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Smalcald Articles, Part II, Article I–Christ and Faith

 Tappert1 The first and chief article is this, that Jesus Christ, our God and Lord, “was put to death for our trespasses and raised again for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). 2 He alone is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). “God has laid upon him the iniquities of us all” (Isa. 53:6). 3 Moreover, “all have sinned,” and “they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, by his blood” (Rom. 3:23-25).

4 Inasmuch as this must be believed and cannot be obtained or apprehended by any work, law, or merit, it is clear and certain that such faith alone justifies us, as St. Paul says in Romans 3, “For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law” (Rom. 3:28), and again, “that he [God] himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26).

5 Nothing in this article can be given up or compromised,6 even if heaven and earth and things temporal should be destroyed. For as St. Peter says, “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). “And with his stripes we are healed” (Isa. 53:5).

On this article rests all that we teach and practice against the pope, the devil, and the world. Therefore we must be quite certain and have no doubts about it. Otherwise all is lost, and the pope, the devil, and all our adversaries will gain the victory. (Tappert edition, The Book of Concord)

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Augsburg Confession, I. God

Tappert1 We unanimously hold and teach, in accordance with the decree of the Council of Nicaea,3 2 that there is one divine essence, which is called and which is truly God, and that there are three persons in this one divine essence, equal in power and alike eternal: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. 3 All three are one divine essence, eternal, without division, without end, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, one creator and preserver of all things visible and invisible. 4 The word “person” is to be understood as the Fathers employed the term in this connection, not as a part or a property of another but as that which exists of itself4

5 Therefore all the heresies which are contrary to this article are rejected. Among these are the heresy of the Manichaeans,5 who assert that there are two gods, one good and one evil; also that of the Valentinians,6  Arians,7 Eunomians,8 Mohammedans,9 and others like them; 6 also that of the Samosatenes,10 old and new, who hold that there is only one person and sophistically assert that the other two, the Word and the Holy Spirit, are not necessarily distinct persons but that the Word signifies a physical word or voice and that the Holy Spirit is a movement induced in creatures.11

[Notes are from Tappert, Theodore G. The Book of Concord : The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 2000, c1959, electronic edition, Concordia Publishing House]


3 The Nicene Creed

4 The term hypostasis in Greek or persona in Latin were used in the ancient church to repudiate Modalism, which regarded the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three modes or manifestations of the one God.

5 A religion based on Persian dualism combined with Christian and other elements, founded in the third century by Mani and named after him. The Albigensians of the late Middle Ages held similar notions.

6 Gnostics of the second century who took their name from Valentinus.

7 Followers of Arius who were condemned at the Council of Niceas in 325 and who held that the Son was created and of different “substance” from the Father.

8 Followers of Eunomius, an extreme Arian of the late fourth century.

9 The Reformers frequently referred to Mohammedianism and an anti-Trinitarian heresy.

10 Followers of Paul of Samosata, who taught in the third century that Jesus was a man specially endowed by the Spirit. The “new Samosatenes” were anti-Trinitarian spiritualists of the sixteenth century like John Campanus and Hans Denck.

11 Followers of Paul of Samosata, who taught in the third century that Jesus was a man specially endowed by the Spirit. The “new Samosatenes” were anti-Trinitarian spiritualists of the sixteenth century like John Campanus and Hans Denck.

 

 

The Church and What the Church is, Articles VII & VIII of the Augsburg Confession

Article VII: Of the Church.

1] Also they teach that one holy Church is to continue forever. The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered.

2] And to the true unity of the Church it is enough to agree concerning the doctrine of the Gospel and 3] the administration of the Sacraments. Nor is it necessary that human traditions, that is, rites or ceremonies, instituted by men, should be everywhere alike. 4] As Paul says: One faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all, etc. Eph. 4:5-6.

Article VIII: What the Church Is.

1] Although the Church properly is the congregation of saints and true believers, nevertheless, since in this life many hypocrites and evil persons are mingled therewith, it is lawful to use Sacraments administered by evil men, according to the saying of Christ: The Scribes and 2] the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat, etc. Matt. 23:2. Both the Sacraments and Word are effectual by reason of the institution and commandment of Christ, notwithstanding they be administered by evil men.

3] They condemn the Donatists, and such like, who denied it to be lawful to use the ministry of evil men in the Church, and who thought the ministry of evil men to be unprofitable and of none effect.

*Book of Concord

Confession & Absolution

Large Catechism (Tappert Edition)

A Brief Exhortation to Confession (8-14)

8 To begin with, I have said that in addition to the confession which we are discussing here there are two other kinds, which have an even greater right to be called the Christians’ common confession. I refer to the practice of confessing to God alone or to our neighbor alone, begging for forgiveness. These two kinds are expressed in the Lord’s Prayer when we say, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,” etc. 9 Indeed, the whole Lord’s Prayer is nothing else than such a confession. For what is our prayer but a confession that we neither have nor do what we ought and a plea for grace and a happy conscience? This kind of confession should and must take place incessantly as long as we live. For this is the essence of a genuinely Christian life, to acknowledge that we are sinners and to pray for grace.

10 Similarly the second confession, which each Christian makes toward his neighbor, is included in the Lord’s prayer. We are to confess our guilt before one another and forgive one another before we come into God’s presence to beg for forgiveness. Now, all of us are debtors one to another, therefore we should and we may confess publicly in everyone’s presence, no one being afraid of anyone else. 11 For it is true, as the proverb says, “If one man is upright, so are they all”; no one does to God or his neighbor what he ought. However, besides our universal guilt there is also a particular one, when a person has provoked another to anger and needs to beg his pardon. 12 Thus we have in the Lord’s Prayer a twofold absolution: our debts both to God and to our neighbor are forgiven when we forgive our neighbor and become reconciled with him.

13 Besides this public, daily, and necessary confession, there is also the secret confession which takes place privately before a single brother. When some problem or quarrel sets us at one another’s throats and we cannot settle it, and yet we do not find ourselves sufficiently strong in faith, we may at any time and as often as we wish lay our complaint before a brother, seeking his advice, comfort, and strength. 14 This kind of confession is not included in the commandment like the other two but is left to everyone to use whenever he needs it. Thus by divine ordinance Christ himself has entrusted absolution to his Christian church and commanded us to absolve one another from sins.7 So if there is a heart that feels its sin and desires consolation, it has here a sure refuge when it hears in God’s Word that through a man God looses and absolves him from his sins.


7 Matt. 18:15-19.

“Membership in the Christian Congregation”

St. Paul the apostle writes, “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or ‘I am of Cephas,’ or ‘I am of Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Corinthians 1:10-13).

Times have not changed much.  Divisions abound in what is called Christendom today.  Some of the division does indeed have to do with personalities and individual conflict.  Others have to do with disagreement as to “how” something is to be done.  But the majority of conflict and division within visible Christendom has to do with doctrine, that is, the teaching.  Not all say the same thing.  This is important to note, for “not saying the same thing” indicates, not a joyous diversity, but a lamentable divide, a divide which cannot be reconciled unless doing the hard work of sitting down and hashing out the differences of content and substance.

If all churches within Christendom taught the same thing, all churches would be saying the same thing.  Then, it wouldn’t matter at all which church one attended, for they would be hearing the same Word, the same doctrine, and confessing the same Christ.

Unfortunately, such is not the case.  It seems like churches can’t even agree on what is divisive and what is not.  We don’t agree on what the chief article is, the use of the Sacraments, or the ‘way’ of doing church (Liturgical vs. ‘Contemporary’), just to name a few.  Yet, even with these disagreements, there is the overwhelming one—of Christ and His Word, the distinction between Law and Gospel, and salvation by God’s grace through faith alone (and the meaning of the all of these).

Such disunity demonstrates itself, not only in the doctrine between various congregations and church bodies, but also within the membership of a particular congregation itself.  American Christians generally have forgotten, it seems, the significance of membership in a congregation.  Some join and/or remain members of a congregation merely because of the ‘fellowship’ (not of doctrine, but of friends, family, etc.), on account of the school or programs and activities offered, or simply because that’s the only congregation that they’ve known.

Though these might be attractions and reasons for remaining a member of a certain congregation, clearly omitted from such consideration is that of doctrine.  In other words, what does the congregation believe, teach, and confess?  What does the pastor preach?  Is what the pastor preaches and what the congregation teaches and practices according to God’s Word?  If it is, that is THE reason to become a member and to remain a member of that congregation.  If it isn’t, that is reason to either try to bring about reform or to find a congregation where the preaching and teaching IS according to Holy Scripture and centered on Christ Jesus.

Contrary to what Frank Senn writes,[1] church can be the true Church.  The Lutheran Confessions (as in the Book of Concord, www.bookofconcord.org), and specifically Article VII of the Augsburg Confession, states, “1 It is also taught among us that one holy Christian church will be and remain forever. This is the assembly of all believers among who the Gospel is preached in its purity and the holy sacraments are administered according to the Gospel. 2 For it is sufficient for the true unity of the Christian church that the Gospel be preached in conformity with a pure understanding of it and that the sacraments be administered in accordance with the divine Word. 3 It is not necessary for the true unity of the Christian church that ceremonies, instituted by men, should be observed uniformly in all places. 4 It is as Paul says in Eph. 4:4, 5, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism.”

The true church consists of all who believe in the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ (according to the Bible, not according to the ‘church’ or individual interpretation).  Thus in the Third article of the Apostles’ Creed, Christians everywhere confess, “I believe in…the Holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints.”

Of course, the reference here is to the unseen, or hidden, church, the body of all believers in Christ, that is, those still living, as well as of those who have already died, having faith in Jesus Christ.  Yet Article VII speaks of the Gospel preached and the holy sacraments (Holy Baptism and Holy Communion) administered.  This means the local congregation, not heaven, where these very things are going on and being given.

Thus, the true church is not only a possibility, but to be sought out.  Such true church preaches the Gospel in its purity and administers the holy sacraments according to the Gospel.  To infer as Senn does that such church is an impossibility is really to forfeit the true doctrine (if he ever claims that such exists), and to decry and denounce “gathering the faithful into a community of ‘pure doctrine’” as “sectarian strategy.”[2]

But what does the Lord say?  “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.  And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32) and, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.  He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me” (John 14:22-23).

Seeking to abide/remain/continue in Jesus’ Word and keeping that Word must not be a “sectarian strategy,” as Senn postulates, but must be what the Lord Himself desires of them that He calls His children and people.  To not do so, to seek something other than what the Lord says, is to go against God, and to seek not to be His people—a sure sign that one is in error and truly does not love God.


[1] Frank C. Senn, “Lutheran Identity and Denominational Loyalty,” Lutheran Forum, 44, no. 4  (Winter 2010): 56.  Senn writes, “I am under no illusion that my denomination is the one true holy catholic Church.  Precisely because of the reality of denominationalism no one denomination can make that claim.  Even the Roman Catholic church is but one denomination among others; it is not so ‘Catholic’ as to embrace in one fellowship all Christians and it is too ‘Roman’ for many.  No church can be the true Church, or even ‘a’ true church, because it lacks some quantity or quality of the notes of unity, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity that we confess in the Nicene Creed.”

[2] Ibid., 54.

Use of the Crucifix

A common misunderstanding among some Lutherans is the opinion that a crucifix, or the use of a crucifix, is a “Roman Catholic” practice…

ATP.Crucifix.pdf

Use of the Crucifix

A common misunderstanding among some Lutherans is the opinion that a crucifix, or the use of a crucifix, is a “Roman Catholic” practice…

ATP.Crucifix.pdf

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