Let’s recap here for just a minute. Here are the first four Articles in the Augsburg Confession:
- I. God
- II. Original Sin
- III. The Son of God
- IV. Justification.
All well and good. Well, almost. Okay, sort of well and good. You recall that the Lutheran Reformers were in a very intense fight with the Church of Rome at the time, but they were also working to avoid falling off the other side of the horse along those who were going too far in other directions.
The previous article on Justification is where things started to get much more contentious with both sides of the horse; as noted last month, the truly Lutheran place in these discussions differs from both the Roman and the non-Lutheran Protestant positions.
You also remember that last time I exhorted y’all to “read, study, and inwardly digest” Ephesians 2:8-9 – a thoroughly “Lutheran” piece of scripture, context and all (as is all of Scripture!). One of the big questions that comes from the previous articles is: “Okay, if my strength, merits, and works do nothing to justify me before God, how does it happen?” Also, “It is a gift.”
This is another place where our “Readers’ Digest Condensed Version” of the Augsburg Confession is going to be sneaky. It will raise big questions. But the questions and their answers are important; as Lutherans we answer them differently than others, though in our understanding we also answer them in a clearly Biblical way. As a result, the differences in our answers are can be big.
This is one of those places. So now, let us again dive fearlessly into the stormy seas of the Reformation!
Article V: Of the Ministry.
So 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 Spirit is given, who effects faith where and when it pleases God in those who hear the Gospel, that is to say, in those who hear that God, not on account of our own merits but on account of Christ, justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake.
They condemn the Anabaptists and others who think that the Holy Spirit comes to human beings without the external Word through their own preparations and works.
If you take this apart you’ll hear a number of things that need more discussion. Like these:
- Faith isn’t something that we gin up by our own effort; we receive (“obtain”) this faith as a gift (!) (go back to Ephesians 2:8-9).
- We obtain faith ONLY through the teaching of the Gospel and the Sacraments by which the Holy Spirit comes to us, and at least in the first instance, we don’t go to Him.
- It is the Holy Spirit who works (“effects”) faith in us, and not that we work up faith in ourselves. I recently read what I think is a beautiful summary of this: faith (or trust, or belief) is a gift (!) from the object of faith. Like a baby trusts its mom and dad. Because mom and dad come to the baby to bless it with their love and care.
- That justification, i.e., forgiveness (from Article IV) involves nothing that you do.
- It comes to you through the church, via your minister.
I hope that these little tidbits are piquing your curiosity and raising questions about how this all fits together AND how it all fits beautifully with God’s Holy Scriptures. Remember that we have a total of 28 Articles in this confession of ours. It’ll get a little easier – or maybe the reasons get a little more obvious – as we get past the 21st Article.
But meanwhile, as always, you’re more than welcome to ask questions and sort through these things any time!