Bishop and Christian, September 2009

From the Pastor

The Augsburg Confession, pt. 6

We have discussed God, sin, the Gospel, the Office of the Holy Ministry, the New Obedience, the Church, Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, Confession, Repentance, and the use of the Sacraments.  There is a very observable progression from the Creator and how He chose (chooses) to deal with His sinful creatures by the free gift of grace through the Son.  That free grace is delivered in the Church, by the means of the Word, Baptism, and the Supper.  It is through the “office of preaching, giving the gospel and the sacraments” (AC V:1) that God has chosen to grant faith by the Holy Spirit.  But how can we know if God has indeed chosen this man to be His secondary means of delivering forgiveness of sins and salvation?  Article XIV answers that question.  It is one of the shortest articles: “Concerning church government it is taught [by the Evangelicals (Lutherans)] that no one should publicly teach, preach, or administer the sacraments without a proper [public] call” (AC XIV, German).  In other words, if a particular man (or woman!) claims to have a call from God, it should only be recognized in the Church of God if the call has been publicly affirmed by the Church.  It is good that a man should feel the “inner call” to serve God’s people, but if there is no “external call” through the Church, then that person should not preach, teach (i.e., teach the Faith publicly), or administer the sacraments.  This is to ensure that the person teaching the Faith knows the Faith and is competent to hand it on, as well as fitting the criteria St. Paul lays down in 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus. 

Articles XV speaks about regulations within the Church, especially human traditions.  “Concerning church rites they teach that those rites should be observed that can be observed without sin and that contribute to peace and good order in the church, for example, certain holy days, festivals and the like” (AC XV:1, Latin).  However, the AC is quick to say that such rites and regulations are not necessary for salvation, and they should not “burden consciences.” 

Article XVI turns to the State and “civic affairs,” on which “they teach that lawful civil ordinances are good works of God and that Christians are permitted to hold civil office, to work in law courts, to decide matters by imperial and other existing laws, to impose just punishments, to wage just war, to serve as soldiers, to make legal contracts, to hold property, to take an oath when required by magistrates, to take a wife, to be given in marriage” (AC XVI:1-2, Latin).  Because of this, the Gospel does not infringe on or overthrow existing orders, but “intends that a person keep all this as a true order of God and demonstrate in these walks of life Christian love and true good works according to each person’s calling” (AC XVI:5, German).  Everything that does not fall in the Church’s realm of Gospel, forgiveness, Jesus, sacraments, grace, etc., falls in the realm of the secular order, which is also a gift and institution of God.  In this realm, Christians live out their particular vocations within the established order, loving their neighbors and doing good works.  For Lutherans, the Church and the State are distinct, yet both created by God.  They also are connected and intertwined because Christians live in both realms at the same time. 

In the next two months, we will discuss the last five articles of Part I of the Augsburg Confession, and then take a break until next summer.

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.”

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