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Archive for June 25th, 2015

Intro: The Augsburg Confession, the principal doctrinal statement of…Martin Luther and the Lutheran reformers, was written largely by Phillip Melanchthon. At its heart it confesses the justification of sinners by grace alone, through faith alone, for the sake of Christ alone. Signed by leaders of many German cities and regions, the confession was formally presented to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at Augsburg, Germany, on June 25, 1530. A few weeks later Roman Catholic authorities rejected the Confession, which Melanchthon defended in the Apology of the Augsburg Confession (1531). In 1580 the Unaltered Augsburg Confession was included in the Book of Concord. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

 The Augsburg Confession:  Article IV: Justification.

Our churches also teach that men cannot be justified before God  by their own strength, merits, or works but are freely justified for Christ’s sake through faith when they believe that they are received  into favor and that their sins are forgiven on account of Christ, who by his death made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God imputes for righteousness in his sight (Rom. 3, 4).

The common understanding that the Lutheran Church began on October 31, 1517, when Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses on the Wittenberg church door, is mistaken:

It was on this day, when the true and unadulterated Confession of the Catholic and Apostolic Faith was presented in Augsburg, that the Lutheran Church ‘began’. This was not declare independance  and begin a ‘new’ Church but the continuation of the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church” which proclaims justification by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, alone. Rev. Professor Hermann Sasse wrote it well: 

“Lutheran theology differs from Reformed theology in that it lays great emphasis on the fact that the evangelical church is none other than the medieval Catholic Church purged of certain heresies and abuses. The Lutheran theologian acknowledges that he belongs to the same visible church to which Thomas Aquinas and Bernard of Clairvaux, Augustine and Tertullian, Anthanasius and Irenaeus once belonged. The orthodox evangelical church is the legitimate continuation of the medieval Catholic Church, not the church of the Council of Trent and the Vatican Council which renounced evangelical truth when it rejected the Reformation.For the orthodox evangelical church is really identical with the orthodox Catholic Church of all times.” (Here We Stand (1932) by Rev. Hermann Sasse, Lutheran theologian and professor, at the time publication at the University of Erlangen)

The Fathers at Augsburg were not really trying to “change” or update the Church, or leave the Church, but change it back to the way it was according to the Gospel.  It was a conservative reformation. They did not want to start a new church, as did Calvin and Zwingli.  The orthodox confessional Church is catholic, literally, “according to the whole”, of the Bible, as when the faith was evangelically proclaimed and taught by the Church Fathers. It was a reformation not a revolution, yet this conservative reformation had revolutionary aspects for a tradition that confused itself as the truth, both Roman Catholic and Protestantism.

Even though historically significant as the posting of the 95 Theses was in Church history, Luther would later distance himself from some of his theses as being too papist.  It was in Augsburg that the Catholic Faith, reformed according to the Gospel and Justification was presented that the Lutheran Church continued.

Let us pray…

Lord God, heavenly Father, You preserved the teaching of the apostolic Church through the confession of the true faith at Augsburg. Continue to cast the bright beams of Your light upon Your Church that we, being instructed by the doctrine of the blessed apostles, may walk in the light of Your truth and finally attain to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

 For further reading on the Presentation

 

 

 

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