Archive for February 16th, 2013

Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560) was a brilliant student of the classics and a humanist scholar. In 1518 he was appointed to teach along with Martin Luther at the University of Wittenberg. At Luther’s urging, Melanchthon began teaching theology and Scripture in addition to his courses in classical studies. In April of 1530, Emperor Charles V called an official meeting between the representative of Lutheranism and Roman Catholicism, hoping to effect a meeting of minds between two opposing groups. Since Luther was at that time under papal excommunication and an imperial ban, Melanchthon was assigned the duty of being the chief Lutheran representative at this meeting. He is especially remembered and honored as the author of the Augsburg Confession, which was officially presented by the German princes to the emperor on June 25, 1530, as the defining document of Lutheranism within Christendom. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, published by Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:  Philip Melanchthon also wrote The Apology of the Augsburg Confession (synonym of “apology” is “defense”).  It is  the second document  in The Book of Concord .  Not so long after the Augsburg Confession was presented to His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Charles V in the meeting of the Diet, in the city of Augsburg June 30, the papal theologians wrote the Roman Confutation of the Confession which was read publicly on August 3rd in the same place as the Augsburg Confession.  By April or May of 1531, Melanchthon wrote the final draft of the Apology and it eventually was signed as a Confession of the Faith as well.

The longest single section in the Apology is Article IV:  Justification,  some 60 pages.  This was and is still the central issue both dividing the churches and  the one doctrine which unites the Church.

In our corner of the world, one of our weekly newspapers has directory for churches.  The local Roman Catholic congregation describes quite clearly their doctrine:

“Assisted by Divine Grace, we have both the ability and the responsibility to live moral lives, taking as our standard of behavior the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes.”

In other words:  It’s  law alone with a little grace thrown in.  They have it “bass ackwards”!  And the Beatitudes are also Law?  The Law does not bless but accuses rightly of our sin.  The Lord blesses in the Beatitudes:  pure Gospel.  One of the summaries of the Biblical Doctrine of Justification is “sola gratia”, by grace alone.  But obviously the Roman doctrine says Jesus did not do a good enough job, in fact, you O man,you O woman,are still in the driver’s seat.   We are not assisted by divine grace, but saved by grace alone:

Ephesians 2:8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

One of the charges against the Reformers was that Justification was a heretical innovation.  The Book of Concord begins with the 3 Ecumenical/Universal Creeds of the Church to show that we are in apostolic succession of the pure saving doctrine from the time of our Lord’s earthly ministry:  The Apostles’, Nicene and Athanasian Creeds.   Before this becomes overly long, for instance, St. Augustine is very clear that it is by Jesus Christ ALONE, we are saved.  In his sermon on John 5: 1-8,  he points out that in the healing of the man was done amongst 5 porticos in the Temple and they represent the 5 Books of the Law. He preached:

Why, then, was the Law given? He goes on to say, “But the Scripture has concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” … The five porches are the Law. Why did not the five porches heal the sick? Because, “if there had been a law given which could have given life, surely righteousness should have been by the law.” Why, then, did the porches contain those whom they did not heal? Because “the Scripture has concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” (The Scripture passages are all from Romans)

Almighty God, we praise You for the service of Philipp Melanchthon to the one holy, catholic and apostolic church in the renewal of is life in fidelity to Your Word and promise.  Raise up in these gray and latter days faithful teachers and pastors, inspired by Your Spirit, whose voice will give strength to Your church and proclaim the ongoing reality of Your kingdom;  through Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 

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