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Devotion on the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession (June 25)

 

Preached on June 8, 2020

 

Audio

 

Readings–Acts 4:23-31; Hebrews 12:1-3; Matthew 10:27-33

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

ACLater this month, on June 25, the church commemorates the presentation of what is considered to be “the principal doctrinal statement of the theology of Martin Luther and the Lutheran Reformers”—the Augsburg Confession (June 25, The Presentation of the Augsburg Confession).

This Confession of the faith, written largely by Philip Melanchthon, was formerly presented before Emperor Charles V in 1530, not by the clergy, but by leaders, who feared not the wrath of man, but sought to serve the Lord with their very lives.

At its heart, the Augsburg Confession confesses the justification of sinners by grace alone, through faith alone, for the sake of Christ alone. It centers on the forgiveness of sins won for sinners by Christ’s death on the cross.

Continually does this Confession bear witness and give testimony to the Word of God, which reveals Christ as Savior and neither Church, man, nor any other.

For the pastor and the layman, June 25, 1530 is a date to be remembered.

Men of simple faith gave witness to what they believed according to Holy Scripture, even against the powers that be.  They were not willing to compromise the Good News of salvation, the Gospel, for any worldly type of peace, let alone for the sake of unity against a common enemy.

In that day, that common enemy was the Turk, the Muslim.

Rome sought peace with the Lutherans for the purpose of a united front concerning the advancement of that empire.

Such a peace, however, was not based on the peace that passes all human understanding.

Such a peace hinged on Rome’s set manner of peace, not the peace ordained of God, the peace set forth by God in Jesus Christ according to His Holy Word.

The kind of peace that Rome sought was that peace based on agreement with their teaching, with their doctrine, in submission to the authority of the Pope—the kind of peace that was on their terms, not those of our Lord.

That those presenters of the Augsburg Confession on that day of June 25, 1530 were given the platform for declaring what they believed and confessed is reason for thanksgiving.

Even as the Romish church remained Romish, crystallizing their doctrine in the Council of Trent years later (1546ff), that the Reformers said what they said, declared what they declared, testified of the faith revealed by God, such a work was not merely that of man.

And God’s Word does not return void.

Says God through the prophet Isaiah, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8-19 NKJ).

As God gives utterance through the prophets and the apostles, giving the words to say, so also does the Lord continue to do so.

The Lord moved those presenters of the Augsburg Confession to declare words of truth amid error. They were seeking genuine unity based on what God said.

They were not seeking a unity based on ‘agreeing to disagree’ or on the ‘acceptable’ kind of teaching having the most popular votes.

Throughout history, God’s people have rarely, if at all, been in the majority.

God’s Word has not, and does not, enjoy high regard from most of the world.

The truth must be spoken, as difficult as it is to do.

The where and the when have their place, to be sure.

Vocation demands it.

Let the chips fall where they might.

The outcome is the Lord’s, always!

Concerning that presentation of the Augsburg Confession commemorated on the 25th of this month, we are heirs of that Confession.

That Confession is also our own, as are also all statements of faith in the Book of Concord. They are our own because, not “in so far as,” they are correct expositions of Holy Scripture.

These include the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds, the latter just confessed this past Holy Trinity Sunday, the most articulate of the Creeds concerning the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity.

In truth, these creeds of the Western Church express a oneness with the church universal.

The Reformers were not at all seeking to venture off on their own. They only sought to remain with the Church of God according to the Bible.

Such holy desire moved them to present at Augsburg.

Such holy desire moved the Christians before them to bear witness to the truth.

Such holy desire moves Christians today to confess the Name of the crucified and risen Christ, to distinguish Law and Gospel, to be in the Word, to receive the Lord’s proclamation of Command and Promise, to partake of Christ’s body and blood, to remember their Baptism into the Name of the Triune God, to beat down the old man and to put on the new.

Pastors, too, have these desires.

But any strength that they show forth in these matters is not of their own.

Whether clergy or lay, the fruit of the Spirit, the creation of a new heart, gratefulness to the Father—these come from the gracious God who bestows upon us what we don’t deserve.

God reveals that life is in, and only in and through, His Son.

Living by faith in the Word and not according to sight in the world, our attention is drawn to the Messiah, the Christ, Whom the blessed Father sent, not that we have peace in the world, but that we rest fully in Him, sure and certain of what is to come, sure and certain of what is ours even now, whether there be unrest or upheaval, whether there be trouble or difficulty.

St. Paul, in His godly inspired letter to the Christians in Colossae, writes,

“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (Col. 3:1-4 NKJ).

The concern of the Reformers then, and the concern of the Christian Church and her preachers today, is that such confidence be born of God in Christ Jesus that in life or death, the Christian know the Christ who ever holds him, He Who is faithful to His Word, even when all else appears to the contrary.

Even the disciples of our Lord Christ were distraught upon His death. They thought that all was lost, that Jesus was undone.

Three days later, Jesus disproved their unbelief in His Word.

Jesus confirmed what He said.

Jesus still confirms His Word.

Hidden as such confirmation may be, His Word remains and will remain that to which we cling, that of which we proclaim.

The Christian Church has no other Word to declare.

The Christian Church is not about unity at any cost.

Christ’s body is not about the lowest common denominator.

What God says—God says—all of it—None we can deny.

Any confidence in this is not of our own making.

Any confidence in what God says, in what God reveals—this, too, is of God—in and by whom we stand. Amen.

 

PrayingHands&Cross1Lord God, heavenly Father, You preserved the teaching of the apostolic Church through the confession of the true faith at Augsburg. Continue to cast the bright beams of Your light upon Your Church that we, being instructed by the doctrine of the blessed apostles, may walk in the light of Your truth and finally attain to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigins with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

 

Audio

 

 

The Confession at Augsburg

 

Who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” (1 Pet. 3:13-17)

 

June 25, 1530. This was the very date that the Lutherans gave a public declaration of faith before Emperor Charles V in Augsburg Germany.

The emperor sought unity against the Muslim threat.

Our Lutheran forebearers sought to clearly present, “the Confession of our preachers and of ourselves, showing what manner of doctrine from the Holy Scriptures and the pure Word of God has been up to this time set forth in our lands, dukedoms, dominions, and cities, and taught in our churches” (Preface to the Augsburg Confession).

The Lutherans did seek unity with Rome, but not at any expense.  They were willing to give up much, but not at all in the realm of doctrine, the truth, the Word of God.

Upon this they stood, standing concretely and without wavering.

In 28 articles, the Confessors state, “The Chief articles of faith” and Roman abuses that had been corrected.  Throughout, Scripture references are plentifully made.

Such demonstrate their faithfulness to the biblical text, in distinguishing themselves from Rome and in distancing themselves from other opponents of Rome.

From such Confession of the Lutherans at Augsburg did not come the unity that all sought.  The truth does divide, for not all are of the truth.

Jesus says, “He who is of God hears God’s words” (Jn. 8:47).

Rome then, as now, as well as other opponents of Rome still to this day with the Lutheran Confession at Augsburg disagree and deny.

We cannot.

Heirs of Christ, sons of the kingdom, do not and cannot deny the truth.

They also do not and cannot avoid confessing the truth.

The truth compels them to sound out.

And if such confession of Christ as revealed in Holy Scripture and testified of at Augsburg not unite in the faith, such is reason not to remain silent, but to continue speaking the truth, as we’ve been given, for there will be those who come to it.

As those before us, so we now have the confidence of God in Christ.

Our Confession is not our own.  The doctrine is God’s.  The testimony of Christ crucified.  The testament of sin’s forgiven.  God’s Word revealing.  The Christian church, living and growing. Amen.

Praying-Hands-Stretched-Canvas Heavenly Father, as you gave our forefathers in the faith boldness to declare the truth at Augsburg, so give us clarity and boldness to declare that same faith before the world, that many more know of Your life-giving Word and believe in Christ as we and so have the certainty of sins forgiven and life eternal, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Importance of Distinguishing Law & Gospel

thelutherandifference

“For Luther, a proper distinction between Law and Gospel opened the door to a right understanding of God’s Word and, therefore, a right understanding of God’s will for humankind and our salvation.  Throughout its history, the Lutheran Church has continued to maintain that rightly distinguishing between Law and Gospel is absolutely necessary in this regard.  The Law shows us God’s will and reveals our sin; the Gospel proclaims our salvation in Christ.  To confuse these two doctrines is to remain confused about ourselves and about our God.  To misunderstand them is to misunderstand the reason for the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Christ.  In short, Law and Gospel are the means by which we can rightly understand the whole of the Christian faith.” [Edward Engelbrecht (ed.), The Lutheran Difference (St. Louis: CPH, 2010), p40-41)]

 

Augsburg Confession IV, Justification

 

Tappert1 It is also taught among us that we cannot obtain forgiveness of sin and righteousness before God by our own merits, works, or satisfactions, but that we receive forgiveness of sin and become righteous before God by grace, for Christ’s sake, through faith, 2 when we believe that Christ suffered for us and that for his sake our sin is forgiven and righteousness and eternal life are given to us. 3 For God will regard and reckon this faith as righteousness, as Paul says in Romans 3:21-26 and 4:5. (Tappert edition, The Book of Concord)

Some misrepresentation and confusion: Lutherans and Consubstantiation

Undestanding the Lord's SupperJust recently in a Sunday morning Bible class, the question was raised about the doctrine of consubstantiation.  Distinct from transubstantiation, which is the Roman Catholic teaching that the bread and the wine “turn into” Christ’s body and blood, the teaching of consubstantiation is often understood to be the Lutheran position by both Lutherans and non-Lutherans alike.  But is this claim correct?  A brief survey of non-Lutheran material shows that many indeed assume that the Lutheran teaching is, in fact, consubstantiation.  Moreover, even Lutherans themselves will sometimes claim this doctrine as their own.  However, other Lutherans confess differently, and not least of all, Dr. Luther and the reformers themselves.  To attempt to clarify the matter, I will briefly try to distinguish between what consubstantiation is from what it isn’t using various sources.  In doing so, I will show that not all who use the term (even Lutherans) are always consistent.  Because of this inconsistency, misrepresentation abounds and confusion remains.  Following this brief survey, I will speak about the importance of such distinctions and the significance of the Lutheran doctrine and her confession.

Right meaning, wrong word

In his Charts of Christian Theology and Doctrine, H. Wayne House clearly characterizes the Lutheran position as that of consubstantiation.[1]  He indicates that Luther was the “founder” of this position, and that the major documents from which this teaching is derived are the Augsburg Confession and Luther’s Smaller Catechism.[2]  Interestingly, though, House correctly notes that, concerning the presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper, “The elements do not change into the presence of Christ,” (as in the Roman Catholic teaching) “but he is actually present in, with, and under the elements” (of bread and wine).[3]

Part of this latter “formula” does come directly from Luther’s Small Catechism, where Luther answers the question “What is the Sacrament of the Altar?” with the words, “It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the bread and wine, instituted by Christ Himself for us Christians to eat and to drink.”  House is correct in attributing the teaching of Christ’s (“Real”) presence to the Lutheran position.  However, according to others, such a position is not what consubstantiation is.

Rose Publishing, Inc., like House in his Charts of Christian Theology and Doctrine, also misrepresents the Lutheran teaching by claiming that it is consubstantiation.  Here is how AnyQuestions-3Rose Publishing describes the teaching of the Lutheran Church, “The Lord’s Supper remains truly bread and wine but also become truly Jesus’ body and blood.”[4]  Rose Publishing calls this teaching consubstantiation.

Thus far, both House and Rose Publishing correctly define the Lutheran position on the Lord’s Supper, but they do so by calling that position consubstantiation.  Likewise, on the back cover of the book, Understanding Four Views on The Lord’s Supper, the Lutheran view is understood to be the same.[5]

For anyone interested in correctly understanding the Lord’s Supper and it’s accompanying terminology, its easy to see how, just from the few examples above, confusion might exist, even among Lutherans.  The term used to describe the teaching of the Lutherans (i.e. consubstantiation) and the actual teaching of the Lutherans are not identical.

Consubstantiation and the actual teaching of the Lutheran Church

According to Dr. Scaer, consubstantiation “etymologically means ‘one substance by the side of another.’”[6]  Lutherans do not teach a “side by side” locale of bread and wine and Christ’s body and blood.  Rather, Lutherans teach what is called the “sacramental union,” which is the “Union of bread and body, wine and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar.”[7]  The elements of the Lord’s Table are not side by side.  Instead, Lutherans believe that the recipients of the Lord’s Supper truly receive Christ’s body and Christ’s blood.  Recipients also eat and drink bread and wine.  This includes not only those who believe that they receive Christ’s body and blood “in, with, and under” the bread and the wine, but also those who don’t believe it (See 1 Corinthians 11:27, 29).

Lenker defines consubstantiation this way, “View, falsely charged to Lutheranism, that bread and body form 1 substance (a ‘3rd substance) in Communion (similarly wine and blood) or that body and blood are present, like bread and wine, in a natural manner.”[8]

YesLutherans do not confess that a “3rd substance” exists.  Nowhere does Christ Himself say this in the institution of this sacred meal (Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-25).  Lutherans do confess, however, that in the Lord’s Supper, bread and wine and Christ’s body and blood are received.  Neither do Lutherans teach that Christ’s body and blood are present in a “natural manner,” but in a supernatural one, according to Christ’s Word and promise.  Yet, Lutherans neither mis-spiritualize the sacrament or claim that bread and the wine only symbolize and represent Christ’s body and blood (both teachings are not according to the very words of Christ, to which we are bound).  Lutherans simply teach that Christ is present in the Lord’s Supper according to His Word, “Real Presence,” that He gives His own body and blood for us to eat and to drink, that we eat bread and drink wine as He instituted, and that by this means of grace (of the Lord’s Supper), Christ forgives sins and gives eternal life, “for where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also eternal life.”

Formula of Concord, Epitome, VII, “The Holy Supper of Christ”: 15 6. We believe, teach, and confess that with the bread and wine the body and blood of Christ are received not only spiritually, by faith, but also orally — however, not in a Capernaitic manner, but because of the sacramental union in a supernatural and heavenly manner. The words of Christ teach this clearly when they direct us to take, eat, and drink, all of which took place in the case of the apostles, since it is written, “And they all drank of it” (Mark 14:23). Likewise, St. Paul says, “The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” (1 Cor. 10:16) — that is, whoever eats this bread eats the body of Christ. This has also been the unanimous teaching of the leading Church Fathers, such as Chrysostom, Cyprian, Leo I, Gregory, Ambrose, Augustine.[9]

Why the big deal?

Such distinctions may sound confusing, and not least of all due to the confusion that already exists with many a teaching from one church body or denomination to another.  IfGod'sWordMattersw we all used the same words in the same way, and correctly attributed this and that word with the identical meaning, things would be different.  But regrettably, we do not.  Misrepresentations abound, as do assumptions and presuppositions, which may or may not be accurate.  People often speak past each other for these very reasons.  It is no different in the church.  Yet in the church, one shift in meaning or usage of a word and its meaning can do a great deal of damage (1 Corinthians 5:6; Galatians 5:9).  And if the right teaching is just a bit altered, salvation can be lost.

The teaching of consubstantiation is a term that is often used, but more greatly misunderstood and misapplied.  NonLutherans attribute Lutherans as holding this teaching.  Yet, Lutherans themselves, for the most part, do not claim this teaching as their own, at least as I am aware.  Either way, it is important to try to understand how a word is used and its meaning.  Especially when it comes to the Lord’s Word, which alone gives the true doctrine, is this necessary.  To not do so is not only not careful, it is not “rightly handing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).  Instead, it is adding to or subtracting from what the Lord has given (Deuteronomy 4:2; Proverbs 30:6).


[1] H. Wayne House, Charts of Christian Theology and Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1992), 124-125.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.,, 125.

[4] Rose Books of Bible Charts, Maps & Time Lines, “Denominations Comparison” (Torrance, CA: Rose Publishing, Inc., 2005), 173.

[5] John H. Armstrong (gen. ed.), Understanding Four Views on the Lord’s Supper (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan , 2007).

[6] Ibid., 87.

[7] Erwin L. Lenker, Lutheran Cyclopedia (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1975, rev.), 691.

[8] Ibid., 198.

[9] Theodore G. Tappert, The Book of Concord : The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 2000, c1959.

 

 

Some misrepresentation and confusion: Lutherans and Consubstantiation

 

 Undestanding the Lord's SupperJust recently in a Sunday morning Bible class, the question was raised about the doctrine of consubstantiation.  Distinct from transubstantiation, which is the Roman Catholic teaching that the bread and the wine “turn into” Christ’s body and blood, the teaching of consubstantiation is often understood to be the Lutheran position by both Lutherans and non-Lutherans alike.  But is this claim correct?  A brief survey of non-Lutheran material shows that many indeed assume that the Lutheran teaching is, in fact, consubstantiation.  Moreover, even Lutherans themselves will sometimes claim this doctrine as their own.  However, other Lutherans confess differently, and not least of all, Dr. Luther and the reformers themselves.  To attempt to clarify the matter, I will briefly try to distinguish between what consubstantiation is from what it isn’t using various sources.  In doing so, I will show that not all who use the term (even Lutherans) are always consistent.  Because of this inconsistency, misrepresentation abounds and confusion remains.  Following this brief survey, I will speak about the importance of such distinctions and the significance of the Lutheran doctrine and her confession.

Right meaning, wrong word

In his Charts of Christian Theology and Doctrine, H. Wayne House clearly characterizes the Lutheran position as that of consubstantiation.[1]  He indicates that Luther was the “founder” of this position, and that the major documents from which this teaching is derived are the Augsburg Confession and Luther’s Smaller Catechism.[2]  Interestingly, though, House correctly notes that, concerning the presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper, “The elements do not change into the presence of Christ,” (as in the Roman Catholic teaching) “but he is actually present in, with, and under the elements” (of bread and wine).[3]

Part of this latter “formula” does come directly from Luther’s Small Catechism, where Luther answers the question “What is the Sacrament of the Altar?” with the words, “It is theAnyQuestions-3 true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the bread and wine, instituted by Christ Himself for us Christians to eat and to drink.”  House is correct in attributing the teaching of Christ’s (“Real”) presence to the Lutheran position.  However, according to others, such a position is not what consubstantiation is.

Rose Publishing, Inc., like House in his Charts of Christian Theology and Doctrine, also misrepresents the Lutheran teaching by claiming that it is consubstantiation.  Here is how Rose Publishing describes the teaching of the Lutheran Church, “The Lord’s Supper remains truly bread and wine but also become truly Jesus’ body and blood.”[4]  Rose Publishing calls this teaching consubstantiation.

Thus far, both House and Rose Publishing correctly define the Lutheran position on the Lord’s Supper, but they do so by calling that position consubstantiation.  Likewise, on the back cover of the book, Understanding Four Views on The Lord’s Supper, the Lutheran view is understood to be the same.[5]

For anyone interested in correctly understanding the Lord’s Supper and it’s accompanying terminology, its easy to see how, just from the few examples above, confusion might exist, even among Lutherans.  The term used to describe the teaching of the Lutherans (i.e. consubstantiation) and the actual teaching of the Lutherans are not identical.

Consubstantiation and the actual teaching of the Lutheran Church

According to Dr. Scaer, consubstantiation “etymologically means ‘one substance by the side of another.’”[6]  Lutherans do not teach a “side by side” locale of bread and wine and Christ’s body and blood.  Rather, Lutherans teach what is called the “sacramental union,” which is the “Union of bread and body, wine and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar.”[7]  The elements of the Lord’s Table are not side by side.  Instead, Lutherans believe that the recipients of the Lord’s Supper truly receive Christ’s body and Christ’s blood.  Recipients also eat and drink bread and wine.  This includes not only those who believe that they receive Christ’s body and blood “in, with, and under” the bread and the wine, but also those who don’t believe it (See 1 Corinthians 11:27, 29).

Lenker defines consubstantiation this way, “View, falsely charged to Lutheranism, that bread and body form 1 substance (a ‘3rd substance) in Communion (similarly wine and blood) or that body and blood are present, like bread and wine, in a natural manner.”[8]

YesLutherans do not confess that a “3rd substance” exists.  Nowhere does Christ Himself say this in the institution of this sacred meal (Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-25).  Lutherans do confess, however, that in the Lord’s Supper, bread and wine and Christ’s body and blood are received.  Neither do Lutherans teach that Christ’s body and blood are present in a “natural manner,” but in a supernatural one, according to Christ’s Word and promise.  Yet, Lutherans neither mis-spiritualize the sacrament or claim that bread and the wine only symbolize and represent Christ’s body and blood (both teachings are not according to the very words of Christ, to which we are bound).  Lutherans simply teach that Christ is present in the Lord’s Supper according to His Word, “Real Presence,” that He gives His own body and blood for us to eat and to drink, that we eat bread and drink wine as He instituted, and that by this means of grace (of the Lord’s Supper), Christ forgives sins and gives eternal life, “for where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also eternal life.”

Formula of Concord, Epitome, VII, “The Holy Supper of Christ”: 15 6. We believe, teach, and confess that with the bread and wine the body and blood of Christ are received not only spiritually, by faith, but also orally — however, not in a Capernaitic manner, but because of the sacramental union in a supernatural and heavenly manner. The words of Christ teach this clearly when they direct us to take, eat, and drink, all of which took place in the case of the apostles, since it is written, “And they all drank of it” (Mark 14:23). Likewise, St. Paul says, “The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” (1 Cor. 10:16) — that is, whoever eats this bread eats the body of Christ. This has also been the unanimous teaching of the leading Church Fathers, such as Chrysostom, Cyprian, Leo I, Gregory, Ambrose, Augustine.[9]

Why the big deal?

Such distinctions may sound confusing, and not least of all due to the confusion that alreadGod'sWordMatterswy exists with many a teaching from one church body or denomination to another.  If we all used the same words in the same way, and correctly attributed this and that word with the identical meaning, things would be different.  But regrettably, we do not.  Misrepresentations abound, as do assumptions and presuppositions, which may or may not be accurate.  People often speak past each other for these very reasons.  It is no different in the church.  Yet in the church, one shift in meaning or usage of a word and its meaning can do a great deal of damage (1 Corinthians 5:6; Galatians 5:9).  And if the right teaching is just a bit altered, salvation can be lost.

The teaching of consubstantiation is a term that is often used, but more greatly misunderstood and misapplied.  NonLutherans attribute Lutherans as holding this teaching.  Yet, Lutherans themselves, for the most part, do not claim this teaching as their own, at least as I am aware.  Either way, it is important to try to understand how a word is used and its meaning.  Especially when it comes to the Lord’s Word, which alone gives the true doctrine, is this necessary.  To not do so is not only not careful, it is not “rightly handing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).  Instead, it is adding to or subtracting from what the Lord has given (Deuteronomy 4:2; Proverbs 30:6).


[1] H. Wayne House, Charts of Christian Theology and Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1992), 124-125.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.,, 125.

[4] Rose Books of Bible Charts, Maps & Time Lines, “Denominations Comparison” (Torrance, CA: Rose Publishing, Inc., 2005), 173.

[5] John H. Armstrong (gen. ed.), Understanding Four Views on the Lord’s Supper (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan , 2007).

[6] Ibid., 87.

[7] Erwin L. Lenker, Lutheran Cyclopedia (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1975, rev.), 691.

[8] Ibid., 198.

[9] Theodore G. Tappert, The Book of Concord : The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 2000, c1959.

 

 

Recent LCMS stats

2012-2013

 

The LCMS at a Glance

Category

2012

2013

Members
     Baptized

2,310,235

2,231,258

     Confirmed

1,782,673

1,731,050

Congregations

6,196

6,153

Clergy

9,420

     Serving a parish

5,404

5,734

Missionaries (FT/PT)

829

150/590

Educators

16,758

     Preschool-12

16,019

     CUS (FT/PT)

759/2,101

     Seminary (FT/PT)

59/30

Chaplains/Pastoral Counselors

675

623

Campus Ministries

242

248

Schools

     Preschools

1,295

1,376

     Elementary

923

871

     High Schools

102

88

     Colleges

10

10

     Seminaries

2

2

Each year, I receive a little card from the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod entitled, “The LCMS at a Glance.”  I’ve compared the 2012 card with the 2013.

Following is a very brief breakdown of some of the categories, numbers, and some thoughts.

1) Members, Congregations: The numbers in the categories of both Baptized and Confirmed have decreased.  This could be for any number of reasons.  However, attendance and membership in Christian congregations (at least in America), generally, are decreasing.  Fewer people today recognize their need for the Gospel.  It seems as if faithfulness to the Word is not the determining factor for numerical growth or decline. Though faithful congregations and pastors might be suffering losses, heretical congregations and pastors may be experiencing gains.  Yet, our Lord does say, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life (Revelation 2:10).

2) Clergy: The number of total clergy for 2013 is ominously missing, though the number of clergy serving a parish has increased from 2012.  This is encouraging, yet I wonder how many clergy are serving in district and synodical offices.  What might be helpful is to categorize the number of part-time and full-time pastors, too, as a growing number of clergy in the LCMS are becoming part-time pastors due to congregational circumstances.

3) Missionaries: The number of total missionaries has also decreased somewhat in 2013 from 2012.  What is not noted here are the changes which have taken place in the LCMS regarding full-time missionaries.  Currently, certain full-time international missionaries are in need of raising their own funds, before serving in their positions overseas.  These missionaries have, in some cases, resigned their call of the congregation to which they were serving, and then received a call from the LCMS Board for Missions to serve as missionaries.  Such circumstances place a great burden on clergy who desire to serve as missionaries, as many (most/all) have families to support, and they have to raise enough money even to begin serving.  At the same time, however, they and their families need support, too.  Interestingly, the numbers of converts to Christianity are much higher overseas (i.e. Africa, China) than in the United States, even where great persecution of Christians exist.

God is Here: Worship in a Wireless World

ALCM-Valpo13“What is the future of worship when increasing numbers struggle with organized religion, seek individual spiritual practices apart from community, and spend hours in front of screens?  Recent studies show that more and more people identify as none when asked to name their religious affiliation.  Yet we who gather in worship each Sunday proclaim that God is present in word, water, bread, wine, and most particularly, in the gathered community.

“How will our worshiping assemblies be renewed and revitalized in an age of change and doubt?  What are some of the challenges and opportunities before us in light of graying congregations, and young adults finding community and identity through Facebook, Twitter, and countless online sites?”

The above introduction on a post card for an upcoming conference, “God is Here,” to be held June 30-July 3, 2013 on the campus of Valparaiso University seems to suggest that congregational worship may need to change in order to “keep up” with the times.  If so, this is an age-old plea.  It is true that times are changing, but what kind of changes should congregations undergo to remain faithful to our Lord and His Word?

Much of the time, it appears that God’s Word is not the director of how Christian worship should be.  Rather, it is the culture which often seems to direct how the body of Christ should function, how we should worship, what we should say, and how we should say it.

This is not to say that we, as members of Christ’s body, do not need to repent of our selfishness, our self-centered behavior, and our “holier than thou” attitudes.  We do.  Yet such repentance does not entail a change in worship and liturgy, if such is faithful to the Lord’s Word, even if such faithfulness means that society and culture will be turned off by it.

Consider Christ, who many rejected (and still do) because of what He said (and not due to the way in which He said it).  So often we pay more attention to presentation than to content.  And I’ll admit that this is much easier.  Nevertheless, godly worship is not what I determine it to be, but what God determines it to be.

So what if the world, society, and culture don’t get it!  They won’t, because they are not of Christ, and Christian worship has Christ as the center.  This does not mean that we should go out of our way to offend nonChristians by what we do or how we do it.  Not at all!  Rather should we love them all the more, and look to Christ’s Word for help and comfort, praying for God’s Name to be hallowed, His kingdom to come, and His will to be done, even among us (Luther’s Small Catechism).

Believing in Christ, holding to God’s Word, and worshiping and living accordingly, we, as God’s people, have nothing to be ashamed of.  We confess our sins, yes indeed, yet we more boldly confess Christ.

The future of Christian worship is not in doubt, as long as the worship is truly Christ-centered, and not man centered.  Where Christian worship becomes man-centered (me-centered) it ceases to be Christian.  If God is truly present in Word (Absolution, Liturgy, preaching), water (Holy Baptism), and bread and wine (Holy Communion) in the Divine Service, the future of Christian Worship looks good, very good (Genesis 1:31).  Even with the world changing as it is, God continues creating, sustaining, and strengthening faith through these very means.  Here, too, does our Lord renew and revitalize His people “in an age of change and doubt.”

I pray that the focus of the “God is Here” conference will be on the very Word of our Lord (which does not change), rather than on the changing society and culture….But I have my doubts.

Speakers include:

Elizabeth Drescher: Religious studies and pastoral ministries programs @ Santa Clara University

Craig Mueller: Pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church-Chicago

Martin Jean: Professor of Organ and Director of the Institute of Sacred Music @ Yale University

Benjamin M. Stewart: Gordon A. Braatz Assistant Professor of Worship and Dean of Augustana Chapel @ Lutheran School of Theology-Chicago

About C.F.W. Walther, the first president of the LCMS…

Just recently, our Bible class at church had watched the DVD Walther, published by Concordia Seminary, and had discussion of the same.  The DVD is a general introduction of Lutherans from Saxony Germany who, in the early to mid-19th century, followed Rev. Martin Stephanto America in order to establish a Lutheran community.  Rev. Stephan became bishop of the group, yet was later exiled to Illinois on charges of mismanagement of funds and questions of morality.

The group, now without a leader, began to question, among other things, 1) whether what they did was right in the sight of God, 2) whether the congregations they were members of were in fact Christian, and 3) whether the pastors who were shepherding them were truly pastors.

These are not at all insignificant questions.  The Saxon Lutherans came to America having followed their religious leader, who was now no longer in office.  They left their home congregations in Germany, though the Gospel had not been silenced.  The pastors, too, had abandoned their calls.  Were they right in staying?  And from where does one obtain a clear conscience on such important matters as the Christian church and her pastors?

Following Stephan’s exile, these questions came to the fore.  Some of Lutherans answered the question of the church and her pastors by seeking to establish their own congregations.  Others resolved to return to Germany.  Still others, like Walther, determined to stay, repenting of their sins and seeking to be faithful to the Holy Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions.

Walther, one of the pastors, through the study of the Bible, Martin Luther’s writings, and The Lutheran Confessions (The Book of Concord), came to understand that the Christian Church consists not of perfect people or pastors, but of sinners who believe in Christ for their salvation.  The visible Christian Church  consists of both believers and nonbelievers, having as its marks the Word of God preached in its truth and purity and the Sacraments (Holy Baptism and The Sacrament of the Altar) administered according to their institution.  Where these marks are, there is the Christian Church, that is, there believers in Christ will be.  The hidden Church is that “Holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints” as confessed in the Apostles’ Creed.

The Church is not built on its people, on its pastors, on a building, on relationships, or on human activity.  It is built and founded on Christ and His Holy Word.  This was Rev. Walther’s confidence and became the confidence of that which is now known as the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS).

The LCMS was founded in 1847, with C.F.W. Walther as its first president.  The immigrants had rough beginnings, yet God blessed their efforts.  Walther and the early Synod struggled to remain faithful in the midst of manifold pressures and temptations to compromise the faith.  As heirs of America’s Luther, the LCMS today continues this struggle to remain faithful.

Initially, the LCMS consisted of only a handful of pastors and congregations, from Missouri, Ohio, Indiana, and other states.  These pastors and congregations gathered together in confessional unity, believing and teaching the same things.  The formation of the LCMS grew out of the desire to be faithful to the Lord’s Word with confessional integrity and to unite with others who were like minded for the purpose of witnessing the truth of God’s Word and establishing schools for the education of pastors and teachers.  Though today these same purposes seem to be questioned by many within the LCMS, the training of pastors and teachers remains a significant consideration for the LCMS.

I have found the DVD Walther quite helpful for a better understanding of the beginnings of the LCMS.  The questions and struggles that the Saxon Lutherans faced in Germany in the 19th century before they emigrated, and the questions and struggles that they faced after they came to America, are similar to those of our time: rationalism, the Gospel, the Church, the Office of the Ministry, the necessity of the true doctrine, etc.  They may have lived in different times, but we too have comparable strife.  Also as they, we too have what God, in His inestimable mercy, has given us for the preservation of our souls—His Holy Word.  Upon this we stand.  And upon this, we have life—in Christ!

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