The Presentation of the Augsburg Confession (June 25)
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The antiphon from our Introit appointed for our commemoration of The Presentation of the Augsburg Confession is our text:
I will speak of your statutes before kings [O Lord,] and will not be put to shame (Psalm 119:46).
This Word of God spoken by the Holy Spirit through the Psalmist has been fulfilled many times since it was first spoken. It was fulfilled when our Lord Jesus Christ stood before Pontius Pilate and made a good confession of faith to Pilate. It was fulfilled when Paul stood before the Caesar and made a good confession of faith to Caesar. It was fulfilled again on June 25th, 1530 in the city of Augsburg when our Lutheran forefathers read their confession of faith to the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V. It is fulfilled today and each time you open your mouth and confess your faith to others.
The heart and soul of your Lutheran Confession of faith is the distinction between the religion of the law and the religion of the Gospel. At the time of the Augsburg Confession, the religion of the Law reigned supreme. The Roman church insisted that you are not justified by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone. The Roman church taught that grace is a helping hand, helping you get on your feet so that with His help you can make yourself righteous.
The religion of the Law accomplishes only one purpose and that is to show us our sins. The Law makes none righteous in the sight of God. It can only condemn. It cannot justify. To be sure the religion of the Law can make you righteous on the outside. It can dress you up in religious clothes but it cannot give life to your soul, put faith your heart which trusts in Jesus Christ alone.
Today the religion of the Law is not found in any one institution. It is like a virus that is no respecter of churches. It comes right in through the door—the same door you entered through this morning; it comes in with you and with me, it rides in one the shoulder of our old sin nature because the religion of the Law is the official religion of the world and of our sinful flesh – the Old Adam in each one of us.
By the grace of our God and through His holy Word, your Lutheran forefathers came to a proper understanding of the religion of the Law but far more important they came to an understanding of the Gospel. At Augsburg their number one concern was to speak the Gospel in clear language so that others might hear the Good News, believe the Good News and join them in confessing the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Article four of the Augsburg Confession says it best:
It is also taught among us that we cannot obtain forgiveness of sin and righteousness before God by our own merits, works, or satisfactions, but that we receive forgiveness of sin and become righteous before God by grace, for Christ’s sake, through faith, when we believe that Christ suffered for us and that for his sake our sin is forgiven and righteousness and eternal life are given to us. For God will regard and reckon this faith as righteousness, as Paul says in Romans 3:21-26 and 4:5.
The confessors first stated the negative; “we cannot obtain forgiveness of sin and righteousness before God by our own merits, works or satisfactions.” This is a bold rejection of the religion of the Law and if we would rightly confess our faith and be saved, we must also begin with a bold clear rejection of the religion of the Law.
In Romans 10:4 Paul makes this bold confession, “Christ is the end of the Law.” It is over, the religion of the Law is done for. Christ brought the reign of Law and Sin to an end by taking upon Himself the curse of the broken Law and fulfilling all requirements of the Law. The difficulty is that our old Adam does not want to give it up. You have a death grip on the Law. Each one of us truly wants to find some good thing within about which we can boast.We want something to which we can point and say “I did it.” Or “I fixed it,” or “I made it possible.”
For this reason your Pastor and your Church continue to publicly confess the faith saying, While there are many things we can do “we cannot obtain forgiveness of sin and righteousness before God by our own merits, works or satisfactions.” Your desire is a good one. You want to be righteous in the sight of God but you cannot get there from the Law. In order to be righteous and obtain the forgiveness of sins, you must hear the Gospel and be brought to faith. The Augsburg Confession teaches; “that we receive forgiveness of sin and become righteous before God by grace, for Christ’s sake, through faith.”
Righteousness is not a helping hand from God–picking us up, setting us on the right road, completing what we have begun–helping us to make ourselves righteous. Righteousness is a hand-out from God, a “freebie”. Paul writes, Romans 10:6-8 “But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Whowill ascend into heaven?’“ (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descendinto the deep?’“ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming.
The righteousness you need does not try to bring Christ down from heaven or up from the deep. The righteousness which is by faith says that God has graciously descended and is present among us in Christ Jesus. You do not go looking forHim; rather, He has come looking for you. The righteousness you need is right in front of your face. In fact it is in your mouth says Paul. As I am preaching to you, the Holy Spirit is putting the good food of Christ’s forgiveness in your mouth. Swallow it! Believe it in your heart, says Paul and then confess it with your lips and you will be saved. Listen very carefully, But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: 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.
Our Lutheran Fathers in the faith believed in their hearts and confessed with their lips that we are “justified by grace, for Christ’s sake through faith. “That message is preached again and again and again through the ages and throughout the church and the result is salvation. “Everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved.” Even you, even me.
This is not “retro” Sunday where we reflect on the past in order to feel nostalgic and long for the good old days. This day is here to remind us to continue to confess the one true faith so that we and our children and our children’s children and indeed all people might hear and believe the good news of Justification by grace for Christ’s sake through faith.
It is not enough that on June 25, 1530, the faith was confessed. It must be confessed on June 25, 2006 and on June 26, 27, 28 and always. Why? because faith comes by hearing, says Paul and hearing comes through preaching, and confessing. God has ordained that there be men sent out to open their mouths wide and speak loud and clear the Gospel as it is written, Romans 10:14-15:
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
I am here today sent by God so that you might hear, believe and be justified. How? You are justified by grace. Grace means a free gift which is not earned nor deserved but given. By grace for Christ’s sake means that forgiveness is free to you but it cost Jesus His life blood. It cost you nothing but it cost Him His blood sweat and agony. His is the pain and yours is the gain. By grace for Christ’s sake through faith. You receive this amazing free offer not by what you do but by what He has done for you on the cross.
My dear friends, for whom Christ died, what began on June 25, 1530 continues on June 25, 2006. Thanks be to God. Amen!