development of faith which confirmation strives. Confirmation’s goal is to encourage, by God’s Word and Holy Spirit, a growing, dynamic, life-long expression of faith which endures until we receive the “crown of life” (Rev. 2:10).
Why Do I Have to Go Through Confirmation?
For young people who have been brought up in the church, much of what it means to be a Christian and to take on the ministry of being a church member is already well-known.
You’ve listened in worship and in religious education classes and have an idea of why we have church services. You’ve (hopefully) been in Sunday School and seen baptisms and come to receive a blessing at the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.
The purpose of Confirmation is to organize all the stuff you’ve been learning over the years and fill in a few blanks you may have.
* Confirmation prepares you to make your own public profession of Christian faith first made at your baptism by parents and sponsors.
* Confirmation helps Confirmands understand how they fit in the
church and how they are part of the marvelous Body of Christ.
* Confirmation explores God’s great love for the world–and for
you–and explains it in a meaningful way.
* Most importantly, Confirmation provides a fundamental understanding of Christian Faith so that we can attend Holy Communion and receive its full benefits (I Cor. 10-11)
Of course, Confirmation is about your becoming a member of the church, experiencing the joy of serving the Lord’s Church, and sharing in the responsibilities of making the church do what God would have it do.
As the Confirmed members of the church you belong to have ministered together to provide the best confirmation instruction available. At your confirmation, you become an on-going part of the Church which will confirm Christians until Jesus comes again.
What Is A “Catechism”?
A “catechism” is a book of questions and answers. Catechisms are a very useful learning tool and have been used for centuries.
Many churches have catechisms. Like Luther’s Small Catechism, they are frequently used to teach individuals. The Baltimore Catechism, used by the Roman Catholic Church, is used to prepare Catholics for confirmation.
Luther’s Small Catechism
Martin Luther wrote the Small Catechism in 1529. The invention of Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press in 1440, less than 100 years earlier, enabled Luther’s Small Catechism to be printed and distributed throughout Germany…and beyond.
Unlike the Roman Catholic Church which taught that the Bishop or priest must confirm youth, Luther’s intended that his Small Catechism be taught not just by pastors, but by parents, too. That’s why Luther’s Small Catechism has the following header: “As the head of the family should teach them in a simple way to his household.”
Who Needs The Small Catechism?
Virtually everyone! Luther originally wrote it because of the awful condition of faith in sixteenth century Germany. Read below what Luther wrote in the Preface of his Small Catechism.
Martin Luther to All Faithful and Godly Pastors and Preachers
Grace, Mercy, and Peace in Jesus Christ, our Lord.
The deplorable, miserable condition which I discovered lately when I, too, was a visitor, has forced and urged me to prepare [publish] this Catechism, or Christian doctrine, in this small, plain, simple form. Mercy! Good God! what manifold misery I beheld! The common people, especially in the villages, have no knowledge whatever of Christian doctrine, and, alas! many pastors are altogether incapable and incompetent to teach [so much so, that one is ashamed to speak of it]. Nevertheless, all maintain that they are Christians, have been baptized and receive the [common] holy Sacraments. Yet they [do not understand and] cannot [even] recite either the Lord’s Prayer, or the Creed, or the Ten Commandments; they live like dumb brutes and irrational hogs; and yet, now that the Gospel has come, they have nicely learned to abuse all liberty like experts
The Small Catechism: For Us Today
Do we need the Small Catechism today? Of course we do! Just as in Luther’s time, Christians often do not understand even the basics of Christian Faith.
What are the basics of the Christian Faith and therefore the Art of Living by Faith? Luther said there were six key items we need to know about God. He divided his Small Catechism into six sections (“Six Chief Parts”) to teach these six areas of faith that he believed all Christians should know. These include…
- Knowing God (The Creeds),
- Knowing how God wants us to live (The Ten Commandments),
- Knowing how to pray (The Lord’s Prayer),
- Giving and receiving forgiveness (The Office Of The Keys & Confession),
- Understanding how we come to Faith (Holy Baptism), and
- Recognizing Jesus’ Real Presence in the Lord’s Supper (The Sacrament at the Altar).
The Small Catechism and You
Would you like to know God better? Would you like to know how to live a God-pleasing life? Would you like the confidence of knowing that God hears your prayers? Do you understand just how wonderful God’s promises in His Sacraments really are?
That’s what Luther’s Small Catechism is for: to teach people like you the basics of the remarkable message of the Bible: Jesus loves you.
Welcome to this journey of Christian Faith!
God Speaks In the Holy Bible
Have you ever wanted God to speak to you?
Ultimately, all of us do!
God knows that we desire to have Him talk with us. He could have chosen to spoke to us through dreams and visions. In fact, that is how much of the Holy Bible was originally written (Hebrews 1:1).
Since giving us all we need to know to be saved in His 66 books, God no longer speaks to individuals with dreams, voices or visions.
Instead, the only place we get God’s Word is in the Holy Bible (see II Timothy 3:15-17; II Peter 1:21).
The Bible: God’s Library
The Bible can be described as a library of sixty-six books written by approximately forty people over sixteen hundred years. These sixty-six books make up what is called the canon, a listing of Bible books approved by the church.
In order to be canonical (that is, considered part of the Bible), Biblical books had to meet very strict criteria:
- they clearly proclaimed God’s truth,
- their writings were inspired by the Holy Spirit,
- their teachings were consistent with other portions of the Bible,
- they had been written by the prophets or apostles, and
- They contained no false or untrue teachings.
Books which met all these criteria were considered “Canonical” and were accepted as authoritative by all parts of the Christian Church.
Books that were not widely accepted by Christian Churches are called the Apocrypha or Deuterocanonical Books. Roman Catholic add some of these books to their Bible. Because of their errors and false teachings, most Christians–including Lutherans–do not consider the Apocrypha and Deuterocanonical Books to be God’s Word.
The Bible: The Old Testament
The Bible is divided into two parts, the Old Testament and the New Testament.
The Old Testament begins with the book of Genesis and ends with the Book of Malachi. It contains sixty-six books, all of which were written between 1500 BC and 400 BC. Since all the Books of the Old Testament were written before Jesus’ birth, its main message is “The Savior Will Come.”
Among the thirty-nine (39) Old Testament books are books of History (Genesis-Esther), Poetry (Job-Song of Songs), and Prophecy (Isaiah-Malachi). Among the authors of these books are kings such as David and Solomon, an Egyptian prince named Moses, a fig-tree grower named Amos, prophets such as Isaiah, Jeremiah and others, as well as other “unlikely” common–and uncommon–people whom God had chosen to bear His inspired Word.
The Bible: The New Testament
The New Testament begins with the Gospel of Matthew and ends with the Book of Prophecy, Revelation. The first book of the New Testament was written approximately 45 AD. The final book written was the Book of Revelation. Since the New Testament describes Jesus’ life and teachings, its main message is “The Savior Has Come.”
Among the twenty-seven (27) New Testament books are the Gospels (Matthew-John) which describe Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, a book of history (Acts), many letters to churches and individuals from Apostles (including James, Peter and Paul), and a book of prophecy, the Book of Revelation.
Together both the Old and New Testaments have one teaching: how God saves us by grace through His Son, Jesus Christ (John 3:16).
The Bible: In Chapters and Verses
The Bible is divided into chapters and verses. Chapter and verse divisions in the Bible happened long after the Bible was written. Stephen Langton (d.1228), a professor at the University of Paris and later the Archbishop of Canterbury, England, divided the Bible into chapters. Verse designations as we know them were first published in 1509.
It is important to remember that these chapter and verse divisions are merely for convenience. Often, however, chapter and verse divisions do not reflect the actual breaks intended by the author. Read more about the history of these subdivisions here.
The Bible’s Message
The Bible’s message is God’s message. We know that because the Bible is “inspired.”
“Inspired” can mean many things. Some people think it means that it “is interesting” or “fascinating.” Certainly, the Bible does “inspire” us and give us joy.
“Inspiration,” however, refers to the fact that God caused or “Breathed-in” (“inspired”) the Bible. That means that every single word of the Bible is God’s Word, not words invented by humans.
St. Peter wrote,
“We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about…our Lord Jesus Christ.” (II Peter 1:16 NIV)
Many Christians don’t believe all the Bible is God’s Word. This is because they don’t want to listen and obey God in everything. This is exactly where Satan wants them. Whenever we deny God’s Word, we disobey God by making our words more important that God’s Word.
Two Teachings of the Bible
The purpose of the Bible is to show us how to be saved and how to live a Christian life. The Law tells us how to live.