Back to Hebrews and the image of Jesus, our High Priest.
Chapters 7 thru 9 are cited in passing in Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 13: The Number and Use of the Sacraments (AP 13.10) to show where the argument that the priests of Christianity are not the same as the Levitical priesthood.
…so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
— Hebrews 9:28
Verse 28 is cited through editorial insert along with a couple of verse from chapter 10 (which I’m sure we’ll see soon…) in The Augsburg Confession, Article 24: The Mass (AC 24.26), but only in the German version. This section is rebuking the idea that Jesus’ death only forgave original sin, and reception of communion was necessary for the forgiveness of other sins. Such thoughts had led to all kinds of strange ideas about communion and the forgiveness of sins that the Reformers sought to end.
There are times when people wonder why do theology at all, much less systematic, practical, constrictive, or pastoral theology. The issue raised up in The Augsburg Confession, Article 24 points to the need for theology grounded in scripture and the tradition of the Church.
As each generation claims the faith as its own, the same questions will get asked. Sound theology provides some of the answers for these questions because the answers came from previous generations asking the same questions. Might later generations come up with different answers? Sure, but that doesn’t excuse us as Church from listening to those who came before us.
In Luther’s time, the teaching of the Catholic Church had been distorted in such a way that Jesus’ death on the cross only covered original sin, not the sins that each of us commit daily. To cover these daily sins, Jesus has to be sacrificed anew. Luther and the Reformers who followed him look to the epistle of Hebrews and see this claim that Jesus died once to cover our sins—original sin and daily sins—so the idea that he would have to be resacrificed had to be a human innovation. To what end? Fundraising.
If Jesus has to be resacrificed to cover our daily sins, then how much of my sins does participation in communion with a full congregation actually get me. Surely it’s less than if I paid for a private mass, because that way I get all the forgiveness and don’t have to share it. Right?
It may seem far fetched, but this is exactly what was going on (AC 24.14-23). Sound theology and scripture empowered Luther and his compatriots to challenge the establishment, holding it accountable for proclaiming the good news of God rather than works, for emphasizing what is written in scripture rather than what the institution adds to scripture, for making as much of Jesus as God does. This is the power of sound theology, and even if one generation strays, sound theology will call the Church back.