It’s Friday! That means we turn out attention to the Augsburg Confession. This week’s topic: What the Church is. And guess what? It’s not a building (in the proper sense!). Also, pay attention to the important confession that the character of the man who preaches or administers the Sacraments can not make void the Word of God—for that is where the power is. Enjoy!
Article VII (The Church)
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. Edited by Paul Timothy McCain. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005, S. 34)
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. (See also Ap VII and VIII; SA III XII.) (Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions. Edited by Paul Timothy McCain. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005, S. 34)