Augsburg Confession – Article 14 – Church Supervision

Articles 13, 14, 15 & 16 of the Augsburg Confession in the Book of Concord of 1580

(To read Article 13, click here.)

Regarding the supervision of the church, we teach that no one should publicly teach or preach or administer the sacraments in the church without a call issued in a regular and orderly way.

(To continue to Article 15, click here.)

Notes

The eventual titles given to this article were “Vom Kirchenregiment” (German) and “De ordine ecclesiastico” (Latin). The former refers to the management and supervision of the church, i.e. who is responsible, humanly speaking, for directing and running the church. The latter refers to the structure and setup of the church, i.e. how its work should be carried out in an orderly way.

Many Roman theologians accused the Lutherans of rejecting the public ministry and all order and authority in the church because of works such as Luther’s Concerning the Ministry (1523; Luther’s Works [AE] 40:3ff), in which Luther taught the priesthood of all believers. Melanchthon could not have answered that false accusation more clearly or concisely than he does here.

For proof passages, see Jeremiah 23:21; Romans 10:13-15; Ephesians 4:10-15; 1 Corinthians 4:1; 14:29,36-40; Titus 1:5. Today such calls are issued by God through the church; see Matthew 18:19,20; Acts 1:15-26; 6:1-6; 14:23 (where “had elders elected” is the best translation; see Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, Part 2, Topic 9, Section 4, §12).

The modern practice that could probably use the most guidance from this article is the practice of so-called lay-led Bible studies (that are officially sanctioned and promoted by Christians congregations) – a concept which, taken at face value, this article explicitly rejects on the basis of Scripture. The only lay-led Bible studies should be those led by fathers in their homes (or mothers, in cases where the father is an unbeliever or grossly derelict in his duty) and those that Christians may find the opportunity to lead with non-Christians or false-believing Christians. In many cases, such church-sanctioned Bible studies do in fact meet the criteria of this article in substance; that is, the people leading the Bible studies have in fact been called by the congregation in a regular and orderly way. But in those cases the Bible studies should not be called “lay-led,” because that label is both false and misleading. Those leading the Bible studies in those cases are in fact doing so as public ministers of the gospel, albeit with a much narrower scope of ministry than the parish pastor. (Such ministers could be labeled, e.g., deacons, staff ministers, or Bible study teachers.) However, even before such a call is issued, it must be established that calling a layperson without any formal theological training to such a position is approved by both the congregation in question and the church body at large to which the congregation belongs – which is a significant part of “in a regular and orderly way.”

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Augsburg Confession – Article 8 – The Efficacy of the Gospel

Articles 6, 7 & 8 of the Augsburg Confession in the Book of Concord of 1580

(To read Article 7, click here.)

We likewise teach that, although the Christian church, properly speaking, is nothing else than the gathering of all believers and saints, nevertheless, since in this life many false Christians and hypocrites, even public sinners,1 remain in the company of the pious, the sacraments are just as effectual even when the priests who administer them are not pious, as Christ himself declares: “The Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat, etc.”2

We therefore condemn the Donatists and all others who hold otherwise.3

(To continue to Article 9, click here.)

Notes

1 Melanchthon appears to use false Christians and hypocrites synonymously here, as many continue to do today, to refer to people who say and do one thing in church assemblies but say and do the contrary at other times. Nevertheless, we may distinguish false Christians, hypocrites, and public sinners as follows: False Christians are those just mentioned, those who give some sort of lip service to Christianity but clearly do not take it to heart and put it into practice in their everyday lives. Hypocrites, as Jesus usually defines them (e.g. Matthew 15:7,8; 23:25,27), are those who both give lip service to Christianity and outwardly put it into practice, but they do not actually believe the gospel to which they outwardly adhere and their motives are false and selfish. Hypocrites may, in fact, be the most active and dedicated members at a church. (Thus it is technically incorrect to identify anyone as a hypocrite, unless you are Jesus of Nazareth, since only God can see and judge the heart.) Public sinners are those who, for whatever reason (oftentimes, though not always, due to laziness on the part of the church’s leadership), still have some sort of official connection to and standing in a Christian church or organization, but it is manifest to everyone from the consistent evidence of both words and deeds that they are wicked and impious.

2 Matthew 23:2f; for other proof passages, see Matthew 16:15-19 and Philippians 1:15-18.

3 The Latin version concludes: “…the Donatists and those who have similarly denied that the ministry of wicked men may be used in the church and who have thought that the ministry of wicked men is useless and ineffectual.” The Donatists were a sect of Christianity named after Donatus Magnus, one of the bishops of Carthage in North Africa in the early 4th century AD. They were a strict group of African Christians who denounced the bishops who had conducted themselves in an unbecoming manner during the persecution under Diocletian (Emperor from 284-305) and claimed that the ministry and all the ministerial acts of such bishops were invalid.

Strieter Autobiography: Career Decision

[Continued from Part 11. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Seminary (continued)

The idea now occurred to me of becoming a minister [Diener] of the Church myself, even if only as a teacher. I carried the idea around with me and couldn’t get rid of it. I sought refuge in prayer. Over at the edge of the woods stood a white ash, behind which I knelt down and prayed that God would please remove the idea from my heart, because I was unfit. Daily, often several times, I went to find my prayer altar, but the idea only grew more and more intense.

Finally I opened up about it to my brother-in-law Auch. He advised me against it at first, because, in fact, I did not have the gifts necessary for becoming a missionary, and being a missionary’s assistant was too unstable. He furthermore cited the fact that I did not have the educational background for such studies, and that I also did not have the means. In all these points he was absolutely correct. Instead he now made me this proposal: “Stay with us. We have no children. You’ll be like our very own.” He offered me a horse as a gift, a young and beautiful animal, and – get this – he told me he had 700 dollars available, if I’m not mistaken, and that he wanted to lend it to me without interest as long as I wanted. I should use the money to acquire some land. The land on which they were living and the surrounding land was school property and would soon be for sale, 50 cents an acre. In five years there would be a small town here, he said, and I could then resell the acres for 100 dollars apiece. He had purchased 40 acres at the mouth of the river in order to cut off the speculators. The Indians were prophesying an abundant whitefish harvest in the fall. He said I should buy myself a “bag net,” hire a man, buy barrels and salt, stretch the net across the creek in the evening and pull it out full in the morning. Out in the distance, a mile or so away, were two small little islands; a ship could moor along one of them. I could take my fish there with our boat and get three and a half to four dollars a barrel. And actually the promised catch of fish did turn out to be so abundant that a Frenchman and his assistant caught 1200 barrels full off of Fish Point, which is what they called a promontory not too far from the mouth of the river. What he said about the small town also came true.

“Thousands!” I thought. “This way you can become a fairly rich man without a lot of work. Do it!” But I didn’t accept right away.

Auch said, “Think it over!”

I now often ran back to my white ash, but the more I prayed, mostly to be rid of the idea of studying, the more fervent the idea became.

“So,” my brother-in-law asked one day, “what do you want to do?”

I said, “I want to stay true to my idea.”

“Good,” he said. “The next conference is at my place. I will present it to Crämer then.”

Auch traveled to Saginaw with his boat and brought Crämer, Gräbner, Clöter, Sievers, Baierlein, Kühn and a man named Sommer, who was still supposed to be at the seminary, and Mr. Bergrat Koch, Siever’s father-in-law, who had just recently brought his daughter from Germany to be dear Pastor Siever’s wife. The conference was held in the schoolroom. After the conference the gentlemen, especially Crämer, had another serious debate, with Mr. Koch. Mr. Koch thought that the secular arm was needed for the spread of the Church, and we were lacking that here. Crämer and the others didn’t want to have anything to do with a secular arm. Crämer took me aside and said, “You, sir, are going with me to Frankenmuth, and I will see if you’ve got what it takes. If you are fit, then you will go to the seminary in Fort Wayne, and if not, you will go back to Sebewaing.”

I packed my bundle. Meyer’s wife was also there. When it was time to go, they both cried and I did too. Brother-in-law Auch brought the group to Saginaw by boat. Then I headed to Frankenmuth on foot.

[Read the next part here.]