Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Friday, August 08, 2008

The Book of Concord and Why You Should Read It

Pastor’s Window for August 2008

The Book of Concord and Why You Should Read It

Beloved in the Lord,

Hopefully you’ve been reading and meditating on the Book of Concord readings included in your bulletin each week. These come to us from the Book of Concord website, www.bookofconcord.org, where you can read the entire Book of Concord, along with background information, some great Lutheran resources, a blog devoted to the Book of Concord, as well as finding links to Lutheran sermons and a daily devotion called “Five Minutes with Luther.” I highly recommend this website and encourage you to check it out.

The Book of Concord is also known as the Lutheran Confessions, or the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Published as a collection in 1580, it contains the three ecumenical creeds (the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed), the Augsburg Confession (written in 1530) and its Apology (defense) (1531), the Smalcald Articles (1537), the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope (1537), Luther’s Small and Large Catechisms (1529), and the Formula of Concord (1577). Together these writings, known as symbols, tell us what it means to be Lutheran.

The Lutheran Confessions are not the Bible. No one claims that they are. The Holy Scriptures alone are the inspired and inerrant Word of God and the sole rule and norm of our doctrine and life. But as Lutherans, we believe the Lutheran Confessions contained in the Book of Concord are the correct “summary and explanation” of the Scriptures. This is what the Rev. Paul McCain writes in the frequently asked questions section of the Book of Concord site: “Since we have the Bible, why do we have the Book of Concord? The Lutheran Confessions are a summary and explanation of the Bible. They are not placed over the Bible. They do not take the place of the Bible. The Book of Concord is how Lutherans are able to say, together, as a church, ‘This is what we believe. This is what we teach. This is what we confess.’ The reason we have the Book of Concord is because of how highly we value correct teaching and preaching of God's Word.”

So why should you read the Book of Concord? There are many reasons. Here are at least five:

1. If you’re a Lutheran, the Lutheran Confessions are your confessions. The Lutheran Confessions tell us what it means to be Lutheran. At the very least, you should know the Small Catechism and be familiar with the Large Catechism and the Augsburg Confession. We include the weekly Book of Concord readings with the hope of familiarizing you with these confessions.

2. You should read these confessions precisely because they are the correct “summary and explanation” of the Scriptures. They will help you grow in your knowledge and understanding of Scripture and strengthen your faith. The Lutheran Confessions can be prayed and read devotionally.

3. The Lutheran Confessions unite us to our fathers in the faith throughout history, including the Reformation and the Early Church. The Early Church fathers wrote the creeds, and our Reformation fathers wrote the rest of the confessions. The Reformation fathers also made use of many of the Early Church’s writings. In other words, the Lutheran Confessions show us to be an authentic catholic church body, solidly grounded in the Holy Scriptures and one with the one holy Christian (or catholic) and apostolic Church confessed in the Nicene Creed.

4. The Lutheran Confessions promote the unity of the Christian Church. The word “concord” means “harmony.” The Book of Concord was compiled as a collection of confessions around which Christendom could be united. If anyone confesses the Christian faith as we confess it in the Book of Concord, we consider him one with us. The Book of Concord also serves as a piece for doctrinal discussion with other church bodies. These church bodies know where we stand on the basis of the Lutheran Confessions, and what we require for altar and pulpit fellowship.

5. The Lutheran Confessions proclaim Christ, and Him crucified (1 Cor. 1:23, 2:2). They proclaim above all else the chief doctrine of the Holy Scriptures and the Christian Church: justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. This is the chief reason you should read the Lutheran Confessions.

We will continue reading and studying these confessions together in Bible classes and in the weekly bulletin. I encourage you to read them at home as well. We can only be strengthened as we use them to gain a deeper understanding of the Scriptures and what it means to be a Lutheran.

Pastor Krenz

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