About Being Christian



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NEGATIVE STATEMENTS

Contrary False Doctrine about the Person of Christ

19 We reject and condemn as contrary to God’s Word and our simple ‹pure› Christian faith all the following erroneous articles, if they are taught:

20 1. God and man in Christ are not one person. But the Son of God is one, and the Son of Man another, as Nestorius raved.

21 2. The divine and human natures have been mingled with each other into one essence, and the human nature has been changed into the Deity, as Eutyches fanatically asserted.

22 3. Christ is not true, natural, and eternal God, as Arius held ‹blasphemed›.

23 4. Christ did not have a true human nature consisting of body and soul, as Marcion imagined.

24 5. The personal union only makes the names and titles common to both natures.

25 6. To say, “God is man, man is God” is only “a phrase and mode of speaking.” For Divinity, they say (in deed ‹and truth›), has nothing in common with the humanity, nor the humanity with the Deity.

26 7. It is nothing but words (communicatio verbalis) when it is said, “the Son of God died for the sins of the world” or “the Son of Man has become almighty.”

27 8. The human nature in Christ has become an infinite essence in the same way as the Divinity. It is present everywhere in the same way as the divine nature because of this essential power and property, communicated to, and poured out into, the human nature and separated from God.

28 9. The human nature has become equal to and like the divine nature in its substance and essence, or in its essential properties.

29 10. Christ’s human nature is locally extended to all places of heaven and earth, which should not even be said about the divine nature.

30 11. Because of the character of the human nature, it is impossible for Christ to be in more than one place at the same time, much less everywhere, with His body.

31 12. Only the mere humanity has suffered for us and redeemed us, and God’s Son in the suffering had actually no communion with the humanity, as though it did not concern Him.

32 13. Christ is present with us on earth in the Word, the Sacraments, and in all our troubles, only according to His divinity. This presence does not at all apply to His human nature. They also say that after having redeemed us by His suffering and death, Christ has nothing to do with us any longer on earth.

33 14. God’s Son assumed the human nature. After He laid aside the form of a servant, He does not perform all the works of His omnipotence in, through, and with His human nature. He only performs some, and only in the place where His human nature is located.

34 15. According to His human nature He is not at all capable of almighty power and other attributes of the divine nature, which goes against Christ’s clear declaration in Matthew 28:18, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me,” and of St. Paul in Colossians 2:9, “For in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.”

35 16. Greater and more power is given to Christ ‹according to His humanity› than to all angels and other creatures; but He has no communion with God’s almighty power, nor has this been given to Him. Therefore, they make up a “middle power,” a power between God’s almighty power and the power of other creatures, given to Christ according to His humanity by the exaltation. This would be less than God’s almighty power and greater than that of other creatures.

36 17. Christ, according to His human mind, has a certain limit as to how much He is to know. He knows only what is fitting and needful for Him to know for His office as Judge.

37 18. Christ does not yet have a perfect knowledge of God and all His works. Yet it is written about Him in Colossians 2:3, “In whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

38 19. It is impossible for Christ, according to His human mind, to know what has been from eternity, what at present is occurring everywhere, and what will be in eternity.

39 20. Matthew 28:18, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me,” is wrongly taught, as are other such verses. This passage is interpreted and blasphemously perverted to say that all power in heaven and on earth was restored (i.e., delivered again to Christ according to the divine nature) at the resurrection and His ascension to heaven. This argues as though Christ had also (according to His divinity) laid this power aside and abandoned it in His state of humiliation. Not only the words of Christ’s testament are perverted by this teaching, but also the way is prepared for the accursed Arian heresy. Ultimately, Christ’s eternal deity is denied. And so Christ, and with Him our salvation, are entirely lost if this false doctrine is not firmly opposed from the permanent foundation of the divine Word and our simple Christian ‹catholic› faith.
Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, 491-495 (Formula of Concord: Epitome VIII)

  1. Why do bad things happen?

A Christian believes that God's love lives with us as He takes our bad things and makes us good.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10; John 9:1-4

  1. How do bad things make it seem like God doesn't exist?

If God is all-powerful, then He can keep bad things from happening; if God is all- knowing, then He knows that bad things happen; and if God is all-good, then He wants to keep bad things from happening; yet bad things keep happening to us.

Psalm 22:1; John 11:21

  1. What is even more important about God than His power?

God is defined primarily by His passion and not by His power; He exists as the Trinity of love for the purpose of unity in love.

John 16:33; Matthew 19:26; 1 John 4:16; Psalm 62:11-12; James 2:13; 1 Corinthians 13:13

  1. Why didn't God make a world where evil can't happen?

Because love must be free to be real, God gave humankind the choice to receive or reject, and it is the ability to love and choose that allows for the possibility of evil and pain.

Genesis 2:16-17; Deuteronomy 30:16-19; Galatians 5:13

  1. Who is ultimately to blame for bad things happening?

By our constant and complete sinfulness we cause much pain for ourselves and each other, and we cannot escape the fallen world and the broken relationships we have created.

Genesis 3:16-17; Romans 5:12; 1 Corinthians 7:31

  1. Can't God do anything?

As Creator, God cannot do anything in our universe that is incompatible with our universe, and God cannot do anything that alters or violates His own character.

Malachi 3:6; 2 Timothy 2:13; Hebrews 6:18; Romans 6:9

  1. Why doesn't God just take all the evil away?

God immediately eliminating pain would mean destroying His creation and His creatures.

Job 34:14-15; Romans 7:1; Romans 6:7

  1. How can God be loving if we are hurting?

God's love does what's best instead of just what's easiest, and God loves us enough to make us get better and not just to make us feel better; sometimes allowing pain is the most loving thing God can do for us.

Proverbs 13:24; Romans 8:13; 1 Peter 1:6-7

  1. How can pain be a good thing for us?

We are closest to God's own heart in our times of greatest suffering, because God became man and suffered death, so He knows our pain and feels it with us; and God's own suffering in Christ is evidence He is doing something serious about our suffering.

Isaiah 53:4; Romans 6:5; 2 Corinthians 12:9

  1. Will there ever be an end to suffering?

God has rescued us from the worst by reserving the worst for Himself alone; whatever we suffer, it is never beyond what is necessary and beneficial; and once God gets us through our pain, He makes it right afterward and makes it better than before.

John 9:2-3; Romans 8:28; Revelation 21:4; Hosea 6:1


  1. Is there really life after death?

A Christian knows that it is a historical fact that Jesus physically rose from the dead.

Matthew 28:1-10

  1. Why is resurrection so important to Christianity?

Death and resurrection were the central point of Jesus' mission and message, the resurrection of Jesus is the first belief of the Christian Church, and the whole Christian faith stands or falls on the fact that Jesus rose.

Mark 8:31; 1 Corinthians 15:14

  1. What four events prove Jesus rose from the dead?

History shows Jesus died, was buried, His tomb was empty, and He was seen alive after.

1 Corinthians 15:3-7; 1 Timothy 3:16; Romans 4:25; Acts 2:24

  1. How do you know Jesus actually died?

Jesus was repeatedly beaten, severely flogged, and brutally crucified; the flow of blood and water indicated He died from hypovolemic shock, pleural effusion, and pericardial tamponade; and not one witness of it thought suspected He was still alive.

John 19:32-34; Mark 14:65; Mark 15:15

  1. How do you know Jesus was actually buried?

Where and how Jesus was buried was witnessed by several different people, the details given about the tomb and the burial are very specific, and several security measures were set up to protect the tomb.

John 19:38-42

  1. Why couldn't the disciples have stolen His body?

A large rock rolled into a divot kept beasts and thieves out of the tomb, it was sealed in wax with the governor's symbol to prevent tampering, and four armed and trained soldiers guarded it in six-hour shifts – upon penalty of execution for failure.

Matthew 27:59-66

  1. How do you know His tomb was actually empty?

The only reason for anyone to believe the women's report is if the facts supported it; if the disciples were lying, anyone objecting could visit the tomb and view the body to prove it; and even the guards' story of a stolen body admitted the tomb was empty.

Luke 24:9-10; Acts 2:41

  1. How do you know Jesus was seen alive again?

Jesus appeared to the women, Peter, the Emmaus disciples, the ten without Thomas, then all eleven disciples, to five hundred at once, to James, Stephen, Paul, and John.

Acts 1:3; John 20:19

  1. Why couldn't the appearances have been hallucinations?

Jesus appeared not only once but several times, not to just one person but to many; and He appeared the same way every time to everyone, with hands and feet to touch and food to eat.

Luke 24:39-43; John 20:20

  1. What does it mean that Jesus is risen?

This means God is with us, Christ gives us victory over the Devil and death, forgiveness is the power to heal, God works all things out for good, we will be raised from death to live forever, there will be a new heavens and earth, and we will see God.

1 John 4:4; Romans 8:11; Matthew 9:6-7

IX. THE DESCENT OF CHRIST TO HELL

Note: This article attests that Christ descended into hell to proclaim and announce His victory over sin, death, and the devil; not as part of His atonement for the sins of the world. It put an end to the squabbling that had arisen among Lutherans over the meaning of Christ’s descent to hell, and it based its conclusions on one of Luther’s sermons discussing this issue.


STATUS OF THE CONTROVERSY

THE CHIEF CONTROVERSY ABOUT THIS ARTICLE

1 This article has also been disputed among some theologians who have subscribed to the Augsburg Confession: When and in what manner did the Lord Christ, according to our simple Christian faith, descend to hell? Was this done before or after His death? Did this happen only to His soul, only to the divinity, or with body and soul, spiritually or bodily? Does this article belong to Christ’s passion or to His glorious victory and triumph?

2 This article, like the preceding article, cannot be grasped by the senses or by our reason. It must be grasped through faith alone. Therefore, it is our unanimous opinion that there should be no dispute over it. It should be believed and taught only in the simplest way. 3 Teach it like Dr. Luther, of blessed memory, in his sermon at Torgau in the year 1533. He has explained this article in a completely Christian way. He separated all useless, unnecessary questions from it, and encouraged all godly Christians to believe with Christian simplicity.

4 It is enough if we know that Christ descended into hell, destroyed hell for all believers, and delivered them from the power of death and of the devil, from eternal condemnation and the jaws of hell. We will save our questions ‹and not curiously investigate› about how this happened until the other world. Then not only this ‹mystery›, but others also will be revealed that we simply believe here and cannot grasp with our blind reason.
Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, 495 (Formula of Concord: Epitome IX)

  1. How does the story end?

A Christian expects that Jesus is returning to resurrect us in God's eternal glory.

Matthew 25:31-46

  1. Why must the world end?

God has promised to make an end of sin, death, and the Devil before they make an end of humankind, and Jesus has begun the process of this world's ending by His death and resurrection; so this world must be replaced by a perfect new heavens and earth.

Revelation 21:1-5

  1. What happens when I die?

The spirit is separated from the body at death, which is the end of the bodily life in this world; the soul without faith in Christ is then imprisoned in a foretaste of hell, while the believing soul resides with the Lord in a foretaste of heaven.

Hebrews 9:27; Ecclesiastes 12:7; 1 Peter 3:18-19; Luke 23:43

  1. What are the signs of the end times?

An increase in wars and revolutions, natural disasters, and cosmic phenomena will mean the end is approaching; families will be divided by differing faiths, false prophets and antichrists will arise, and Christians will face fiercer persecution.

Mark 13:7-8; Mark 13:22; Luke 10:16-17

  1. How will people handle it?

Many will ignore the signs that the end is near, others will be made afraid, and still others will reject God altogether; but Christians are encouraged to rejoice as the day of the Lord draws closer.

Mark 13:35-37; Matthew 24:10; Romans 13:11; Luke 21:28

  1. What will take place on the Last Day?

Jesus will return from heaven in visible glory, and all the angels will announce His arrival with their trumpets, so that everyone on earth will see the Lord and hear His voice; then the bodies of the dead will be raised out of the ground.

1 Thessalonians 4:16; Revelation 1:7; John 5:28-29

  1. What is the Final Judgment?

Jesus will sit on His throne and examine the record of everyone's life; those who lived in Christian faith will be welcomed into the heavenly kingdom, but whoever denies or declines God's forgiveness will be condemned to hell as the entire universe is destroyed.

Revelation 20:12; 2 Peter 3:9-10

  1. What is heaven like?

With new and perfect bodies we will drink from the river of life and eat from the tree of life in a never-ending wedding feast where we reign forever over the new creation, face-to-face with God in glory and grace alongside an innumerable multitude.

Philippians 3:21; Revelation 22:1-2; Revelation 7:9

ARTICLE XVII



Christ’s Return for Judgment

Note: This article affirms the biblical view of the end times. It pointedly rejects any speculation or opinion about believers ruling the world before the final resurrection of the dead. It also rejects all theories about a “millennial” earthly rule of Christ as contrary to God’s Word.


1 Our churches teach that at the end of the world Christ will appear for judgment and will raise all the dead [1 Thessalonians 4:13–5:2]. 2 He will give the godly and elect eternal life and everlasting joys, 3 but He will condemn ungodly people and the devils to be tormented without end [Matthew 25:31–46].

4 Our churches condemn the Anabaptists, who think that there will be an end to the punishments of condemned men and devils.

5 Our churches also condemn those who are spreading certain Jewish opinions, that before the resurrection of the dead the godly shall take possession of the kingdom of the world, the ungodly being everywhere suppressed.
Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, 40 (Augsburg Confession XVII)


  1. How do we get there from here?

A Christian affirms that the Holy Spirit brings God's grace to us to bring us to faith.

Luke 10:25-37

  1. Do we still have free will?

Humankind abused, traded, and lost the free will God created us with when we fell into sin; we are born in bondage to self and sin and Satan, and we can no longer exercise free will in anything that ethically or eternally matters.

Romans 7:19; John 8:34; Genesis 6:5

  1. How does this affect our relationship to God?

We are naturally defiant to God's Law and dead to His love; unless we receive Christ's power in the Holy Spirit, we can't choose or want anything good, and nothing we do merits God's favor or makes Him forgive us.

Ephesians 2:1, 3; Romans 8:7; John 15:5; 2 Corinthians 3:5; John 15:16; 1 Corinthians 12:3; 1 John 4:19

  1. How does the Holy Spirit help?

In His Holy Spirit Jesus Himself comes to us through the means of grace, cultivates repentance and creates faith through the Law and the Gospel, calls us into His own new life, makes us alive in justification, and makes us righteous in sanctification.

John 14:26; Acts 2:38; 1 John 5:7-8; John 6:63; Romans 12:3; 2 Timothy 2:25; Philippians 2:13

  1. What is justification?

Justification is God declaring me righteous in Christ and not guilty by grace through faith; all humankind is already justified in God's sight because of what Jesus has done, and God has called us righteous before – and not because – He makes us righteous.

Romans 3:23-24; Romans 3:28; 2 Corinthians 5:19; Romans 4:5; Romans 5:8-10

  1. What is grace?

Grace means God doesn't give us what we deserve and gives us what we don't deserve; grace is His free gift to all constantly, without cause from us and without cost to us, but grace is not some spiritual substance separate from God – it is how He relates to us.

Psalm 103:8, 10; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:4-5; Zechariah 4:6

  1. What part of this is played by faith?

Faith receives and trusts God's goodness in Christ, accepting that the Gospel actually applies to me; faith is not a specific attitude or action we offer to God but simply the assurance that He does it all for us.

Philippians 3:9; Matthew 21:22; Mark 11:23; John 6:44

  1. How much faith is necessary to be saved?

It isn't the size of your faith in God that matters but only the size of the God in your faith; and faith isn't necessarily thinking, speaking, or acting a certain way, but it does necessarily lead to these things.

Luke 1:37; Philippians 4:13; Mark 9:23; Matthew 17:20

  1. What is the purpose of good works?

Faith never consists of good works, but it always causes good works; we do good works because we are good people, not so that we may become good people, and we practice good works for the eternal benefit of our neighbors and the glory of God alone.

Matthew 7:18; James 2:26; 1 Corinthians 10:31-33

  1. Why are some people saved and not others?

When anyone is saved it is God's doing, and when anyone is not saved it is their own doing; God wants all people to be saved and doesn't delight in anyone's death, yet willfully refusing God's forgiveness is the only unforgiveable sin.

Romans 5:12; 1 Timothy 2:4; Mark 3:29; Mark 16:16

ARTICLE IV



Justification

Note: There is a historic saying in Lutheranism that the Church stands or falls on the article of justification. To justify means “to declare righteous.” God’s sure and certain declaration that we are righteous in His eyes is possible only because of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Through His life, Jesus satisfied God’s demand for perfect obedience. Through His sacrificial death, Jesus took God’s wrath and atoned for the sins of the world. The Holy Spirit, through the means of grace, works in us saving faith, which personally apprehends what Christ has done for us. Our justification before God, therefore, is brought about by the One who lived, suffered, and died for our salvation. We cannot merit God’s favor through our obedience; we cannot offer sacrifices to pay for our sins. But what we cannot do for ourselves, Christ has done for us. He is the solid Rock on which God builds His Church. On Him, and Him alone, we stand forgiven.


1 Our churches teach that people cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works. 2 People 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. By His death, Christ made satisfaction for our sins. 3 God counts this faith for righteousness in His sight (Romans 3 and 4 [3:21–26; 4:5].
ARTICLE XVIII

Free Will

Note: By the time of the Reformation, the Roman Church had fully developed a false and potentially damning doctrine, one that stated that a person is able, to some degree, to strive for and receive God’s mercy. Article XVIII asserts Scripture’s teaching that people, apart from God’s grace, are wholly incapable of perceiving spiritual things. The longest quote from a Church Father in the Augsburg Confession occurs here. It demonstrates Lutheranism’s continuity with the Church catholic—in contrast to Roman error on this doctrine. Augustine echoes the Bible’s teaching that while we humans can perform acts of civil righteousness, which may be called “good,” spiritually we are evil and enemies of God. However, in Christ, our loving God breaks down the wall of hostility separating us from Him. By His Spirit, through His Word, He gives us Christ’s perfect righteousness as a gift. In external, worldly matters we do have the freedom to make decisions according to human reason, but this does not mean, apart from God’s grace, that we have similar powers in matters of eternal life.


1 Our churches teach that a person’s will has some freedom to choose civil righteousness and to do things subject to reason. 2 It has no power, without the Holy Spirit, to work the righteousness of God, that is, spiritual righteousness. For “the natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:14). 3 This righteousness is worked in the heart when the Holy Spirit is received through the Word [Galatians 3:2–6].

4 This is what Augustine says in his Hypognosticon, Book III:
We grant that all people have a free will. It is free as far as it has the judgment of reason. This does not mean that it is able, without God, either to begin, or at least to complete, anything that has to do with God. It is free only in works of this life, whether good or evil. 5 Good I call those works that spring from the good in nature, such as willing to labor in the field, to eat and drink, to have a friend, to clothe oneself, to build a house, to marry a wife, to raise cattle, to learn various useful arts, or whatsoever good applies to this life. 6 For all of these things depend on the providence of God. They are from Him and exist through Him. 7 Works that are willing to worship an idol, to commit murder, and so forth, I call evil.
8 Our churches condemn the Pelagians and others who teach that without the Holy Spirit, by natural power alone, we are able to love God above all things and do God’s commandments according to the letter. 9 Although nature is able in a certain way to do the outward work (for it is able to keep the hands from theft and murder), yet it cannot produce the inward motions, such as the fear of God, trust in God, chastity, patience, and so on.
ARTICLE XX

Good Works

Note: This is another key article in the Augsburg Confession. Article XX offers more details about faith and works than what was previously written. Lutherans insist on the biblical truth that our good works do not save us. So they are sometimes accused of opposing good works. This article sets forth the Bible’s clear teaching that good works are the fruit of faith, not the cause of our salvation. The Lutheran hymn “Salvation unto Us Has Come” offers a short, powerful summary of these essential Gospel truths:


Faith clings to Jesus’ cross alone

And rests in Him unceasing;

And by its fruits true faith is known,

with love and hope increasing.

For faith alone can justify;

Works serve our neighbor and supply

The proof that faith is living.

(Paul Speratus, 1484–1531; tr. The Lutheran Hymnal, 1941, alt.)


Rome continues to insist that people are saved by God’s grace, but not through faith alone. This teaching dangerously encourages people to believe they are able, even in some small way, to contribute toward their salvation. This diverts their focus from Christ and His merits to their own works. It also leads to despair, doubt, and uncertainty when people come to realize the enormity of their sin and wonder if in fact they have done “enough” to merit or deserve God’s favor. After setting forth the proper biblical distinction between faith and good works, the Augsburg Confession asserts very clearly that our good works are necessary, not to merit grace, but because this is God’s will for our lives. God’s gift of saving faith enables us to do good works.
1 Our teachers are falsely accused of forbidding good works. 2 Their published writings on the Ten Commandments, and other similar writings, bear witness that they have usefully taught about all estates and duties of life. They have taught well what is pleasing to God in every station and vocation in life. 3 Before now, preachers taught very little about these things. They encouraged only childish and needless works, such as particular holy days, particular fasts, brotherhoods, pilgrimages, services in honor of the saints, the use of rosaries, monasticism, and such things. 4 Since our adversaries have been admonished about these things, they are now unlearning them. They do not preach these unhelpful works as much as they used to. 5 In the past, there was only stunning silence about faith, but now they are beginning to mention it. 6 They do not teach that we are justified only by works. They join faith and works together, and say that we are justified by faith and works. 7 This teaching is more tolerable than the former one. It can offer more consolation than their old teaching.

8 The doctrine about faith, which ought to be the chief doctrine in the Church, has remained unknown for so long. Everyone has to admit that there was the deepest silence in their sermons concerning the righteousness of faith. They only taught about works in the churches. This is why our teachers teach the churches about faith in this way.

9 First, they teach that our works cannot reconcile God to us or merit forgiveness of sins, grace, and justification. We obtain reconciliation only by faith when we believe that we are received into favor for Christ’s sake. He alone has been set forth as the Mediator and Atoning Sacrifice (1 Timothy 2:5), in order that the Father may be reconciled through Him. 10 Therefore, whoever believes that he merits grace by works despises the merit and grace of Christ [Galatians 5:4]. In so doing, he is seeking a way to God without Christ, by human strength, although Christ Himself said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).

11 This doctrine about faith is presented everywhere by Paul, “By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).

12 If anyone wants to be tricky and say that we have invented a new interpretation of Paul, this entire matter is supported by the testimony of the Fathers. 13 Augustine defends grace and the righteousness of faith in many volumes against the merits of works. 14 Ambrose, in his book The Calling of the Gentiles, and elsewhere, teaches the same thing. In The Calling of the Gentiles he says,
Redemption by Christ’s blood would be worth very little, and God’s mercy would not surpass man’s works, if justification, which is accomplished through grace, were due to prior merits. So justification would not be the free gift from a donor, but the reward due the laborer.
15 Spiritually inexperienced people despise this teaching. However, God-fearing and anxious consciences find by experience that it brings the greatest consolation. Consciences cannot be set at rest through any works, but only by faith, when they take the sure ground that for Christ’s sake they have a gracious God. 16 As Paul teaches, “since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God” (Romans 5:1). 17 This whole doctrine must be related to the conflict of the terrified conscience. It cannot be understood apart from that conflict. 18 Therefore, inexperienced and irreverent people have poor judgment in this matter because they dream that Christian righteousness is nothing but civil and philosophical righteousness.

19 Until now consciences were plagued with the doctrine of works. They did not hear consolation from the Gospel. 20 Some people were driven by conscience into the desert and into monasteries, hoping to merit grace by a monastic life. 21 Some people came up with other works to merit grace and make satisfaction for sins. 22 That is why the need was so great for teaching and renewing the doctrine of faith in Christ, so that anxious consciences would not be without consolation but would know that grace, forgiveness of sins, and justification are received by faith in Christ.

23 People are also warned that the term faith does not mean simply a knowledge of a history, such as the ungodly and devil have [James 2:19]. Rather, it means a faith that believes, not merely the history, but also the effect of the history. In other words, it believes this article: the forgiveness of sins. We have grace, righteousness, and forgiveness of sins through Christ.

24 The person who knows that he has a Father who is gracious to him through Christ truly knows God [John 14:7]. He also knows that God cares for him [1 Peter 5:7], and he calls upon God [Romans 10:13]. In a word, he is not without God, as are the heathen. 25 For devils and the ungodly are not able to believe this article: the forgiveness of sins. Hence, they hate God as an enemy [Romans 8:7] and do not call Him [Romans 3:11–12] and expect no good from Him. 26 Augustine also warns his readers about the word faith and teaches that the term is used in the Scriptures, not for the knowledge that is in the ungodly, but for the confidence that consoles and encourages the terrified mind.

27 Furthermore, we teach that it is necessary to do good works. This does not mean that we merit grace by doing good works, but because it is God’s will [Ephesians 2:10]. 28 It is only by faith, and nothing else, that forgiveness of sins is apprehended. 29 The Holy Spirit is received through faith, hearts are renewed and given new affections, and then they are able to bring forth good works. 30 Ambrose says: “Faith is the mother of a good will and doing what is right.” 31 Without the Holy Spirit people are full of ungodly desires. They are too weak to do works that are good in God’s sight [John 15:5]. 32 Besides, they are in the power of the devil, who pushes human beings into various sins, ungodly opinions, and open crimes. 33 We see this in the philosophers, who, although they tried to live an honest life could not succeed, but were defiled with many open crimes. 34 Such is human weakness, without faith and without the Holy Spirit, when governed only by human strength.

35 Therefore, it is easy to see that this doctrine is not to be accused of banning good works. Instead, it is to be commended all the more because it shows how we are enabled to do good works. 36 For without faith, human nature cannot, in any way, do the works of the First or Second Commandment [1 Corinthians 2:14]. 37 Without faith, human nature does not call upon God, nor expect anything from Him, nor bear the cross [Matthew 16:24]. Instead, human nature seeks and trusts in human help. 38 So when there is no faith and trust in God, all kinds of lusts and human intentions rule in the heart [Genesis 6:5]. 39 This is why Christ says, “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). That is why the Church sings: “Lacking Your divine favor, there is nothing in man. 40 Nothing in him is harmless.”
Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, 32, 40-44 (Augsburg Confession IV, XVIII, XX)
II. FREE WILL

Note: Since the fall into sin, the will of mankind is so blind and corrupt that we can chose only to do evil. We are spiritually dead by nature, enemies of God and naturally hostile toward Him. While we are free to choose in earthly matters, we have no power, ability, or free will in spiritual matters. Before conversion we are entirely incapable—in any way—of responding to or cooperating with God’s grace. After conversion and because of Christ, the new man in us does in fact respond to and cooperate with God the Holy Spirit.


STATUS OF THE CONTROVERSY

THE CHIEF QUESTIONS IN THIS CONTROVERSY

1 The will of mankind is found in four different states: (1) before the fall; (2) since the fall; (3) after regeneration; and (4) after the resurrection of the body. The chief question in this article is only about the will and ability of mankind in the second state. That is, what powers in spiritual matters does a person have after the fall of our first parents and before regeneration? Can a person by his own powers—prior to and before his regeneration by God’s Spirit—get ready and prepare himself for God’s grace? Can a person accept ‹and apprehend› or reject the grace offered through the Holy Spirit in the Word and holy ‹divinely instituted› Sacraments?
AFFIRMATIVE STATEMENTS

The Pure Teaching about This Article, according to God’s Word

2 1. This is our teaching, faith, and confession on this subject: in spiritual matters the understanding and reason of mankind are ‹completely› blind and by their own powers understand nothing, as it is written in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”

3 2. Likewise, we believe, teach, and confess that the unregenerate will of mankind is not only turned away from God, but also has become God’s enemy. So it only has an inclination and desire for that which is evil and contrary to God, as it is written in Genesis 8:21, “the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” Romans 8:7 says, “The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.” Just as a dead body cannot raise itself to bodily, earthly life, so a person who by sin is spiritually dead cannot raise himself to spiritual life. For it is written in Ephesians 2:5, “even when we were dead in our trespasses, [He] made us alive together with Christ.” And 2 Corinthians 3:5 says, “Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God.”

4 3. God the Holy Spirit, however, does not bring about conversion without means. For this purpose He uses the preaching and hearing of God’s Word, as it is written in Romans 1:16, the Gospel “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” 5 Also Romans 10:17 says, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” It is God’s will that His Word should be heard and that a person’s ears should not be closed (Psalm 95:8). With this Word the Holy Spirit is present and opens hearts, so that people (like Lydia in Acts 16:14) pay attention to it and are converted only through the Holy Spirit’s grace and power, who alone does the work of converting a person. 6 For without His grace, and if He does not grant the increase, our willing and running, our planting, sowing, and watering (1 Corinthians 3:5–7)—are all nothing. As Christ says ‹in John 15:5›, “apart from Me you can do nothing.” With these brief words the Spirit denies free will its powers and ascribes everything to God’s grace, in order that no one may boast before God (1 Corinthians 1:29; [2 Corinthians 12:5; Jeremiah 9:23]).
NEGATIVE STATEMENTS

Contrary False Teaching

7 So we reject and condemn all the following errors as contrary to the standard of God’s Word:

8 1. The insane ideas of the philosophers who are called Stoics. We reject also the ideas of the Manichaeans, who taught that everything that happens must so happen and cannot happen otherwise; everything that a person does, even in outward things, he does by compulsion; he is forced to do evil works and deeds, such as inchastity, robbery, murder, theft, and the like.

9 2. We also reject the error of the Pelagians. They taught that a person by his own powers, without the Holy Spirit’s grace, can turn himself to God, believe the Gospel, be obedient from the heart to God’s Law, and so merit the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

10 3. We also reject the error of the Semi-Pelagians. They teach that a person by his own powers can begin his conversion, but cannot complete it without the Holy Spirit’s grace.

11 4. Some have acknowledged that a person is too weak to begin his conversion by his free will before regeneration, and that he cannot turn himself to God by his own powers and be obedient to God from the heart. Yet, they still assert that if the Holy Spirit has made a beginning by the preaching of the Word and has offered His grace in the Word, then a person’s will, from its own natural powers, can add something. A person’s will, though little and feebly, can help and cooperate, qualify and prepare itself for grace, and so embrace and accept the Word, and believe the Gospel.

12 5. Some have taught that a person—after he has been born again—can perfectly observe and completely fulfill God’s Law, and that this fulfilling is our righteousness before God, by which we merit eternal life.

13 6. We also reject and condemn the error of the Enthusiasts. They imagine that God without means, without the hearing of God’s Word, and also without the use of the holy Sacraments, draws people to Himself and enlightens, justifies, and saves them. (We call people enthusiasts who expect the heavenly illumination of the Spirit without the preaching of God’s Word.)

14 7. Some teach that in conversion and regeneration God entirely exterminates the substance and essence of the old Adam, and especially the rational soul. They say that in conversion and regeneration He creates a new essence of the soul out of nothing.

15 8. We reject cases where the following expressions are used without explanation: a person’s will before, in, and after conversion resists the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is given to those who resist Him intentionally and persistently. For, as Augustine says, in conversion “God makes willing persons out of the unwilling and dwells in the willing.”

16 We reject cases where the expressions of ancient and modern teachers of the Church are used without explanation, when it is said, “God draws, but He draws the willing.” Likewise, some say, “In conversion a person’s will is not idle, but also does something.” We maintain that, because these expressions have been introduced for confirming ‹the false opinion about› the powers of the natural free will in a person’s conversion, against the doctrine of God’s grace, they do not conform to sound doctrine. Therefore, when we speak of conversion to God, these sayings should be avoided.

17 On the other hand, it is correctly said that in conversion God—through the drawing of the Holy Spirit—makes willing people out of stubborn and unwilling ones. And after such conversion, in the daily exercise of repentance, the regenerate will of a person is not idle, but cooperates in all the works of the Holy Spirit, which He performs through us.

18 9. Dr. Luther has written that a person’s will in his conversion is purely passive, that is, that it does nothing at all. This is to be understood with respect to divine grace in the kindling of the new movements, that is, when God’s Spirit, through the heard Word or the use of the holy Sacraments, lays hold of a person’s will and works in him the new birth and conversion. When ‹after› the Holy Spirit has worked and accomplished this, and a person’s will has been changed and renewed by His divine power and working alone, then the new will of that person is an instrument and organ of God the Holy Spirit. So that person not only accepts grace, but he also cooperates with the Holy Spirit in the works that follow.

19 There are only two efficient causes for a person’s conversion: (1) the Holy Spirit and (2) God’s Word, as the instrument of the Holy Spirit, by which He works conversion. A person must hear this Word. However, it is not by that person’s own powers, but only through the grace and working of the Holy Spirit that he trusts the Word and receives it.
IV. GOOD WORKS

Note: It is wrong to say that good works are necessary for salvation. It is also wrong to say that they are harmful for salvation. Just as wrong, however, is to avoid the discussion of good works altogether. Perhaps the best analogy for good works—and a biblical one at that—is to think of them as fruit on a tree (Matthew 7:17). A living tree bears fruit. A dead tree bears no fruit. A person who is alive through faith in Christ will do good works. On the other hand, a person who is spiritually dead, that is, without faith in Christ, may perform certain outward actions, but they are not good works. While good works play no role in our salvation, they are very much part of our lives as God’s children. Good works in the Christian life do not result from our fearing God’s punishment. Rather, they result from God loving us. God’s perfect love in Christ drives out all fear and replaces it with a heart, soul, and mind that love Him and serve our neighbor.


STATUS OF THE CONTROVERSY

THE CHIEF QUESTION IN THE CONTROVERSY ABOUT GOOD WORKS

1 Concerning the doctrine of good works two divisions have arisen in some churches:

2 1. First, some theologians have become divided because of the following expressions. One side wrote, “Good works are necessary for salvation. It is impossible to be saved without good works.” They also wrote, “No one has ever been saved without good works.” But the other side, on the contrary, wrote, “Good works are harmful to salvation.”

3 2. Afterward, a schism arose between some theologians because of the two words necessary and free. The one side argued that the word necessary should not be used about the new obedience, which, they say, does not flow from necessity and coercion, but from a voluntary spirit. The other side insisted on the word necessary. They say obedience is not our option, but regenerate people are obliged to render this obedience.

4 From this dispute about the terms, a controversy arose afterward about the subject itself. For the one side contended that among Christians the Law should not be presented at all, but people should be encouraged to do good works from the Holy Gospel alone. The other side contradicted this.
AFFIRMATIVE STATEMENTS

The Pure Teaching of the Christian Churches about This Controversy

5 For the thorough statement and decision of this controversy, our doctrine, faith, and confession is as follows:

6 1. Good works certainly and without doubt follow true faith—if it is not a dead, but a living faith—just as fruit grows on a good tree [Matthew 7:17].

7 2. We believe, teach, and confess that good works should be entirely excluded from the question about salvation, just as they are excluded from the article of justification before God. The apostle testifies with clear words when he writes as follows, “Just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: … ‘Blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin’ ” (Romans 4:6–8). And again, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9).

8 3. We also believe, teach, and confess that all people, but especially those who are born again and renewed by the Holy Spirit, are obligated to do good works [Ephesians 2:10].

9 4. In this sense the words necessary, shall, and must are used correctly and in a Christian way to describe the regenerate, and are in no way contrary to the form of sound words and speech.

10 5. Nevertheless, if the words mentioned (i.e., necessity and necessary) are used when talking about regenerate people, then only due obedience—not coercion—is to be understood. For the truly believing, so far as they are regenerate, do not offer obedience from coercion or the driving of the Law, but from a voluntary spirit. For they are no more under the Law, but under grace (Romans 6:14; 7:6; 8:14).

11 6. We also believe, teach, and confess that when it is said, “The regenerate do good works from a free spirit,” this is not to be understood as though it were an option for the regenerate person to do or not to do good when he wants, as though a person can still retain faith if he intentionally perseveres in sins [1 John 2:5–9].

12 7. This is not to be understood in any other way than as the Lord Christ and His apostles themselves declare. In other words, the free spirit does not obey from fear of punishment, like a servant, but from love of righteousness, like children (Romans 8:15).

13 8. However, this willingness ‹liberty of spirit› in God’s elect children is not perfect. It is burdened with great weakness, as St. Paul complains about himself in Romans 7:14–25 and Galatians 5:17.

14 9. Nevertheless, for the sake of the Lord Christ, the Lord does not charge this weakness to His elect, as it is written, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

15 10. We believe, teach, and confess also that works do not maintain faith and salvation in us, but God’s Spirit alone does this, through faith. Good works are evidences of His presence and indwelling [Romans 8:5, 14].
NEGATIVE STATEMENTS

False Contrary Doctrine

16 1. We reject and condemn the following ways of speaking when they are taught and written: “Good works are necessary to salvation.” Also, “No one ever has been saved without good works.” Also, “It is impossible to be saved without good works.”

17 2. We reject and condemn as offensive and detrimental to Christian discipline the bare expression “Good works are harmful to salvation.”

18 In these last times it is certainly no less needful to encourage people to Christian discipline ‹to the way of right and godly living› and to do good works. We need to remind them of how necessary it is that they exercise themselves in good works as a declaration of their faith [Matthew 5:16] and gratitude to God [Hebrews 13:15–16]. But works should not be mingled in the article of justification. For people may be just as damned by an Epicurean delusion about faith as they are by papistic and Pharisaic confidence in their own works and merits.

19 3. We also reject and condemn the teaching that faith and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit are not lost by willful sin, but that the saints and elect retain the Holy Spirit even though they fall into adultery and other sins and persist in them.
XI. GOD’S ETERNAL FOREKNOWLEDGE ‹PREDESTINATION› AND ELECTION

Note: Although this article was not written in response to a specific controversy among Lutherans, it was wisely included. John Calvin and his followers had developed a teaching commonly known as “double predestination.” This crass and horrible teaching states that God has foreordained and predestined some people to go to hell, no matter what, while others He has foreordained and predestined to go to heaven. Article XI clearly dismantles this dreadful and nonbiblical teaching and exposes it as a great error. The Bible’s teachings about election are meant only for Christians. The doctrine of election is meant to comfort Christians during hard and difficult trials. Our salvation in Christ is so sure and certain that our relationship with God was known by Him before the foundation of the world. Only those who believe in Christ trouble themselves about their election. Those who truly are unbelievers, or who have fallen away from the Christian faith, are not concerned about such things. When we are tempted in this life, this article points us to God’s gracious Gospel promise, which is delivered and sealed to us in the Word and Sacraments.


1 No public disagreement has arisen among the theologians of the Augsburg Confession about this article. But since election is a comforting article—if treated properly—and to prevent offensive disputes about it in the future, it is also explained in this writing.
AFFIRMATIVE STATEMENTS

The Pure and True Teaching about This Article

2 1. To begin with, the distinction between God’s foreknowledge and His eternal predestination ought to be kept accurately.

3 2. God’s foreknowledge is nothing else than this: God knows all things before they happen, as it is written in Daniel 2:28, “But there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days.”

4 3. This foreknowledge extends over the godly and the wicked alike. But it is not the cause of evil or of sin. In other words, it is not what causes people to do wrong (which originally arises from the devil and mankind’s wicked, perverse will). Nor does it cause their ruin, for which they themselves are responsible. But foreknowledge only regulates this and fixes a limit on their ruin, ‹how far it should progress and› how long it should last. All this happens to serve His elect for their salvation, even though such ruin is evil in itself.

5 4. Predestination, or God’s eternal election, covers only the godly, beloved children of God. It is a cause of their salvation, which He also provides. He plans what belongs to it as well. Our salvation is founded so firmly on it that the gates of hell cannot overcome it (John 10:28; Matthew 16:18).

6 5. It is not to be investigated in God’s secret counsel. It is to be sought in God’s Word, where it is revealed.

7 6. God’s Word leads us to Christ, who is the Book of Life, in whom all are written and elected who are to be saved in eternity. For it is written in Ephesians 1:4, “Even as He chose us in Him [Christ] before the foundation of the world.”

8 7. Christ calls all sinners to Himself and promises them rest. He is eager ‹seriously wills› that all people should come to Him and allow themselves to be helped. He offers them Himself in His Word and wants them to hear it and not to plug their ears or ‹neglect and› despise the Word. Furthermore, He promises the power and working of the Holy Spirit and divine assistance for perseverance and eternal salvation ‹so that we may remain steadfast in the faith and gain eternal salvation›.

9 8. We should not reach conclusions about our election to eternal life based on reason or God’s Law. That would lead us either into a reckless, loose, Epicurean life or into despair. It would stir up destructive thoughts in people’s hearts. For they cannot, as long as they follow their reason, successfully keep themselves from thinking, “If God has elected me to salvation, I cannot be condemned, no matter what I do.” And again, “If I am not elected to eternal life, it doesn’t matter what good I do; it is all in vain anyway.”

10 9. ‹The true judgment about predestination› must be learned alone from the Holy Gospel about Christ, in which it is clearly testified, “For God has consigned all to disobedience, that He may have mercy on all [Romans 11:32]; not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” [2 Peter 3:9], and believe in the Lord Christ. (See also Ezekiel 18:23; 33:11, 18; 1 John 2:2.)

11 10. Now, let whoever is concerned about God’s revealed will act on the order that St. Paul has described in the Epistle to the Romans. Paul first directs people to repentance [Romans 1–2], to knowledge of sins [Romans 3:1–20], to faith in Christ [Romans 3:21–5:21], to divine obedience [Romans 6–8]. Then he speaks of the mystery of God’s eternal election [Romans 9–11]. This doctrine is useful and consolatory to the person who proceeds in this way.

12 11. However, “many are called, but few are chosen” [Matthew 22:14]. This does not mean that God is unwilling to save everybody. But the reason some are not saved is as follows: They do not listen to God’s Word at all, but willfully despise it, plug their ears, and harden their hearts. In this way they block the ordinary way [Luke 16:29–31] for the Holy Spirit so He cannot perform His work in them. Or, when they have heard God’s Word, they make light of it again and ignore it. But their wickedness is responsible for this ‹that they perish›, not God or His election (2 Peter 2:1–3; Luke 11:49–52; Hebrews 12:25–26).

13 12. A Christian should concern himself ‹in meditation› with the article about God’s eternal election only as far as it has been revealed in God’s Word. His Word presents Christ to us as the Book of Life, which He opens and reveals to us by the preaching of the Holy Gospel, as it is written in Romans 8:30, “And those whom He predestined He also called.” In Him we are to seek the eternal election of the Father, who has determined in His eternal divine counsel [Ephesians 1:11–12] that He would save no one except those who know His Son Christ and truly believe in Him. Other thoughts are to be ‹entirely› banished ‹from the minds of the godly›. For they do not come from God, but from the suggestion of the evil foe. With such thoughts he attempts to weaken or entirely remove us from the glorious comfort we have in this helpful doctrine. In other words, we know ‹assuredly› that out of pure grace, without any merit of our own, we have been elected in Christ to eternal life. No one can pluck us out of His hand [John 10:29]. He has not only promised this gracious election with mere words, but has also certified it with an oath and sealed it with the holy Sacraments. We can ‹ought to› call these to mind in our most severe temptations and take comfort in them, and with them we can quench the fiery darts of the devil [Ephesians 6:16].

14 13. Besides, we should act with the greatest diligence, to live according to God’s will. As St. Peter encourages in 2 Peter 1:10, “make your calling and election sure.” We should especially cling to ‹not recede a hair’s width from› the revealed Word, which cannot and will not fail us.

15 14. By this brief explanation of God’s eternal election, glory is entirely and fully given to God. Out of pure mercy alone, without any of our merit, He saves us according to the purpose of His will. No reason is given to anyone for despair or a vulgar, wild life. ‹No opportunity is afforded either for those more severe agitations of mind and faint-heartedness or for Epicureanism.›
ANTITHESES OR NEGATIVE STATEMENTS

False Teachings about This Article

16 We believe and hold this: When anyone teaches the doctrine about God’s gracious election to eternal life in such a way that troubled Christians cannot comfort themselves with this teaching, but are led to despondency or despair, or when the unrepentant are strengthened in their wild living, then the doctrine of election is not treated ‹wickedly and erroneously› according to God’s Word and will. Instead, this doctrine is being taught according to reason and by the encouragement of cursed Satan. It is as the apostle testifies in Romans 15:4: “Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Therefore, we reject the following errors:

17 1. God is unwilling that all people repent and believe the Gospel.

18 2. When God calls us to Himself, He is not eager that all people should come to Him.

19 3. God is unwilling that everyone should be saved. But some—without regard to their sins, from God’s mere counsel, purpose, and will—are chosen for condemnation so that they cannot be saved.

20 4. Something in us causes God’s election—not just God’s mercy and Christ’s most holy merit—because of which God has elected us to everlasting life.
Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, 477-79, 482-84, 498-500 (Formula of Concord: Epitome II, IV, XI)

  1. Why should I go to church?

A Christian maintains that living the faith is more difficult without a congregation.

Acts 2:41-47

  1. Why don't some people go to church?

The most popular reasons for avoiding church are it's boring, I don't fit in, there are mean people there, they just want money, my faith is my own private business, I can worship anywhere, I'm uncomfortable in crowds, and I don't know the rules.

Hebrews 10:25

  1. Why does going to church matter?

Sin and Satan try to isolate individuals from each other to more easily overcome them.

1 Peter 5:8; Galatians 5:19-20; Ecclesiastes 4:12; Acts 2:42

  1. Are there any bad reasons for going to church?

To be entertained, to impress or please someone, to make God happy with you, to feel better about yourself, to check on someone, to get away from someone, to get back at someone, to get free stuff, and to meet a boy or a girl are bad reasons to go to church.

Isaiah 29:13; John 2:16; 1 Corinthians 14:15; Psalm 2:11

  1. Why do Christians gather for worship on Sunday?

Sunday is when God began to create, when Jesus rose from the dead, and when the Holy Spirit came; Christians gather on Sunday to celebrate the Lord's Day and God's gifts.

Genesis 1:3, 5; John 20:1; Acts 2:1; Acts 20:7

  1. Is unity with other Christians really necessary?

Christianity is life with a Father and a family, and unity in a congregation shows we are one people in one body with one God and one faith.

Matthew 18:20; Matthew 12:50; Jeremiah 32:39; Romans 15:6

  1. What are the good reasons for Church?

At church we obey God's command to remember the holy day, we learn from God's Word, we give thanks, we make requests of God, we share sympathy and strength, we support common causes, and we strengthen our self-disciple through routine.

1 Corinthians 12:26-27; Acts 4:32; Luke 17:17-18

  1. What opportunities at church are not offered anywhere else?

We confess our sin, we commune with God, and we receive what He has promised: forgiveness, eternal life, and His Spirit.

John 6:53; James 5:16; John 6:68; John 15:7

ARTICLE VII



The Church

Note: Article VII has been rightly called the evangelical Magna Carta of the Lutheran Church. It cuts through the clutter of man-made ceremonies that had accumulated by the sixteenth century, focuses on the very heart of the matter, and defines church with eloquent simplicity. Outward unity in the Church is shaped, defined, and normed by biblical truth (teaching), not the other way around. Church fellowship is common participation in the saving treasures of the Church: Christ’s gifts, His Gospel, and His Sacraments. Not any “Gospel” will do, but only that Gospel which is purely taught alongside correctly administered Sacraments (as noted in the German version).


1 Our churches teach that one holy Church is to remain forever. The Church is the congregation of saints [Psalm 149:1] in which the Gospel is purely taught and the Sacraments are correctly administered. 2 For the true unity of the Church it is enough to agree about the doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments. 3 It is not necessary that human traditions, that is, rites or ceremonies instituted by men, should be the same everywhere. 4 As Paul says, “One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all” (Ephesians 4:5–6).
ARTICLE VIII

What the Church Is

Note: This article elaborates on Article VII and makes it clear that the Church consists only of believers in Christ, those made holy by His mercy. Hypocrites are not in this sense any part of the Church. One may think of the term church in a broad and narrow sense. The Church, broadly speaking, is all those who assemble around Word and Sacrament. Narrowly speaking, the Church encompasses only believers. There are not two churches, one “visible,” and one “invisible.” Rather, we understand that here on the earth the Church is hidden because faith, or spiritual life, is “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). This hidden Church has public, visible marks, by which it is recognized with absolute certainty: Christ’s Gospel and Sacraments, purely preached and administered.


1 Strictly speaking, the Church is the congregation of saints and true believers. However, because many hypocrites and evil persons are mingled within them in this life [Matthew 13:24–30], it is lawful to use Sacraments administered by evil men, according to the saying of Christ, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat” (Matthew 23:2). 2 Both the Sacraments and Word are effective because of Christ’s institution and command, even if they are administered by evil men.

3 Our churches condemn the Donatists, and others like them, who deny that it is lawful to use the ministry of evil men in the Church, and who think that the ministry of evil men is not useful and is ineffective.
Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, 34 (Augsburg Confession VII &VIII)

  1. Is God listening to me?

A Christian takes heart that in prayer our Father hears the voice of our faith and answers.

Luke 11:1-13

  1. What is praying?

Prayer is the voice of faith, talking to God like children to our Father; four kinds of prayers are thanksgivings, requests, confessions, and complaints.

Philippians 4:6; James 4:2

  1. Why do we pray?

We pray because we need God's power in our weaknesses, because we are disciples following the example of Jesus, because God commands us to pray, and because He promises to hear and answer us.

Psalm 50:15; James 5:13; Luke 5:16; Colossians 4:2; 2 Corinthians 1:20

  1. How should we pray?

Prayer comes from our sure faith in God and not from some kind of gamble; we pray for Jesus' sake and not our own, persistently and continuously, as a personal conversation with God and not a public speech.

Psalm 19:14; Matthew 21:22; John 16:23; Luke 18:1; Matthew 6:6

  1. What may we pray for?

We pray to God for the needs of others, for His will above our own wants, for what He alone promises and provides, for our bodily necessities, and most of all for our spiritual needs.

Ephesians 6:18; Luke 22:42; Ephesians 3:20; 1 Corinthians 12:31

  1. Do we need special words to pray?

Prayer always involves our thoughts but need not require words, since our Heavenly Father already knows the meditations and motivations of our hearts; and the number or nature of our words doesn't matter, because the Lord's words teach and lead us to pray.

Matthew 6:7; 1 Samuel 1:13; 1 Chronicles 28:9; Luke 11:1

  1. Are there special prayer postures or gestures?

Kneeling, bowing, folding or lifting hands, anointing with oil, and making the sign of the cross can help focus our minds and hearts on God's power and promises during prayer.

Daniel 6:10; Psalm 141:2; 1 Kings 1:16; James 5:14; Revelation 7:3

  1. What if we pray wrong?

There are no wrong ways to pray, only wrong reasons; but we are not heard because we are righteous anyway but because of God's great mercy; and God's own Son, as well as the Holy Spirit, the saints, and the angels pray with us and for us powerfully.

James 4:3; Romans 8:26; Revelation 5:8; Daniel 9:18

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