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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
Concerning the Number and Use of the Sacraments – part 7

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Isaiah 55:10–11

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Number and Use of the Sacraments 

If ordination is understood as applying to the ministry of the Word, we are not unwilling to call ordination a sacrament. For the ministry of the Word has God’s command and glorious promises. The Gospel “is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith” (Rom 1:16). Likewise, “So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose” (Isa 55:11).

If ordination is understood in this way, we will also not refuse to call the imposition of hands a sacrament. The Church is commanded to appoint ministers, which should be most pleasing to us because we know that God approves and is present in this ministry.

Pulling It Together: If ordained ministry is interpreted as a priestly duty of making sacrifice for the people, this cannot be considered a sacrament. For the Scripture neither commands this, nor promises God’s grace to such an office. However, the Bible says much about the command to preach and teach the Word, and to administer the sacraments. It bids the Church to appoint such persons who are called to this ministry of Word and Sacrament. It promises grace to those who hear and believe the Word that is preached.

To the end of pointing out the differences between what their opponents called the priestly office and what the Lutherans taught, Melancthon went so far as to say that even ordination and the things pertaining to ordained ministry, such as the laying on of hands, could be considered sacramental. For, understood in that sense, these things are commanded by God and contain the promise of grace. 

Prayer: Lord, call and train ministers of the gospel to work in the fields of harvest. Amen. 

We Still Believe is offered as a resource for reflecting on key themes in biblical, Lutheran doctrine that are at risk in the Church today. It is offered in the hope that it will inspire individuals and congregations to examine the core beliefs of traditional Lutheranism and how these beliefs apply to our own present context. Written in a question and discussion style, the participant's book includes an introduction to and copy of the faith statement known as the Common Confession.

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