Luther’s Catechism is divided into five parts: Ten Commandments, Apostles Creed, Lord’s Prayer, Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. Studying and living the teachings of the catechism is a lifelong journey, yet a delightful means to a life of joy and contentment in God’s love and mercy. Reminds me of Psalm 119:10 and 16, “With my whole heart I seek you; do not let me stray from your commandments … I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.”
The idea of a catechism was not Luther’s original idea. The medieval church had written catechisms throughout its history. But what was noteworthy is that Luther changed the order of the parts in his catechism. Let me show you what I mean.
Dietrich Kolde wrote a prominent medieval catechism. “The arrangement of Kolde’s catechism reflected medieval theology. Beginning with faith (understood as knowledge of the Apostles’ Creed) the catechism implicitly led its users through how one could form that faith through avoiding sin and doing good works. The reward for this faith formed by love would be salvation. As Kolde stated at the end, “Any person who follows this humble instruction and lives by it will become holy and will be saved, no matter what his station in life is.” (Catechisms by Mary Jane Haemig – online course)
Luther put the Ten Commandments first and ” made clear that the commandments mandated what must be done as well as what must be avoided. For him, they diagnosed the human illness, exposing human sin. Luther explained the “Apostles’ Creed” in three parts, rather than the twelve parts used in the medieval pattern. He thought that God’s work as expressed in the creed should be discussed in terms of three basic moves – creation, redemption, and sanctification. In each, the Christian confessed what God had done for him, not merely what God had done generally. Thus, the creedal explanations became a personal declaration of faith, rather than a general statement of facts about God.” (IBID)
Finally Luther put the Lord’s Prayer after the Apostles Creed and explained it as a joyful response to what God has done for us. Prayer is not a good work to gain God’s attention; rather it is a loving conversation with God. Like as I have said a number of times, there really are only two prayers: “Help” and “Thank You”. What more do we need? God shared Christ with us and in Him abides all mercy, love, forgiveness and grace.