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Still There Is Room. Trinity 2/ Presentation of the Augsburg Confession. June 25, 2017.

presentation of the augsburg confession catholic faith.jpgThe Second Sunday after Trinity/Presentation of the Augsburg Confession

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Luke 14:25-34

June 25, 2017

“Still There Is Room”

 

Iesu Iuva

 

On June 25th, 1530, the chancellor of Saxony (a state in eastern Germany), presented, or read out loud, what we now call “The Augsburg Confession” before the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles the fifth, and the gathered princes of the Empire.

 

The Emperor had called this meeting at Augsburg because he wanted to get the princes to give him support in his defensive war against the invading Muslim Turks.  And to accomplish this goal, he said he wanted to settle the religious controversy that had been raging in the Empire for 13 years, ever since the monk Luther had published his 95 Theses on Oct. 31, 1517.  Up until this time there had been little discussion with the Lutherans.  When Luther was brought before the Emperor at Worms in 1519 at a similar gathering, they simply asked if he was ready to renounce the teaching found in his books.  When he said no, the Emperor published the Edict of Worms, which pronounced Luther an outlaw, meaning that anyone who found him could kill him.  Anyone who protected Luther, printed his books, or aided and abetted his teaching was guilty of high treason.  There was never any discussion in the Empire, or the leadership of the Church, as to whether what had been taught by Luther and the churches of the Reformation was faithful to Scripture.

 

So when the Lutheran princes heard that the Emperor wanted to try to settle the controversy in a God-pleasing way, they welcomed the opportunity, even though at least some of them doubted his intentions.  They came to Augsburg and prepared a statement explaining the changes they had made to the traditional practices in the Church.  Then, because a theologian had published a book that falsely accused the Lutherans of teaching things they did not, they wrote up a confession of what they taught on the chief articles of Christian doctrine, believing that they would be recognized as Christian, biblical, and catholic—that is, consistent with what Christians had always believed.

 

But it quickly became apparent that no real discussion was going to happen at Augsburg.  It was a political move.  The Emperor wanted support for his war efforts, and at the same time to make it look as if the Lutheran or “evangelical” teaching had been considered and rejected as false.

 

Yet the Lutheran princes came anyway and had the confession read publicly, despite the efforts of its opponents to keep it from being read, or to have it read in a language most people couldn’t understand, or to keep very many people from hearing it.

 

They confessed—even though doing so made it look like they were prolonging the controversy, and risking the well-being of the Church and the Empire in the face of the Muslim invaders.

 

And because they confessed the faith, the Church was given a pattern of right, faithful, biblical teaching that would outlive those men.  It was a c0nfession that Luther did not write; he couldn’t be present for the Diet of Augsburg because he was an outlaw.  And so the Augsburg Confession was not a writing of Luther or based on Luther.  It was a statement of the biblical, Christian faith that Luther taught but did not invent—the faith taught in Scripture, confessed by Jesus.

 

At the center of the Augsburg Confession is the teaching that defines the Lutheran Church, but also defines Christianity.  Before the Augsburg Confession it had never been clearly summarized in a creed or a church confession except in the pages of Scripture.  Yet it is the center of the Bible, the beating heart of its life.  Jesus taught it to the Pharisees in today’s Gospel reading.  Paul discusses it in the 2nd chapter of the epistle to the Christians in Ephesus.  I am talking about the article of Christian doctrine on justification.  The 4th Article of the Augsburg Confession says it like this:

 

It is taught that we cannot attain the forgiveness of sins and righteousness before God through our merit, work, and satisfactions [for our own sins]; rather, that we receive the forgiveness of sins and become righteous before God by grace, for Christ’s sake, through faith, when we believe that Christ has suffered for us, and that our sins are forgiven us for His sake, and righteousness and eternal life are given us as a gift.  For God will regard and reckon this faith as righteousness before Him, as St. Paul says [in the epistle] to the Romans in the 3rd and 4th chapters.

 

Righteousness before God and the forgiveness of our sins, and the eternal life that follows righteousness, are given to us as a gift through Christ, who suffered for us.  We don’t become righteous before God, we are not forgiven our sins through earning it.  We don’t work to achieve righteousness by being a monk, or praying, or giving money, or doing better at keeping the ten commandments.  We don’t win forgiveness from God by being sorry, punishing ourselves, or doing good works to atone for the sins we’ve committed.

 

Forgiveness of sins, righteousness in God’s sight, and the eternal life that comes as a result of being forgiven and righteous is given by God as a gift in His Son’s suffering and death for our sins.  And those who believe that God forgives them only because of Jesus’ suffering and death in their place—who, as Paul says in Romans 4 do not work but trust God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is counted as righteousness.

 

Just like Jesus tells the Pharisees.  God’s banquet is not earned.  People are called, invited to the banquet.  The qualifications we might think we have are irrelevant.  The poor, blind, crippled, and lame are just as qualified to be at the banquet as the people who buy fields and oxen.  What qualifies them is that they are called, invited—and do not refuse the invitation.  Refusing the invitation is unbelief.  Those who do not refuse—those who are brought in to the banquet of eternal life—are those who believe that God lets them in for Christ’s sake.

 

Of course, there are other churches that believe we become righteous before God through faith in Christ alone besides those who hold the Augsburg Confession. Baptists, Presbyterians, non-denominational churches, Pentecostals and Charismatics, and so on.  But if you get people from many of these churches to talk honestly to you about what they think of the Lutheran church, they will often say what my dad used to say: “Luther was good, but he didn’t go far enough.”  Or, more rudely, some may say something like, “Lutherans are basically catholic-lite.  You are still too Catholic.”

 

Even though we seem to agree on the article of justification, we do not understand the word “faith” the same way.  Many Lutherans are confused about this also.  What is faith?  How do you come to faith in Christ?  The confessors at Augsburg wrote:

 

To obtain this faith, God has instituted the office of preaching, that is, given the Gospel and Sacraments, through which, as through instruments, He gives the Holy Spirit, who works faith, when and where He wills, in those who hear the Gospel…the Anabaptists and others are condemned, who teach that we obtain the Holy Spirit without the bodily Word of the Gospel, through their own preparations and works.

 

The forefathers of the non-denominational churches, of the reformed churches, of the Baptist and Pentecostal churches, did not believe that the Holy Spirit was given through the “bodily Word of the Gospel”.  They didn’t think it was enough to hear the preaching of God’s Word, or hear the Bible read or taught, or read it yourself.  They definitely didn’t believe it was enough to be baptized, receive the Lord’s Supper, or be absolved.  Faith comes not just through those things, but through the addition of your decision to accept Jesus, or through a powerful experience of being converted.  They taught that in the days when the Augsburg Confession was written, and they still teach it.  And so they think our reliance on preaching Christ’s Work and on baptizing, receiving the body and blood of the Lord, is “Catholic”—by which they mean mechanical, ritualistic.

 

The Roman Catholic princes assembled at Augsburg did not get converted en masse to the evangelical faith taught in the Augsburg Confession.  And the “Anabaptists and others” didn’t either. In fact, they grew in power, and replaced the faith taught by Luther and the Augsburg Confession in many places—in England, France, Holland, Hungary, the Czech lands, and even in many of the German states.

 

And so we come to our time and place.  We all know that, in terms of numbers and influence, Christianity isn’t doing so well in America or in the lands they used to call “Christendom”—in Europe.  Christianity in general is declining, in some places even dying, it appears.  Just like the whole of Christendom was threatened by the invading Turkish armies, today all of Christendom around us is retreating—even if it appears to be growing in Africa and Asia.  And when all Christian Churches are in decline, it seems obscene to many people—even to many Lutherans—to be harping on the distinctiveness of the Lutheran Church and the Lutheran Confession.  It seems like we are rooting for our team instead of for Jesus.

 

But this is always how it has been.  It seemed rude and unnecessary for Jesus to insist to the Pharisees that He was the Messiah, the promised one of God, who would give us rest; to tell them that their strenuous efforts to obey God were good for nothing, and that they could only come to God’s feast on the basis of His call, His invitation, not on the basis of their works.  They could come to God’s feast only through faith in Him.

 

The Pharisees didn’t accept this message from Jesus for the same reason that the Roman Catholic bishops, princes, and emperor didn’t accept it, for the same reason people today don’t want to hear it.

 

In Jesus’ parable, the people who refused the invitation to the banquet were more interested in the land they just bought, the oxen they needed to test, the wife they just married, than in the banquet of the Lord.  And that is the way people are today.  They were that way in Jesus’ day, in the days of the Augsburg Confession, and today.  The emperor cared about fighting the Turk and keeping the empire secure more than he cared about the truth of God’s Word and the eternal life that it brings.  And we see all around us that people are interested in getting a new car, following sports, getting their kids into fun activities, and so on.  But eternal life?  Righteousness?  Forgiveness of sins?  The pure teaching of God’s Word?  The vast majority of people, if you tell them that that is what your church is offering, will think, if not say out loud, “If that’s all you’ve got, your church is going to close.”

 

But if we take seriously what the Bible teaches about human nature, like the Augsburg Confession does, we would not be surprised at this.  In the second Article, it confesses:

 

Further it is taught among us that since the fall of Adam, all men who are born in the natural way are conceived and born in sin.  That is, they all from their mother’s womb are full of evil lusts and inclinations, and by nature are not able to have any true fear of God or true faith in God.  They also teach that this same inborn disease and inherited sin is truly sin, and damns all those who are not born again through Baptism and the Holy Spirit to the eternal wrath of God. 

 

People by nature are unable to fear God or trust Him.  That is the sin in which we are born.  But by nature nobody feels the force of this. It’s not hard to recognize that people are broken.  Many people understand without being taught from the Bible that people are not born good.  You only have to look around and see that people do evil far more easily than they do good.

 

But we do not recognize that even when we are good, humanly speaking, we are still not able to fear God or trust Him in reality—and that this inability deserves and will receive God’s eternal wrath and punishment.  People do not believe this.  Even Christians don’t comprehend their guilt and God’s serious anger against it.  We don’t fully recognize our helplessness in it.

 

It is a counter-cultural message.  It doesn’t matter whether you are liberal or an arch-conservative.  No one, by nature, is able or willing to fully grasp this.  We want to believe it is in our power to draw near to God—or that we are already near Him.

 

It is a work of God when a person recognizes and believes what the Bible says about his helplessness in sin.  It is a work of God to become spiritually poor, blind, crippled, and lame—to be terrified at your sin and cry out for God’s grace.

 

For that person, the invitation of the Gospel is a banquet of joy in itself.  It says, “Believe what God promises.  His Son suffered for you, His Son received the wrath of God against Your sin.  His Son merited and earned the forgiveness of your sins.  His Son fulfilled all of God’s laws in your place.  Through Him God is reconciled to you, forgives you, counts you righteous, clothes you with Jesus’ honor and righteousness.  Through Him God invites you to sit down at His table for eternity and eat with Him, feast with Him, drink wine and celebrate with Him, as His son and heir.”

 

And the Gospel comes into our ears in the words of Jesus to those who are condemned to the eternal wrath of God and says, “There is still room.”  If you persecuted the Church, like Paul; if you have been a self-righteous Pharisee; if you have lived an ungodly life while bearing the name of Christ, and have committed the sins we all recognize as sins, there is still room.  God has gathered in wretched sinners from the broad streets, the alleys, the highways and hedges, through his servants who proclaimed the Gospel—but there is still room.  You are invited, and your place is set.  The meat is steaming.  The wine is sparkling in the glass.  He invites you to come and eat and drink today at the altar a taste of what you will enjoy forever in heaven.  Your garments of righteousness, dyed red with the blood of Jesus, gleaming white with His innocence and glory, are waiting in your Baptism.

 

We should not fear when we see that many are simply not interested.  Jesus said that is how it would be.  That is how it was for Him.  That is also how it went after the Augsburg Confession was read.  And yet Jesus’ Church continues.  It advances under the appearance of weakness and defeat until the final victory appears, when He appears in glory.  In the midst of her weakness, He works in power. As the Confession says:

 

It is also taught that there must always be and remain in existence one holy Christian Church, which is the assembly of all believers, among which the Gospel is purely preached and the holy Sacraments are given out in accordance with the Gospel.

 

However, because in this life many false Christians and hypocrites, and even manifest sinners remain among the believers, nevertheless the sacraments are powerful and effective, even if the priests who give them out are not godly.

 

Even when the Church seems to be overrun by its own sinful members, Christ is present with us, spreading His feast, giving the gift of faith, inviting and gathering His Church.  In that confidence we confess with the confessors of long ago, trusting that our Lord will continue to gather and preserve His Church around His pure Word in the face of all opponents, all sin, and all the works of the devil.

 

The peace of God that passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

 

SDG

Your Father is Merciful–trinity 4 sermon–presentation of augsburg confession

June 23, 2013 4 comments

 

ecce-homo-1515.jpgFourth Sunday after Trinity/ Presentation of the Augsburg -Confession

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Luke 6:36-42

Jesu juva!

INI

 

Oh, how great is your compassion

Faithful Father, God of grace,

That with all our fallen race,

In our depth of degradation

You had mercy so that we

Might be saved eternally.

 Johann Olearius(1611-1684)

 

 

Christians, your Father is merciful.  He is the God of grace, the God of unspeakably great compassion. He looked on human beings and saw how low we had sunk, how we were evil beyond description, inexcusable and rightly damned.

 

And He showed these rebels against Him mercy.

 

“Be merciful as Your Father is merciful.”

Jesus preached this sermon to His disciples. And He lifted up His eyes on His disciples, and said, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”  (Luke 6: 20)

 

The disciples of Jesus, not just the twelve apostles but “a great number” were mixed together with a great multitude of people from all over.  They had come to hear Jesus.

 

They had come also to be cured of diseases by Jesus.  And in the sight of both disciples and those who did not believe, Jesus healed the sick.  He cast demons out of people.  Disciples and unbelievers both looked on the mercy and compassion of the Father.  They heard the Father’s mercy with their ears.

 

Jesus is the mercy of the Father.  God’s only Son is in our flesh and bone.  God is with us, not rejecting us for our filth and sin, but baptized into it.  Plunged into it.

 

When you see Jesus, you are seeing the mercy of God the Father.  We provoked God, but instead of cursing us He became one of us.  The Son of God became a man to make men sons of God.

 

The Son of God preaches to you Be merciful as your Father is merciful.  He doesn’t say “My Father.”  He says, “Your Father,” because those who are Jesus’ disciples have God the Father for their Father and God the Son for their brother.  Those who do not believe in Jesus have the devil for their father.  But those who believe in Jesus have Jesus as their own.   Jesus and all that He has is yours, a gift given by the Father to sinners.

 

Be merciful as your Father is merciful.  But how is the Father merciful?  The father of lies has been hard at work in the church since the time of the apostles to destroy the church from within by making the Father in heaven’s mercy empty, making it mercy in name only.

 

That’s why it has been necessary for 2000 years for the Church to confess what the Father’s mercy really is, who Jesus really is and what He has done.  It’s because there are always many gathered where Jesus preaches who are not disciples, that is, believers in Christ, and therefore are not really His Church.

 

One of these confessions we confess every week even though it comes from the 4th century—the Nicene Creed.  It was formulated to confess against false teachers who taught a false mercy of the Father within God’s church.  The said that the mercy of the Father was that He sent His Son into our flesh, but that the Son of God was not one substance with the Father.  He was a great being, but a lesser being than God the Father.  Against this falsification of God’s mercy the true Church of Christ confessed that the Son is God of God, light of light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father…

 

To many people at the time this seemed like an unnecessary conflict.  The Church was full of turmoil over it for decades, and even after the creed was drawn up, the Arians who denied that Jesus is true God continued to preach their heresy and make many converts.

 

But the Church can’t afford to live and let live while people believe different things about God’s mercy.  Only the true mercy of God saves.  Only the true Jesus saves.

 

The devil has tirelessly worked to have the Christian Church believe and teach that God’s mercy is a partial mercy.  In one form or another the devil constantly pushes a false gospel under the name “Christian.”  And it always amounts to this—God has shown great mercy, but in order for you to be saved you must do something to receive it, or you must add something to it.

 

That work of the devil is very active in the church today.  The devil works tirelessly in this congregation to have us preach and confess that God has been merciful in Christ, but that mercy doesn’t benefit you unless you exercise your will to choose Jesus or unless you have more than just your baptism to rely on, but instead a transformation where you became dedicated to obeying Jesus.

 

When the Reformation of the Church began, the whole church was captive to this falsification of the gospel.  There were people who believed and moments here and there where the Father’s mercy was proclaimed in truth.  But the doctrine of the church opposed the mercy of God.

 

On June 25th, 1530, some Lutheran rulers had to stand in front of the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and explain why they were causing trouble and making divisions in the church with their teaching.  Luther could not be at this huge convention of noblemen because he was under a death sentence.  So without Luther, less gifted men who held the same faith wrote up the Augsburg Confession to be read to explain what they taught.

 

And the Augsburg Confession was written with the purpose of confessing what the true mercy of God is.

 

[Our churches] teach that since the fall of Adam all men…are born with sin, that is, without the fear of God, without trust in God, and with [sinful desires]; and that this disease…of origin is truly sin, even now condemning and bringing eternal death upon those not born again through Baptism and the Holy Ghost.

 

Also they teach that…the Son of God, did assume the human nature…truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, that He might reconcile the Father unto us, and be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for all actual sins of men…

 

Also they teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for Christ’s sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake, who…has made satisfaction for our sins.  This faith God [counts] as righteousness in His sight.

 

That we may obtain this faith, the Ministry of Teaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments was instituted.  For through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Ghost is given, who works faith, when and where it pleases God, in them that hear the Gospel…

 

They were confessing that the mercy of God is our whole salvation.  Human beings are born completely and utterly corrupt and dead to anything good.

 

However God has become man, died for our sins, and reconciled God to us.  Whoever believes that God is merciful to him because of Christ is justified, that is, counted righteous.

 

But this faith is not an action that human beings originate.  Human beings are dead and wicked.  The Holy Spirit alone must work faith.

 

The Lutherans were criticized for causing divisions with their teaching.

 

 

 

AC History and quote

 

 

 

The text does not say that our forgiving saves us.

 

It does not say that authorities should not judge.

Parents must discipline their children.

            Pastors must judge doctrine and rebuke sinners.

 

It says that we should not pronounce final judgment on enemies or brothers.

            We then would be denying that our own righteousness is really sin.

Romans 2:1–When you judge another and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?  And that’s what we do: you may be a fornicator, but in God’s sight my righteousness is also filthy rags, because I have not kept the 6th commandment in my heart even when I’ve kept it outwardly.

 

There are callings that are required to judge in the stead of God–parent, ruler, pastor. 

 

But privately we only are able to see our brother (or enemy) correctly when we see them through the mercy of the Father–through Jesus, who became incarnate and died for their sins.

We see them rightly when we see that them as those whose death God has no pleasure in but instead those for whom Christ’s blood was shed.

It is not then for us to condemn them, though we may recognize their sin as sin and their false belief as false belief.  But even if they do us harm we have no right to judge them as anything other than a person for whom Christ died and wills to count righteous and give eternal life.

This is why assassinating friends or enemies with gossip, killing them with hatred and scorn, and stealing from them by laziness, or stinginess is incompatible with being a Christian.  We have no merit of our own and no ground that would permit us to judge and condemn another person.  The minute we  do so we are no longer acting out of faith in Christ.  Because faith in Christ is the assurance that we have no righteousness to bring to God whatsoever, only sin, but that God counts us righteous on the basis of Christ’s work only.

Your Father is merciful; He gave His Son not to save you in part, but simply to save you.  He does not judge you, because He judged Your sins in His Son.  He does not condemn you, but declares you innocent in Christ. 

 

Showing mercy to those who sin against you is a confession in actions that God no longer counts your sins against you. When you are assured that you have been forgiven every sin you have or will commit through the grace of Jesus, the assurance He wishes to give through His Word, You will extend grace to those who repay your kindness with evil.  Because this is how the father treated us when we had become a stench in his nostrils.

You cannot outdo God in showing mercy: with the measure you use it will be measured to you again

 

 

The peace of God, which passes understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

SDG

 

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