So there I was, minding my own business, wrapping up another Bible study for next Spring's Growing in Christ Adult Sunday School materials (CPH), and it hits me yet again, without warning or provocation. More growth in God's grace. More talk of progressing in the life in Christ...by Luther himself...(later Luther for those who keep tabs on such things)...and in our Confessions no less! Luther says that the new life in Christ "continually increases and progresses." In a previous post, I noted how Luther talks this way while teaching on Baptism. This time I caught him talking this way as he teaches us to treasure the Sacrament of the Altar:
Therefore, the Sacrament is given as a daily pasture and sustenance, that faith may refresh and strengthen itself so that it will not fall back in such a battle [against the devil’s temptations], but become ever stronger and stronger. The new life must be guided so that it continually increases and progresses. But it must suffer much opposition. For the devil is such a furious enemy. When he sees that we oppose him and attack the old man, and that he cannot topple us over by force, he prowls and moves about on all sides. He tries every trick and does not stop until he finally wears us out, so that we either renounce our faith or throw up our hands and put up our feet, becoming indifferent or impatient. Now to this purpose the comfort of the Sacrament is given when the heart feels that the burden is becoming too heavy, so that it may gain here new power and refreshment (Large Catechism, V:24-27; Concordia, p. 434-435, emphasis added).Not only has our loving heavenly Father restored us to His image through the incarnation, suffering, death, and resurrection of His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, and not only has He begun our life of living and growing in that restoration via Holy Baptism, but He so graciously gives us the Sacrament in order that we may continue to grow in His grace. Or, to use Luther's words, He gives us the blessed Eucharist so that faith may "become stronger and stronger," and so that "the new life" may continually increase and progress.