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Archive for February 16th, 2019

Almighty God, we praise You for the service of Philipp Melanchthon to the one, holy catholic, and apostolic Church, in the renewal of its life in fidelity to Your Word and promise. Raise up in these gray and latter days faithful teachers and pastors, inspired by Your Spirit, whose voices will give strength to Your Church and proclaim the ongoing reality of Your kingdom; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Bio:  Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560) was a brilliant student of the classics and a humanist scholar. In 1518 he was appointed to teach along with Martin Luther at the University of Wittenberg. At Luther’s urging, Melanchthon began teaching theology and Scripture in addition to his courses in classical studies. In April of 1530, Emperor Charles V called an official meeting between the representative of Lutheranism and Roman Catholicism, hoping to effect a meeting of minds between two opposing groups. Since Luther was at that time under papal excommunication and an imperial ban, Melanchthon was assigned the duty of being the chief Lutheran representative at this meeting. He is especially remembered and honored as the author of the Augsburg Confession, which was officially presented by the German princes to the emperor on June 25, 1530, as the defining document of Lutheranism within Christendom.  After the presentation of the Augsburg Confession, the papal church wrote a response to it, the Confutation.  Once again, Melanchthon was called upon to write a defense of the Augsburg Confession. The Augsburg Confession and The Apology of the Augsburg Confession are the first two confessions in The Book of Concord (1580). Melanchthon died on April 19, 1560.

The Augsburg Confession is the first of the documents in The Book of Concord:  The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.  Lutheran pastors vow to teach and preach according to the Confessions as the Confessions correctly teach and confess the Biblical faith of Justification by Grace alone, by faith alone. 

In our corner of the world, one of our weekly newspapers has a church directory.  The local Roman Catholic congregation describes quite clearly their doctrine:

“Assisted by Divine Grace, we have both the ability and the responsibility to live moral lives, taking as our standard of behavior the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes.”

Note that the statement is saying an assist by Divine Grace to do the law to save ourselves. The statement lumps the Beatitudes with the Law. And so the Beatitudes are also Law, whereas, they are pure Gospel. One of the summaries of the Biblical Doctrine of Justification is “sola gratia”, by grace alone. But obviously the Roman doctrine says Jesus did not do a good enough job, in fact, you O man,you O woman,are still in the driver’s seat.  We are not assisted by divine grace, but saved by grace alone, by Christ alone. “It is finished”, the Lord said on the Cross:

Ephesians 2:  8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. 

Grace and faith in Jesus Christ makes the good works as He has created us to do so but the works do not create the faith:  they help and serve our neighbor.  Only His good work creates faith, not our works, and so we are justified, made right with God by what God, His Son, did on the Cross and through the Resurrection for us all: His good and perfect work. 

We do not know the extent of our good works, we only know God’s good work. (Pr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, +1945).  When we look to ourselves for salvation then we are looking the wrong way.  Melanchthon and the blessed Reformers knew Whom to point:  Jesus Christ. Lutheran pastors are to preach and teach according to the Confessions, kind of like in  the original TV “Star Trek”: they are our “prime directive”.   Like John the Baptist, the Reformers pointed to Jesus Christ: “Behold, the Lamb of God! He takes away the sin of the world.” (see John 1:29)  Galatians 2: 21  “…for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” But Christ Jesus died for a purpose:  you.  Brother Philip (he was not ordained) wrote the charter of freedom in Christ in it’s true meaning, but even he did not exhaust the “unsearchable riches” of Jesus Christ for you (see Ephesians 3:7-9)  In the Apology of Augsburg Confession, he wrote and so we confess: 

“For (Christ) is the mediator continually and not just at the beginning of our justification.” 

He continues to work through the Holy Spirit in the Word, preach, taught and prayed, and through the Sacraments in the Church, the Church which is  faithful to His doctrine.  He continues the work of justification so that we can continue the walk of good works, the walk of the Holy Spirit.  John 15: 5I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

May the Lord Jesus rule us with His Holy Spirit so that we may confess what is right and Christian and keep the same most consistently for His glory and our eternal salvation and blessedness, and also for that of other people. Amen.

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