Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Augsburg Confession (Part 3)

Article V—Of the Ministry of the Church
For the obtaining of this faith, the ministry of teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. For by the Word and Sacraments, as by instruments, the Holy Spirit is given: who worketh faith, where and when it pleaseth God, in those that hear the Gospel, to wit, that God, not for our merit’s sake, but for Christ’s sake, doth justify those who believe that they for Christ’s sake are received into favor.
They condemn the Anabaptists and others, who imagine that the Holy Spirit is given to men without the outward word, through their own preparations and works.

The second paragraph above specifically opposes those who believed that "the Holy Spirit comes without the external Word, without the oral and visible Word of proclamation and the sacraments. Instead, they rely on their own preparations and works,...[including] certain spiritual exercises called...self-abstraction...concentration...and others, with which a person prepared for the coming of the Spirit. In addition, any notion of mortification of the flesh as a condition for the Spirit's regeneration is rejected here" (Leif Grane, The Augsburg Confession: A Commentary, trans. John H. Rasmussen, p. 70).

Of course, Baptists have historically avoided the word "sacrament" when speaking of baptism and the Lord's Supper. They have done this primarily to avoid the nearly magical ideas of Roman Catholicism that these practices give grace automatically to all who receive them without putting an impediment in the way of the sacrament. However, despite their opposition to popery, it should be noted that early Baptists did not object to the spiritual presence of Christ in the ordinances (see 2LBC, chapter 30.7).

Article VI—Of New Obedience
Also they teach that this faith should bring forth good fruits, and that men ought to do the good works commanded of God, because it is God’s will, and not on any confidence of meriting justification before God by their works.
For remission of sins and justification is apprehended by faith, as also the voice of Christ witnesseth: ‘When ye have done all these things, say, We are unprofitable servants.’
The same also do the ancient writers of the Church teach; for Ambrose saith: ‘This is ordained of God, that he that believeth in Christ shall be saved, without works, by faith alone, freely receiving remission of sins.’

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