THE SMALL CATECHISM

by

Dr. Martin Luther


THE TEN COMMANDMENTS

 

THE FIRST COMMANDMENT

You shall have no other gods.

What does this mean?

We should fear, love and trust in God above all things.

 

THE SECOND COMMANDMENT

You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain.

What does this mean?

We should fear and love God, so that we do not curse, swear, practice witchcraft, lie or deceive by His name, but call upon Him in every trouble, pray, praise and give thanks.

 

THE THIRD COMMANDMENT

You shall keep the day of rest holy.

What does this mean?

We should fear and love God, so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.

 

THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT

Honor your father and your mother, that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.

What does this mean?

We should fear and love God, so that we do not despise our parents or superiors, nor provoke them to anger, but honor, serve, obey, love and esteem them.

 

THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT

You shall not kill.

What does this mean?

We should fear and love God, so that we do no bodily harm to our neighbor, but help and befriend him in every need.

 

THE SIXTH COMMANDMENT

You shall not commit adultery.

What does this mean?

We should fear and love God, so that we lead a chaste and decent life in word and deed, and that husband and wife each love and honor the other.

 

THE SEVENTH COMMANDMENT

You shall not steal.

What does this mean?

We should fear and love God, so that we do not take our neighbor’s money or goods, nor get them in any dishonest way, but help him to improve and protect his goods and means of making a living.

 

THE EIGHTH COMMANDMENT

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

What does this mean?

We should fear and love God, so that we do not lie about, betray or slander our neighbor, but excuse him, speak well of him, and put the best construction on everything.

 

THE NINTH COMMANDMENT

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.

What does this mean?

We should fear and love God, so that we do not craftily seek to gain our neighbor’s inheritance or home, nor get it by a show of right, but help and serve him in keeping it.

 

THE TENTH COMMANDMENT

You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his cattle, nor anything that is his.

What does this mean?

We should fear and love God, so that we do not tempt, force or coax away from our neighbor his wife or his workers, but urge them to stay and do their duty.

 

CONCLUSION

What does God say about these commandments?

I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, and showing mercy to thousands of those who love Me and keep My commandments.

What does this mean?

God threatens to punish all who transgress these commandments. Therefore we should fear His wrath and do nothing against these commandments. But He promises grace and every blessing to all who keep these commandments. Therefore we should also love and trust in Him and willingly do according to His commandments.

 

THE CREED

 

THE FIRST ARTICLE

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

What does this mean?

I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still preserves them; that He richly and daily provides me with food and clothing, home and family, property and goods, and all that I need to support this body and life; that He protects me from all danger, guards and keeps me from all evil; and all this purely out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me; for all which I am in duty bound to thank and praise, to serve and obey Him. This is most certainly true.

 

THE SECOND ARTICLE

I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit; born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, died, and was buried; He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty; from there He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

What does this mean?

I believe that Jesus Christ is true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary; and that He is my Lord, Who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood, and with His innocent suffering and death; in order that I might be His own, live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness; even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.

 

THE THIRD ARTICLE

I believe in the Holy Spirit; the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.

What does this mean?

I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; just as He calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian Church He daily and richly forgives me and all believers all our sins; and at the last day He will raise up me and all the dead, and will grant me and all believers in Christ eternal life. This is most certainly true.

 

THE LORD’S PRAYER

 

THE INTRODUCTION

Our Father, Who art in heaven.

What does this mean?

God would hereby tenderly invite us to believe that He is our true Father, and that we are His true children, so that we may ask Him with all boldness and confidence, as children ask their dear father.

 

THE FIRST PETITION

Hallowed be Thy name.

What does this mean?

God’s name is certainly holy in itself, but we pray in this petition that it may be holy among us also.

How is God’s name hallowed?

God’s name is hallowed when His Word is taught in its truth and purity, and we as the children of God live holy lives according to it. This grant us, dear Father in heaven! But he who teaches and lives otherwise than the Word of God teaches dishonors God’s name among us. From this preserve us, heavenly Father!

 

THE SECOND PETITION

Thy Kingdom come.

What does this mean?

The kingdom of God certainly comes of itself without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may come to us also.

How does God’s kingdom come?

The kingdom of God comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and live godly lives here in time and hereafter in eternity.

 

THE THIRD PETITION

Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.

What does this mean?

The good and gracious will of God is certainly done without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may be done also among us.

How is God’s will done?

God’s will is done when He breaks and hinders every evil counsel and will, which would not let us hallow His name nor let His kingdom come, such as the will of the devil, the world and our own flesh; but strengthens and keeps us steadfast in His Word and in faith until our end. This is His good and gracious will.

 

THE FOURTH PETITION

Give us this day our daily bread.

What does this mean?

God certainly gives daily bread without our prayer, even to all the wicked; but we pray in this petition that He would lead us to acknowledge this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.

What is meant by daily bread?

Daily bread includes everything needed for this life, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, fields, cattle, money, goods, God-fearing spouse and children, faithful servants and rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, order, honor, true friends, good neighbors, and the like.

 

THE FIFTH PETITION

And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

What does this mean?

We pray in this petition that our Father in heaven would not look upon our sins, nor on their account deny our prayer; for we are not worthy of anything we ask, neither have we deserved it. But we pray that He would give us everything by grace, for we daily sin much and deserve nothing but punishment; and we on our part will heartily forgive and readily do good to those who sin against us.

 

THE SIXTH PETITION

And lead us not into temptation.

What does this mean?

God certainly tempts no one to sin, but we pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world and our own flesh may not deceive us nor lead us into misbelief, despair and other shameful sin and vice; and though we be thus tempted, that we may still in the end overcome and retain the victory.

 

THE SEVENTH PETITION

But deliver us from evil.

What does this mean?

We pray in this petition, as the sum of all, that our Father in heaven would deliver us from every evil of body and soul, property and honor; and at last, when the hour of death shall come, grant us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven.

 

THE CONCLUSION

For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

What does “Amen” mean?

Amen means that we should be sure that these petitions are acceptable to our Father in heaven and are heard by Him; for He Himself has commanded us so to pray and has promised to hear us. Amen, Amen: that is, Yes, Yes, it shall be so.

 

BAPTISM

 

THE NATURE OF BAPTISM

What is Baptism?

Baptism is not just water, but it is the water used according to God’s command and connected with His Word.

What is that Word and command of God concerning Baptism?

Jesus says: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:18-20.

 

THE BLESSINGS OF BAPTISM

What does Baptism give or profit?

Baptism effects forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, just as the words and promises of God declare.

Which are these words and promises of God?

Christ our Lord says, Mark 16:16: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”

 

THE POWER OF BAPTISM

How can water do such great things?

It is not the water that does these things, but the Word of God which is in and with the water, and faith which trusts this Word of God in the water. For without the Word of God the water is simply water, and no baptism; but with the Word of God it is a baptism, that is, a gracious water of life and washing of regeneration in the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul says, Titus 3:5-8: “According to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior; that having been justified by His grace, we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying.”

 

THE MEANING OF BAPTISM

What does such baptizing with water mean?

Such baptizing with water means that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts; and that a new man daily come forth and arise, who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

Where is this written?

St. Paul writes, Romans 6:4: “We are buried with Christ by baptism into death, that just as He was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”

 

THE OFFICE OF THE KEYS AND CONFESSION

 

What is the Office of the Keys?

The Office of the Keys is the special authority which Christ has given to His Church on earth: to forgive the sins of the penitent sinners, but to retain the sins of the impenitent as long as they do not repent.

 

Where is this written?

The evangelist writes, John 20:22-23: “Jesus breathed on His disciples and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; and if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’”

 

What is Confession?

Confession consists of two parts: one, that we confess our sins; the other, that we receive absolution, or forgiveness, from the pastor or confessor as from God himself, and in no way doubt, but firmly believe that our sins are thereby forgiven before God in heaven.

 

What sins should we confess?

Before God we should acknowledge ourselves guilty of all sins, even of those which we do not know about, as we do in the Lord’s Prayer. But before the pastor or confessor we should acknowledge those sins only which we know and feel in our hearts.

 

Which are these?

Here consider your own situation according to the Ten Commandments, whether you are a father, mother, son, daughter, employer, employee; whether you have been disobedient, dishonest, lazy; whether you have injured anyone by word or deed; whether you have stolen, neglected, wasted anything, or done any harm.

 

THE SACRAMENT OF THE ALTAR

 

THE NATURE OF THE SACRAMENT OF THE ALTAR

What is the Sacrament of the Altar?

The Sacrament of the Altar is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine, instituted by Christ himself, for us Christians to eat and to drink.

Where is this written?

The holy evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke, together with St. Paul, write thus: “Our Lord Jesus Christ, the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to His disciples, saying, ‘Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same way also He took the cup after supper, gave thanks and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it all of you; this cup is the New Testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the remission of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’”

 

THE BENEFIT OF THE SACRAMENT OF THE ALTAR

What benefit do we receive from such eating and drinking?

The benefit which we receive from such eating and drinking is shown us by these words: “Given and shed for you for the remission of sins,” namely, that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.

 

THE POWER OF THE SACRAMENT OF THE ALTAR

How can bodily eating and drinking do such great things?

It is not the eating and drinking that does this, but the words here written, “Given and shed for you for the remission of sins.” These words, along with the eating and drinking, are the main thing in the Sacrament; and whoever believes these words has exactly what they say, namely, the forgiveness of sins.

 

THE PROPER RECEPTION OF THE SACRAMENT OF THE ALTAR

Who then receives this Sacrament worthily?

Fasting and bodily preparation are indeed a fine outward training; but he is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words, “Given and shed for you for the remission of sins.” But he who does not believe these words, or doubts them, is unworthy and unprepared; for the words “for you” require truly believing hearts.

 

PRAYERS FOR DAILY USE

 

A MORNING PRAYER

In the morning, when you rise you shall make the sign of the holy cross, and you shall say:

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Then, kneeling or standing, you shall say the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. Then you may say this prayer:

I thank You, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray You to protect me this day also from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life may please You. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the wicked foe may have no power over me. Amen.

And then you should go with joy to your work, after a hymn, or the Ten Commandments, or whatever your devotion may suggest.

 

AN EVENING PRAYER

In the evening, when you go to bed, you shall make the sign of the holy cross, and you shall say:

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Then, kneeling or standing, you shall say the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. Then you may say this prayer:

I thank You, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have graciously kept me this day; and I pray You to forgive me all my sins where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the wicked foe may have no power over me. Amen.

And then lie down in peace, and sleep.

 

PRAYER BEFORE EATING

The eyes of all wait upon You, O Lord, and You give them their food in due season; You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.

Lord God, heavenly Father, bless us and these Your gifts which we receive from Your bountiful goodness, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

 

PRAYER AFTER EATING

Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for His mercy endures forever.

We thank You, Lord God, heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, for all Your benefits, You who live and reign forever and ever. Amen.

 

TABLE OF DUTIES

 

PASTORS AND PREACHERS

A bishop must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence…not a novice….holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and to convict those who contradict. 1 Timothy 3:2-4 and 6; Titus 1-9.

 

WHAT THE HEARERS OWE TO THEIR PASTORS

Obey those who have the rule over you, and submit yourselves, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do it with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you. Hebrews 13:17.

Eat and drink such things as they give, for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Luke 10:7.

The Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel. 1 Corinthians 9:14.

Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches. Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. Galatians 6: 6-7.

Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” 1 Timothy 5:17-18.

 

CIVIL GOVERNMENT

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you then want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who does evil. Romans 13:1-4.

 

CITIZENS

Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. Matthew 22:21.

Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor. Romans 13:5-7.

I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior. 1 Timothy 2:1-3.

Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work. Titus 3:1.

Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. 1 Peter 2:13-14.

 

HUSBANDS

Likewise you husbands, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers not be hindered. 1 Peter 3:7.

Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them. Colossians 3:19.

 

WIVES

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Lord…as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are as long as you do good and are not afraid with any terror. Ephesians 5:22; 1 Peter 3:6.

 

PARENTS

Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4.

 

CHILDREN

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” Ephesians 6:1-3.

 

EMPLOYEES

Servants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. Ephesians 6:5-8.

 

EMPLOYERS

Masters, do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him. Ephesians 6:9.

 

THE YOUNG

You younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time. 1 Peter 5:5-6.

 

ALL CHRISTIANS

You shall love your neighbor as yourself….I exhort…that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men. Romans 13:9; 1 Timothy 2:1.

 

CHRISTIAN QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Drawn up by Dr. Martin Luther for those who intend to go to the Sacrament of the Altar

 

After confession and instruction in the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Sacraments of Baptism and the Holy Supper, the pastor may ask, or one may ask himself:

 

1. Do you believe that you are a sinner?

Yes, I believe it; I am a sinner.

2. How do you know this?

From the Ten Commandments, which I have not kept.

3. Are you also sorry for your sins?

Yes, I am sorry that I have sinned against God.

4. What have you deserved from God by your sins?

His wrath and displeasure, temporal death and eternal damnation. Romans 6:21 and 23.

5. Do you also hope to be saved?

Yes, such is my hope.

6. In whom, then, do you trust?

In my dear Lord Jesus Christ.

7. Who is Christ?

The Son of God, true God and man.

8. How many Gods are there?

Only one; but there are three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

9. What, then, has Christ done for you that you trust in Him?

He died for me and shed His blood for me on the cross for the forgiveness of sins.

10. Did the Father also die for you?

He did not; for the Father is God only, the Holy Ghost likewise; but the Son is true God and true man. He died for me and shed his blood for me.

11. How do you know this?

From the holy Gospel and from the words of the Sacrament, and by His body and blood given me as a pledge in the Sacrament.

12. How do those words read?

“Our Lord Jesus Christ, the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to His disciples, saying, ‘Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same way also He took the cup after supper, gave thanks and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it all of you; this cup is the New Testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the remission of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’”

13. You believe, then, that the true body and blood of Christ are in the Sacrament?

Yes, I believe it.

14. What induces you to believe this?

The word of Christ: “Take, eat, this is My body….Drink from it, all of you; this…is…My blood.”

15. What ought we to do when we eat His body and drink His blood, and thus receive the pledge?

We ought to remember and proclaim His death and the shedding of His blood, as He taught us: “Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

16. Why ought we to remember and proclaim His death?

That we may learn to believe that no creature could make satisfaction for our sins but Christ, true God and man; and that we may learn to look with terror at our sins, and to regard them as great, indeed, and to find joy and comfort in Him alone, and thus be saved through such faith.

17. What was it that moved Him to die and make satisfaction for your sins?

His great love to His Father and to me and other sinners, as it is written in John 14; Romans 5; Galatians 2; Ephesians 2.

18. Finally, why do you wish to go to the Sacrament?

That I may learn to believe that Christ died for my sin out of great love, as before said; and that I may also learn of Him to love God and my neighbor.

19. What should admonish and incite a Christian to receive the Sacrament frequently?

In respect to God, both the command and the promise of Christ the Lord should move him; and in respect to himself, the trouble that lies heavy on him, on account of which such command, encouragement, and promise are given.

20. But what shall a person do if he is not aware of such trouble and feels no hunger and thirst for the Sacrament?

To such a person no better advice can be given than that, in the first place, he put his hand into his bosom, and feel whether he still have flesh and blood, and that he by all means believe what the Scriptures say of it in Galatians 5 and Romans 7. Secondly, that he look around to see whether he is still in the world, and keep in mind that there will be no lack of sin and trouble, as the Scriptures say in John 15 and 16; 1 John 2 and 5. Thirdly, he will certainly have the devil also about him, who with his lying and murdering, day and night, will let him have no peace within or without, as the Scriptures picture him in John 8 and 16; 1 Peter 5; Ephesians 6; 2 Timothy 2.

(NOTE: These questions and answers are no child’s play, but are drawn up with great earnestness of purpose by the venerable and pious Dr. Luther for both young and old. Let each one take heed and likewise consider it a serious matter; for St. Paul writes to the Galatians, chapter six: “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked.”)