THE RITE OF CONFIRMATION
“…that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ.” (Ephesians 4:14-15)
“For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Hebrews 5:13-14)
Let us take a moment to place our confirmation customs into a larger context.
While in some denominations there may be very little Bible instruction preceding confirmation, that is not true within confessional Lutheranism. As children our confirmands would have received a regular soft diet of the milk of God’s Word. Their Sunday School lessons were designed to lay a foundation of knowledge in Bible History and a good grasp of the facts of the life of Christ.
However, we are well aware of what this world holds in store for them. They will face many challenges to their faith, and the world can be very cunning and tricky with the “facts” from science and its worldly wisdom. It is important for our children to be prepared to meet the world so that they are not so easily tossed about by every wind of doctrine, blowing first one way and then another. So in our CLC congregations we have set a course of instruction that often takes three or more school years to complete.
Then it comes time for our children to be moved from the milk of the Word to solid food, to get into the meat of God’s truth about Christ and our salvation from sin. We lay open before them the Holy Scriptures and Luther’s Small Catechism, and we present glorious gems of truth to treasure for the rest of their lives.
We study the law of God and how it shows us our sin. We teach them about the attributes of God and how He wondrously created and preserves us. We introduce them to the truth of the personal union of the two natures of Christ, and how He is God and Man in one person, and why that is essential to our salvation. We consider the glory of Jesus’ active obedience, the grace of His passive obedience, and the cost of our redemption. We consider carefully how the Holy Spirit calls us to faith and the complete wonder of grace that falls under the broad umbrella of sanctification. We find comfort and assurance of salvation in knowing the universal justification found in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. We relish the joy of knowing and holding this justification in our own hearts as children of God. Yes, we introduce our children to an increasingly stronger diet that is no longer only the milk of the Word, but the “solid food that belongs to those who are of full age.”
In connection with their confirmation our young people are “examined” that they might demonstrate a sufficient knowledge of the Truth, confirm their baptismal covenant, and then pledge with the assistance of the Holy Spirit a fidelity to God’s Word as it is taught both in Luther’s Catechism and in our synod, the Church of the Lutheran Confession.
This is the confirmands’ introduction to solid food. Where will they go from there? Will they continue in a grown-up diet? Will they revert back to merely drinking milk?
These questions should be applied to us all. Are we content with only a quick drink of milk, or do we continue to search the Scriptures by attending Bible classes and feeding upon a diet that encourages spiritual strength, growth, and maturity?
If much of this seems foreign and forgotten, then let’s improve our spiritual diets. Don’t settle for only the milk but look for some meat. In that way you will not “be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14), but will be “of full age…who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 4:14).
May the Spirit of God bless us with a hunger for His Word that our souls may be richly nourished unto eternal life.
May the Spirit also bless our study of His Word that we “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen” (2 Peter 3:18).