Last month I wrote about justification. The Augsburg Confession describes it this way:
Our churches teach that people cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works. People are freely justified for Christ’s sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor and that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake. By His death, Christ made satisfaction for our sins. God counts this faith for righteousness in His sight (Romans 3 and 4) (Augsburg Confession, “Article IV: Justification”).
So faith must be really important. If we are justified through faith, and if God counts this faith as righteousness, then we should want to have this faith, and we should want everyone to have this faith. So how do we get it? And how do we bring it to others?
Article V picks up this thought.
So that we may obtain this faith, the ministry of teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. Through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Spirit is given. He works faith, when and where it pleases God, in those who hear the good news that God justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake. This happens not through our own merits, but for Christ’s sake (Augsburg Confession, “Article V: The Ministry”).
It’s interesting that, in an article on “The Ministry,” the confession doesn’t actually mention pastors. It mentions “the ministry of teaching the gospel and administering the Sacraments.” That is, the office or activity, but it makes no further mention of the ministers. Why? Because it’s not really about the ministers. It’s about the Holy Spirit and his instruments, which are the Word of God and the Sacraments (Baptism and the Lord’s Supper). The Holy Spirit creates faith, and he uses these instruments to do it. That’s why we cherish the Word and Sacraments. That’s why we value worship. In worship, the Holy Spirit works through the reading of the Scriptures, the preaching of the Gospel, and the administration of the Sacraments to create, preserve, and strengthen our faith. And “God counts this faith for righteousness in His sight.”
Here are a few passages that talk about this: John 3:3-8; Romans 10:13-17; 2 Timothy 3:14-15. I hope you will look them up.
The peace of Christ be with you all,
Pastor Dan Antal