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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
Concerning Civic Government

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Romans 13:1-7

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

Article 16: Concerning Civic Government

Concerning civic or secular government, the Lutherans teach that lawful civil ordinances are good works of God, and that it is right for Christians to hold a public office, to sit as judges, to judge matters by imperial and other existing laws, to award just punishments, to engage in just wars, to serve as soldiers, to make legal contracts, to hold property, to make an oath when required by the magistrates, to marry, and to be given in marriage.

They condemn the Anabaptists who forbid these civic offices to Christians. Christian perfection is the fear of God, and true faith, so they also reject those who teach that sanctification happens through such things as forsaking government offices. For the gospel teaches an eternal righteousness of the heart. The gospel does not destroy the state or the family, but demands that they be preserved as ordinances of God, and that charity be practiced in such ordinances. As a result, Christians are obligated to obey their own magistrates and laws except when commanded to sin. In such cases, they ought to obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:29)

Pulling It Together

Scripture urges us to pray for those who rule over us. (1Tim 2:1-3) God has instituted good government. It is his servant for our good. The laws of the land, in so much as they agree with the Word of God, are to be obeyed. So that such laws are made and carried out in harmony with divine law, Christians are permitted to be involved in civic affairs. When required by law, they may swear to tell the truth, make contracts, be in the military, and hold public offices.

The gospel and the Church of Christ work in cooperation with all that God has established. Even so, there are some denominations that teach their people to have no involvement in government, that such refusals safeguard sanctification. But Lutheran Christians teach that Christian perfection does not come from doing (or not doing) any human work. Our righteousness has nothing to do with our works, but with what Christ has done for us on the cross.

Prayer: Bless, O Lord, our public servants, the government, and all those who protect us. Uphold and strengthen them in every good deed. Amen. 

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