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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
Concerning the Power of Bishops, Part 8


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2 Timothy 3:1–9

From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Power of Bishops

If bishops have the right to to ensnare consciences by burdening churches with infinite traditions, why does Scripture so often prohibit to make, and to listen to, traditions? Why does it call them "doctrines of devils" (1Tim 4:1)? Did the Holy Spirit warn of these things in vain?

Since it is in opposition to the Gospel to make ordinances as necessary for meriting grace, it follows that it is not lawful for any bishop to institute or demand such services. For it is necessary that the doctrine of Christian liberty be preserved in the churches, namely, that the bondage of the Law is not necessary to justification, as the apostle writes: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal 5:1). It is necessary that the chief article of the gospel be preserved, that we receive grace freely through faith in Christ, not from certain observances or acts of worship devised by people.

Pulling It Together: There are some who sin by having faith in the things that they do. There are others who are not content with this but must have a following, leading others astray from a knowledge of the truth. This should not be a strange revelation, for the Word expressly warns us that this will occur. People will leave the faith, leave Christ, following deceitful spirits. The most deceitful spirit is self, that being righteous is something you do. Righteousness is given to us through faith in Christ. So, there is nothing more deceitful than the doctrine that says that the grace of God through faith is inadequate. Shoulder this yoke; do that service, or your faith will not be enough! some insist. Though service will come with God's guidance, it is not necessary for salvation or to be deserving of God's grace. It only shows that you have faith (James 2:18). God's grace is free to all; we need not shoulder the yoke of new services to acquire his blessing. Jesus said that his yoke is light and restful (Matt 11:30). Believe. Have faith—in Christ—not in yourself, in your keeping of rules and regulations that Christ has already satisfied in the cross. 

Prayer: Help me be faithful to you, Lord, and show me how to be of service to you today. Amen. 

Combining the message of salvation in Christ with personal witness, this booklet uses John 3:16 as the model for telling the message of Jesus. The Gospel in Miniature is a Lutheran guide for evangelism. 

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