Historical Introduction & The Preface of the Augsburg Confession
THE BLESSING OF THE AUGSBURG CONFESSION
- The Augsburg Confession is a Christian summary of critical teachings of the Bible.
- The Augsburg Confession developed as a reaction and response to Satan’s work in the visible church during the Middle Ages in Europe (A.D. 476 – 1453; The fall of the Roman Empire to the fall of Constantinople).
- During the Middle Ages Satan had been very effective in his effort to pervert the teachings of the Roman Church.
a. Those who were leaders in the church had become most concerned about political matters and about acquiring money for projects.
b. Those who should have been like the prophets and should have proclaimed the truth of God’s Word had embraced false doctrines and had become more concerned about themselves than God’s people.
c. God’s people had become superstitious. The sinful nature in them and the law (as emphasized by Rome) threatened to completely destroy what was left of their spiritual life.
- The church of the Middle Ages had become like God’s people during the time of King Ahab of Israel and the time in Judah immediately before the exile in Babylon.
- Isaiah’s words (Isaiah 29:13) correctly described the church of the Middle Ages also: The LORD says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.”
- Although the faithful still were present in the church of the Middle Ages, many of the church leaders were “far from” the LORD.
- Martin Luther (1483-1546) was a product of his time. He had been taught to see God as an angry and just judge. Luther believed that the only way to be right with God was to work hard; to make himself worthy.
- The Lord gave Luther a special gift. The Holy Spirit guided Luther’s heart to remain like that of a child. Luther was concerned about his spiritual welfare and the Holy Spirit used that concern when Luther finally studied the Bible on his own.
- Luther did not listen only to those teachers and leaders whom Satan had deceived. Luther also studied the Bible to see what the Bible teaches.
- Luther noted that immorality was everywhere, even among those who claimed to be leaders and teachers of God’s people.
- What finally became God’s teachable moment in Luther’s life was Rome’s sale of indulgences. Rome collected money from people to sell God’s forgiveness of sins.
- Luther’s childlike heart realized how demonic the sale of indulgences was. That happened when Luther learned from Scripture alone that sinners are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.
- The Augsburg Confession (1530) was written by Luther’s associate, Phillip Melanchthon. The Augsburg Confession was written for political leaders and for church leaders and for King Charles V, the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.
- Those political and church leaders of Germany who accepted the biblical teachings (as expressed by the Augsburg Confession) were willing to allow the emperor to cut off their heads rather than to rejoin the Roman Church and hold to that church’s false teachings.
- In our study of the Augsburg Confession…
a. We will learn about those biblical teachings which Rome had challenged or changed and what God’s Word says about those teachings.
b. We will also learn to appreciate the courage of those political and church leaders who were willing to proclaim those truths even though the powers of the time, the emperor and the papacy, wanted to have them all killed for holding to God’s Word.
c. The Holy Spirit will use this study to keep us from becoming like the church during the days of Ahab of Israel and the days of Judah at the time of the Babylonian captivity.
Matthew 10:32 “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.”
How do Christians “acknowledge” Jesus?
Luke 9:26 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
What are the consequences of covering up known and accepted Scriptural truths that are clearly laid out for us in the Word of God?
Romans 10:9,10 That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. What relationship exists between the heart that believes and the mouth that confesses?
From this study, we will see something that Jesus already told us in God’s Word when he said:
34"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law - 36a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ 37"Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:34-37).
With these words of our precious Savior, we are reminded that his Word will do one of two things to the people of this world – either unite us or divide us and sometimes that division goes right through the members of one’s own family.
As Christians grow in their faith, they will also see through this study that faith mandates a response of what we believe. It is not enough to tell someone that you believe in Jesus. For people today have made Jesus into the greatest false god by denying the plain Scriptural truths of what the Bible tells us about Jesus. Some say he’s a great prophet, but not true God; some say that he’s one of many ways into heaven, but not the only way. Anything short of what the Bible reveals to us about Jesus is idolatry. It’s important, therefore, that Christians know the Jesus of the Bible and are prepared to defend their faith according to the Bible just as the following passages remind us…
Complete (whatever you, the teacher, were not able to cover in class) your reading of the Preface (below) and the summary comments beneath each section.
Write down and bring your questions or comments next time we meet.
Preface to Emperor Charles V
Charles V (A.D. 1500-1558) was King of Spain. Charles became emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 1519.
1] All Powerful Emperor, Caesar Augustus, Most Merciful Lord: Your Royal Majesty has called a council of the empire here at Augsburg to discuss what to do against the Turks, that most fearful and longtime enemy of our Christian name and religion. You wish us to agree on a strong and lasting military action that can successfully defeat their furious attacks.
The reference to “the Turks” is a reference to the Ottoman Empire (A.D. 1299-1922). The Turks were hoping to invade and conquer Europe. The Turks were Muslim. They worshiped Allah. They did not worship the Triune God. The emperor had summoned his princes from around Germany in order to deal with this political emergency.
2] You also called this meeting to consider the disagreements about our holy religion and Christian faith. In these religious matters you wished the opinions and judgments of the different sides to be heard in each other’s presence. 3] You wanted us to consider and discuss these matters among ourselves with both sides showing love and kindness. Then, you wished us to settle these matters by removing and correcting those things that were described and understood in different ways in the writings of both sides. Only then will Christians again find agreement on a single simple truth. 4] Christians could then also be able to accept and hold onto one pure and true religion in the future. Since we are all under one Christ and fight under him, we should also be able to live in unity and agreement in the one Christian church.
The emperor had also summoned his German princes in order to address a religious concern: Many German church leaders and governmental leaders were no longer willing to submit to the Roman Catholic Church’s false teachings. The emperor wished to restore religious unity under the Roman papacy and in this way to make Europe (The Holy Roman Empire) strong enough to resist the Turks.
5] We, the undersigned electors, princes, and other leaders who joined with us, have been called to this council just like the other electors, princes, and authorities. We have obeyed your royal command and promptly come to Augsburg. Although we don’t want to boast, we were among the first to arrive.
Augsburg was the city in Germany where this council was held. The writers of the Augsburg Confession boldly presented themselves to the emperor. These men could have lost their lives for refusing to submit to Rome’s false teachings.
6] Among other things, which at the very beginning of the council Your Royal Majesty proposed to the electors, princes, and other authorities of the empire here at Augsburg, was this: That the various authorities of the empire, in response to your royal decree, should write down and submit their opinions and decisions in both the German and Latin languages. 7] So on the first Wednesday, after careful consideration, we told Your Royal Majesty that we would submit the statements of our side’s confession on the following Wednesday. Now, in order to obey Your Royal Majesty’s wishes in these religious matters, 8] we here present the confession of our preachers and of ourselves. This shows what kind of doctrine from the Holy Scriptures and the pure Word of God has been preached up to this time in our lands, territories, and cities, and what is taught in our churches.
Notice how politely and properly these men speak to their emperor. But also notice that these men show a great respect for the “pure word of God”. This is the way Christians are to regard human authorities. We are to obey our human authorities. But our greater duty is to obey God (Acts 5:29).
9] The other electors, princes, and authorities of the empire may wish, according to the royal decree mentioned above, to present similar writings in Latin and German, giving their opinions about these religious matters. 10] If so, then we, with the princes and friends listed above, are prepared for a friendly meeting with them here before Your Royal Majesty, our most merciful lord. We can then discuss all the possible ways and means through which we might be united, as far as this may be done with honor. After this matter has been peacefully discussed between us on both sides without giving offense, may it be brought to an end with God’s help, and may we all agree again to one true religion.
11] For just as we are all under one Christ and fight under his command, we ought to confess the one Christ, in agreement with Your Royal Majesty’s decree. Everything ought to be handled in agreement with the truth of God. With earnest prayers, we ask God to do this.
The Christian is an optimist. “Love rejoices in the truth.” “Love believes all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:6-7). The men who wrote and presented the Augsburg Confession knew that their adversaries were not agreed with them. But they held on to the hope that God’s Word –[which does what God wants it to do (Isaiah 55:10-11)]– would convince their adversaries of the truth. If that happened, the unity that resulted would be genuine and not manufactured.
12] Now we turn to the other electors, princes, and authorities on the opposing side. Your Royal Majesty has ordered each side to present its case in writing and then to calmly discuss it with each other. But if this produces no progress, or if we reach no solution after handling the matter this way, 13] at least we will show you clearly that we are making every effort to bring about Christian harmony. And we will do so as far as God and a good conscience allow us. 14] Your royal majesty and the other electors and authorities of the empire, and everyone who has a sincere love and zeal for religion and who will listen honestly to this matter, will graciously notice and understand our good faith efforts from this confession of ours and our associates.
However, these men would not yield any of the truth in order to establish “peace” between themselves and those who rejected the truth.
15-16] Your Royal Majesty, not just once but often you graciously informed the electors, princes, and authorities of the empire that in dealing with this religious matter, you were not willing to and would not decide anything on your own. You had this proclaimed publicly in your royal decrees, as well as at the Council of Speyer in A.D. 1526. Instead, you used your office to encourage the Roman pope to call a general council. 17] The same thing was announced publicly in greater detail a year ago at the last council at Speyer. 18] There Your Royal Majesty, through his highness Ferdinand, King of Bohemia and Hungary, our friend and merciful lord, as well as through the official speaker and royal commissioners, had presented the following points, among others: that Your Royal Majesty had read and considered the decision of Your Majesty’s representative in the empire, and of the president and royal counselors, and the representatives from other authorities gathered at Regensburg as to the calling of a general council; 19] that Your Royal Majesty also thought it proper to call a council; and that Your Royal Majesty thought the Roman pope could be persuaded to hold a general council, 20] because the other matters that needed settling between Your Royal Majesty and the Roman pope were nearing agreement and Christian reconciliation. Therefore, Your Royal Majesty promised that you would yourself try to obtain the pope’s consent for calling a general council and that Your Royal Majesty would send out letters to announce it as soon as possible.
It was the year 1530. There was a desire for a general council of the Church of Rome. This council was not held until years later [1545-1563] in Trent, Italy. Among its many other actions, the Council of Trent condemned salvation by grace alone through faith in Christ alone.
21] So, if the differences between us and the other parties in this religious matter cannot be settled peacefully and in love, then here, before Your Royal Majesty, we agree to the following. In addition to what we have already done, we will all come and defend our position before such a general, free, Christian council. For at all the royal councils held during Your Majesty’s reign, the electors, princes, and other authorities of the empire have voted in favor of calling a general council. 22] Already previously we have in a lawful manner taken a stand and urged that a general council be called in Your Royal Majesty’s presence to settle this most important and serious matter. 23] We remain firm in seeking support from Your Royal Majesty and in seeking a general council. We do not intend nor would it be possible for us to give up our position by this or any other document, unless the matter between us and the other side is settled in a friendly way, the tensions are lessened, and Christian peace is restored, as called for in your latest royal decree. 24] We hereby solemnly and publicly testify to this.
The religious and political leaders who presented the Augsburg Confession were not contentious. Instead, they were “irenic”. They wanted peace. But they would not accept any peace that came at the loss of the truth.
Regular reading Assignment for next Session
Augsburg Confession – Article 1: About God
1] Our churches are united in teaching what the Council of Nicaea decreed: it is true that there is only one divine being, but there are three persons; and that this should be believed without a doubt. 2] In other words, there is one divine being, which is called God and which truly is God. He is eternal, has no body, has no parts, has all power, wisdom, and goodness. He is the maker and preserver of all things, both visible and invisible. 3] Yet there are also three persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They are of the same being and power and are equally eternal. We use the word person in the same way the early Christians used it. 4] It does not mean a part or quality of another being but something that exists in and of itself.
5] Our churches condemn all heresies that have sprung up against this teaching, such as the Manicheans, who taught there were two divine beings, one good and the other evil. We also condemn the Valentinians, Arians, Eunomians, Muslims, and all others like them. 6] We also condemn the ancient and modern followers of Paul of Samosata. They claim that there is only one divine person. Through clever and ungodly reasoning, they argue that the Word [Christ] and the Holy Spirit are not distinct persons, but that “Word” means only a spoken word, and that “Spirit” refers to a movement within created beings.