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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
Concerning the Power of Bishops, Part 6


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Colossians 2:16–19

From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Power of Bishops

Again, the authors of traditions act contrary to the command of God when they teach it is sinful to disregard traditions about foods, days, and such things. They burden the Church with bondage to the law, as if, in order to merit justification, there ought to be a Levitical service which God had supposedly committed to the Apostles and bishops. Some have written that this is what occurred, and popes seem to be misled in some measure by the law of Moses. So they make it mortal sin to do manual labor on holy days when it offends no one, to omit the canonical hours, to eat certain foods that supposedly defile the conscience. They teach that fasting appeases God, and that in a reserved case, sin cannot be forgiven except by the authority of him who reserved it, when even the Canons speak only of maintaining the penalty, yet not the guilt.

Pulling It Together: The issue for the Lutherans was not whether one should, for example, fast during Lent or observe a service of worship beyond the Lord's Day. Their protest was that it was being taught by the Church that such deeds settled the matter of our sin with God. What is more difficult: to set up a new system of works that Church folks must do in order to be righteous before God, or to have a wholehearted trust in God? The former is not only difficult; it is impossible. Any system of law is impossible to keep (Acts 15:10). The latter is even more difficult, though it requires no effort on our part. As challenging as simple faith may be, it is far more beneficial to the soul. It is hard to believe that God really forgives poor sinners like us simply because he loves us. Yet we are called to believe exactly this: that because of his great mercy, he gives his grace to all. Who in his wildest imaginings could have conceived such a thing? And so, we devise ways to conciliate God when he has already reconciled himself. It is understandable. Nevertheless, the Lutherans like the once legalistic apostle, warned against systems of service that claim we earn our way to God. They taught that the Church must hold fast with faith to the Head, to Christ alone. Then, the body, the Church, is brought in tow.

Prayer: Lord, help me seek the things that are above, putting my trust in you while I remain here on earth. Amen. 

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