As we remember the presentation of the Augsburg Confession, we read about what the reformers confessed the church to be—or rather who she is, and who is her head. Our devotion is from Augsburg Today: This We Believe, Teach and Confess.
The year 1530 marked one of Christendom’s historic moments, as the Protestant party, accused of heresy, defended itself at the imperial Diet of Augsburg. Organizational structures, ceremonies, religious rules and dress, pontifical power and edifice did not constitute the church, they asserted.
Luther could not go to Augsburg for this crucial gathering of political bigwigs and sundry ecclesiastical figures. But the Large and Small Catechisms had come from Luther’s pen in 1529, and the Lutheran confessors had these and other documents with them at Augsburg. In the Large Catechism, Luther had written concerning the church: “[It is] a unique community in the world . . . , the mother that begets and bears every Christian through the Word of God.” He had further explained that “the creed calls the holy Christian church a communio sanctorum, ‘a communion of saints’” and that “both expressions have the same meaning.”
This “little holy flock or community of pure saints under one head, Christ, . . . is called together by the Holy Spirit in one faith, mind, and understanding.” Luther expressed it in very personal terms to which we, too, can resonate: “I was brought to it by the Holy Spirit and incorporated into it through the fact that I have heard and still hear God’s Word, which is the first step in entering it.” And though we remain sinners till we die, “everything in the Christian church is so ordered that we may daily obtain full forgiveness of sins through the Word and the signs [sacraments] appointed to comfort and revive our consciences as long as we live” (LC 2, 47ff.).
The church is no mere theoretical concept, but a very real, existential, true-to-life fact in this world. Indeed, this household of faith, or fellowship of believers, built upon Christ reaches also into heaven. But it is first of all right here on earth, for wherever the Word is, there God builds His church, and He promises that the preaching of His Word will never be in vain but will bear fruit (Is. 55:11; Acts 2:37–42; 10:43).
Devotional reading is adapted from Augsburg Today: This We Believe, Teach and Confess, pages 52–53 © 1997 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Explanation from Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation
202. What is the Church?
It is the Body of Christ—that is, all people whom the Spirit, by the Means of Grace, has gathered to Christ in faith throughout the world. . . .
Note: The Creed in its original words speaks of the Church as “catholic” (universal)—that is, existing throughout all time and throughout the world, including people who confess and believe in Jesus Christ from every background. . . . Another way to say this is to speak of the “Christian Church.”
Explanation is from Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation, pages 206–07 © 2017 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.