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This We Believe

475th Anniversary of the SMALCALD ARTICLES

“…The Word of God shall establish articles of faith and no one else, not even an angel.” (Luther, SA, Part II, Art. II) 3.Of Cloisters/The Papacy

“Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). There is only one way of salvation–justification by faith in Jesus Christ alone for the forgiveness of sins. The Biblical teaching of justification by faith in Jesus Christ is like the bright beam of a lighthouse showing the way to God. The false teachings and practices within visible Christendom are like a thick smoke screen that obscures the light of the gospel and leads people to shipwreck on the rocks of work-righteousness.

Dr. Martin Luther recognized the need to blow away that smoke screen by pointing out error so that the light of the gospel could shine on the hearts of people. In Articles III and IV of Part Two of the Smalcald Articles, Luther points to two institutions of the Roman Catholic Church that obscure the truth of our salvation.

Part II – Article III
[Chapters and Monasteries] and Article IV [The Papacy]

Why did Luther include the Articles about Monasteries and the Papacy in this section on Redemption? Both of these inventions of the Roman Catholic Church introduce alternate ways of salvation which supplant Jesus Christ as our only way of salvation. Chapters and Monasteries were originally designed for the education of boys and girls to prepare them to be pastors and teachers and God-fearing citizens and parents. However, they have been turned into “blasphemous services, invented by men, which claim to be superior to the ordinary Christian life and to the offices and callings established by God.” The Roman Church elevated these practices to be meritorious works that earned the favor of God and thus became ways of gaining salvation. Therefore the [RC] church’s teaching “is in conflict with the first, fundamental article concerning redemption in Jesus Christ.”

How does the Papacy contradict the chief article of Redemption through Christ? First, God placed Christ as the head over His Church, but the papacy has usurped Christ’s position, claiming that the pope is the divinely appointed head of the Church on Earth (see Luther’s comments in SIDEBAR quote #1). How serious this is can be seen when the papacy makes demands and decrees contrary to Christ, thus proposing a different way of salvation. That Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father is denied by the claim that none can be saved unless and until they submit to the pope. In the year 1302 Pope Boniface VIII gave his papal bull (official decree) on the primacy of the Roman Catholic Church. In it this blasphemous statement is made: “It is altogether necessary to salvation for every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.” Pope Leo the X reaffirmed that claim in 1516 (see SIDEBAR quote #2).

Why is Luther so vehement and caustic when speaking about the Papacy? When Luther in the Smalcald Articles identifies the papacy as the Antichrist and an “Apostle of Satan” (see SIDEBAR quote #3), some may think Luther shows his own anger and vengeance against the man who opposed him and that he has no respect for authority. However, in His Word God Himself has used those terms for those who oppose and exalt themselves above God and His Word (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2). Those who treasure the gospel of full and free salvation through faith in Jesus Christ as Luther did will not hesitate to pronounce God’s condemnation on all who malign the only-saving gospel of Jesus. Luther wrote with the same zeal and vehemence as the Apostle Paul who, in denouncing the work-righteous Judaizers, said, “If anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:9). It is clear that whoever sets himself up in place of Christ as head and source of salvation makes himself an enemy of God.

How does this apply to us today? Still today the Roman Catholic papacy claims that its pope is the divinely appointed head of the Church and still demands submission to him as a prerequisite for salvation. A Roman Catholic publication titled, “I’m Glad You Asked” under the section on the papacy says, “The Pope can also exercise the ‘power of the keys’ in making what is called an infallible pronouncement which is binding on the universal (catholic) Church.” “To teach infallibly, the Pope must be teaching on faith or morals; he must speak with his full authority as the Successor of Peter and head of the universal Church on earth; he must make a final pronouncement on a doctrine at issue, and he must bind all the faithful to accept his teaching or fall away entirely from the divine and Catholic faith.”

Luther had predicted, “They neither can nor will concede to us even the smallest fraction of these articles.” He was right. In response, the Roman Catholic Church spelled out its teaching even more clearly by condemning anyone who believed in the simple gospel of salvation by faith alone in Christ for the forgiveness of sins. By so doing they confirmed that the institution of the papacy is truly the Antichrist “who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2 Thessalonians 2:4).

We need to hold on to the only name under heaven by which we can be saved—the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. And we should be prepared to share the true gospel with any of the millions who are still under the deception of the Antichrist.

Planned series on the Smalcald Articles:

#1 Of The Divine Majesty/Redemption/Salvation by Grace

#2 Of The Mass

#3 Of Cloisters/Papacy (in this issue)

#4 Of Sin and the Law

#5 Of Repentance

#6 Of The Gospel and Sacraments

#7 Of Keys and Confession

#8 Of Ordination/Traditions/Conclusion