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Vicarious Satisfaction in Liturgy: Worship in General

NOTE: This essay may be downloaded in a PDF here.


Lutheran Orthodoxy teaches that an indispensable part of the mighty work that God has done in Christ is atonement by vicarious satisfaction. Adversaries of Lutheran Orthodoxy deny vicarious satisfaction. They teach that God just “up and forgave” before and without the blood of Christ. They teach that Christ did not accomplish atonement on the cross and that atonement only happens when someone believes a bloodless word of absolution.

In a series of studies, the author examines how those claims stand up against established witnesses to the teaching of the Lutheran church. Prior writings in the series brought forth the orthodox Lutheran teaching of vicarious satisfaction in the Lutheran confessions of the Book of Concord, in explanations of the Small Catechism, and in Lutheran hymns. This writing continues the series by examining the witness to the teaching of the Lutheran church embodied in its liturgy.

The Divine Service joins three services:

  1. Confession and Absolution
  2. Service of the Word
  3. Service of the Sacrament

In turn, each of the services has multiple parts.

To understand the liturgy at each of those levels (the overall Divine Service, each of the three services, and each of the parts of the three services), it is beneficial to know how the Lutheran church understands “worship” generally. The meaning of “worship,” including the place of vicarious satisfaction in it, is the subject of this essay. Having this understanding first will yield benefits later when turning attention to the three services and their multiple parts.

Bias of the Word “Worship”

“The usual meaning of the word [worship] leads us astray.”[1] The word originated in Old English, a period prior to the Norman Conquest in 1066. It

began life as a compound noun meaning “worthiness.” It was formed from the adjective worth and the noun suffix –ship “state, condition” and at first was used for “distinction, credit, dignity.” This soon passed into “respect, reverence,” but it was not used in specifically religious contexts until the 13th century.[2]

“The direction is from us to God.”[3] Man shows respect or reverence to God. The bias of “worship” is from man to God rather than from God to man. The word does not intuitively suggest a god who serves man. “Such a view is antithetical to the Evangelical Lutheran understanding of worship”[4]

Role Reversal: Jesus Serves

In a surprising role reversal, Jesus serves man. Jesus says, “I am among you as the One who serves.” (Luke 22:27) Jesus “poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.” (John 13:5)

This role reversal is not easy to accept. “Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, are You washing my feet?’” (John 13:6) “Peter said to Him, ‘You shall never wash my feet!’” (John 13:8) This is the natural tendency of fallen human piety. “It is not natural for us to think of worship in the passive language of reception.”[5] “Jesus answered him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.’” (John 13:8)

Jesus serves and gives. “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28) Jesus gives us his life,[6] his body,[7] his blood,[8] himself,[9] the Word,[10] the Spirit,[11] the kingdom,[12] repentance and forgiveness of sins,[13] the victory,[14] peace,[15] everlasting consolation and good hope,[16] and eternal life.[17] “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

The dictionary understanding makes worship our action or response. … The evangelical Lutheran understanding of worship is just the opposite. It is from God to us. It begins with God. … Worship is God speaking. It is our listening. Worship begins with God’s Word. He is the content. … In the Divine Service, God serves us. He gives us his Word and sacraments. Only after we have received the Word and the gifts that he offers do we respond in our sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise.[18]

In the “Preface” to Lutheran Service Book: Companion to the Services, Paul J. Grime says:

Clarification in the way we speak about worship is perhaps no more critical that in our use of the word “liturgy.” In common parlance, one usually hears it used in reference to an order of service, as in “the liturgy on page 151.” The Lutheran reformers, however, used the term “liturgy” in a more specific way to refer to the Lord’s gifts themselves, His mandated Means of Grace through which He delivers to us the Gospel with its rich content.[19]

John W. Kleinig says:

We call worship “divine service” but usually put back to front when we do so. We, naturally enough, dwell on what we have to do when we come to church or hold our devotions, which is not really the essence of worship. It is more a matter of receiving than doing; it is first and foremost what God does for us, not what we do for God. The activity of God lies at the heart of Christian worship. Human activity is secondary and dependent on God’s initiative with us in it.[20]

God Needs Nothing; We Have Nothing

God does not need anything and we do not have anything of value to give him. Rather, it is God who gives to us. “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.” (Acts 17:24-25)

Sentimentality might say, “Since I have nothing else to give to God, I will give him my heart.” But what does God see in that? “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5) “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) We need “our hearts [to be] sprinkled clean from an evil conscience.” (Hebrews 10:22)

Worship Corresponds to Salvation

This shows that the bias of the word “worship” as if the primary movement were man giving something to God is hopeless. Rather, the case of worship is like the case of salvation.

In the atonement, the initiative is with God. “When we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. … While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6, 8) On the cross Christ carried it through to “It is finished.” (John 19:30)

In conversion, the initiative is with God. “You did not choose Me, but I chose you.” (John 15:16) We “were dead in trespasses and sins.” (Ephesians 2:1) We “were slaves of sin.” (Romans 6:17) In death and slavery, we had no freedom or power to choose Christ or convert ourselves to God. The scriptural depiction of the fallen condition of man before regeneration is devastating.[21]

“But God … even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4-5). God made us alive. God raised us up. God made us to sit in heavenly places. Repentance is not a work of man. Repentant is a gift – a grant – of God. (Acts 11:18; 2 Timothy 2:25)

In the Small Catechism, Luther explains the Third Article of the Creed:

I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way 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 all my sins and the sins of all believers.

This places the emphasis on acts of God, not man. The focus is on the gifts of the Holy Spirit bringing us to Christ and delivering to us the forgiveness of sins.[22]

“In Luther’s mind, the chief service of the Church could not run in a different direction than the Gospel breakthrough itself would dictate.”[23] Luther said:

For this is a true God who gives and does not receive, who helps and does not let himself be helped, who teaches and rules and does not let himself be taught or ruled. In short, he does and gives everything, and he has need of no one; he does all things freely out of pure grace without merit, for the unworthy and undeserving, yes, for the damned and lost.[24]

Faith Is Worship

Thus, in the Lutheran church, worship means the divine service of God giving us his gifts, us receiving them by faith, and our thanking and praising God for his gifts. The shape of the divine service or the rhythm of the liturgy is from God to us by Word and Sacrament and us to God in contrition and faith. This shape, pattern, or rhythm repeats throughout the parts of the liturgy.

The Apology of the Augsburg Confession explains the essence of worship in Article IV, paragraph 49. The Apology was written in German and Latin. Let us look at paragraph 49 in a couple standard translations. First, the Triglot Concordia:

49 And the difference between this faith and the righteousness of the Law can be easily discerned. Faith is the latreiva [divine service], which receives the benefits offered by God; the righteousness of the Law is the latreiva [divine service] which offers to God our merits. By faith God wishes to be worshiped in this way, that we receive from Him those things which He promises and offers.[25]

Second, the Tappert edition:

49 It is easy to determine the difference between this faith and the righteousness of the law.  Faith is that worship which receives God’s offered blessings; the righteousness of the law is that worship which offers God our own merits. It is by faith that God wants to be worshiped, namely, that we receive from him what he promises and offers.[26]

From these we see what latreiva, divine service, or worship is. God wishes and wants us to worship him in a certain way. God promises and offers us gifts and blessings. He wishes and wants us to receive what He promises and offers by faith. “Faith is that worship which receives God’s offered blessings.” Like Peter (John 13:9), we must let Jesus wash our feet. Through this there is a correspondence between salvation itself and how we worship our Savior.

The Apology explains worship in the story of the sinful woman in Luke 7:36-50.

The woman came, believing that she should seek the forgiveness of sins from Christ. This is the highest way of worshiping Christ. Nothing greater could she ascribe to him. By looking for forgiveness of sins from him, she truly acknowledged him as the Messiah. Truly to believe means to think of Christ in this way, and in this way to worship and take hold of him. … He points to the woman and praises her reverence, her anointing and crying, all of which were a sign and confession of faith that she was looking for the forgiveness of sins from Christ. … In this way, therefore, he praises her entire act of worship.[26]

“Faith is worship because worship begins with reception.”[28] In the Lutheran Reformation, justification by faith “was not an idle theological slogan but was a practical matter affecting the regular liturgical life of every Christian.”[29]

Sacrament and Sacrifice

We have seen that Apology IV.49 contains a clear definition of worship. “But where the rubber meets the road, where doctrine comes to practice, is in the Lord’s Supper.”[30] To answer the question, ‘Is the body and blood of Christ something we offer to God or something God offers to us,”[31] Melanchthon says there are two fundamentally different types of worship acts.

Theologians are rightly accustomed to distinguish between a Sacrament and a sacrifice. Therefore let the genus comprehending both of these be either a ceremony or a sacred work. A Sacrament is a ceremony or work in which God presents to us that which the promise annexed to the ceremony offers; as Baptism is a work, not which we offer to God, but in which God baptizes us, i.e., a minister in the place of God; and God here offers and presents the remission of sins, etc., according to the promise, Mark 26, 16: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. A sacrifice, on the contrary, is a ceremony or work which we render God in order to afford Him honor.[32]

“We call ‘sacramental’ any action that is primarily God’s Gospel work toward us; we call ‘sacrificial’ any action that is primarily the Christian’s worshipful response to the gifts.”[33] You will find this confessional view of worship, sacrifice, sacrament, Baptism, Communion, and the liturgy piled deeply and widely throughout Lutheran literature, with the writings listed in the bibliography attached to this essay being only a small sampling.

Luther says of the Lord’s Supper,

The remembrance is indeed supposed to be a sacrifice of thanksgiving; but the sacrament itself should not be a sacrifice but a gift of God which he has given to us and which we should take and receive with thanks.[34]

In his reform of the Canon of the Mass, “Luther cannot abide the words of the Canon that imply an offering of the body and blood of Christ themselves to God.”[35]

Sacrifice: Propitiatory and Eucharistic

Melanchthon says in the Apology:

There are two, and only two, basic types of sacrifice. One is the propitiatory sacrifice; this is a work of satisfaction for guilt and punishment that reconciles God or placates his wrath or merits the forgiveness of sins for others. The other type is the eucharistic sacrifice; this does not merit the forgiveness of sins or reconciliation, but by it those who have been reconciled give thanks or show their gratitude for the forgiveness of sins and other blessings received.

In this controversy as well as in many others, we must never lose sight of these two types of sacrifice and be very careful not to confuse them. …

There has really been only one propitiatory sacrifice in the world, the death of Christ, as the Epistle to the Hebrews teaches (10:4), “It is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins.” A little later it says about the will of Christ (v. 10), “By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Isaiah interprets the law to mean that the death of Christ is a real satisfaction or expiation for our sins, as the ceremonies of the law were not. … [T]he death of Christ is the only real propitiatory sacrifice. The Levitical propitiatory sacrifices were so called only as symbols of a future offering. … But after the revelation of the Gospel they had to stop.[36]

Therefore, “Melanchthon denies that the Lord’s Supper is a propitiatory sacrifice carried out by the Church today.”[37] Once the uniqueness of Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice is clear, we can recognize the Church’s non-propitiatory, eucharistic sacrifices of prayer, praise, and thanksgiving safely. Melanchthon continues.

The rest are eucharistic sacrifices, called “sacrifices of praise”: the proclamation of the Gospel, faith, prayer, thanksgiving, confession, the afflictions of the saints, yes, all the good works of the saints. These sacrifices are not satisfactions on behalf of those who bring them, nor can they be transferred to merit the forgiveness of sins or reconciliation for others ex opera operato. Those who bring them are already reconciled. The sacrifices of the New Testament are of this type … In short, the worship of the New Testament is spiritual; it is the righteousness of faith in the heart and the fruits of faith.[38]

Vicarious Satisfaction in the Fabric of Worship

As the confessions develop the theme of what worship is in general, they weave vicarious satisfaction into the fabric of worship.

We have seen that Melanchthon explains the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ as “a work of satisfaction for guilt and punishment that reconciles God or placates his wrath or merits the forgiveness of sins for others.” That is vicarious satisfaction. Based on that, he rejects the Roman worship that presents the Mass as a propitiatory sacrifice to God. Instead, it is a sacrament that Christ gives to the Church. This is indispensable to what worship is. Get this wrong and the entire so-called “worship service” is off kilter. It offers to God our works instead of receiving God’s works in faith with praise and thanksgiving.

In chapter 1 of Worship, Gottedienst, Cultus Dei: What the Lutheran Confessions Say About Worship,[39] James L. Brauer extracts passages of the confessions that say what worship is in general before considering specifics about worship in later chapters. Immediately after quoting Article IV, paragraph 49 of the Apology that this essay quoted above from Concordia Triglot and Tappert, Brauer quotes paragraphs 307-310.

Because the righteousness of Christ is given to us through faith, therefore faith is righteousness by imputation. That is, by it we are made acceptable to God because of God’s imputation and ordinances, as Paul says (Rom. 4:5), “Faith is reckoned as righteousness.” … This faith gives honor to God, gives him what is properly his; it obeys him by accepting his promise. As Paul says (Rom. 4:20), “No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God.” Thus the service and worship of the Gospel is to receive good things from God, while the worship of the law is to offer and present our goods to God. We cannot offer anything to God unless we have first been reconciled and reborn. The greatest comfort comes from this doctrine that the highest worship in the Gospel is the desire to receive forgiveness of sins, grace, and righteousness.[40]

In that passage, “the righteousness of Christ” references the active obedience of Christ under the Law. When the righteousness of Christ is given to us, as the quoted paragraph of the Apology says, by imputation and reckoning, that is vicarious satisfaction. In the quoted passage, if we were to pull out and discard all threads of vicarious satisfaction, there would be left no weave, no fabric of worship, no giving honor to God, no giving glory to God. The essence of worship is to “desire to receive forgiveness of sins, grace, and righteousness” and receive them “through faith.”

Above, we observed how the Apology explains the worship of the sinful woman in Luke 7:36-50. After the portion already quoted, the passage continues.

We are debating about an important issue, the honor of Christ and the source of sure and firm consolation for pious minds – whether we should put our trust in Christ or in our own works. If we put it in our works, we rob Christ of his honor as mediator and propitiator.  And in the judgment of God we shall learn that this trust was vain and our conscience will then plunge into despair. For if the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation do not come freely for Christ’s sake, but for the sake of our love, nobody will have the forgiveness of sins unless he keeps the whole law, because the law does not justify as long as it can accuse us. Justification is reconciliation for Christ’s sake. Therefore it is clear that we are justified by faith, for it is sure that we receive the forgiveness of sins by faith alone.[41]

Here the Apology weaves the woman’s worship together with vicarious satisfaction in two ways. The first is with reference to Christ as “mediator and propitiator.” The Second is in forgiveness of sins and reconciliation “for Christ’s sake.”

By faith the woman trusted “Christ … as mediator and propitiator.” The office of Christ as mediator has two parts: his sacrifice of himself in our place to make satisfaction for us; and his intercession with the Father on our behalf

This part of His work is called the Sacerdotal Office. “The sacerdotal office consists in this, that Christ holds a middle ground between God and men, who are at variance with each other, so that He offers sacrifice and prayers that He may reconcile man with God.” (Br., 491) Accordingly it is subdivided into two parts, corresponding to the two functions that belong to priests, i. e., the offering of sacrifice and intercessory prayer. … The first part is called satisfaction, by which expression, at the same time, the reason is implied why reconciliation with God was possible only through a sacrifice; because thereby satisfaction was to be rendered to God, who had been offended by our sins, and therefor demanded punishment.[42]

Thus “mediator and propitiator” reference Christ’s atoning work of vicarious satisfaction.

The woman sought forgiveness of sins and reconciliation “for Christ’s sake.” “For Christ’s sake” means as we pray in the Divine Service, “for the sake of his holy, innocent, and bitter sufferings and death of Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, be gracious and merciful to me, a poor, sinful being.”[43] The phrase “for Christ’s sake” is a shorthand expression of vicarious satisfaction.

The Apology explains the faith of the patriarchs.

This service and worship is especially praised throughout the prophets and the Psalms. Even though the law does not teach the free forgiveness of sins, the patriarchs knew the promise of the Christ, that for his sake God intended to forgive sins. As they understood that the Christ would be the price for our sins, they knew that our works could not pay so high a price. Therefore they received free mercy and the forgiveness of sins by faith, just as the saints in the New Testament.[44]

In that paragraph, the Kolb and Wengert edition of the Book of Concord renders “service and worship” as “this worship, this latreia.” It renders “for his sake” as “on account of Christ.” It renders “price for our sins” as “payment for our sins.”[45] All of this, in both ways of rendering the translation, is language of vicarious satisfaction.

The faith of the sinful woman in the New Testament and the patriarchs in the Old Testament both trusted Christ as Messiah and mediator who, on their behalf, and in their place and stead, as their substitute, made vicarious satisfaction for them. Their faith in Christ’s person and work gave Christ honor, glory, service, and worship.

False Worship Clarifies True Worship

Brauer develops further from the confessions the true meaning of worship in general and the element of vicarious satisfaction in worship. We have observed enough, however, for our purposes in this series of essays. Our purpose is to discern and hold in mind the confessional Lutheran idea of worship and vicarious satisfaction when we look at parts of the liturgy. With this discernment consciously held, we will be prepared to see the essence of worship and Christ’s vicarious satisfaction in Confession and Absolution, the Service of the Word, and the Service of the Sacrament.

Because it is such an important example, however, we will look at one further development Brauer makes. A section of his Chapter 1 is headed, “What are examples of false worship?” From the confessions, he gives many examples. The examples of false worship help clarify what true worship is. Concerning one example, the Augsburg Confession, Article XXIV, paragraphs 21-23, says:

At the same time the abominable error was condemned according to which it was taught that our Lord Christ had by his death made satisfaction only for original sin, and had instituted the Mass as a sacrifice for other sins [daily sins, both venial and mortal[46]]. This transformed the Mass into a sacrifice for the living and the dead, a sacrifice by which sin was taken away and God was reconciled. … [F]aith in Christ and true service of God were forgotten.[47]

The abuses of the Mass in Luther’s time were manifold. For purposes of this essay, however, focus is on one aspect: false and true views of the sacrifice of Christ and how that affects worship. The false view of the Papists was that by his death, Christ made satisfaction only for original sin. In other words, for our actual sins or daily sins, Christ made no satisfaction. Thus, there was need for some further sacrifice for actual sins. They transformed the Lord’s Supper from a sacrament that Christ gives to the Church into a sacrifice that the priests offer to God. This is contrary to faith because, instead of trusting in the sacrifice of Christ once for all (Hebrews 7:27, 9:12, 10:10), it looks to sacrifices that man makes to God. It reverses the bias of worship from God giving and man receiving to man giving and God receiving.

See how this error, bad as it is, serves us a good purpose. It clarifies what true worship is and how vicarious satisfaction is part of it. The true Gospel says that Christ did not make a half-satisfaction but a complete satisfaction for both original sin and for all actual sins. Therefore, there is no need for any further sacrifice. Instead, we only need to receive in the Sacrament of the Altar the same body and blood that Jesus sacrificed to God, believing that he has achieved full, vicarious satisfaction for us.

How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. (Hebrews 9:14)

Comparing Abominable Errors

Lutheran Orthodoxy teaches that an indispensable part of the mighty work that God has done in Christ is atonement by vicarious satisfaction. Adversaries of Lutheran Orthodoxy deny vicarious satisfaction. Gerhard O. Forde and his disciples teach that God just “up and forgave” before and without the blood of Christ. They teach that Christ did not accomplish atonement on the cross and that atonement only happens when someone believes a bloodless word of absolution.

It was an “abominable error,” condemned in the Augsburg Confession, for the Papists to half deny vicarious satisfaction by admitting that Christ made satisfaction for original sin but not for actual sins. How does the error of Gerhard O. Forde and his disciples compare with the error of the Papists? They deny vicarious satisfaction entirely. They deny it both as to original sin and actual sins.

The Liturgy

Just as the usage of the word “worship” has not always done us favors (though with a Gospel understanding as given in the Lutheran confessions, the word “worship” is a good and right word), so several typical misconceptions about the word “liturgy” have not done us any favors. Tracing the meaning of “liturgy” linguistically, historically, and in contemporary usage is a worthwhile task that yields valuable benefits. Doing that here, however, would draw us away from the focus of this essay, which is the witness to vicarious satisfaction in the liturgy. For this purpose, suffice it to say that “liturgy” means “God’s work for the people,” “God’s ministry to the people,” “God’s service to the people.”[48]

The liturgy is not essentially about ceremonies and rites. “It is first and foremost a firm theological content, namely, the holy Gospel and sacraments of God.”[49] “Liturgy” as God’s work for the people is tied intimately with the Lutheran understanding of the Means of Grace: The Word and Sacraments.[50]

It is helpful to distinguish between the liturgy itself, the rite, and the ceremony. The liturgy proper is the gifts of God: Word and Sacrament, Absolution, Scripture readings, preaching, the body and blood of Christ, and benediction.

The rite is the setting: the order of service, the ordering and balance of Law and Gospel, biblical canticles and texts, the lectionary, the church year, hymn texts, and music.

The ceremony is the manner: music, vesture, posture, gesture, movement, location, vessels, paraments, incense, art, adornments.[51]

While rite and ceremony are not the liturgy in essence, they are not neutral. They are either conducive to the liturgy as embodying gift-reception or a hindrance to it as embodying an appeal to the auspices of God by rending service and honor to him.

Nevertheless, what we often call “the liturgy” such as in “DS III” or “Page 15,” while not actually the liturgy itself but a rite and ceremony in which liturgy happens, by a providential hand of God[52] provides a sound, evangelical form for the content of the true liturgy. As we learn from Paul’s admonition to Timothy, it is beneficial to “hold fast the pattern of sound words.” (2 Timothy 1:13) Noamichi Masaki asserts,

There is no doubt that our hymnal, now Lutheran Service Book, has played an important role in keeping the church from temptations. Which page of the Divine Service does not confess the atonement? From the very beginning of the service the congregation hears a pastor speak: ״Almighty God in His mercy has given His Son to die for you and for His sake forgives you all your sins.” The church sings to Jesus as the Lamb of God in the Gloria in Excelsis and the Agnus Dei. After the Sanctus, the pastor prays to the Father: “. . . You . . . sent Your only-begotten Son into our flesh to bear our sin and be our Savior. With repentant joy we receive the salvation accomplished for us by the all-availing sacrifice of His body and His blood on the cross.” Then, the Our Father, Verba, Pax Domini, and distribution formula continue, which are all related to the atonement.[53]

Vicarious satisfaction is everywhere in the liturgy.

“I Am Among You”

The gifts of God are not separated from God himself. The Real Presence of Christ in Communion is not an idea. The risen Christ in his glorified body enters the service in Person. We have placed a great deal of emphasis on the latter part of his saying, “I am among you as one who serves,” focusing on his serving us. Of equal weight is the former part, “I am among you.”

The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are transcendent but not aloof. God comes, as when He sought Adam in the cool of the day in Eden. The Son of Man still comes “to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10). Jesus still comes and stands in the midst where the disciples are, not showing us his hands and sides (John 20:19-20) but giving us his body and blood in bread and wine.

While not everything in the Divine Service is called “a sacrament,” nevertheless much of it is sacramental and conducts to us his vicarious satisfaction, justification, and the benefits of his atonement. “The real presence of the Sacrament permeates liturgy and preaching.”[54]


The introductions to the last two hymnals in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod recapitulate the effect of what we have seen in this essay. They affirm what has been said above both about what the essence of worship is and about the place of vicarious satisfaction in worship.

 The “Introduction” to Lutheran Worship says:

Our Lord speaks and we listen. His Word bestows what it says. Faith that is born from what is heard acknowledges the gifts received with eager thankfulness and praise. … Saying back to him what he has said to us, we repeat what is most true and sure. … The rhythm of our worship is from him to us, and then from us back to him. He gives his gifts, and together we receive and extol them.[55]

The “Introduction” to Lutheran Service Book says:

Our Lord is the Lord who serves. Jesus Christ came into the flesh not to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many. On the cross He offered Himself as a spotless sacrifice for the sin of the whole world. Through His perfect life and death, He accomplished forgiveness and salvation for all before the Father in heaven. By His empty tomb and ascension into heaven, He declared His victory over sin and death to all the world. Seated now at the Father’s right hand, He graciously serves His Church with the gifts of salvation. On the Last Day, He will come again to gather His elect from every nation to celebrate the feast that will have no end.

Our Lord serves us today through His holy Word and Sacraments. Through these means, He comes among us to deliver His forgiveness and salvation, freeing us from our sins and strengthening us for service to one another and to the world. At Holy Baptism, He puts His name upon us, pours His Holy Spirit into our hearts, and rescues us from sin, death, and the devil. Through Holy Absolution, He pronounces His forgiveness again and again. With His holy Word, written in Scripture and preached into our ears, He daily proclaims His abiding love for us through all the joys and sorrows of life in this world. In His Holy Supper, He gives us His own body and blood to eat and drink as a priceless gift to nourish and strengthen us in both body and soul.

The Lord’s service calls forth our service—in sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving to Him and in loving service to one another. Having been called, gathered, enlightened, and sanctified by the Holy Spirit, we receive His gifts with thankfulness and praise. With psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, we joyfully confess all that God has done for us, declaring the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. Our song joins with the song of every saint from every age, the new song of Christ’s holy people, declaring: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Rev. 5:12).[56]

Those paragraphs confess vicarious satisfaction and weave it into the essence and rhythm of worship. The active obedience of Christ is expressed in “spotless sacrifice” and “perfect life.” His passive obedience is expressed in “on the cross” and “perfect death.” Substitution is expressed in “offered himself,” “sacrifice for the sin of the whole world,” and “for all.” Satisfaction is expressed in “accomplished forgiveness and salvation for all.” The objectivity of the atonement as having an effect on God, rather than only some subjective effect on man, is expressed in “before the Father in heaven.”


Based on what has been said above, we can anticipate the character of the order of service in its several parts. John W. Kleinig says in “The Biblical View of Worship:”

The common order of worship … begins with the invocation which announces the presence of the Triune God. The main accent then falls on what God does. He makes us His children in baptism, forgives our sins in the absolution, and receives us as beggars of favours from Him in the introit and the Kyrie Eleison. In the salutation we acknowledge our Lord Jesus as the chief celebrant and liturgist in our worship. Then our Heavenly Father speaks powerfully to us in the Scripture readings and sermon, listens to our requests for His help in the general prayer, gives us the body and blood of Jesus for the healing of our souls in holy communion, and dismisses us with the blessing of His Spirit. Thus, worship is always first and foremost God’s gracious doing.[57]


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[1] Roger D. Pittelko, “Corporate Worship of the Church” in Fred L. Precht, ed., Lutheran Worship: History and Practice (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1993), 44.

[2] John Ayto, Dictionary of Word Origins (New York: Arcade Publishing, Inc., 1990), 577.

[3] Pittelko, op cit.

[4] Pittelko, op cit.

[5] Ibid.

[6] John 10:11, 15; 1 John 3:16.

[7] Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:19; John 6:31; 1 Corinthians 11:23.

[8] Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; Revelation 1:5, 7:14; 1 Corinthians 11:25.

[9] Ephesians 5:2.

[10] John 17:14.

[11] 1 Corinthians 2:12; 2 Corinthians 5:5).

[12] Luke 12:33.

[13] Acts 5:31; Revelation 1:5, 7:14.

[14] 1 Corinthians 15:57.

[15] John 14:27; 2 Thessalonians 3:16.

[16] 2 Thessalonians 2:16.

[17] John 6:33; 1 John 5:16.

[18] Pittelko, op cit., 44-45.

[19][xix] Paul J. Grime, “Preface,” Lutheran Service Book: Companion to the Services (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2022), xiii.

[20] John W. Kleinig, “The Biblical View of Worship.” Concordia Theological Quarterly 58.4 (1994): 245-254, 248.

[21] Before regeneration, man is a slave to sin (John 8:34), sold under sin (Romans 7;14), a slave of corruption and brought into bondage (1 Peter 2:19), is in the snare of the Devil and taken captive by him to do his will (1 Timothy 2:16), in the power of Satan (Acts 26:18), and in captivity (Ephesians 4:8).

Before regeneration, man is dark, ignorant, and blind. (Ephesians 4:18, 5:8, 4:3-4; John 1:5; Acts 26:18; Romans 1:21) “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14) In this condition, “there is none who understands.” (Romans 3:10)

Before regeneration, man is lost, and he does not find himself nor find God. Rather, he needs Jesus to seek and to save the lost. (Matthew 18:11; Luke 19:10) In man’s lost condition, “there is none who seeks after God.” (Romans 3:10)

Before regeneration, man is hard-hearted, has a heart of stone, and an impenitent heart. He needs to be given a new heart and a new spirit. (Ezekiel 11:19-20; 36:25; Romans 2:5)

Before regeneration, man is filled to overflowing with evil intent. Not only is the imagination of man’s heart evil from its youth (Genesis 8:21), but “every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5)

Given all this, before regeneration, man is enmity and hostility against God. (Romans 8:6-7; Galatians 5:16-17). This enmity makes man incapable of being subject to the Law of God. He “is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.” (Romans 8:7)

The carnal mindedness of man is death. Paul says, “to be carnally minded is death.” (Romans 8:6). This brings us full circle to Graham’s own preaching that man by nature is dead in trespasses and sins. Dead men do not raise themselves to life, shine light into their own hearts, free themselves from bondage, repent of their evil intent, reconcile their hostility and enmity against God, find their way out of being lost, nor reason their way to understanding.

Instead, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.” (John 6:44) “Without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) We have no sufficiency “of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves.” (2 Corinthians 3:5) Paul confesses, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.” (Romans 7:18)

We have no idea how deceitful our hearts are. Precisely because of our sin, we do not know our sinfulness. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked [incurably sick]; Who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) The testimony of the Law whereby we know our sin is an article of faith. By faith we confess, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Then may you also do good who are accustomed to do evil.” (Jeremiah 13:23)

[22] Understanding does not come by our reason, but by God’s choosing and calling. (Matthew 13:11; 1 Corinthians 1:21-31) “It is God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6) God opens our eyes (Acts 26:18) and enlightens the eyes of our understanding (Ephesians 1:18). God creates in us a clean heart. (Psalm 51:10) He gives us a new heart and puts a new spirit within us. (Ezekiel 11:19-20; 36:26-27; Deuteronomy 30:6) It is with us as it is with Lydia. “The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.” (Acts 16:14) Repentance is a gift. As the servant of God patiently teaches those in opposition, “God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:25) “It is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13) Therefore, “Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.” (Luke 3:8)

[23] Winger, “The Liturgy,” Companion to the Services, 2.

[24] Martin Luther, Admonition Concerning the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Our Lord (1530), AE 38:107.

[25] William Herman Theodore Dau and William Herman Theodore Dau, trans., Triglot Concordia: The Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church: German-Latin-English, (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921), quoted from BookOfConcord.Org.

[26] Theodore G. Tappert, trans. and ed., The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Philadelphia: Fortress Press 1959), 114.

[27] Tappert, Book of Concord, Apology IV.154-155, 128.

[28] Winger, “The Liturgy,” 4.

[29] Winger, “The Liturgy,”5.

[30] Winger, “The Liturgy,” 6.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Apology XXIV.17-18, as rendered in Winger, “The Liturgy,” 6.

[33] Winger, “The Liturgy,” 7.

[34] Martin Luther, Admonition Concerning the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Our Lord (1530), AE 38:122).

[35] Winger, “The Reformation,” 336. See Bryan D Spinks, Luther’s Liturgical Criteria and His Reform of the Canon of the Mass (Sidney, MT: Synoptic Text Information Services, Inc., 2020); Carl Fredrik Wisløff, The Gift of Communion; Luther’s Controversy with Rome on Eucharistic Sacrifice (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1964); Vilmos Vajta, Luther on Worship, an Interpretation (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg, 1958).

[36] Tappert, Book of Concord, Apology XXIV.19-24, 252-253.

[37] Winger, “The Liturgy,” 7

[38] Tappert, Book of Concord, Apology XXIV.25-27, 253.254.

[39] James L. Brauer, ed., Worship, Gottesdiest, Cultus Dei: What the Lutheran Confessions Say About Worship (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2005).

[40] Brauer, Worship, 43-44, quoting Tappert, Book of Concord, 154-155.

[41] Brauer, Worship, 45, quoting Tappert, Book of Concord, 128-129.

[42] Heinrich Schmid, The Doctrinal Theology of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, 3rd ed., rev. Charles A. Hay and Henry E. Jacobs (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1899), 342-43.

[43] Divine Service, Setting Three, Lutheran Service Book (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2006), 184.

[44] Tappert, Book of Concord, Apology IV.57, 114-115.

[45] Robert Kolb and Timothy J. Wengert, eds. The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Charles Arand, Eric Gritsch, Robert Kolb, William Russell, James Schaaf, Jane Strohl, and Timothy J. Wengert, trans. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press), Apology IV.57, 129.

[46] Alternate translation from Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, A Readers Edition of the Book of Concord, 2nd ed., ed. Paul Timothy McCain, Concordia Publishing House, 2006, 48.

[47] Tappert, Book of Concord, Augsburg Confession, XXIV.21-23, 58; Brauer, Worship, 57.

[48] See Apology XXIV.79-91; Winger, “The Liturgy,” 11-15; Winger, “The Reformation” in Companion to the Services, 333.

[49] Kurt Marquart, “Liturgy and Evangelism” in Fred L. Precht, ed., Lutheran Worship: History and Practice (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1993), 461

[50] “The Confessions teach that there is a close connection between the means of grace and worship.” Pittelko, op cit., 53.

[51] Winger, “The Liturgy,” 18.

[52] Winger, “The Liturgy,” 9; Arthur Carl Piepkorn, What the Symbolical books of the Lutheran Church Have to Sy about Worship and the Sacraments (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1952), 10-12.

[53] Noamichi Masaki, “Contemporary Views on the Atonement in Light of the Lutheran Confessions,” Concordia Theological Quarterly, vol. 72, no. 4, 2008, pp. 305-325, 325 n. 71.

[54] Arthur A. Just, “Liturgical Renewal in the Parish,” in Precht, Lutheran Worship, 30.

[55] “Introduction,” Lutheran Worship (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1986), 6.

[56] “Introduction,” Lutheran Service Book (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2006),

[57] John W. Kleinig, “The Biblical View of Worship.” Concordia Theological Quarterly 58.4 (1994): 245-254, 249.