Monthly Archives: June 2009

Bishop and Christian, July 2009

The Augsburg Confession, pt. 4

In June, we went through Article Six of the Augsburg Confession, on Good Works and the new obedience of Christians.  The next three articles are about the Church: what the Church is, how the true Church can be recognized, and how one enters the Church.  (By the way, when I capitalize Church, I am referring to the universal Church throughout the world, and throughout time.  If I write “church,” I usually mean the local congregation.)

Article VII calls the Church, in its essence: “It is the assembly of all believers among whom the gospel is purely preached and the holy sacraments are administered according to the gospel” (AC VII:1).  That’s it!  Of course, one has to define what the Gospel is, and what it means that the Sacraments are administered according to the Gospel; but where there is agreement on the Gospel and Sacraments, there is true unity in the Church.  “It is not necessary for the true unity of the Christian church that uniform ceremonies, instituted by human beings, be observed everywhere” (VII:3).  As long as the Church has been on earth, diverse ceremonies have been used.  Ceremonies are not of the essence of the Church; however, as we will see later, the Confessors realized that not all ceremonies are created equal, and some are more useful than others.

Article VIII, which is a continuation of Article VII, confesses the reality of the Church as it appears in local congregations.  Even though the Church is, “properly speaking, nothing else than the assembly of all believers and saints,” there will still be “false Christians, hypocrites, and even public sinners.”  Thus, the Confessors wanted to say what the Church has always said, following St. Augustine: that even if, God forbid, the Word was preached or the Sacraments administered by “unrighteous priests,” they are still valid because they are God’s Word and Sacraments.

Article IX flows directly out of the previous two articles, because it describes how people are brought into the Church: “Concerning baptism [the Lutherans teach] that it is necessary for salvation, that the grace of God is offered through baptism, and that children should be baptized.  They are received into the grace of God when they are offered to God through baptism.  They condemn the Anabaptists [literally, “re-baptizers”] who disapprove of the baptism of children and assert that children are saved without baptism.”

This Article describes as well today (as I find with the rest of the Lutheran Confessions) the points of disagreement with other Christians on Baptism.

As with other areas where we disagree with other Christians, these are the places to start the discussion: to honestly and humbly state our confession, based on the Scriptures, and to pray that the Holy Spirit will bring us to a unified confession of the Faith once delivered to the apostles and prophets.

Pr. Winterstein

*St. Augustine (354-430 AD), Bishop of Hippo in North Africa, said, “For you I am a bishop [overseer]; with you I am a Christian.”


Bishop and Christian, June 2009

The Augsburg Confession, pt. 3

The Third Article of the Augsburg Confession (AC), as we noted last month, has to do with Jesus, the Son of God.  Article Four is the natural extension of that article since it has to do with our justification, or being made right, before God.  Because of who Jesus is and what He has done, our justification is absolutely and without remainder complete.  We can do nothing at all, we can claim no work or merit of our own, when we stand before God.  We can only claim the work and merit of Jesus.  We “receive forgiveness of sin and become righteous before God out of grace for Christ’s sake through faith 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” (AC IV:1-2).  This article is at the heart of everything we believe and confess; it is the articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae: “the article by which the Church stands and falls.”  If this article is taken away or diluted or destroyed, then our whole Faith falls.

Article Five follows directly out of Article Four; in fact, AC V begins, “To obtain such faith….”  Which faith?  The faith described in AC IV, the faith that saves.  AC V: “To obtain such faith God instituted the office of preaching, giving the gospel and the sacraments.  Through these, as through means, he gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when he wills, in those who hear the gospel.  [The gospel] teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our own merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V:1-3).  The Office of the Holy Ministry, the pastoral office, was given to the Church by God (Ephesians 4:11), in order that people might hear the Gospel and believe it.  That is the sole, defining purpose of the Office into which God puts men.  Certainly the pastor does other things, but if he is not preaching the Gospel that “teaches that we have a gracious God” and delivering the Sacraments, which do the same, he’s not doing his job.

Article Six, likewise, follows directly out of the previous articles.  “It is also taught [by the Evangelicals (Lutherans)] that such faith should yield good fruit and good works and that a person must do such good works as God has commanded for God’s sake but not place trust in them as if thereby to earn grace before God” (AC VI:1).  In other words, good works are absolutely necessary, though they contribute nothing to salvation.  Where, then, do our good works belong?  They belong with our neighbor, who, unlike God, does need them.  God commands good works, and He works through them to provide for those who are in need, and to accomplish His purposes in the world.  All of these good works are done within our vocations, which are those relationships into which God has put us.  We have mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, children, co-workers, friends, neighbors, etc., and our love and good works belong to them, for their sake.  As we have received justifying faith through the Gospel and Sacraments, preached and given to us by pastors, we go out into the world as ambassadors of God’s reconciling love.

Pr. Winterstein

*St. Augustine (354-430 AD), Bishop of Hippo in North Africa, said, “For you I am a bishop [overseer]; with you I am a Christian.”


Bishop and Christian, May 2009

[a little backed up on these…]

The Augsburg Confession, pt. 2

The first 21 articles of the Augsburg Confession (AC) are summarized by Philip Melanchthon in this way: “This is nearly a complete summary of what is preached and taught in our churches for proper Christian instruction and the comfort of consciences, as well as for the improvement of believers…Since, then, this teaching is clearly grounded in Holy Scripture and is, moreover, neither against nor contrary to the universal Christian church—or even the Roman church—so far as can be observed in the writings of the Fathers, we think that our opponents cannot disagree with us in the articles set forth above” (AC, Conclusion of Part One, Kolb/Wengert 58).  Thus, the first part of the AC is trying to lay out the Christian Faith which “is believed everywhere by everyone.”

The AC follows a very logical path from God, the Source and Goal of all life (Article I), to Original Sin, the intrusion of death and destruction into God’s good creation (Article II), to the Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity and the solution to Original Sin (Article III).

Article I.  The AC starts in Art. I by citing the Council of Nicea and confessing that there is only one God (one “essence”), and yet “there are three persons in the same one essence” (I:3).  The counterpart of this confession is that those who hold to a different god are rejected (e.g., Manichaeans [who thought, among other things, there were two gods, one good and one evil], Arians [who believed that the Son was created, and so not of “one substance with the Father”], and Mohammedans, or Muslims, who hold to an absolute divine oneness).

Article II.  “Furthermore, it is taught among us that since the fall of Adam, all human beings who are born in the natural way are conceived and born in sin” (II:1).  The AC goes on to affirm that this means that no human can possess by nature true fear of and faith in God, and that Original Sin is truly sin—which needs to be forgiven and taken away—not just an inclination toward sinning.  Thus, Original Sin “condemns to God’s eternal wrath all who are not in turn born anew through baptism and the Holy Spirit” (II:2).  “Rejected, then, are the Pelagians” (II:3), who believed that human nature was not completely corrupt and could, by its own power, do what was pleasing to God.

Article III.  If it is the case that Original Sin damns to hell, it is also true that God did not leave His creatures without hope.  So, Christ, fully God and fully man, was “‘born, suffered, was crucified, died, and was buried’ in order both to be a sacrifice not only for original sin but also for all other sins and to conciliate God’s wrath” (III:3).  This article goes on to speak about Christ as we confess Him in the Apostles’ Creed.

Next month, we will continue with the next three articles.

Pr. Winterstein

*St. Augustine (354-430 AD), Bishop of Hippo in North Africa, said, “For you I am a bishop [overseer]; with you I am a Christian.”


The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

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The Third Sunday after Pentecost

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The Second Sunday after Pentecost

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The Holy Trinity

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