Monday, February 17, 2003

Article V: Of the Ministry

That we may obtain this faith, the Ministry of Teaching the
Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. For
through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the
Holy Ghost is given, who works faith; where and when it
pleases God, in them that hear the Gospel, to wit, that God,
not for our own merits, but for Christ's sake, justifies those
who believe that they are received into grace for Christ's

They condemn the Anabaptists and others who think that the
Holy Ghost comes to men without the external Word, through
their own preparations and works.

Yesterday I was installed at St. John's Lutheran Church in Oregon, WI. The weekend before I was ordained a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Article V is therefore apropos. I have been reflecting in a systematic and liturgical way on the office of ministry, have heard two sermons on it, and have made promises regarding it, saying, "I will, and I ask God to help me." I am now officially a pastor in a church that teaches that the Holy Spirit works faith through instruments- specifically the preaching of the Word and the administering of the Sacraments. To teach and preach in such a church is to be reminded, first, that the Holy Spirit's work is hidden, often hiding behind clumsy words, hastily baked bread and stale wafers, and lukewarm water. It is secondarily, and this more difficult to take on faith, a seemingly arbitrary and capricious work. "Where and when it pleases God", this is how the Holy Spirit works faith.

And what kind of faith is worked? The Reformers take this opportunity to once again define (in miniature) the Gospel. To wit (!), "That God, not for our own merits, but for Christ's sake, justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ's sake." If you didn't hear the doctrine of justification spelled out clearly enough in Article IV, just listen here, and you will hear it clearly, and this in their confession "of the ministry".

So the ministry is instituted to teach and preach this faith, and for the faith of the church. It has no other function. Any pageantry or liturgical activity we do in honoring the ministry is also for the sake of this faith, not to honor the person but rather to emphasize highly the office because the office is the means of preaching something so exalted.

In the new member class yesterday, I taught two things that I'd like to reflect on more deeply here. First, that the Lutheran church actually has four, not two, sacraments. In addition to baptism and the Lord's Supper, we also have penance and preaching. This pertains in a deep sense to a reclamation of the ministry in our church in this century. Second, that one should always come to worship, and specifically to the sermon, anticipating that one will hear God's Word, the Gospel. One should expect this, for faith's sake. But one should also come as one who has previously been addressed by God in the preaching of law & gospel, and who will in the future also be addressed. Here are where the critical tools of discernment come, so we can listen critically to what is preached without thereby losing faith, a lack of faith being the belief that the Word preached is simply a human word, an opinion.

Augsburg Confession

Here Project Wittenberg has made available all of the articles of the AC. So anyone reading the commentary here can reference backwards or forwards to other articles by linking to this site.

Sunday, February 02, 2003

The law of proclamation is indeed the law of doctrine. But to claim, while preaching, that the preached Word is indeed content-specific, and that one can either preach rightly or wrongly, and that in fact certain things are central to the faith and not others- these are things that need to be done in the face of ecumenical white-washing. Christ is our righteousness, in this we have unity. We don't have unity aside from or apart from this, and we surely have no unity if we need to vacate the faith of particular propositions. This would be an injustice to the clear articulation of the conclusion of the Athanasian creed. We are to believe thus-and-so, and not otherwise, and it is the job of preachers to proclaim the thus and so, in the Spirit of Christ.

I agree wholeheartedly with Greg's call to preach Christ as our righteousness rather than self-righteously claim purity of doctrine. Yet it is this purity of doctrine, the rightness of our believing that, in a sense, God reckons this faith as righteous, that is, the source and norm of our faith itself, and therefore for the sake of those hearing, we are to preach purity of doctrine and continue saying, "This and no other gospel- as if there were other gospels".

I remember a number of years ago, my internship supervisor came into work of a Wednesday morning, and said, "I just re-read Melanchthon's apology to Article 4 of the Augsburg Confession. How clearly and reasonably they wrote and thought." What we need as much as right preaching on this article is right thinking, and we can learn much from Melanchthon of right and clear thinking. I thus commit to re-reading, be it ever so long.