A Laymen’s Commentary on the Augsburg Confession: The Ministry

This is part 6 of 30 in the series A Layman's Commentary on the Augsburg Confession


Article V: Of the Ministry.

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.

So that we may have the gifts of Article IV, Justification, the Office of the Holy Ministry was instituted. Pastors are called to preach, teach, and administer the Sacraments.  They deliver to us the subjective justification that the Lord won objectively on the cross (John 20:19-23, Matthew 28:16-20).

Thus the pastor is called to exercise the Keys of the Church. They are to be men of high quality and good repute.  They must be sound in faith and have been a Lutheran for many years. They must have a good family life without any of their children being unbelievers or licentious, for if he cannot properly instruct and maintain his family how can he instruct the Church? Most importantly the man must be able to teach well. All of these requirements are for the sake of the Office and Church, as a man of this caliber will be above reproach and able to teach well. (1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-16)

Men who violate these qualifications are rightly barred from the ministry and defrocked.  While they may repent of their wickedness, their actions have disqualified them from the Office of the Ministry.  Much evil is done by those who remain in the Ministry even though they ought to be removed, as we can see with the rampant evils that afflict the clergy of the Roman Catholics and evangelicals.  Manifest sin, especially sexual sins, should never be tolerated among Christians, much less the clergy.  This is doubly true for pastors as they are representatives of God and their marriages are images of the reality of Christ and the Church.  Their adultery and fornication destroys that image and they can no longer stand in for the Bridegroom who never forsakes His Church for another.  While forgiveness certainly exists for those in the clergy who fall into sin, as with all Christians, it does not mean that they are to be permitted to retain that vocation.  They have lost that right. (Ephesians 5)

Though the pastor is the instrument through which the Gospel is brought to us it is God who works faith, not ourselves.  We have no role in our conversion. It matters not how dynamic the preacher is or how perfectly the Sacraments are administered, the pastor is but a servant of the Word.  It is God who does the work of conversion, forgiveness, and growth in faith (John 3:1-15).  We will talk more about the Pastoral call and vocation in Article XIV.

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.

The Anabaptists deny the efficacy of Baptism.  Rather, they are Enthusiasts saying the Holy Spirit comes apart from His ordained means—that they can engage with God on their own terms and through their own methods.  To this madness, Luther answers boldly in the Smalcald Articles Part III Article VIII 3-13.

The Confutation agrees with this Article.  Though the Confutation says that faith should be understood in this article as being not faith alone but faith and love.  This is a continuation of the debate from Article IV and is answered by Melancthon there.

1 Shepherd of tender youth,
Guiding in love and truth
Through devious ways;
Christ, our triumphant king,
We come Your name to sing
And here our children bring
To join Your praise.

2 You are our holy Lord,
The all-subduing Word,
Healer of strife.
Yourself You did abase
That from sin’s deep disgrace
You so might save our race
And give us life.

3 You are the great High Priest;
You have prepared the feast
Of holy love;
And in our mortal pain
None calls on You in vain;
Our pleas do not disdain;
Help from above.

4 Forever be our guide,
Our shepherd and our pride,
Our staff and song.
Jesus, O Christ of God,
By your enduring Word,
Lead us where You have trod;
Make our faith strong.

5 So now, and till we die,
Sound we Your praises high
And joyful sing:
Infants, and all the throng,
Who to the Church belong,
Unite to swell the song
To Christ, our king!

(LSB 864)

About Dr. Paul Edmon

Dr. Paul Edmon is from Seattle, Washington and now resides in Boston, Massachusetts. He has his B.S. in Physics from the University of Washington in 2004 and Ph.D. in Astrophysics from the University of Minnesota in 2010. He is professional staff at Harvard University and acts as liaison between Center for Astrophysics and Research Computing. A life long Lutheran, he is formerly a member of Messiah Lutheran Church in Seattle and University Lutheran Chapel in Minneapolis. He now attends First Lutheran Church (FLC) of Boston where he teaches Lutheran Essentials. He sings bass in the FLC choir and Canto Armonico. He was elected to the Concordia Seminary St. Louis Board of Regents in 2016. He is single and among his manifold interests are scotch, football, anime, board games, mythology, history, philosophy, and general nerdiness. The views expressed here are his own and do not represent Harvard University or Concordia Seminary. Twitter: @pauledmon


A Laymen’s Commentary on the Augsburg Confession: The Ministry — 2 Comments

  1. Luke 7:39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”
    Matthew 26:13 Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

    Now the two women are different though both are remembered in the Lord’s Gospel and my question –related with your statement “it does not mean that they are to be permitted to retain that vocation“ would be: is the sin greater than the repentance to which we are called (Matthew 4:17) and the forgiveness we are given by our Christ? While our duty is to be perfect as our God (Matthew 5:48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.) are there so many priests that we can dispense them instantly? My guess is that nowadays there are more psychologists than priests…. But it may be that your opinion is influenced by the recent studies of the sex abuse cases in the Catholic Church (indeed 3,677 cases of abuse in Germany is huge!!!). And my comment/question is more general.

  2. Certainly Christ can and does forgive any and all sins regardless of how heinous. The question is are there any temporal penalties for sin even though the eternal ones have been put away? The answer is yes there are as justice must be done, order must be maintained, and standards must be kept. The Gospel does not undo temporal authority and order. It matters not if this would gut the church of pastors, numbers do not matter in this. These men have lost the trust, reputation, and qualifications necessary for the office, thus they should be removed immediately lest more damage be done. We are not so hurting for pastors that we need to keep abusers, and even we were hurting for pastors it should not stop us. There is no pragmatic argument to be made about this. This is simply right and wrong. After all a truly repentant man would want to keep the Law, and thus would defrock himself and seek to live a quiet life of faith. No one deserves to be a pastor, there is no indelible character. Rather it is a privilege that can be lost, as with any office.

    As for the Roman Catholics, if they do end up hurting for priests the might consider the true remedy for their malady. Namely to permit their men to marry. St. Paul says this in 1 Corinthians 7. If they allowed marriage of their priests they would end up with many more good men.

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