The Presentation of the Augsburg Confession + John 15:1-11 + June 25, 2017

Hymn # 262 A Mighty Fortress is Our God 

I - WILL || speak of Thy testimonies al - | so | be-| fore | kings *
          And will | not | be| a-| shamed. (Psalm 119:46)
|| God is our | re- | fuge | and | strength, *
          A very present | help | in | trou- | ble. -
|| Therefore will not we fear, though the | earth | be | re-| moved *
         And though the mountains be carried into the |midst | of | the | sea;
|| Though the waters thereof roar | and | be | trou-| bled *
         Though the mountains shake with the | swell-| ing | there- | of.
|| The Lord of | hosts | is | with | us; *
          The God of Jacob | is | our | re- | fuge. – (Psalm 46:1-3, 7)
|| I will speak of Thy testimonies al - | so | be | fore | kings *
              and will | not | be a-|-shamed. (Psalm 119:46)

Collect for the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession
O Lord God, Heavenly Father, pour out, we beseech Thee, Thy Holy Spirit upon Thy faithful people, keep them steadfast in Thy grace and truth, protect and comfort them in all temptations, defend them against all enemies of Thy Word, and bestow upon Christ’s Church Militant Thy saving peace; through the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
Isaiah 55:6-11
Romans 10:5-17
John 15:1-11 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

1)         In 1529 the Ottoman Empire, a Muslim empire, on its quest to conquer Europe, captured Vienna, Austria. This was the same year that Martin Luther, twelve years into the Reformation, published the Small and Large Catechisms to teach the Christian faith to child and priest alike. Luther’s catechisms marked a turning point for the Reformation because they planted the pure gospel of justification by faith alone and not of works of the Law deeper into the hearts of many Northern Europeans. By 1529 the Lutheran territories had long been in open revolt against the Papacy on account of Rome’s demonic doctrines. Between the Mohammedan threat and deep division in external Christendom, the world was on fire. It was the new Emperor’s job to put out that fire on both fronts. To that end, Emperor Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire convened the Diet of Augsburg in the spring of 1530. His goal was to bring about religious unity so that an empire united in the Roman faith could solidly face the Muslim threat. The Emperor invited the German princes to present a confession of their faith with hopes that he could reconcile them to Rome without bloodshed. The pressure was on those German princes to undo the damage that Luther’s Reformation had begun. The time was ripe for a compromise, if not a complete acquiescence to Rome’s claim of primacy. If it ever seemed that there were ever a time to back down from doctrine for the sake of peace, it was at Augsburg in 1530.  

2)         Thanks be to God that that didn’t happen. Those princes presented their confession of faith at Augsburg. They fulfilled the words of the Psalmist, “I will speak of Your testimonies also before kings, And will not be ashamed” (119:46). The confessed Christ boldly without regard for their bodies, reputation, property, or lives. These princes, these laymen, were filled with such zeal for the pure Gospel that sinners are justified solely by faith in Christ and not by works of the Law, that they were willing to sacrifice everything for that confession of faith. If they had shrunk back because of fear, the Reformation would have ended at the moment. If they had compromised for the sake of political peace, they would have deprived the world of the righteousness of faith which alone brings true peace with God. If they had acquiesced, backed down, and confessed the Roman doctrines, the Gospel would have once again been covered over by the doctrines of demons that Rome had long since taught. But they did not. They believed the word from Hebrews 10:23, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” They were not among those who shrunk back and cowered before the most power man in the world. They confessed Christ’s Gospel in the words of that confession which bore their signatures and staked their lives on it. Those men were not afraid of those who could kill the body and not the soul for they knew that Christ had said in Luke 12:8, “Whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God.” That confession became known, from that moment on, as the Augsburg Confession of the Christian faith.

3)         These men risked everything for the sake of a pure confession of the Gospel. It wasn’t that they were stubborn. It wasn’t that they were hard-headed Germans. Nor were they political obstructionists. Quite the opposite. These princes could have lost their kingdoms and their lives at Augsburg for defying Pope and Emperor. Why did they do it? They did it because of they were branches of the true vine. And branches bear fruit. Jesus said to His disciples, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5). Those men abided in Christ. Those princes clung to the Word of God as their most precious treasure. That’s how abide in Christ, by hearing His Word and believing it. They heard the Gospel that Luther recovered. They believed the words of St. Paul in Galatians 2:16 that “a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ,” whether works God commanded through Moses or works commanded by men as if they were from God Himself, as Rome did and still does today. Hearing the pure Gospel, that sins are forgiven not on account of their own merits but solely by faith in Christ’s merits, these men would have rather been deprived of life and limb than be separated from the Word of God, for the Word of God is where Christ is.

4)         Their confession, the Augsburg Confession, was one of the many fruit they bore. Abiding in Christ as branches abide in a vine, Christ brought this fruit in them. When we think of the fruits of faith we often think about good works of love and charity for our neighbor because those are ones that are the most visible to the eye. But love for our neighbor is only one of the fruits Christ produces in those who abide in Him by faith. Abiding in Christ through faith in His promises brings about so many other fruits. Faith teaches us to fear and love God, which we cannot do by our own natural powers. Faith brings forth the fruit of prayer to God because faith hears the promise of God about prayer and that stirs us to pray to Him for every need. Faith bears the fruit of praise in our hearts that we “continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name” (Hebrews 13:15). Abiding in Christ by faith bears the fruit of patience in affliction, so that we bear every hardship and suffering in this life trusting that it is a good gift of God for our good. Abiding in Christ also bears the fruit of confessing the Gospel before men. St. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:13, “Since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, ‘I believed and therefore I spoke,’ we also believe and therefore speak.” If we believe the Gospel, by the power of the Holy Ghost, Christ will cause us to bear this fruit, that we confess the Gospel in our lives with our lips because we love it as a treasure.

5)         Its incredible how little has changed in the 437 years since those men presented the Augsburg Confession before the Emperor. The world is still on fire. The Mohammadans still seek to conquer the Christian West. Visible Christendom is not only fractured but dying. If ever there were a time to compromise the doctrine of the pure Gospel, it would be today. And that is precisely what we are tempted to do. The sectarian churches that arose out of the Reformation and found a firm footing on the American soil sing a siren’s song of: “Doctrine doesn’t matter. Deeds not creeds. We all believe the Bible so we should unite to evangelize the world.” But to do so we would have give up the Word of God which plainly says, “Baptism doth also now save us” (1 Peter 3:21). In order to unite with the rest of American Protestantism we would have to disavow Christ’s simple words, “This is my body. This is my blood shed for you for the remission of sins.” To get along with the American Evangelicals we could have to contradict St. Paul who says we are saved by faith “not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8), not a decision. Against the false doctrines of Rome on the right and American Protestantism on the left, we have this rock and bulwark, the Augsburg Confession, a true and pure exhibition of the Christian Faith and the Holy Scriptures, just as Lutherans have had for 487 years.

6)         Some scoff and say that we’re adding to the Scriptures by subscribing to a man-made confession. But confess we must. Jesus says so. He wants us to confess. Confession is a fruit of faith, a fruit Christ bears in us by being connected to Him through faith. Often the very people who scoff at man-made confessions fail to see both Christ’s Words and the irony when their own congregation’s website has a page entitled “What We Believe,” which is a man-made confession of faith. Others say: “Our church just teaches the Bible.” But this is usually code for either, “I’m not sure what my church teaches,” or worse yet, “I’m not sure what the Bible actually says.” But every church claims to teach the Bible. How do you actually tell what a church teaches or what a Christian believes? By their confession. Charles Krauth wrote, “Faith makes men Christians; but Confession alone marks them as believers. The Scriptures are the Rule of Faith, God’s voice to us. Faith is the hearing of that voice. The confession is our reply and assent to it.” It is necessary to confess the faith because confession is the response, the fruit of faith that Christ brings forth in us. It is also necessary to confess what the Scriptures specially teach in our age of doctrinal complacency and drowsiness. The Augsburg Confession, as a true exhibition of the Holy Scriptures, serves as a remedy to the doctrinal sleep-apnea which is killing American Christianity.

7)         The world is still on fire and it will be until Christ returns in glory to judge the living and dead. Let Satan rage and the false church scoff at the idea of having a pure confession of faith. We know it to be true because it says what the Scriptures say. Take heart, dearly beloved of God. Abide in Christ by faith and He will abide in you to give you the forgiveness of every sin, life, and everlasting salvation. Remain in Christ’s Word and His Word will remain in you so that you will bear all the fruit that He desires, especially the fruit that confesses Christ and His doctrine. He is the vine. We are the branches. Therefore “let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23).

In the Name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

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