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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
Concerning the Church part 20

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Ephesians 4:4-6

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Church 

Our opponents also condemn the part of the seventh article where we said, “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.” They distinguish here between universal and particular rites, approving our article if it is understood as particular rites, disapproving concerning if as universal rites.

We do not sufficiently understand what they mean. We are speaking of true, spiritual unity, without which faith nor righteousness of heart before God can exist. For this unity, we say that similarity of human rites, whether universal or particular, is not necessary. The righteousness of faith is not bound to certain traditions, as the righteousness of the law was bound to the Mosaic ceremonies, because this righteousness of the heart is a matter that quickens the heart. Human traditions, whether they be universal or particular, contribute nothing to this quickening. They are not formed by the Holy Spirit, as are chastity, patience, the fear of God, love of one’s neighbor, and the works of love.

Pulling It Together

Do you believe in God? Do you confess Christ as Lord? Do you believe his gospel? Do you acknowledge that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and buried? Do you confess that he descended into hell but that even death and hell could not hold him since he rose from the dead on the third day? Do you further believe that he ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, and will return to judge the living and the dead? Do you believe in the Holy Spirit and the fellowship of all God’s people, whom he has made righteous so that they may belong to his holy Church? Then you must also believe in the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and everlasting life.

If you believe these things, we agree that there is "one body"—no matter the particular manner of our ceremonies. These human traditions do not have to be the same for us to enjoy “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3).

Prayer: Help us to focus on you, Lord. Amen.

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Learning the Apostles' Creed teaches the Apostles' Creed according to the pattern of Luther's Small Catechism, and is recommended for the Fourth Grade Level.


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