Steadfast Office – Is AC V Alive?

Associate Editor’s Note:  Please remember Pastor Wurst, his congregation and the whole community of Duluth, MN in your prayers as they have been recently struck with horrible flooding.

Is AC V Still Alive?

In my post on the Steadfast Office – The Divine Call (here), I spoke about the meaning and necessity of the rite vocatus, that is, the right call or the right vocation. Some people disagreed with me. They rested their argument, that is, their defense, on ordination giving the man the right and duty to preach the Word of God and to administer the Sacraments rightly.

I agree with The Rev. Dr. C.F.W. Walther that it is the Call that makes the man a pastor. The ordination rite is a public ratification of Christ’s Call and sending to preach, teach, and to administer the Sacraments rightly. (Walther, Church & Ministry, 164-165)

This brings us back to A.D. 1989 when The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) officially abolished the Confessional teaching of the rite vocatus (the right call) and passed resolution forsaking/abolishing Augustana XIV.

If the LC—MS abolished Article XIV, making it possible for any man to preach the Word of God and administer the sacraments, then what’s stopping her from allowing women to preach? Why do men still have to go to the seminary to study the doctrine as St. Paul writes, “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.” (1 Tim. 4:16)

So, if Article XIV of the Augsburg Confession is gone, is Article V still alive?

Let’s take a look at Article V and see what the Reformers say to the world:

1] That we may obtain this faith, the Ministry of Teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, 2] the Holy Ghost is given, who works faith; where and when it pleases God, in them that hear 3] the Gospel, to wit, that God, not for our own merits, but for Christ’s sake, justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake.

4] They condemn the Anabaptists and others who think that the Holy Ghost comes to men without the external Word, through their own preparations and works. [endnote 1]

Is the Predigtamt, Preaching Office, for anyone? Can anyone or everyone do what the Lord Jesus commands to be done in this holy office, that is, preach the Gospel and administer the sacraments?

Dr. Walther in his Kirche und Amt (Church and Ministry), states:

“Although Holy Scripture attests that all believing Christians are priests (1 Peter 2:9; Rev. 1:6, 5:10), it at the same time teaches very expressly that in the church there is an office to teach, feed, and rule, which Christians by virtue of their general calling as Christians do not possess. (161)

Hear the Word of the Lord.

In his first Epistle to the Church in Corinth, St. Paul writes, “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles?” (1 Cor. 12:29)

Later, in his Epistle to the Church in Rome, he writes, “And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:15)

Later, St. James writes in his Epistle to the Church, “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.” (James 3:1)

The blessed Doctor Luther wrote these words in his Letter to Eberhard yon der Tanhen Concerning the Sneaks and Secret Preachers: [endnote 2]

“The secular government [Amt] must also see to it … and like the spiritual government must insist on the call, asking the sneak or his host: ‘Where do you come from? Who has sent you?’ and so forth, as stated above. In addition it must ask the host: ‘Who commanded you to shelter the sneak and to listen to his sneaky preaching? How do you know that the sneak has been commanded to teach you or that you are to learn of him? Why did you not inform the pastor or the government? Why do you forsake your church in which you were baptized, instructed, confirmed, and to which, according to God’s order, you belong, hiding yourself in a corner? Who has given you power to split the parish and to create factions among us? Who has taught you to despise your pastor, to judge him, and behind his back to condemn him before he had a hearing or was accused? Why have you become such a judge of your pastor, indeed, your own judge?’

“All such wrongs, and many more, everyone commits who cleaves to the sneaks, and therefore he should justly be charged with them. I have good hopes that if the [secular] government would be diligent in this matter, it would be of great help, and many pious persons would help to make known such vagabonds, if they would know what great danger is connected with the sneaks and that the call or command matters so much. If we would not insist firmly on the call or command, there would at last remain no more church. For as the sneaks now come to us, desiring to split up and destroy our churches, so later other sneaks would invade, split up, and destroy their churches, and there never will be an end to the sneaking and splitting up, one after the other, and soon nothing will be left of the church on earth. That is just what the devil wants and tries to do by these factious spirits and sneaks.

“Therefore, you either prove your call and command, or you keep silence and quit preaching. For it is called an office and indeed an office of preaching. But no one can have an office except and without a command or call. [endnote 3]

If the LC—MS has already abolished Article XIV, and the congregations can let anyone preach and administer the sacraments, is it still Church? Are we just playing around with the idea of Church? Is it business where the lobbyists get what they want through coercion, corruption, and sin?

How far do we go? Do we march through the Lutheran Confessions and say, if we’ve axed XIV, then V is dead? What happens to IV, the very foundation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church? Well, if the Church is gone, then justification was for nothing. Keep going. If IV isn’t valid, then what about III – the Son of God? Where does it end? Maybe after we get rid of Article II, then we’ll be alright. We’ll have joined the ranks and file of a monotheistic world. No sin. No Savior. No faith. Just good moral deeds and eternal condemnation.


Endnotes —

[1] Concordia Triglotta, German-Latin-English, online edition found at

[2] Walther, C. (1999). Church and ministry : Witness of the Evangelical Lutheran Church on the question of the church and the ministry (electronic ed.) (167-168, 173). St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

[3] Walther, C. (1999). Church and ministry : Witness of the Evangelical Lutheran Church on the question of the church and the ministry (electronic ed.) (167–168). St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House.


Steadfast Office – Is AC V Alive? — 234 Comments

  1. Pastor Osbun, you have made assertions and the burden of proof rests on you to sustain them, not on us to refute you.

    If you were to work through Luther’s teachings carefully, and note his use of Scripture and then respond and tell us where you think he is wrong, that would be helpful.

    Otherwise, you are simply here now assuming a defensive posture that does nothing to help your assertions.

    You are wrong, Pastor Osbun. You are teaching falsely. You are contradicting the clear teaching of Sacred Scripture, our Lutheran Confessions and the chief teacher of the churches of the Augsburg Confession, not to mention every orthodox Lutheran teacher of whom I’m aware.

    You have made your assertions and you have failed to support them. Apparently now you are unwilling even to hear Dr. Luther out and respond to him.

    This is most unfortunate.

  2. Josh, so, in spite of the fact I have answered your questions, and in spite of the fact that I have shared a very Biblical exposition with you, by the chief teacher of the churches of the Augsburg Confessions, you now are refusing to respond.

    This is both quite telling, and disappointing.

    You stand refuted, not by me, but by Dr. Luther, whose faithful Biblical exposition utterly refutes your false assertions.

  3. @Pastor Josh Osbun #23: “That is not how AC V defines the Church. This definition is incomplete.”

    AC.V does not define the Church. AC.VII and VIII define “Church” as it was defined in #17. SA.Part III.XII defines the Church this way. The SC in the Third Article defines the Church this way. The LC in Article III.54-57 defines the Church this way. The Treatise (24-30) defines the Church this way.

    Elsewhere the word “church” may be used as Walther’s Theses VI on the Church defines it in the improper sense.

  4. In his “The Pastor: God’s Servant for God’s People”, from Church and Ministry: The Collected Papers of The 150th Anniversary Theological Convocation of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (edited by Jerald C. Joerz and Paul T. McCain, 1998, pp.147-8), the Rev. James Kalthoff, former President of the Missouri District, explains further:

    “The Office of the Keys is entrusted to pastors for “public” administration of them. But every Christian, as a priest of God, may use the Keys in private by sharing the Gospel with unbelievers and by absolving a brother or sister who confesses sin to them. This clearly is the teaching of Scripture and the Confessions In our day, we occasionally hear of controversy brought on by some pastors who are insisting that the work of the Great Commission of Matthew 28, that of “making disciples of all nations,” was only given to the apostles and that therefore lay persons should not assume this responsibility belongs also to them. Or that only pastors may carry out the Great Commission. The great Lutheran theologian Hermann Sasse has written concerning this:

    That the great freedom of the Reformation is truly the freedom of the Gospel is shown by the fact that the Office of the Keys is given three times in the New Testament: in Matthew 16 to Peter, in John 20 to all the apostles, in Matthew 18 to the whole church. These three bestowals of the Office may not be separated. One may not be selected as the chief one, and then played off against the others. To the Twelve Jesus gave the office of preaching the Gospel to every creature and making disciples of all nations by baptizing them. To them He gave the mandate at the Last Supper: “Do this in remembrance of Me.” Who were the Twelve? They were the first ministers (Amtsträger). From them proceeds “the Ministry of teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments” [AC 5]. But they are at the same time the church, the ekklesia, the representatives of God’s new people of the end time. It is therefore, in fact, impossible in the New Testament to separate Ministry and congregation. What is said to the congregation is also said to the Office of the Ministry and vice versa. The office does not stand above the congregation, but always in it. . . Office and congregation belong inseparably together. [We Confess the Church, trans. Norman Nagel (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1986), 78]

    In its original context, the Great Commission given by Jesus, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing . . . and teaching them” (Matt. 28: 19–20) was indeed originally spoken only to the eleven apostles. But in the context of the whole New Testament we see that every Christian, as a member of the Priesthood of all Believers, has the responsibility to “declare the wonderful deeds of Him who has called [them] out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9 RSV).

    We see this priesthood at work when we read in the book of Acts: “On that day [the stoning of Stephen] a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. . . . Those who had been scattered preached the Word wherever they went” (Acts 8:1, 4). For the spread of the Gospel, it is the matter of “both/and”—Public Ministry and the royal Priesthood of all Believers in Christ.

  5. Therefore, for folks listening in, we see now how Pastors Wurst and Osbun are holding firmly to their false teaching and insisting on it, in spite of the overwhelmingly powerful refutation that has been provided by none other than Dr. Luther himself. Please be warned about this false teaching.

    Please again carefully read Dr. Luther’s words, which represent the overwhelmingly unanimous teaching of the Lutheran Church and all her orthodox teachers.

    “We should not think: “God forgives above, and men [forgive] here below, [but] who knows whether God above wants to forgive?” This is what we did in the papacy; no one obtained firm consolation from the Absolution, but rather we invoked our patron [saints]. This text was buried under all of this. [But Christ says:] “Do not gape toward heaven when you want remission of sins. Rather, you have it here below.

    “If [you have] a pastor, or a neighbor in a case of need, there is no need to seek the Absolution from above, because this Absolution spoken on earth is Mine. Why? Because I have so instituted it, and My resurrection will effect it. Therefore, no one will accuse you, neither death nor the devil nor I Myself, when you have received this Absolution, since it is God’s own,” etc.

    “It is true that God alone forgives sins, [but] how will I get to heaven? There is no need. Go to the pastor; in case of need, tell your neighbor to recite the Absolution in the name of Jesus Christ. Then you have the Word; when they do it, Christ has done it.

    “Therefore, we have a divine power by which we deliver people from sin, death, and the devil and bring them to eternal life, and this Christ Himself effects through His resurrection.34 May God grant us grace to believe [this] from the heart and be saved.”

    Martin Luther and Christopher Boyd Brown, Luther’s Works : Sermons on the Gospel of St. John, Jn 20:19–31 (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Pub. House, 2009-).

  6. Pastor/Professor (he was both) Kurt E Marquart had his last Continuing Education class here in Austin in July 2006. Knowing that it was the last, he ranged over a variety of topics.

    One of them was the use of the Sacraments. He said that, in an emergency, a layman could provide the Sacraments, even the Supper. But, he said, driving half an hour to obtain an ordained Pastor did not define an emergency, unless someone was in immediate danger of dying.

    In that case, the dying person might need baptism, if he hadn’t had it, or forgiveness, if he asked for it.

    Too many of our “emergencies” [my opinion here, but I think this is what Prof Marquart was getting at] are simply matters of convenience and no emergency at all. The Keys belong to Pastor and people together [your Pastor is a member of “the church”, I sincerely hope!] but we call Pastors to exercise them and distribute the Sacraments on behalf of the congregation. We have, until very recently, expected that these Pastors will be educated in the Scriptures, the Confessions and the original languages (so that they can escort us safely through the labyrinth of current English translations, paraphrases, and worse!)

    The notion that “any layman can do what the Pastor does” contributes greatly to the current disrespect for the OHM, for the willingness to endure “lay ministry” [oxymoron] and to the plague of ordained men suffering removal unjustly. Luther never said nor meant that any of these things should happen.

    We should rather apply ourselves (and our money) toward the Lutheran education and the ordination of every Pastor and the placement of all so qualified in a congregation, than to waste breath arguing, “Anything he can do, I can do better!”

  7. Quite right and completely correct, Helen. People think inconvenience means “emergency.”

    Again, however, we must not allow ourselves to go further than what we are given to say as we work to overcome these challenges among us.

    Pastors Wurst and Osbun are advocating a position on absolution that is contrary to Sacred Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, stubbornly clinging to it, in fact, in spite of the very clear and certain refutation that Dr. Luther’s careful Biblical exposition provides.

  8. @Pastor Josh Osbun #28
    Matthew 6:14
    Matthew 18:21-22
    Luke 11:2-4
    Colossians 3:12-13

    Is forgiveness pronounced by someone other than a pastor then not valid?
    Is baptism administered by a pastor then not valid?
    or are the promises of God valid even when we poor sinners abuse and misuse both them and the Office of Ministry?
    Certainly then abuse should be corrected, but that does not invalidate God’s Word nor His promises. We do not need to re-baptize or re-forgive.

  9. @helen #38: “Too many of our “emergencies” [my opinion here, but I think this is what Prof Marquart was getting at] are simply matters of convenience and no emergency at all.”

    This would be a good topic to discuss in a separate thread, especially for laity who may be in a position where such a decision would have to be made. Consideration could be given to circumstances and locations such as the battlefield, at the scene of a serious accident or natural disaster, or a nursing home, a hospice, at a hospital in an emergency room, ICU, prenatal ICU, oncology ward, etc. Also, what kind of leeway should a lay person be given in deciding, on a sound medical basis and estimated traffic conditions, whether there is time to call and wait for the arrival of a pastor for a baptism, to give absolution, etc.?

    In the meantime, unless there is agreement on this thread with what is (and long has been) the doctrinal position of the Missouri Synod, then one is left with C.F.W. Walther’s observation:

    “If the Christians did not have the office already originally, they would not be permitted, and could not exercise it [baptize, teach, absolve, etc.] even in a case of necessity, as little as a heathen.”

  10. Pastors,
    As Apology XIII lists absolution as a “sacrament” and AC XIV limits the administration of the sacraments to those called through the correct religious rite (still waiting for any references/sources that would trump the OLD, and make that a “horrible translation” btw), is this really just a discussion on what a layman can say to a brother/sister in extremis when no clergy is present? If so, it seems like a lot of virtual ink over a relatively small number of interactions and perhaps a mis-prioritizing of the real risks to Word and Sacrament Lutheranism in our time and place. I’m not generally the one crying “peace peace” where there is no peace, but the Luther quote that comes most readily to my mind is “exceptions make poor laws.” Am I missing something here?
    I assume that you all reject the idea that a penitent can pick a “lay-confessor” willy-nilly. I also assume that you’re well informed enough about our Synod today to know that the laity in quite a few districts is being told that they can pick a “lay-confessor” willy-nilly. I’ve certainly been told (in the NoW District) by several pastors and “lay-ministers.” that “because the power is in the word, Bill the plumber can preach teach and administer the sacraments in the LC-MS.” Where’s the real threat to Word and Sacrament Lutheranism?
    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  11. Matt, again, we do not refute error by introducing error in the other direction. That is, in fact, terribly harmful.

    Luther’s faithful Biblical exposition says things quite well.

    A layperson must never be led to believe that only when he hears a formula of absolution spoken by a pastor can he be sure and certain that his sins are forgiven. This is simply false doctrine.

    We do not therefore want to introduce that false doctrine in order to support good and faithful doctrine.

  12. @Rev. Paul T. McCain #41
    Sorry, I asked too many questions in one post Pastor. Am I right in defining this as a discussion on what a layman can say to a brother/sister in extremis when no clergy is present, or have I missed something?

  13. Matthew, honestly, at this point, I have no idea what the discussion is about.

    I do know that two LCMS pastors insist on repeating error concerning the very Gospel itself, in spite of being wholly refuted by none other than the chief teacher of the Churches of the Augsburg Confessions, as Blessed Martin Luther is described in the Formula of Concord.

    Again, we do not counteract error by introducing error, which is what Prs. Wurst and Osbun have done and continue to defend.

  14. Pastor Osbun,
    Is this a discussion on what a layman can say to a brother/sister in extremis when no clergy is present, or have I missed something?

    Does anyone have the St. Augustine citation for the “two christians on the ship” story from Treatise on the Power and Primacy 67 (below)? I’ve only ever seen it quoted, never cited. Does the reader’s edition have a citation? Reading the “… becomes the minister and pastor of another…” part, I’d be interested if in Augustine’s original it contains an emergency baptiem, an emergency ordination and an emergency absolution, or only an emergency baptism and an emergency (lay) absolution.

    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

    “For wherever the Church is, there is the authority [command] to administer the Gospel. Therefore it is necessary for the Church to retain the authority to call, elect, and ordain ministers. And this authority is a gift which in reality is given to the Church, which no human power can wrest from the Church, as Paul also testifies to the Ephesians when he says, Eph 4:8: He ascended, He gave gifts to men. And he enumerates among the gifts specially belonging to the Church pastors and teachers, and adds that such are given for the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. Hence, wherever there is a true church, the right to elect and ordain ministers necessarily exists. Just as in a case of necessity even a layman absolves, and becomes the minister and pastor of another; as Augustine narrates the story of two Christians in a ship, one of whom baptized the catechumen, who after Baptism then absolved the baptizer.” (Treatise on the Power and Primacy 67)

  15. Here’s some more:

    But after we have become Christians through this Priest and His priestly office, incorporated in Him by Baptism through faith, then each one, according to his calling and position, obtains the right and the power of teaching and confessing before others this Word which we have obtained from Him. Even though not everybody has the public office and calling, every Christian has the right and the duty to teach, instruct, admonish, comfort, and rebuke his neighbor with the Word of God at every opportunity and whenever necessary. For example, father and mother should do this for their children and household; a brother, neighbor, citizen, or peasant for the other. Certainly one Christian may instruct and admonish another ignorant or weak Christian concerning the Ten Commandments, the Creed, or the Lord’s Prayer. And he who receives such instruction is also under obligation to accept it as God’s Word and publicly to confess it.

    Martin Luther, vol. 13, Luther’s Works, Vol. 13 : Selected Psalms II, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, Luther’s Works, Ps 110:4 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999).

  16. And some more:

    Now God has provided us with various means, ways, and channels, through which to take hold of grace and the forgiveness of sin: first, Baptism and the Sacrament; also, as I have just said, prayer; also absolution; and our forgiveness throughout. Thus we are abundantly taken care of, and we can find grace and mercy everywhere. Where would you look for it any closer than with your neighbor, with whom you live every day and toward whom every day you have ample reason to practice this forgiveness? It is inevitable that you should be offended, deeply and often. It is, therefore, not only in the church or in the presence of the priest, but in the very midst of our own life, that we have a daily sacrament or baptism, one brother with another and everyone at home in his house. For if you take hold of the promise through this work, you have the very thing that you receive in Baptism. How could God have endowed us more richly with His grace than by hanging such a common baptism around our necks and attaching it to the Lord’s Prayer, a baptism that everyone discovers in himself when he prays and forgives his neighbor? Now, no one has any reason to complain or to make the excuse that he cannot get around to it, or that it is too sublime and distant for him, or that it is too difficult and expensive; for it has been brought home to him and his neighbor and planted on his very doorstep, in fact, put into his very bosom.

    Martin Luther, vol. 21, Luther’s Works, Vol. 21 : The Sermon on the Mount and the Magnificat, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, Luther’s Works, Mt 6:15 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999).

  17. Some more:

    If you receive the absolution from a preacher or a Christian brother, you may rest assured that your sins are remitted even though it was Judas or someone else who absolved you; for absolution is, for all that, God’s Word and a divine office.

    Martin Luther, vol. 22, Luther’s Works, Vol. 22 : Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 1-4, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, Luther’s Works, Jn 1:34 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999).

  18. More Luther:

    When I receive the absolution from my brother and derive comfort from it, what I hear is the voice of the Holy Spirit,

    Martin Luther, vol. 22, Luther’s Works, Vol. 22 : Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 1-4, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, Luther’s Works, Jn 3:8 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999).

  19. Possibly dumb question from a laymen: Why do I even need a pastor to forgive my sins? Can’t I just ask God directly, (as in the Lord’s Prayer). God has already forgiven our sins because of Jesus, has He not?

  20. A warning from Luther:

    But if the sacrament of baptism is the same among all Christians, so that in an emergency a layman, a woman, or a child may administer it—which happens every day—why should not the sacrament of the keys, i.e., penance or absolution, also be common property? Is it not also a sacrament just like baptism? And is your mass any different from that of all other priests? Can you give more of the body of Christ than our chaplain? Why, then, do you make an exception of the sacrament of the keys with your claim to do more in this sacrament than all the rest of Christendom? You are seeking to establish your own sacrilegious power over the churches, and out of the sacrament of the keys, which is the equal and universal property of all, you build your own unequal and special power and tyranny. If all the sacraments have the same effect in the hands of every man who administers them, then you cannot reserve to yourself this one sacrament of the keys and make it into a sacrament of your own, different from that which all of Christendom has in common.

    Martin Luther, vol. 32, Luther’s Works, Vol. 32 : Career of the Reformer II, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, Luther’s Works, 51-52 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999).

  21. More Luther:

    9. It follows in addition that in the sacrament of penance and forgiveness of guilt a pope or bishop does nothing more than the lowliest priest. Indeed where there is no priest, each individual Christian—even a woman or child—does as much. For any Christian can say to you, “God forgives you your sins, in the name,” etc., and if you can accept that word with a confident faith, as though God were saying it to you, then in that same faith you are surely absolved. So completely does everything depend on faith in God’s word. No pope, bishop, or priest can do anything to your faith. Neither can anyone give to another any better word of God than that common word he spoke to St. Peter, “Whatever you loose … shall be loosed.” This word must be in every absolution; indeed every absolution depends upon it.

    Martin Luther, vol. 35, Luther’s Works, Vol. 35 : Word and Sacrament I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, Luther’s Works, 12-13 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999).

  22. More Luther:

    When you are absolved from your sins, indeed when amid your awareness of sin some devout Christian—man or woman, young or old—comforts you, then receive this absolution in such faith that you would readily let yourself be torn apart or killed over and over again, or readily renounce everything else, rather than doubt that you have been truly absolved before God. Since by God’s grace it is commanded of us to believe and to hope that our sins are forgiven us, how much more then ought you to believe it when God gives you a sign of it through another person! There is no greater sin than not to believe this article of “the forgiveness of sins” which we pray daily in the Creed. And this sin is called the sin against the Holy Spirit. It strengthens all other sins and makes them forever unforgivable. Consider, therefore, what a gracious God and Father we have. He not only promises us forgiveness of sins, but also commands us, on pain of committing the most grievous sin of all, to believe that they are forgiven. With this same command he constrains us to have a joyful conscience while he uses the terrible sin [against the Holy Spirit] as a means of driving us away from sins and from a bad conscience.

    Martin Luther, vol. 35, Luther’s Works, Vol. 35 : Word and Sacrament I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, Luther’s Works, 14 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999).

  23. More Luther:

    God is well aware of your sins. If you only confess them before him, and then before your neighbor, your sins are forgiven. Yet for the sake of those who would like to make use of it, private confession is by no means to be rejected. The reason is this: there is much that is beneficial and precious in it. First of all, the absolution, in which your neighbor19 absolves you in God’s stead, is just as if God himself were speaking, and that should indeed be comforting to us. If I knew that God were in a certain place and would absolve me I would not go to some other place, but would receive absolution in that place as often as I could. Such absolution he has put into the mouth of man,20 hence it is most comforting, especially to burdened consciences, to receive it there.

    Martin Luther, vol. 36, Luther’s Works, Vol. 36 : Word and Sacrament II, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, Luther’s Works, 359 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999).

  24. The Proceedings of the 1860 Convention of the German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States gave us a set of theses that (in my honest opinion) have been overlooked through the years.

    Concerning the intimate relationship of the doctrine of Absolution with that of Justification

    1. Absolution of sins is, according to Luther’s teaching, the Gospel, whether it is proclaimed to many or to the individual.

    2. Private absolution is therefore not an extra or an addition to the existing power of the Gospel to forgive sins. Private absolution is nothing else than the preaching of the Gospel to the individual sinner.

    3. The steward and dispenser of absolution in the public office are the preachers of the Gospel; but otherwise all Christians, because the entire Church is the original holder of the Keys; however He who forgives sins through their ministry is the triune God.

    4. Absolution does not consist of a judicial judgment of the confessor, of an empty proclamation or wishing of the forgiveness of sins, but of a powerful announcement of the forgiveness of sins.

    5. The effect of absolution is not based on man’s repentance, confession and satisfaction. Absolution calls for faith, it works and strengthens faith. Absolution is of no use to mankind without faith, even though it is not a faulty key [Fehlschlüssel].

    6. Through private absolution, there is indeed no significantly different or better forgiveness announced, such as in the preaching of the Gospel. Private absolution is also not required to obtain forgiveness in such a way as if it took place without any forgiveness. Nevertheless private absolution still has its special usefulness and benefits, because through it the individual is certain that the forgiveness of sins is also for him.

    7. Private confession is closely related with private absolution, which is nothing more than that one desires absolution. Next to this it also has the benefit that it gives the father confessor the opportunity to question people, to exercise preaching and the catechism, to guard them against unworthy use of the Sacrament, to give all sorts of counsel in difficult cases of conscience, and finally it is an exercise in self-humiliation. In sum, it is an exercise of Law and Gospel.

    8. Confession is not commanded by God, but nevertheless is highly useful. Therefore it is not to be compelled as necessary, but where it is used, it is to be preserved. Where it has fallen into disuse, it is to be recovered through recommending and praising its benefits.

    – From the Tenth Convention of the German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States, 1860. Theses thought to be authored by Rev. Th. J. Brohm.

    Theses 7 and 8 were not discussed in 1860 because they were considered to be not germane to the general topic of the theses. Nevertheless, they are included for the sake of posterity.

    I invite my brothers-in-office, Rev. Wurst and Rev. Osbun, to give these theses some thought. I have sent to them (privately) the Proceedings of the 1860 Convention that include extra-Biblical and extra-Confessional witnesses to these theses. Our beloved Synod has discussed this question before. The theses are a result of this discussion. They remain true today as they were 152 years ago.

    Every blessing in Christ!

  25. Fr. Juhl, I confess before you, a called and ordained servant of the Word, that I have misunderstood my Lord Jesus Christ in His Word. I regret my error. Will you forgive me?

  26. Pastor Wurst, I rejoice in your repentance.

    I rejoice to understand by it that you are retracting your assertion that only when a person hears absolution from a pastor may he be sure and certain of forgiveness and that laypersons can not absolve sin, but only offer assurance of forgiveness, and can only speak to sins personally committed against them.

    Thanks be to God.

  27. Thanks for clearing this up for all us “Joe Blow laymen”, or whatever Pr Josh Lobun called us. Nice to know what he really thinks of us.

  28. Let love be genuine.

    Abhor what is evil;

    hold fast to what is good.

    Love one another with brotherly affection.

    Outdo one another in showing honor.

    Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.

    Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation,
    be constant in prayer.

    Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
    Bless those who persecute you;
    bless and do not curse them.

    Rejoice with those who rejoice,
    weep with those who weep.

    Live in harmony with one another.

    Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.

    Never be wise in your own sight.

    Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.

    If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
    Beloved, never avenge yourselves,
    but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written,

    “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

    To the contrary,

    “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty,
    give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”

    Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

    (Romans 12:9-21 ESV)

  29. @Pastor Josh Osbun #28

    Pastor Josh Osbun :

    Rev. McCall :
    Certainly both Scripture and “necessity” say that anyone can do such

    I’ve been trying to find out where Scripture says this. No one seems to want to answer my questions, despite how much others demand or “look forward” to me answering theirs.

    You are setting your legalism up against the historic teaching of the Church. Rev. McCain has some wise counsel this time that is worth repeating, “we do not refute error by introducing error in the other direction. That is, in fact, terribly harmful.”

    The case of necessity is just that. Just because people have been redefining “necessity” or finding loopholes for themselves does not mean we can take away the right and duty of a layman, in the case of necessity, to become the minister and pastor of another. What would you have “Joe B. Layman” do if he were to come upon a dying man who begs for baptism, or for, *gasp* to hear his confession? I know what I would do, I would hear his confession and pronounce absolution to him. Need knows no law.

    “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?”

  30. I am shutting down comments on this article. BJS readers would be encouraged to read the many quotes from the Confessions and also from Luther on this issue. If anything, this whole discussion has shown that there is a divide in how even our pastors confess the Office of the Holy Ministry, but also that through discussion around Scripture, Confessions, and our own Fathers in the Faith there can be great things which happen and discover that Christ has used these things to foster unity in belief between brothers.

    I am sure that sometime in the near future there will again be a posting in which we can discuss matters of the Office of the Holy Ministry again.

    Pastor Joshua Scheer
    Associate Editor, BJS