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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
Concerning the Power of Bishops, Part 1


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Luke 20:19–26

From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Power of Bishops

There has been great controversy concerning the power of bishops, in which some have gracelessly confused Church and secular powers. Great wars and uprisings have resulted from this error, while the bishops, emboldened by the power of the Keys, have instituted new kinds of worship and burdened consciences with reservation of absolution and forced excommunication. They have also attempted to transfer the kingdoms of this world and to take the empire from the emperor. These wrongs have long since been rebuked in the Church by learned and godly men. This is why our teachers were obligated for the sake of people's consciences to explain the difference between the power of the Church and the power of the sword. They have taught that because of God's commandment, both are to be honored and respected as the chief blessings of God on earth.

Pulling It Together: The Scripture gives the Church and its pastors the power to preach the Word of God, to administer the sacraments, and to remit and retain sins. This gives the Church great authority but restrains it from exercising any rightful power in civil affairs. Put in plain terms, the Church has power in spiritual matters. The State is left to deal with all else. Both Church and State overreach when they enter into the affairs of the other. When the Church, for example, usurps the office of secular government and wields it to control people, they have overstepped the boundaries of Scripture. The Church has no right to wield civil powers in an effort to conform people's consciences and actions. The Spirit of God does this, using the authority of his Word to do so. The Church has been given great spiritual power and has no need to employ earthly force in its affairs. So, Lutherans confess that God has provided both spiritual and governmental authorities, and that both are to be respected within their spheres of influence. 

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me this day and always to yield my heart to you while living peacefully with my neighbors. Amen. 

This edition of the Luther's Small Catechism is specifically designed to go with the Sola Confimation Series. The 2010 Sola/ReClaim Edition* is a faithful word-for-word translation from Luther's German Catechism. It also includes the section on the Office of the Keys, added later to Luther's Catechism.

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