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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
A Preface Toward Unity

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From the Word: 13 And who is he who can harm you if you are zealous for that which is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, blessed are you. Do not fear them, nor be troubled, 15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to give a defense to each person who asks you for a reason about the hope that is in you. Yet do so with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better, if that should be the will of God, that you suffer for doing good rather than for doing evil. (1 Pet 3:13-17)

From the Confessions: sections ten and eleven of the Preface to the Augsburg Confession

...we, with the Princes and friends aforesaid, here before Your Imperial Majesty, our most clement Lord are prepared to confer amicably concerning all possible ways and means, in order that we may come together, as far as this may be honorably done, and, the matter between us on both sides being peacefully discussed without offensive strife, the dissension, by God’s help, may be done away and brought back to one true accordant religion; for as we all are under one Christ and do battle under Him, we ought to confess the one Christ, after the tenor of Your Imperial Majesty’s edict, and everything ought to be conducted according to the truth of God; and this it is what, with most fervent prayers, we entreat of God.

Pulling It Together

Luther had been declared an outlaw by the emperor in 1521 at the Diet (or assembly) of Worms. Though his teachings were now forbidden in the empire, the teachings of Luther and other Wittenberg reformers were sent throughout the parishes of Saxony for a systematic reformation of the church. These teachings, of course, were challenged by Roman Catholic theologians who placed the Wittenberg reformers in the same grouping as unorthodox critics of the church. This gave the effect of making the Wittenberg contingent appear outside the church catholic. Philip Melancthon, Luther’s colleague at Wittenberg, drafted a defense of the Wittenbergers’ orthodoxy, drawing from a number of other documents by the reformers. This confession, or testimony, was adopted by nine German dukes, princes, and mayors, and presented to the emperor at Augsburg in 1530.

The Emperor Charles had called the Diet of Augsburg in an effort to have a unified Christian empire meet the threat of the expanding Ottoman Empire. That these documents were to be presented by all of the electors, princes, municipalities, and estates attests to the political aspiration of the diet. That there would be unity in understanding the one true faith was the hope of The Augsburg Confession.

Christians ought to hope for unity, beginning to do so by considering how they agree on matters of the faith. After all, they are called to fellowship together in Jesus Christ our Lord (1 Cor 1:9-10). Christians are also to be ready to defend the faith (1 Pet 3:15), even if it is in confessing it to one another. Yet, they are to do so with gentleness and with respect. To that end, it may be very helpful in our time to imagine that we are giving our defense to an emperor.

Prayer: Help me to honor you, Jesus, as Lord in my heart, my words, my life. Amen. 

Of One Mind and Purpose is a six-session study that examines the unique way in which the Bible describes being united in Christ. It explains how God’s Word can either divide people or bring them together in faith, showing how the relationship we have with one another in the Church comes through Christ alone.

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Katherine Harms

Posted February 20, 2015 at 4:39am

This post is quite instructive. When I apply it to the contemporary scene, I run aground on the rock of controversy that birthed the NALC. I see the sharp divide among Christians of all stripes over issues that stir the culture. When we pray "for the unity of all" on Sunday mornings, I find myself understanding it as a prayer that others will come around to the truth I already know. I know that is not an humble attitude, and I want to have a better one, but that is always my first thought. After all, given the choices before me, I felt led by God to a conclusion. An honest prayer for unity requires me to be open to the possibility that I am mistaken . I suspect I am not alone in my perception that my understanding of God's guidance is right and true. I am mystified when others express a different view that they feel confident is God's guidance. Unity is not as easy to achieve as it ought to be.

Mark Ryman

Posted February 20, 2015 at 8:48am

Yes, we should always be striving for and praying for unity but standing firm in the Word. If it is not truth (John 17:17), then unity is just another subjective viewpoint based on tradition, culture, or today's opinion. In the meanwhile, we should never give up the prayer for unity.

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