Augsburg Confession – Article 25 – Confession

Article 25 of the Augsburg Confession in the Book of Concord of 1580

(To read Article 24, click here.)

Confession has not been done away with by the preachers on our side. For we observe the custom of not giving the Sacrament to those who have not first been heard and absolved.1 Thereby the people are diligently instructed how comforting the pronouncement of absolution is and how much they ought to esteem and cherish absolution. For it is not the voice or word of the person on hand that forgives sin, but God’s word that does so.2 For it is spoken in God’s stead and by God’s command. We teach with great diligence how comforting and how necessary this command and power of the keys is for terrified consciences. We also teach how God requires us to believe this absolution, no less than if God’s own voice were booming from the sky, and gladly to take comfort in the absolution and to know that we obtain forgiveness of sins through such faith. In the past, the preachers who did a lot of teaching about confession did not touch on a single word about these necessary points. Instead they only tortured consciences with prolonged enumeration of sins, with satisfaction, with indulgences, with pilgrimages and the like. And many of our opponents themselves confess that our side has treated and written about true Christian repentance more competently than has been done in a long time.

And this is what we teach about confession: No one should be forced to enumerate their sins one by one. For such a thing is impossible, as the psalm says, “Who can know his misdeeds?” And Jeremiah says, “The human heart is so corrupt that no one can completely understand it.” The wretched human nature is stuck so deep in sins that it cannot see or know them all, and if we were only to be absolved of those that we could list, there would be little help for us. Therefore it is not necessary to force the people to enumerate their sins one by one. That was also the position of the Fathers, as one finds in Part 2, Subject 33, Question 3 (concerning repentance), Distinction 1, where the words of Chrysostom are cited: “I am not saying that you should indict yourselves publicly or accuse yourself or admit your guilt with each other. Rather obey the prophet, who says, ‘Reveal your ways to the Lord.’ Therefore confess to God the Lord, the true Judge, along with your other prayers. Do not speak your sins with the tongue, but in your conscience.”3 Here one can clearly see that Chrysostom does not compel the enumerating of sins one by one. That is also what the gloss teaches in Question 3, Distinction 5 of the Decrees, that confession is not commanded by Scripture, but was instituted by the churches.4 Nevertheless, the preachers on our side do diligently teach that confession should be retained on account of the absolution, which is the chief and most important component of it, for the comfort of terrified consciences, and for several other reasons as well.5

(To continue to Article 26, click here.)

Notes

1 See 1 Corinthians 11:28 for Paul’s inspired instruction that would-be communicants should examine themselves before partaking of the Holy Supper. Private confession was regarded as an excellent way to aid in such self-examination. Five questions that are useful for self-examination are:

  1. Do I realize and confess that I am a sinner in need of what Jesus offers and gives in the Sacrament? (Matthew 26:26-28)
  2. Do I believe that Jesus does truly forgive my sins and assure me of his love through the Sacrament? (Matthew 26:26-28)
  3. Do I believe that Jesus miraculously gives his actual body and blood to me in this Sacrament, the same body that hung on the cross for me, the same blood that was shed on the cross for me? (Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-32)
  4. Do I also recognize and believe that this Supper is an expression of unity with my fellow believers, and that I should therefore approach the Supper and depart from the Supper with conduct that reflects this? (1 Corinthians 10:16,17; 11:20-34)
  5. Am I holding a grudge against anyone or deliberately and willingly persisting in any other sin? (Matthew 6:14,15; 18:21-35; Hebrews 10:26-31)

Private confession with a clergyman was/is especially helpful with the first and second questions. However, see the remainder of this article and Notes 3 & 4 below; the Lutherans did/do understand that private confession to a clergyman was a tradition, not a scriptural mandate.

2 Melanchthon’s German appears to be sloppy here. Following his grammar strictly yields something like: “For it is not the voice or word of the person on hand, but God’s word, the One who forgives sin.” But this does not flow well or read smoothly in the context.

3 See Gratian’s Decretum, Part 2, Subject 33, Question 3, Distinction 1, Chapter 87 here (type 1185 in the “Jump to page” field and click Go). The original quote from Chrysostom is found in Homily 31 on Hebrews, §6 (original Greek in §3 in col. 216 here).

It is interesting to note the historical context in which Chrysostom preached these words. He was bishop of Constantinople at the time (398-404 AD), having succeeded Bishop Nectarius (381-397). Up until Nectarius’ time, there had been a so-called presbyter of penitence or penitentiary in the Eastern Christian churches, who was appointed to hear the confessions of the faithful before they were communed. The story is slightly different depending on which of the two church historians you read, Socrates Scholasticus (c. 440) or Sozomen (c. 445), but either way a lady of the nobility is involved. She was either raped by a deacon while fasting and praying in the church after confession, or after having confessed once, she returned to confess again, this time admitting that she had slept with a deacon. This ruined the reputation of the clergy as a whole, and the practice of private confession also suffered. Bishop Nectarius, after consulting with others, decided to abolish the office of penitentiary, and to leave everyone to his own conscience with regard to self-examination and preparation for Communion. This is the setting into which Chrysostom arrived when he succeeded Nectarius. One can see Chrysostom’s sensitivity to the matter both in asserting that confessing to others was not absolutely necessary and in nevertheless stressing the importance of examining oneself regularly and confessing one’s sins to God.

4 See Gratian’s Decretum, Part 2, Subject 33, Question 3, Distinction 5, Chapter 1 here (type 1245 in the “Jump to page” field and click Go). Melanchthon’s citation found in gloss a, on the words “In pænitentia,” and reads:

But it is better to say that [private confession] was instituted from some tradition of the universal church rather than from the authority of the New or Old Testament. And the tradition of the church obligates just like a command does… Therefore confession is necessary among us in the case of mortal sins; among the Greeks it is not, because such a tradition did not arise among them.

However, see Note 3 above, which demonstrates that it did arise among them, but was subsequently abolished, which was able to be done because, though the practice was useful, it was not mandated by Scripture.

5 This article is an expansion of Article 11; refer back to that article for more notes and proof passages.

Strieter Autobiography: Announcing for Communion

[Continued from Part 21. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Wisconsin (continued)

The people had the custom of not standing around in front of the schoolhouse or residence, but of going inside and singing until I arrived. They had Bollhagen’s hymnal,12 which in the main part had our hymns more or less unaltered. It had several appendices that contained rationalistic hymns. One man told me, “Our preacher in Germany always had us sing from the second appendix.” That’s where the worst hymns were.13 I looked up all the hymns that were in our St. Louis hymnal14 and wrote the page number in Bollhagen’s hymnal on the side. I purchased hymnals from Barthel and sold them, and thus I brought our hymnal into use among the people. At first I would say, “In my hymnal, no. —, in Bollhagen’s, page —.”

The people sang well and knew all the melodies. It never happened to me once that we were unable to sing a hymn. Almost everywhere I had some men who would act as the precentor. I would begin, and some good singer would take it up. Then I would save my voice as much as possible.

One time I noticed over at Buchholz’s that every last person was standing in front of the church. (There they soon built a log church thatched with straw,15 and soon another one just like it at Donning’s.16) When I got there, someone said, “Father died the day before yesterday. Please give a funeral sermon before you go into the church.” I announce the hymn, “Who Knows When Death May Overtake Me,” and while they are singing, I think of a text for myself and what I am going to say.

Now with the Lord’s Supper I had some anxiety. My Stelter – he was an administrator [Vorsteher] and a very dear Christian – said, “When we were abroad, people announced for the Supper with the schoolteacher or with the custodian. No one went to the preacher.”

I think to myself, “Where do you even start?” I give a speech and show what the Lutheran custom is, namely to announce for the Supper beforehand with the pastor, and I show how necessary this is for me and them.

But the reply was, “We’re not used to that,” meaning that it wasn’t necessary either.

A former schoolmaster from Germany wanted to know where it stood in the Bible that you had to announce for the Supper. I had already cited the passages, “We are stewards” [cf. 1 Corinthians 4:1], and, “Do not throw your pearls to the sows” [Matthew 7:6], and now I also pointed to the passage, “Confess your sins to each other” [James 5:16]; they confessed their sins to John.17 He was quiet. But they still could not and would not see the necessity of the practice.18

I say, “But what then if it is absolutely necessary for me to say something to someone for the sake of my conscience?”

They reply, “Then just say it.”

I say, “In front of everyone?”

They say, “But of course!”

I say, “Fine, that’s what I’ll do.”

I allow every single person to give me his or her name, and I always write it down. When I held Lord’s Supper at Buchholz’s for the first time, I had 75 male and 75 female names in my book. After that I posed the following questions: Do you believe from the heart in Jesus Christ as your Savior? Do you believe that in the Lord’s Supper the true body and blood of Christ is eaten and drunk under bread and wine? Are you reconciled, and do you wish to partake of the Holy Supper as repentant sinners? These questions were answered Yes in chorus.

But it didn’t take long before it happened as I thought it would. One time I’m going home from Princeton and see how someone is unhitching his oxen from the cart and letting them drink and hitching them back up again, and he’s so drunk that he can hardly get it done. On Sunday there’s Lord’s Supper at W[arnke]’s. My man is sitting way in the back, but gives his name too.

I say, “But my dear man, I have something to say to you, sir. I saw you there completely drunk, did I not?”

He says, “Yeah.”

I say, “Does this happen with you at other times, sir?”

He says, “Yeah.”

I say, “You, sir, are a drunkard then. A drunkard cannot inherit the kingdom of God; God’s word condemns him [cf. 1 Corinthians 6:10]. He can only take the Holy Supper to his detriment.”

He says yeah, he was sorry and would amend his ways.

I say, “You, sir, must repent, sincerely, acknowledge your sin and hasten in faith with your sins to your Savior. Repentant, as a Christian, you must go to the Lord’s Supper.”

He says, “Yes, I will do that.”

I say, “I will give you the Lord’s Supper then, but I will be watching you to see whether you are serious about improving.”

Later, on the way home, a man is standing at the bottom of the little hill where I have to turn and he says, “Mr. Preacher, one moment!” I halt. He says, “I also want to go to the Supper. Will you take me, sir?”

I say, “You know my questions, sir. What is your position on them?”

He says, “I am not reconciled. My brother-in-law N. and I are mortal enemies and I would sooner go to hell than forgive him.”

“My dear man,” I say, “how then are you going to go to the Supper? Doesn’t the Lord say that if you do not forgive people their failings, then your heavenly Father will not forgive you yours either [cf. Matthew 6:15]?”

He says, “I know well that according to the teaching of Jesus I cannot go to the Supper.”

The Lord’s Supper is at B[uchholz]’s. After the names are recorded, a father stands up and says this: “Mr. Preacher, So-and-so and Such-and-such, my daughter and my son-in-law, have also announced, and they are at enmity with us.”

I ask the accused; they admit it. I say, “Then reconcile with each other immediately! All four of you step into the aisle and extend your hands in reconciliation.” They do so.

A mother stands up: “Mr. Preacher, So-and-so, my son, has also announced, and he’s a drinker. Please admonish him.”

I admonish him.

The Lord’s Supper is at T[agatz]’s. There I learn that [Mr.] H. doesn’t believe in any devil. He announces.

“Mr. H., is it true what I hear about you, sir, that you deny the existence of the devil?”

He says, “How can I believe that there is a devil, when no one has ever seen him?”

I say, “Sure someone has seen him – there in the wilderness [rf. Matthew 4:1-11]. Haven’t you heard about that yet, sir?”

He says, “Oh sure, but I can’t believe it.”

I say, “Then you do not believe God’s word, sir. Then you also cannot believe the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper, so you cannot go to the Supper.”

In the course of time one administrator after another comes to me. They say, “Mr. Preacher, the people don’t like having you tell them their shame right to their face in front of everyone.”

I say, “That’s exactly what I suspected!”

I now present again how necessary it is to announce. This time they want to do it. I now say that I will set a day on which they should announce; for those far away I will hold it so that they can announce by my buggy before church. And that’s how it went. That’s how I got private confession and announcing for the Lord’s Supper going.

One time I’m going to B[uchholz’s] for announcement in the church. On the way someone calls to me, “Mr. Preacher, we would also like to go to the Supper. Will you write us down here?”

“Gladly.”

He says, “But the question is whether I am allowed to go?”

I say, “Why wouldn’t you be?”

He says, “Yeah, I am in conflict with my neighbor [Mr.] P, who let his cattle in my pasture. I told him about it, but to no avail. Then I sued him and he was judged guilty. But in front of the court he came up to me and socked me one in the face and went to the judge and laid 5 dollars down. I go to him later and confront him with his wrong, but he says, ‘I have paid for that.’”

I say, “If you have offered him reconciliation and he didn’t want it, then you, sir, can go to the Supper, but he cannot.”

I reach my destination. Sure enough! My [Mr.] P. comes and announces. I confront him with what [Mr.] M. said. He admits it, but also refers to his 5 dollars. I say, “Listen here, sir, you know better than that. You know that you cannot make up for your sins with 5 dollars. You must ask [Mr.] M. to forgive you.”

“I will not do that.”

I say, “Then you cannot go to the Supper either.”

He makes a sour face and leaves.

After the service the administrators are occupied with something else, and I come out of the sacristy with my basket. (I always had to bring everything with me.) My [Mr.] P is also still there and starts in: “Listen, you administrators, I have something to tell you. I am in conflict with [Mr.] M. To him he gives the Supper, but not to me.”

I now lay the matter before them. My administrators said, “The preacher did exactly right.”

Later a woman came and said, “Mr. P. has threatened that he’s going to give you a sound thrashing, sir. I would definitely watch out; he is a wild man.”

I say, “Did he say that to you, ma’am?”

She says, “Yes.”

I say, “Good, give him my regards and tell him that here under the hay is a small little gun, loaded and ready. If he should attack me in the woods like a murderous robber, I will shoot him stone dead.”

But he did not come.

Endnotes

12 Laurentius David Bollhagen (1683-1738) first issued his Heilige Lippen- und Herzensopfer einer gläubigen Seele oder Vollständiges Gesangbuch (Holy Offerings from the Lips and Heart of a Believing Soul or Complete Hymnal) in 1724 for use in public worship in Pomerania. It was reprinted several times after his death. In 19th century editions the first word was changed from Heilige to Heiliges (A Holy Offering…).

13 The second appendix contained such hymns as “Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers” (Christian Worship 7), “The Bridegroom Soon Will Call Us” (CW 10), “Come, Oh, Come, Life-Giving Spirit” (CW 181), “Alleluia! Let Praises Ring” (CW 241), and “Renew Me, O Eternal Light” (CW 471). Strieter, however, probably did not especially care for the strong representation in that section of Pietistic hymns and hymnwriters. And I am sure that hymn #1203, for example, made him positively shudder. Attributed to a certain J. P. v. Schult, it opens thus:

Jesus, come with your Father,
Come to me – I love you!
Come, O faithful Counselor of my soul,
Holy Spirit, take possession of me!
Let me, O triune Being,
Be selected as your dwelling.

This could perhaps be understood correctly in light of John 14:23, but by a) switching the perspective from Jesus’ third person to the first person of the singer, b) including the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus does not include in John 14, c) intensifying the language, and d) providing no theological context, it ends up conveying a message and giving an impression diametrically opposed to the truth Jesus tells his disciples in John 15:16.

14 The Kirchen-Gesangbuch für Evangelisch-Lutherische Gemeinden ungeänderter Augsburgischer Confession, first published in 1847, also colloquially known as “Walther’s hymnal.” Today it is also available in English.

15 Today this is Emmanuel Lutheran, Big Mecan (mailing address Montello), located at the corner of Evergreen Lane and Town Hall Road, just south of State Road 23. The church Strieter describes here was built in 1863 at what is today the east end of Emmanuel Lutheran Cemetery.

16 Today this is St. Paul’s Lutheran, town of Newton (mailing address Westfield), located at the corner of 10th Road and 11th Road.

17 Either Strieter was mistakenly thinking, either at the time or when recalling the incident later, that the passage was found in one of John’s epistles, instead of in James, or he was combining James 5:16 with 1 John 1:9 in his mind.

18 The practice of announcing with the pastor before partaking of the Lord’s Supper can trace its ancestry back to private confession, which in turn dates all the way back to around 250 AD in the Eastern Church. The Eastern Church historians Socrates Scholasticus and Sozomen both relate that the office of penitentiary, a minister appointed for hearing private confessions, also thereby helped people to prepare to receive the Lord’s Supper (Socrates, Bk. 5, Ch. 19; Sozomen, Bk. 7, Ch. 16). The Bible nowhere explicitly necessitates private confession or announcing, but it does command us to examine ourselves before receiving the Supper and warns us of the consequences of treating the Supper lightly (1 Corinthians 11:27-32). Strieter was also correct to cite 1 Corinthians 4:1 and Matthew 7:6, which emphasize the pastor’s role in relation to the Lord’s Supper, namely to be a faithful administrator of it and not to knowlingly or willingly distribute it to those who are continuing in some sin. Many Lutheran churches in America today no longer practice announcing, probably due to the difficulty of putting it into practice in our fast-paced, busy society and in larger churches. However, there is usually still some form of registration required so that the pastor is able a) to take note of those planning to partake of the Supper and to speak to them beforehand or afterward if needed, and b) to keep track of whether or not any of his congregation’s members are failing to make use of the Supper.

[Read the next part here.]

The Beneficial Use of the Lord’s Supper

By Carl Manthey-Zorn

Translator’s Preface

The following was translated from Carl Manthey-Zorn’s Handbuch für den ersten Selbstunterricht in Gottes Wort (Beginner’s Manual for Self-Instruction in God’s Word) (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1906), p. 281-285. It comprises the fourth section of Chapter 8, “The Holy Supper.”

Zorn was pastor of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cleveland, Ohio, at the time this manual was published. Click here for a biography of Zorn, which also includes a picture of the man. You can also find a brief analysis of his significance for the Lutheran Church by one of his contemporaries in the translator’s preface here.

I undertook this translation both for devotional purposes and in preparation for an Ash Wednesday sermon on the importance of self-examination, especially before receiving the Lord’s Supper. In an age where the supporting rites and props for self-examination, such as privately announcing for Communion with the pastor the day before Communion and the “confessional service” that Zorn mentions, seem more and more to be fading into the past (at least among Lutherans in America), may the Holy Spirit use Zorn’s biblical exhortation to rouse us to practice such examination diligently and earnestly in a spirit of repentance to our ever-merciful Savior.

The Beneficial Use of the Lord’s Supper

It should be clear to you from the previous section [on the power of the Holy Supper] that it is not enough for us merely to receive this sacrament. We must also receive it in a proper and worthy manner, if we want to enjoy the great and saving benefit which is offered to us through it.

This is what Dr. Luther wants to really bring home for us, and so he adds the question:

Who then receives this sacrament in a worthy manner?

He answers:

Fasting and taking measures of physical preparation can serve as fine outward discipline, but everyone is really worthy and well prepared who believes these words: “Given and poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.” But whoever does not believe these words or doubts them is unworthy and unprepared. For the words, “for you,” require nothing but hearts that believe.

Let us consider what Dr. Luther is saying.

The way that Luther treats the subject of the true worthiness with which we should receive this sacrament is still entirely unique. This is no doubt due to the fact that the Holy Spirit himself does the same through the apostle Paul when he says in 1 Corinthians 11:28-29:

But a person ought to examine himself, and in this way he should eat of this bread and drink from this cup. For whoever eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment on himself by not distinguishing the body of the Lord.

See for yourself, then, just how seriously the Holy Spirit insists that we receive the Holy Supper in true worthiness! We should first carefully examine ourselves, he says, to see whether we are even really worthy for the reception of the profoundly holy Sacrament. For, he says, whoever takes the Holy Supper in an unworthy manner eats and drinks on himself the judgment of God, because there he is shamelessly and carelessly profaning the body of the Lord, which is really presented to him in the Holy Supper and which he receives under the consecrated bread, as he does the blood of the Lord under the consecrated cup.

Who then receives this sacrament in a worthy manner?

If a person fasts and takes measures of physical preparation beforehand, if he or she appears at God’s table in a composed and reverential manner, that is certainly a fine discipline and a commendable practice. But all of this only takes place on the outside; hypocrites and godless people are also capable of such things.

Who then receives this sacrament in a worthy manner?

This person, and only this person, is really worthy and well-prepared – the one who believes these words: “Given and poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.”

Christ is the Savior of sinners. He has won for us poor sinners forgiveness of sins and life and salvation. He extends this grace and gift to us through the means of grace – including the Holy Supper, through the sparkling words: “Given and poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.” Now whichever poor sinner believes these words and, believing these words, comes to the Holy Supper for the forgiveness of sins, comes to receive life and salvation through Christ – that person is really worthy and well prepared. There is no other worthiness. Our dear Lord does not desire any other worthiness. Rejoice, O sinner! You need only believe that the Lord Christ’s body and blood is given and poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins. And with such faith you should come, come to the Holy Supper, and there under the consecrated bread and wine receive the Lord Christ’s body and blood for the forgiveness of sins, for life, and for salvation. Yes, with such faith you are really worthy and well prepared.

But whoever does not believe the words, “given and poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins,” or doubts what they say; whoever holds the Lord Christ in crude contempt; whoever thinks he can be saved just fine without the Lord Christ, through his own righteousness and good works; whoever is indifferent about his sins and about the Lord Christ; whoever says in his heart, “Who knows whether the whole story of Jesus, the Savior of sinners, is even true!”; and whoever thus comes to the Holy Supper only for show and out of hypocrisy – that person is unworthy and unprepared. For the sweet, gracious, alluring, and divine words, “for you,” require nothing but hearts that believe.

So then examine yourself before you go to the Holy Supper, to see whether you are receiving this sacrament in a worthy manner.

Examine yourself, to see whether you even feel heartfelt remorse over your sins. For if you do not have heartfelt remorse over your sins, you cannot really believe the words: “Given and poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.”

Examine yourself, to see whether you believe in Jesus Christ, who has given and poured out his body and his blood for you for the forgiveness of sins, and who gives you his body and his blood in the Holy Supper for the forgiveness of sins.

Examine yourself, to see whether you have the good and earnest intention, through the assistance of God the Holy Spirit, to amend your sinful conduct from now on. For if you do not have this intention, neither your remorse nor your faith can be genuine.

Precisely for the purpose of leading you to such self-examination, it is a practice in our churches to have a confessional service before the Holy Supper, in which you are exhorted to examine yourself in this way.

I will say it again: Examine yourself before you go to the Holy Supper, to see whether you are receiving this sacrament in a worthy manner, that is, to see whether you really believe these words as a poor sinner: “Given and poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.”

Now it might happen that, as a result of such self-examination, you find that your faith is weak; that you are being attacked and tormented by unbelief; that your faith is like a bruised reed, drooping over weak and withered, instead of shooting upward green and strong; that your faith is like a smoldering wick which gives little light and is threatening to go out altogether. In that case you might say in your misery and despair, “Ah, do I even dare come to the Holy Supper? I will not risk it! I am not yet worthy and prepared! Will our dear Lord actually welcome someone as wretched as I am? If only I had a really strong faith in my Savior and in his grace!”

If this is what you discover about yourself, should you come to the Holy Supper?

Indeed you should! Yes, and double yes! Those who are weak in faith should especially come to the Holy Supper so that their faith may be strengthened, for the Holy Supper strengthens faith. Just as a sick person should go to the doctor and take medicine, so those who are weak in faith should come to the Lord Jesus and take the Holy Supper.

“I believe, dear Lord; help my unbelief!” a man once said to the Lord Jesus (Mark 9:24). And the Lord Jesus helped him. That’s what you should say when you come to the Holy Supper with weak faith. The Lord Jesus will also help you – through the Holy Supper.

“The miserable should eat, that they may be satisfied,” says the Holy Spirit in Psalm 22:27(26). Apply this to the Holy Supper.

“The bruised reed he will not break, and the smoldering wick he will not snuff out,” says the Holy Spirit in Isaiah 42:3. “Whoever comes to me, I will not drive him away,” says the Lord Jesus in John 6:37. Here you have God’s answers to the question of whether those who are weak in faith may come to the Holy Supper.

But the Holy Supper may not be administered to:

  1. Those who are obviously godless and impenitent. You know this. With these people, their sins should in fact not be forgiven, but retained [John 20:23]. The Lord Jesus also says, “You should not give dogs what is sacred, nor should you throw your pearls in front of swine” (Matthew 7:6).
  2. The unorthodox, that is, those who do not confess with us the truth faith, but a false one. Please understand what I am saying. Such unorthodox people may be believing children of God. The false doctrines may be clinging to them only because they have been falsely instructed. But since the joint partaking of the Holy Supper should be a testimony that we are one in faith [1 Corinthians 10:16-17], the unorthodox cannot go with us to the Holy Supper, nor can we go with them. For example, should a member of the Reformed Church be permitted to go with us to the Holy Supper, even though he does not believe that the Lord Christ’s body and blood is given and eaten in the Holy Supper, and when he also does not believe that we receive forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation through it? Certainly not. We do not judge and condemn such a person. He may be a child of God in spite of this false doctrine. But he cannot go with us to the Holy Supper. And by no means can we take part in the Supper of the Reformed Church. Is this clear to you?
  3. Those who have given an offense and have not yet settled it. By an “offense” we mean a scandal caused by word or deed, through which others are led astray to evil. If anyone has given such an offense, he should first settle it and get it out of the way. That is something a Christian will gladly do. A Christian will certainly not want to persist in something through which others are led astray to evil!
  4. Those who are not able to examine themselves, for example, small children, the unconscious, or the completely insane. Baptized children are certainly children of God. But they first have to learn God’s word in an orderly way so that they are able to examine themselves as the Holy Spirit commands. After that they should be admitted to the Holy Supper. And if the faith in the Lord Jesus still exists in the unconscious and completely insane, they will be saved, even if they are not in a condition to receive the Holy Supper.

The faithful and merciful God give you his Holy Spirit, so that you always receive your dear Savior’s body and blood under the consecrated bread and wine in the Holy Supper in true faith for the forgiveness of sins, for life, and for salvation, and for the great strengthening of your faith, which is still under constant attack here on earth.

Hasten as a bride to meet him,
And with loving rev’rence greet him,
For with words of life immortal
He is knocking at your portal.
Open wide the gates before him,
Saying, as you there adore him:
Grant, Lord, that I now receive you,
That I nevermore will leave you.

Jesus, Sun of life, my Splendor,
Jesus, Friend of friends most tender,
Jesus, Joy of my desiring,
Fount of life, my soul inspiring—
At your feet I cry, my Maker:
Let me be a fit partaker
Of this blessed food from heaven
For our good, your glory, given. (Christian Worship 311:2,7)