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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
Concerning the Church

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  Click for a recording of today's Sola Devotion.

From the Word: 25 Husbands, love your wives even as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 in order to sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 to present to himself a glorious church, without stain or blemish or any such thing, so that she would be holy and unblemished. (Ephesians 5:25–27)

From the Confessions: The Chief Articles of Faith in the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Church

Lutherans also teach that the one holy Church will continue forever. The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the gospel is rightly taught and the sacraments are rightly administered.

For there to be true unity in the Church, it is enough to agree on the doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments. It is not necessary that human traditions like rites or ceremonies, that are institutions of men, should be the same everywhere. For Paul teaches, “One faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all,” etc. (Eph 4:5-6).

Pulling It Together

The Lutherans may have seemed suspect to the Church in Rome because of their belief in justification by faith alone. Perhaps they were perceived as a group intent on destroying the Church. It was quite the opposite. Still, it begs the question: How would one go about destroying what Christ said he would build (Matt 16:18)? The Church has never been in our hands. We should rather think that because of Christ's word, the Church will “continue forever”—in spite of us. So, it becomes important for us to understand what the Church truly is.

Building on the confession of “the communion of saints” in the creed, and that God imputes righteousness through faith (Article IV), Melancthon is emboldened to state that the Church is a “congregation of saints.” The Church is that assembly of all those whom Christ has made righteousness through his grace alone. Again, the Church is not in our hands. He makes his people saints without their assistance. But Church is not merely an assembly. Though we may do other things under the banner of “The Church,” we are not really the Church unless two things occur. The gospel must be correctly taught to the congregation of saints and the sacraments must be rightly administered. We confess that where these two “outward marks” are faithfully observed is the holy, catholic Church.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord Jesus, for making me one with you in your Body, the Church. Amen. 

Pastor Kent Groethe's study of the Book of Acts, Acts - Old Places, New Facesfocuses on the life of the early church as a model for church life today. The message and power of the church today needs to be revitalized and renewed by the power of God's Spirit, just as it was in the early church.

Other books in the "Old Place, New Faces" series

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Katherine Harms

Posted February 27, 2015 at 6:07am

To read this article and your comments is to be reassured that the church will survive. History demonstrates that even when the church must go underground, the gospel and the sacraments sustain it. In many countries around the world, the gospel and the sacraments are the only "trappings" of the church that can be expressed. The increasing cultural and political pressure in the US, gradually being hardened into law, makes the unthinkable thinkable--that we, too, could find ourselves divested of every public feature of the church. In this article, we are reminded that it isn't all those features that make the church strong. It is the gospel and the sacraments, internalized in people who trust God for the power they themselves do not possess.

Mark Ryman

Posted February 27, 2015 at 1:05pm

Thank you for your comments, Katherine. One of the things I kept thinking of while writing the above post, was the outrage of so many at how culture is destroying the Church. Of course, I am concerned about such things but am tempered by the knowledge that culture will never destroy Christ's Church, here in the US or anywhere else. We may yet impact culture once again but it will require less focus on the culture and a lot more attention to the "outward marks" of the Church.

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