Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lebanon, OR
Bethel Lutheran Church, Sweet Home, OR
Presentation of the Augsburg Confession – June 25, 2017
Text: Mark 13:3-13
We live in the end times. This is clear from the signs which we see around us. Just look around and see that it’s only getting worse each year. In these last days, Christians will be called upon to confess their faith. But when you confess, you have to know what to confess. As was mentioned earlier, to confess is to say the same thing as God’s Word. In order to confess Christ before men, you need to know what God’s Word teaches. This is not just a responsibility laid on pastors and theologians. It is a burden that is laid upon every Christian to confess who the true Christ is and to be able to identify false Christs and the lies told in the name of Christ.
This is what happened at Augsburg. By the year 1530, the Reformation had spread quite a bit. The first Lutheran hymnal was published in 1524, the Small Catechism was published in 1529, and Martin Luther and his teachings were widely known and opposed by Roman church leadership. The difference with the Lutheran reformation from other movements was that it was about doctrine—the teachings of the Bible. It wasn’t targeting moral abuses among the clergy or overthrow the government. It came down to learning the faith only from what the Scriptures teach.
Yet, this theological Reformation would not have gone anywhere significant if it just happened in the ivory towers of universities and church councils. The teachings of Scripture were broadcast to the masses—“Salvation unto Us Has Come/by God’s free grace and favor” was on the lips of parents and their children, God’s Word was available in German, and the Small Catechism outlined the Christian faith for young and old. Among those who received the pure teaching from God’s Word were many princes and court officials. So, when strong political resistance came against Luther and those who follow him, it was these civic leaders (not just the theologians) who answered for their faith.
At the Diet of Augsburg in June 1530, two court lawyers (chancellors), devout laymen, Christian Beyer and Gregor Bruck were the ones who presented the confession in front of Emperor Charles V. The signors at the end were all laymen. They were presenting their case in a civil proceeding, but they were confessing Christ.
They had been asked to cease and desist supporting Luther’s divisive teaching about grace alone, faith alone, Scripture alone, and Christ alone. Yet on this ground they took their stand: This is what the Word of God teaches, which they themselves had studied. They didn’t desire to cause political or religious schism. They were convinced that if they only presented their case on the basis of Scripture, the offense would end. Notice the language in each of the articles: “Our churches teach…” They were talking about their pastors and what they believed from Scripture. But, neither pope nor an angel from heaven could convince them to turn from their faith in Christ.
In these Last Days, the Lord Jesus warns all Christians, “See that you are not led astray.” The only way to not be led astray is to know the true Way. Jesus Himself is the Way, and He is revealed only in the Bible. So the way to learn the true way is to diligently study the Scriptures. It is a heavenly gift that God’s Word is so readily available in our own language (as well as so many others in the world). We really have no excuse for not knowing what the Bible says, but we neglect the Word in favor of other more pressing business. Much damage can be done to Christians who blindly follow whatever “the Church” teaches without knowing what that really is. No one should join a church—regardless of the name—without thoroughly knowing what they believe and whether it’s faithful to the Scriptures or not.
So, study the Scriptures as the God-breathed writings for our good, that we would know Jesus Christ to be the crucified Savior of sinners.
The Lord goes on to say, “Many will come in my name saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray.” Every Christian needs to know biblical doctrine, not only to defend against possible lies from outside, but also inside. In Matthew 7, Jesus also warned us, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits” That is, you will recognize false prophets by their teaching. Instead of gathering the sheep into the fold of their Shepherd, they scatters and destroy them with diabolical lies.
We can thank God for pastors who you can trust to feed and tend the flock faithfully, giving them the pure spiritual milk of God’s Word. This relationship between congregations and their pastors is what the Lord intends. But would you do if your teachers ever start mixing the poison of false doctrine into what they feed you? St. John says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” The devil is indeed at work in the Church, and no one is protected on the basis of heritage.
But the Lord has always been a zealous protector of His flock. As we heard last week, when He sees His people “harassed and helpless,” He steps in to raise up faithful shepherds to give the healing only His pure Gospel can give.
That brings us back to the Diet in Augsburg. The theologians and laymen who followed Martin Luther were falsely accused of being rebels in both the spiritual and civil realms (Anabaptists, Karlstadt), so they made a confession both of what they believed and those things which Scripture shows to be false.
Their aim was that they—the pastors, teachers, and the princes themselves—had not invented anything new, but believed nothing but the Biblical faith handed down by the Apostles and Prophets. They made this clear confession and explanation before Charles V for that occasion, but it has enduring value for the spiritual descendants of Augsburg. Besides Evangelical, one of the other early names the followers of Luther’s teaching called themselves was “the Churches of the Augsburg Confession.” If you belong to a Lutheran Church, you would do well to read the Augsburg Confession. You should find that it says nothing beyond or contrary to the Holy Scriptures.
It’s a great comfort that we have this true exposition of Scripture. When we are subject today to so many different interpretations and opinions, the Lutheran Confessions, like the Creeds, give a touchstone for biblical interpretation that is truly built upon the foundation of apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone.
This teaching of Christ in His Word is your heritage. The Word has been preserved without corruption and the true interpretation of that Word has been preserved by God’s providence. When Peter confessed Jesus to be “the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” the Lord said this confession of faith—this rock—would endure so that even the gates of hell should not prevail against it. God is faithful and He will sanctify His people with this truth until the Lord’s glorious return. The Lord promises in the Gospel, “the one who endures to the end will be saved.” We trust Your promise, dear Lord, Amen.
 2 Timothy 3:16
 Matthew 7:15-161 John 2:18-19
 1 Peter 2:2
 1 John 4:1
 Ephesians 2:19-21
Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lebanon, OR