Bishop and Pastor, August 2009

From the Pastor

The Augsburg Confession, pt. 5

Once a sinner has entered the Church of Christ by baptism, the rest of one’s life is lived under the sign of that baptism: “[Such baptizing with water] signifies that the Old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts, and, again, a new man daily come forth and arise, who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever” (Small Catechism, Baptism, part IV).  The new life that is given in baptism and received by faith is fed by the same Christ in the Supper that He gave as a continual remembrance of His suffering and death.  So Article X of the Augsburg Confession confesses very simply: “Concerning the Lord’s Supper, it is taught that the true body and blood of Christ are truly present under the form of bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper and are distributed and received there.  Rejected, therefore, is the contrary teaching.”  As Luther later said, “I regard them all [the deniers of Christ’s true presence] as being part of the same cake, as indeed they are.  For they do not want to believe that the Lord’s bread in the Supper is his true, natural body which the godless person or Judas receives orally just as well as St. Peter and all the saints.  Whoever (I say) does not want to believe that should not trouble me…and should not expect to have fellowship with me.  That is final” (quoted in Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, 33). 

This Supper is the Christian’s food until he reaches the full Feast of the Lamb and His Bride, the Church.  Baptismal confession and repentance are like the air in the Christian’s lungs.  So Article XI holds firmly to the comfort of private confession and absolution “because of absolution (which is confession’s principal and foremost part) for the comfort of terrified consciences and because of other reasons” (AC XXV, 13).  Confession and absolution find their place under Article XII: “Concerning Repentance.”  “Now, properly speaking, true repentance is nothing else than to have contrition and sorrow, or terror about sin, and yet at the same time to believe in the gospel and absolution that sin is forgiven and grace is obtained through Christ.  Such faith, in turn, comforts the heart and puts it at peace” (AC XII, 3-5).  So repentance includes both confession and absolution, or sorrow for sin and assurance of forgiveness for sin.  In Greek, the word for repentance means to have a “new mind,” or to make a 180-degree turn.  To turn away from sin and toward God in Christ.  The whole of repentance is the work of God; when repentance is accomplished in a sinner, “improvement should also follow, and a person should refrain from sins.  For these should be the fruits of repentance…” (AC XII, 6).

This true repentance is the purpose of the right use of the Sacraments (AC XIII).  The Sacraments are not only signs of where someone can find Christians, but they are primarily “signs and testimonies of God’s will toward us in order thereby to awaken and strengthen our faith” (AC XIII, 1).  Faith runs through all of this, which is created and strengthened through the baptismal life, fed by Christ’s body and blood in His Supper, lived out in true repentance consisting of confession and absolution.

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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