From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning the Church
The saying is surely true that there is no remedy against the attacks of a slanderer. Nothing can be spoken with such care that it can escape criticism. For this reason we have added the eighth article, lest any one imagine that we separate the wicked and hypocrites from the outward fellowship of the Church, or that we deny efficacy to Sacraments administered by hypocrites or wicked men. So there is no need here of a long defense against this slander. The eighth article is sufficient to acquit us. We grant that in this life hypocrites and wicked men have been mingled with the Church, that they are members of the Church according to the outward signs of the Church’s fellowship, namely, Word, confession, and Sacraments. This is especially so if they have not been excommunicated. Neither are the Sacraments without efficacy if they are administered by wicked men. We may also rightly use Sacraments administered by wicked men.
Pulling It Together
In this life, the Church is a place where people of all kinds assemble. There will be those who believe and even those who come for other reasons. Some people attend church because they were raised to do so. They give no thought to faith; it is simply the right thing to do. There are people in churches who do not believe in Christ but use the church as a means of advancing their own agendas. Of course, such people are not the one, true Church which is composed of those who believe in Christ.
There are even pastors in the Church who do not believe. This is difficult to conceive of, but nonetheless true. They administer the Sacraments, bringing guilt upon themselves. Nevertheless, this does not diminish the effectiveness of the Sacraments in any way since these wicked pastors are not the ones who make the Sacraments valid. Baptism and Communion are efficacious because of the Word of God. It is God’s promise that makes the Sacraments effective, not the one dispensing those Sacraments. These words, “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins,” together with the eating and drinking, are the chief thing in the Sacrament. Those who believe Christ’s words have what they say and declare, namely, the forgiveness of sins.
Prayer: Forgive me of my own faithlessness, Lord, and strengthen me to believe your words of promise. Amen.
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The Sacraments is one of four books in the Sola Confirmation Series and serves as a simple and practical resource for teaching the biblical Word of God according to the traditional pattern of Martin Luther’s Small Catechism. Each book in the series may be used as the basis for a “come as you are” small group Bible study, as a student book for home school or independent study programs, or as a classroom tool and homework resource as part of an existing confirmation program.