Today we resume our Friday series on the Augsburg Confession. And today we consider two of the articles. Why two? Because, grammatically, they are one. That is to say, the last sentence in Article IV continues on into Article V. They go together! Justification must be given, and received, by people. Therefore, from the Article on Justification proceeds the Article on The Ministry. Enjoy!
Article IV (Justification)
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] (Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions. Edited by Paul Timothy McCain. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005, S. 33).
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. (See also Ap IV; SA III XIII; FC Ep III and SD III.) (Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions. Edited by Paul Timothy McCain. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005, S. 33).
Article V (The Ministry)
1 So that we may obtain this faith, the ministry of teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. 2 Through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Spirit is given [John 20:22]. He works faith, when and where it pleases God [John 3:8], in those who hear the good news that God justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake. 3 This happens not through our own merits, but for Christ’s sake.
4 Our churches condemn the Anabaptists and others who think that through their own preparations and works the Holy Spirit comes to them without the external Word (Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions. Edited by Paul Timothy McCain. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005, S. 33).
Note: How can what Christ did for us two thousand years ago—through His life, death, and resurrection—become effective in our lives today? During the Reformation, as also today, some imagined they would experience the Holy Spirit through their own reflections, by enjoying nature, or by ecstatic religious experiences. The comforting truth is that the Holy Spirit works through objective, external, sure, and certain means of grace, through which we receive justification by grace alone, through faith alone, on account of Christ alone. While the most direct concern of Article V is to confess the Holy Spirit’s work through the means of grace, there is also in view, indirectly, the Office of the Ministry, which the German version of the Augsburg Confession calls “the Preaching Office” [das Predigtamt]. The Preaching Office is not instituted by man, but is established by God Himself. Article XIV discusses the necessity of the Church call. (See also SA III VII and X; Treatise.) (Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions. Edited by Paul Timothy McCain. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005, S. 33)
Keep us, O Lord, in the true faith. Send Your Holy Spirit to use Your Word to create, sustain, and strengthen faith in the hearts of Your people. Amen.