Book of Concord confessional study now offered twice weekly!
Because of popular demand, the Confessional Study, taken from the Book of Concord, is offered twice a week at St. Paul’s now! Pastor Siefert leads this open reading and discussion from the Book of Concord on Wednesdays from 7 – 8 p.m. and Thursdays from 12:10 – 12:50 p.m. (to accommodate lunch hours).
Briefly, what are the Lutheran confessions as written in the Book of Concord?
In Article 2 of our Synod’s constitution, we state that the members of our Synod accept “without reservation:
(1) The Scriptures of the Old and New Testament as the infallible written Word of God and the only rule and norm of faith and of practice, and;
(2) all the Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran church as a true and unadulterated statement and exposition of the Word of God.”
Article 2 then lists the documents found in the Book of Concord of 1580. But why are we tied to these 500-year-old (and in some cases even older!) writings?
More than historic relics, our confessions identify who we are as Lutherans, connect us to the church of all ages, and most of all, keep the Gospel of Christ crucified and risen for all people at the heart of our life and proclamation.
We have a common faith.
The Book of Concord begins with the Apostles, Nicene, and Athanasian creeds, which are not peculiar to Lutherans; they are shared by the whole Church. Written to combat false teaching, these creeds summarize teachings of Scripture held in common by all believers. We speak them in church as the living voice of the faithful who have gone before us. Next time you say the creeds, note the clear confession that the Jesus who died and rose for us is fully God and fully human.
Our confessions also locate us within the “one holy catholic (i.e., universal, Christian) and apostolic church” (Nicene creed). They show our teaching to be not a human invention (e.g., by Martin Luther), but the true teaching of the Church from the beginning. Scripture itself is the final authority, and our confessions teach us how to read the Bible so that Christ and the Gospel remain the beating heart of the Church’s life. We use the confessions as a standard that has been found faithful to the standard. No one has yet found any part of our confessions to be contrary to the Scriptures!
The first document in the Book of Concord is the Augsburg Confession, and considered primary among the specifically Lutheran confessions. It was prepared in 1530 by Philip Melanchthon, an associate of Martin Luther, as a summary of Bible teaching. Publicly read in Augsburg, Germany, on June 25th of that year before Charles V, the Holy Roman emperor and the most powerful ruler of the time, this confession shows how every article of faith is intended by God to bring the greatest possible comfort to the penitent sinner. At the heart of the Augsburg Confession, and essential for Lutherans, is the teaching that “we cannot obtain forgiveness of sin and righteousness before God through our own merit, work, or satisfactions, but… we receive forgiveness of sin and become righteous before God out of grace for Christ’s sake through faith when we believe that Christ has suffered for us and that for His sake our sin is forgiven and righteousness and eternal life are given to us” (Kolb/Wengert Book of Concord, pp. 38, 40; Fortress Press, 2000).
We will begin our study of the Book of Concord with this Augsburg Confession.
As each congregation has its own unique identity, our confessions still identify our congregations and pastors as Lutheran. At every ordination and installation of a pastor, he promises to be faithful to them, saying, “I make these confessions my own because they are in accord with the Word of God” (LSB Agenda, p. 179). In so doing, he is telling the people that they should expect from him a ministry focused on Christ crucified and risen for our sins and centered in the Word and Sacraments as God’s way to deliver the benefits of Christ’s death and resurrection. This promise, freely made, means the Lutheran pastor will teach and practice this theology because it is the saving truth. Every aspect of Lutheran theology is biblically designed to bring the greatest comfort in Christ to anyone who knows he or she is a sinner in need of grace and forgiveness.
And we desire that gift for everyone.
For our classes, new copies of the Book of Concord will be available.
God bless you all and see you in class!
Pastor Gary Siefert