From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning the Church – part 12
The parables of Christ clearly agree. “The good seed means the sons of the kingdom; the weeds are the sons of the evil one” (Matt 13:38). The field, he says, is the world, not the Church. Thus John speaks concerning the whole race of the Jews, and says that it will come to pass that the true Church will be separated from that people. Therefore, this passage is more against the adversaries than in their favor as it shows that the true and spiritual people will be separated from the physical people. Christ also speaks of the outward appearance of the Church when he says, “the kingdom of heaven is like a net” (Matt 13:47) or like “ten maidens” (Matt 25:1). He teaches that the Church has been obscured by a multitude of evils, so that this stumbling-block will not offend the faithful, and so that they may know that the Word and Sacraments are efficacious even when administered by ungodly people. Though these godless people have the fellowship of outward signs, he teaches that they are nevertheless not the true kingdom of Christ or members of Christ, since they are members of the kingdom of the devil.
Pulling It Together
Many kinds of people are drawn to the Church, but not all are members of the Church. Some have an outward appearance of belonging, yet that does not make them true members of the spiritual kingdom of Christ. They may hold office, being on a committee or even being a pastor or a bishop. Still, these offices do not determine who is of the true kingdom.
It is easy to become discouraged by such people, and to even wonder if their ministry achieves a good and holy outcome. We should remember a few things when we are receiving Word and Sacrament from such unholy ministers. First, Jesus and his apostles warned us that there would be weeds mixed within the wheat until the harvest (Matt 13:24-30). Second, God is able to speak through simpletons and open the mouths of asses (Num 22:28). Third, it is not the holiness of the person that makes a Sacrament effective; it is God’s word and promise that brings about the desired result.
Prayer: Help me, Lord Jesus, to be faithful even if there are faithless people in your Church. Amen.
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The Sacraments is one of four books in the Sola Confirmation Series and serves as a simple and practical resource for teaching the biblical Word of God according to the traditional pattern of Martin Luther’s Small Catechism. Each book in the series may be used as the basis for a “come as you are” small group Bible study, as a student book for home school or independent study programs, or as a classroom tool and homework resource as part of an existing confirmation program.