“Confessing Evangelicals”

          The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God, and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.  Amen.


Matthew 10:21 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 22 You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved. 23 “But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes. 24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household!  26 “Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. 28 Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. 32 “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess ]him before My Father who is in heaven. 33 But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.


          This morning we celebrate the 487th Anniversary of the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession.  On June 25th 1530, the city of Augsburg, Germany, was filled to capacity. Kings, nobles, churchmen, and the common man and peasants who stood outside the great hall listening through the windows, all gathered to hear what those first Evangelical/Lutherans had to say about their religious doctrine.

          We all know what happened on October 31st 1517.  This year we are celebrating the 500th anniversary of that event. Luther posted the 95 Theses. Over the thirteen years that followed, the Evangelical doctrine of Holy Scripture spread throughout portions of Europe. Luther himself had been condemned as a heretic and sentenced to death, but the elector Frederick the Wise then Prince Jon, the Duke of Saxony, had protected Luther by granting him political sanctuary so that  Luther and the Reformation would live on.

          By 1530, three popes (Leo X, Adrian VI, and Clement VII) tried to pressure Charles V into invading Germany and exterminating the Lutheran heresy. But Charles V had a bigger problem – Muslims – who were threatening Christian Europe.  At the time they had  already reached the City of Vienna, just a couple of hundred miles east of Munich.

          Charles V wanted a religiously unified empire so he could have stable political and military alliances.  So a meeting (Diet) was set for June 25th 1530.  A delegation of churchmen, nobles, and politicians from Germany went to Augsburg to present their confession of faith before the Emperor.  What seems to us to be just a simple Bible passages for us conveying a principle, because a concrete reality for those first reformers. These faithful few were given an opportunity to live first hand Psalms 119:46 “I will also speak of Thy testimonies before kings, and shall not be put to shame.” They did and they weren’t.

          They entered the great hall and took turns reading the Confession in as clear and loud a voice as they would muster, so that as many as possible could hear the Gospel truth.  The Augsburg Confession, also called the Augustana, itself had been constructed and built on previous confessions, which had been previously  prepared for unrealized councils. They had now been gathered together and edited by Philip Melancthon.

          On June 25, 1530, the first generation of Reformers stood before the most powerful office and man in the Western world. They came to confess. They came to speak to the Emperor what Christ Jesus had given them to say in His written Word.  That’s what the Greek word for confess or confession, Homolegeo, means. It means to say the same thing to others that was said to you.  Thus Jesus says, “Everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.”  Everyone who says to others what I have said to them, I will say to my Father in heaven. So what began on October 31, 1517 was now coming to its climax on June 25th 1530.

          The men who went to Augsburg put their kingdoms and their lives in harms way for the sake of the Gospel truth.  They stood before the only man on earth who had the authority to “kill their bodies, though [even he was] unable to kill the soul.”

          The Roman Church dominated every aspect of human life. Those first Reformers had grown up learning the doctrines, traditions, and rites of the Roman Church. They had been trained in Roman schools. They had been taught that salvation was no where to be obtained except through the Roman Church, only through the power of one office – the pope, and only by “doing what was in you” in the performance of good works as the way to balance the scale of God’s justice.

          Then as now, many of the reformers believed that they could reform the Roman Church from within. They had repeatedly asked for a church council to consider their theological findings from an earnest study of the Scripture. While Luther did his part at every rumor of a meeting or council, by 1520, just three years after the posting of the 95 Theses, Luther was openly and publicly urging German churchmen and nobles to take matters into their own hands and reform their own church and government institutions because it was clear that the Roman Church would not yield to the clear teachings of the Word of God. This he did and this they did knowing full well, they would be made to pay a price.  In time, some of them would even become martyrs.

          Up until recently, we have enjoyed freedom of religion and freedom to follow our religious and moral compass. Only now we are just beginning to see the violence and rejection Jeremiah wrote about in the Old Testament lesson and Jesus referenced in the Gospel lesson as a result of the good confession. “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. . . 28 Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul.”

          Many of our Lutheran/Evangelical forefathers, beginning with Luther, confessed the Gospel truth. They openly and clearly taught the Gospel truth in regard to the 28 articles of the Augsburg Confession.  Time and time again, those who remained faithful to the Word of God were compelled to leave the state churches of Europe, house and homes, their homeland and country, family and friends, and embarked on rather risky journey across the Atlantic so they could worship and confess in Spirit and in truth.

          There was a time when there were scores of little Lutheran synods and associations across this land. Most of them began as faithful little synods and congregations. Even before there was the LCMS, there was an Evangelical Lutheran Tennessee Synod.  It was established 20 years before the LCMS and continued until 1920, when it merged and ultimately ended as the English District of the LCMS.  It was known for its staunch adherence to the Augsburg Confession, orthodox worship, and an aggressive educational system dedicated to producing faithful Lutheran laymen and women and pastors and teachers. These were people to came to America so they would have churches, schools, and pastors who actually confessed the faith. They were also the first to produce an English version of the Book of Concord. These Lutherans and the ones that followed from Saxony, Walther and company, left everything behind for hardship and uncertainty.

          And what has our last few generations done with this great heritage of God’s pure Word?  You know the answer. The church today is in need of a reformation in the spirit, doctrine, and scope as the first reformation. 

          Across denominational lines, liberals have utterly destroyed the Bible as the source and norm for faith and live; for all that is said, taught, preached, and practiced in the visible church.  American Evangelism has sacrificed the pure Word of God, the full counsel of God on the altar of pragmatism, emotivism, and marketing strategies. They have replaced the pure fountain of salvation with a new form revivalism that turns the Christian faith into an emotional thrill ride.

          And those who dawn the doors of so-called Lutheran congregations, place  membership in one of the big synods as more important than being a part of the faithful, confessing, and contending few, leading one notable Lutheran pastor to coin the term “synodicalists”. These are who are more committed to synodical institutions and affiliations than they are to the teachings of God’s Word.  The synod says . . . the synod’s position is . . . . What ever happened to thus says the Lord, followed by the appropriate and right use of a Bible passage.

          The answer to our woes today is the same as it was in Luther’s day. We don’t need anything new. We need the same old doctrine and practices that served the church well during and following the Reformation.  When the Lutheran Confessions, the Book of Concord was officially published 50 years after the Diet of Augsburg (1580) the Confessors wrote in the preface to the book:


[In 1561] after the deliberations at Frankfurt, our predecessors gathered with some of us at Naumburg in Thuringia. We took in hand the Augsburg Confession that was offered to the Emperor Charles V in the great assembly of the Empire at Augsburg in the year 1530.  We all subscribed with one mind to that godly Confession, built upon solid testimonies of the truth expressed in God’s Word, which cannot be shaken.  In this way we meant to provide for the interests of future generation, and to enable them to avoid false doctrines conflicting with God’s Word. . . it has never been our intention to defend or spread any new and strange teaching. Rather, we desired to constantly support and retain the truth that we professed at Augsburg in 1530.  We were also led to hold a certain hope that in this way those who oppose the pure, evangelical doctrine would stop making false accusations.  We hoped that other good and will-intentioned people would be attracted by our renewed and repeated Confession.  With greater zeal and care, we hoped that they would seek and investigate the truth about the heavenly doctrine, which alone is our guide to salvation. (par. 7)


          So thankful were those German Reformers that the Gospel had been restored to their lands, they gave up all comfort, risked wealth, title, position, and lives, and  went to work reforming their churches, schools, and territories.

          The reformation was about confessing the Christian Faith before the whole world  – before men. It was a fight over whether the Church go forth and teach everything that Christ had commanded and all that has been set forth in the Holy Scripture.

          Congregations and synods rise and fall. They come into being and they go out of being. Even “heaven and earth will pass away, but [Christ’s] My words will by no means pass away.” (Mt. 24:35).  The church will always have His Word.  And those of us who make use of it, we have His Word and an accurate and faithful summary of His Word in the Augustana. These transcends Lutheran synods and associations and fads.

          The Church transcends all these because it is truly Catholic, that is universal and it is truly eternal because it was created and is sustained by the eternal Word of God.  Our churches teach that the one holy Church is to remain forever.  You of this great truth in the sermon hymn for this morning.

The Church’s one foundation Is Jesus Christ her Lord;  she is His new creation By water and the Word. From heav’n He came and sought her To be His holy bride; With His own blood He bought her, And for her life He died.


Elect from ev’ry nation, Yet one o’er all the earth, Her charter of salvation One Lord, one faith, one birth. One holy Name she blesses, Partakes one holy food, And to one hope she presses, With ev’ry grace endued.


The Church shall never perish! Her dear Lord to defend,   To guide, sustain, and cherish, Is with her to the end. Tho’ there be those that hate her, false sons within her pale, Against both foe and traitor She ever shall prevail.


Though with a scornful wonder Men see her sore oppressed, By schisms rent asunder, By heresies distressed, Yet saints their watch are keeping; Their cry goes up, “How long?” And soon the night of weeping Shall be the morn of song.


Mid toil and tribulation And tumult of her war    She waits the consummation Of peace forevermore, Till with the vision glorious Her longing eyes are blest   And the great Church victorious Shall be the Church at rest.


          [TLH #473]




May the peace that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

Confessing Evangelicals

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