#8-The Augsburg Confession Built Upon the Unshaken Foundation of the Word of God

“In this they distinctly and unreservedly declared the points which were believed and publicly taught in the evangelical and reformed churches, in respect to the principal articles; (especially in respect to those articles which had become subjects of dispute between themselves and the Papists). Our adversaries received this Confession with great displeasure, indeed, but to this day they have not been able either to refute or to overthrow it.

Embracing with our whole heart this pious Augsburg Confession, built as it is upon the unshaken foundation of the Word of God, we now again publicly and solemnly profess it; and we adhere to that simple, pure, and perspicuous doctrine which its own expressions exhibit. We conceive it to be the pious symbol of our day, which devout minds ought to adopt next to the invincible authority of the Word of God. In the same manner very serious religious controversies formerly arose in the church of God, and confessions and pious symbols were written, which sincere teachers and hearers embraced with their whole soul, and publicly professed. And indeed, assisted by the grace of Almighty God, we shall firmly persevere to the latest breath in the doctrine of this pious Confession, as it was exhibited to the emperor Charles V., A. D. 1530. Nor do we design in this or any other writing, to depart an hair-breadth from said Confession, or to frame a different or a new Confession” (Formula of Concord, Full Declaration, Preface, Henkel p.593-594).

#7-The Doctrine of Our Christian Religion—Clearly Unfolded and Purified

“A Full Declaration:  A complete, clear, correct, and final repetition and declaration of certain articles of the Augsburg Confession, concerning which, for some time, disputes had been maintained among some theologians attached to that confession; in which these disputes are determined and reconciled according to the authority of the Word of God, and to the summary contents of our Christian doctrine.

PREFACE.  By the inestimable goodness and mercy of Almighty God, the doctrine concerning the principal articles of our Christian religion, which had been shamefully obscured during the Papacy by the opinions and traditions of men, has now again been clearly unfolded and purified, according to the rule and analogy of the Word of God, by the labors of Dr. Luther, of blessed memory, while Papistical errors, abuses, and idolatry have been seriously rebuked. By this pious reformation, our adversaries supposed that new doctrines were introduced into the church of God; and as if this reformation were repugnant to the Word of God, and entirely subversive of all pious institutions, they assailed it with violence, but without truth, and loaded it with almost infinite calumnies, on grounds which were not even plausible. Influenced by this consideration, those electors, princes, and estates of the empire, who were distinguished by their piety, and who had at that time embraced the pure doctrine of the Gospel, and had reformed their own churches according to the rule of the Word of God, at the numerous and celebrated Diet of Augsburg, held A. D. 1530, carefully provided that a pious Confession, derived from the holy Scriptures, should be drawn up in writing; and they exhibited that confession to the emperor Charles V” (Formula of Concord, Full Declaration, Preface, Henkel p.593).

#6-Either You Wrestle with the Devil or You Belong To Him

“If we wish to stand upon the councils and counsels of men, we lose the Scriptures altogether and remain in the devil’s possession body and soul.  He is Satan, and Satan is his name, i.e. an adversary.  He must obstruct and cause misfortune; he cannot do otherwise. Moreover, he is the prince and god of this world, so that he has sufficient power to do so. Since he is able and determined to do all this, we must not imagine that we shall have peace from him. He takes no vacation and he does not sleep. Choose, then, whether you prefer to wrestle with the devil or whether you prefer to belong to him. If you consent to be his, you will receive his guarantee to leave you in peace with the Scriptures. If you refuse to be his, defend yourself, go at him! He will not pass you by; he will create such dissension and sectarianism over the Scriptures that you will not know where Scriptures, faith, Christ, and you yourself stand.

Woe betide all our teachers and authors, who go their merry way and spew forth whatever is uppermost in their minds, and do not first turn a thought over ten times to be sure it is right in the sight of God! These think the devil is away for a while in Babylon, or asleep at their side like a dog on a cushion. They do not consider that he is round about them with all his venomous flaming darts which he puts into them, such superlatively beautiful thoughts adorned with Scripture that they are unaware of what is happening. Here no admonition, no warnings, no threats are of any avail. The devil is master of a thousand arts. If God does not defend and help us, all our actions and counsels are nothing. No matter which way you look at it, the devil is the prince of this world. He who does not know this, let him try and see. I have had some experience in this matter. But no one will believe me until he experiences it also” (Luther’s Works, vol. 37, p.17-18).

#5-The Devil is Too Clever and Too Mighty For Us

“However, he does not leave the matter there, but quick as a flash goes to work on the sacraments, although in this respect he has already torn at least ten rips and loopholes in the Scriptures. I have never read of a more shameful heresy, which from the outset has gathered to itself so many heads, so many factions and dissensions, although on the main point, the persecution of Christ, they are united. But he will keep on and attack still other articles of faith, as he already declares with flashing eyes that baptism, original sin, and Christ are nothing.  Once more there will arise a brawl over the Scriptures, and such dissension and so many factions that we may well say with St. Paul, ‘The mystery of lawlessness is already at work’ [II Thess. 2:7], just as he also saw that many more factions would arise after him.

If the world lasts much longer, men will, as the ancients did, once more turn to human schemes on account of this dissension, and again issue laws and regulations to keep the people in the unity of the faith. Their success will be the same as it was in the past.

In short, the devil is too clever and too mighty for us. He resists and hinders us at every point. When we wish to deal with Scripture, he stirs up so much dissension and quarreling over it that we lose our interest in it and become reluctant to trust it. We must forever be scuffling and wrestling with him” (Luther’s Works, vol. 37, p.16-17).

Galatians Bible Study, Pt. 15: When Adiaphora is not Adiaphora

Class #15:  Concerning those things which are neither commanded nor forbidden by the Scriptures (called adiaphora), we are free to do or not do. However, when St. Peter by his pretense began to compel the Gentiles to keep the ceremonial food laws in order to be saved(2:14), the principle doctrine of Christianity was at stake.  St. Paul rightfully objected.  St. Peter knew that a man was saved by grace through faith and apart from works, but out of fear(2:12) he did not behave in keeping with the truth of the Gospel.

We must always distinguish between the law and the gospel.  The law is rightly used to curb the sinful nature, to show us our sins, and to guide the thankful heart as how to please God.  However, when it comes to justification (being declared righteous), the law has no place.  The conscience trusts in the Gospel message alone for salvation.

Overhead:Galatians Class 15 Overhead

Galatians Bible Study Class #16 will not be published until January 3.

Saturday Ember Day Sermon – 12/17/2016

This year’s ember day sermons are based on the Apostles’ Creed.  This third sermon is on the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed and is entitled, “The Sanctifier And The Sanctified.”   (Note: Based on Luther’s Sermons on the Catechism, 1528 — See pages 162-169 of Luther’s Works, volume 51)

“1] Thus far we have heard the first part of Christian doctrine, in which we have seen all that God wishes us to do or to leave undone. Now, there properly follows the Creed, which sets forth to us everything that we must expect and receive from God, and, to state it quite briefly, teaches us to know Him fully. 2] And this is intended to help us do that which according to the Ten Commandments we ought to do. For (as said above) they are set so high that all human ability is far too feeble and weak to [attain to or] keep them. Therefore it is as necessary to learn this part as the former in order that we may know how to attain thereto, whence and whereby to obtain such power. 3] For if we could by our own powers keep the Ten Commandments as they are to be kept, we would need nothing further, neither the Creed nor the Lord’s Prayer. 4] But before we explain this advantage and necessity of the Creed, it is sufficient at first for the simple-minded that they learn to comprehend and understand the Creed itself.

5] In the first place, the Creed has hitherto been divided into twelve articles, although, if all points which are written in the Scriptures and which belong to the Creed were to be distinctly set forth, there would be far more articles, nor could they all be clearly expressed in so few words. 6] But that it may be most easily and clearly understood as it is to be taught to children, we shall briefly sum up the entire Creed in three chief articles, according to the three persons in the Godhead, to whom everything that we believe is related, so that the First Article, of God the Father, explains Creation, the Second Article, of the Son, Redemption, and the Third, of the Holy Ghost, Sanctification. 7] Just as though the Creed were briefly comprehended in so many words: I believe in God the Father, who has created me; I believe in God the Son, who has redeemed me; I believe in the Holy Ghost, who sanctifies me. One God and one faith, but three persons, therefore also three articles or confessions. 8] Let us briefly run over the words.” (THE LARGE CATECHISM  By Dr. Martin Luther, Part Second.  OF THE CREED.)

#4-A United Blindness, but also an Ignorance of the Scriptures

20160714_201607b“This is the way the plot worked out for the fathers: Since they contrived to have the Scriptures without quarreling and dissension, they thereby became the cause of men’s turning wholly and completely away from the Scriptures to mere human drivel. Then, of course, dissension and contention over the Scriptures necessarily ceased, which is a divine quarrel wherein God contends with the devil, as St. Paul says in Ephesians 6[:12], ‘We have to contend not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual wickedness in the air.’ But in place of this, there has broken out human dissension over temporal honor and goods on earth, yet there remain a united blindness and ignorance of the Scriptures and a loss of the true Christian faith, i.e. a united obedience to the glosses of the fathers and to the holy see at Rome. Isn’t this also a piece of devilish craftiness? No matter what play we make, he is a master and an expert at the game.

Now in our day, having seen that Scripture was utterly neglected and the devil was making captives and fools of us by the mere straw and hay of man-made laws, we have tried by God’s grace to offer some help in the matter. With immense and bitter effort indeed we have brought the Scriptures to the fore again and released the people from man-made laws, freed ourselves and escaped the devil, although he stubbornly resisted and still continues to do so. However, even though he has had to let us go, he does not forget his tricks. He has secretly sown his seed among us so that they may take hold of our teachings and words, not to aid and assist us in fostering the Scriptures, but, while we were leading in the fight against human drivel, to fall upon our host from the rear, incite rebellion and raise an uproar against us, in order that caught between two enemies, we may be more easily destroyed. This is what I call throwing quicksilver into the pond!” (Luther’s Works, vol. 37, p.15-16).

Friday Ember Day Sermon – 12/16/2016

This year’s ember day sermons are based on the Apostles’ Creed.  This second sermon is on the Second Article of the Apostles’ Creed and is entitled, “The Redeemer And The Redeemed.”  (Note: Based on Luther’s Sermons on the Catechism, 1528 — See pages 162-169 of Luther’s Works, volume 51)

“Thus we have, in all, five parts covering the whole of Christian doctrine, which we should constantly teach and require young people to recite word for word. Do not assume that they will learn and retain this teaching from sermons alone. 25 When these parts have been well learned, you may assign them also some Psalms and some hymns,[1] based on these subjects, to supplement and confirm their knowledge. Thus our youth will be led into the Scriptures so they make progress daily.

26 However, it is not enough for them simply to learn and repeat these parts verbatim. The young people should also attend preaching, especially at the time designated for the Catechism, so that they may hear it explained and may learn the meaning of every part. Then they will also be able to repeat what they have heard and give a good, correct answer when they are questioned, and thus the preaching will not be without benefit and fruit.  27 The reason we take such care to preach on the Catechism frequently is to impress it upon our youth, not in a lofty and learned manner but briefly and very simply, so that it may penetrate deeply into their minds and remain fixed in their memories.”[2]

[1] Luther himself wrote six hymns based on the parts of the Catechism.

[2] Preface of 1529, Large Catechism, (Tappert, T. G. 2000, c1959. The Book of Concord : The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Fortress Press: Philadelphia).

Wednesday Ember Day Sermon – 12/14/16

This year’s ember day sermons are based on the Apostles’ Creed.  This first sermon is on the First Article of the Apostles’ Creed and is entitled, “The Creator And The Created.”   (Note: Based on Luther’s Sermons on the Catechism, 1528 — See pages 162-169 of Luther’s Works, volume 51)

“The material in the Large Catechism originated as sermons by Martin Luther on the basic texts of Christian teaching.  Already in the Middle Ages, some regional synods in Germany had called for regular preaching on the “catechism” (usually defined as the Ten Commandment, Apostles’ Creed, Lord’s Prayer and, sometimes, the Ave Maria).  The Ember Days, four time of fasting spread throughout the church year {The Wednesday, Friday and Saturday after 1st Sunday in Lent, Pentecost, Holy Cross Day(Sep 14), and St. Lucia’s Day(Dec 13)}, were often designated for this purpose.  Even before the Reformation, Wittenberg’s city church, St. Mary’s also seems to have followed this practice.  Luther himself preached on various portions of the catechism as early as 1518”  (The Book of Concord, Kolb, preface to Large Catechism, p.377)