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


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)

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