(from Pastor Preus) “Most gracious Emperor, this is a Confession that will even prevail against the gates of hell, with the grace and help of God.” So said Gregory Bruck to Emperor Charles V on June 25, 1530. He spoke of the Augsburg Confession which had just been heard in public for the first time. His friend and colleague, Christian Beyer, had read it to the Emperor in the city of Augsburg.
Three things stand out in Bruck’s brief sentence which Lutherans should understand as they seek to confess the truth today.
First, Lutherans humbly confess that the doctrine expressed in the AC is the doctrine of the whole Christian church. The first Lutherans did not merely attempt to define what it meant to be Lutheran or Protestant. The Augsburg Confession has always, by its subscribers, been understood to be the confession of the Christian church. In its conclusion the AC says, “We have received nothing contrary to Scripture or the church universal. It is clear that we have been very careful to make sure no new ungodly doctrine creeps into our churches.” Lutherans do not consider themselves to be one of many brands of Christians. To be a Lutheran is to confess the truth of the Scriptures and the church. For this reason it might be wise for us to change our language a bit. Rather than referring to the Augsburg Confession and the other documents of the Reformation as “the Lutheran Confessions,” perhaps we should call them “The Confessions of the church.” They are, after all, writings which all Christians should confess.
Second, Lutherans understand that in making a confession they are doing more than speaking to other people. A confession is an assault upon the devil. Whether the confession is a new formal statement spoken in a context of controversy as was the AC, or simply the joint statement of the Nicene Creed during the Sunday Divine Service, it is the devil who is attacked. Making a good and true confession always puts the devil on edge. Sometimes Christians have confessed with boldness and deep passion as did the first Lutherans who were willing to lose their heads rather than their confession. Other times a Christian confession is the simple assertion that Jesus is Lord, made from one person to another in a friendly conversation. Either way the discussion is really between the church and hell, between God and the Devil.
Third, we confess and then let it sit. Gregory Bruck asserted the strength of his confession and then said, “With the grace and help of God.” He was willing to confess and then let the word do its work. He did not express the conviction that the word in the mouth of a culturally relevant, people oriented pastor would do its work. He did not confess that a congregation with church growth eyes would get it done. He confessed; Hell was attacked; God’s help and grace were invoked. Now sit down. Luther claimed that he preached and taught the word and then let the word do its work while he slept or drank beer with his friends. We confess and let the word work.
So as we observe June 25 2008, the 478th anniversary of the presentation of the Augsburg Confession let’s learn a bit about how Christians confess. We confess the eternal truth of Christ. We recognize that by so doing we attack the forces of hell. And we trust the word in our confession to do its work with the help of God.