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Luther’s Catechism


“From childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”
(2 Timothy 3:15)

There is nothing in all the world more important than knowing the Holy Scriptures, for there is nothing else in all the world that can make you wise for salvation. Nothing! Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) That’s why Jesus says that listening to Him is the “one thing needed” (Luke 10:42). However, knowing the Holy Scriptures does not just happen automatically; it must be taught. Therefore, there is nothing more important than for parents to teach their children to know the Bible.
Timothy’s mother, Lois, and his grandmother Eunice understood that. They taught Timothy to know the Holy Scriptures. As a result, he had known them from his childhood.
Martin Luther also understood that important fact. He also understood another fact: it can be a daunting task for parents to teach the Holy Scriptures to their children. Not only that, but he understood that it is possible to “know” the Holy Scriptures and yet not become wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. It is possible to know many facts from the Bible and even have many passages memorized, yet miss the whole point of the Bible. That happens all too often when people do not understand the distinction between the Law and the Gospel, and the proper relation of one to the other.
Many have wrongly concluded that the Law is a way to gain salvation, or at least to gain God’s favor and make Him willing to save us. What a tragedy to “know” the Holy Scriptures, yet not become wise for salvation through faith!
Martin Luther wanted to help parents truly teach their children to know the Holy Scriptures and understand the way of salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Therefore, he wrote both the Small Catechsim and the Large Catechism, which present God’s plan of salvation in a way that is simple to understand.
Continue in them!
In the verses just before our text, Paul reminds Timothy, “Evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them.” (2 Timothy 3:13-14) God warns us that there will be many who will try to corrupt that knowledge of salvation, therefore Paul says, “You must continue in the things which you have learned.” The Catechism can be an invaluable resource for continuing in the Scriptures and not being deceived by false teachers. Luther often spoke of the value and importance of studying the catechism on an ongoing basis because of its simple summary of Christian doctrine. Luther even said that he himself regularly reviewed the catechism. He wrote, “I, too, am a theologian who has attained a fairly good practical knowledge and experience of Holy Scriptures through various dangers. But I do not so glory in this gift as not to join my children daily in prayerfully reciting the Catechism, that is, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer and meditating on them with an attentive heart. I do not merely pass over the words hurriedly, but I carefully observe what the individual word means. And really, if I do not do this but am preoccupied with other business, I feel a definite loss because of the neglect.”
When is the last time you reviewed your Catechism? Why not make this the year to do so? You will be richly blessed for it!
David Reim is pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Vernon, British Columbia.