Nearly 500 years after Martin Luther wrote his Small Catechism, Lutherans continue to study and memorize it, because it expresses the gospel so simply and clearly. An excerpt:

The deplorable condition in which I found religious affairs during a recent visitation of the congregations has impelled me to publish this Catechism, or statement of the Christian doctrine, in this brief and simple form.
Alas! what misery I beheld! The common folk, especially those who live in the villages, seem to have no knowledge whatever of Christian doctrine, and many of the pastors are ignorant and incompetent teachers. And, nevertheless, they are all supposed to be Christians; they have been baptized and receive the Lord’s Supper. Yet they cannot recite the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, or the Ten Commandments; they live as if they were mere brutes, and now that the gospel has come to them, they grossly abuse their Christian liberty.

[Luther then explains each phrase of the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer. For example:]

The Ten Commandments

The First Commandment: Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

What does this mean? Answer: We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.

The Second Commandment: Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

What does this mean? Answer: We should fear and love God so that we do not curse, swear, conjure, lie, or deceive by his name, but call upon him in every time of need, and worship him with prayer, praise, and thanksgiving.…

The Apostles’ Creed

The First Article of Creation: I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

What does this mean? Answer: I believe that God has created ...

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