Augsburg Confession, Articles 10 (continued), 12

Communion Chasuble (610x351)Review on the Lord’s Supper: Closed Communion

Last week, we looked at what we believe about the Lord’s Supper (and confession and absolution). In today’s culture, we may have many who will visit our congregation and NOT believe that they are receiving Jesus’ body and blood for the forgiveness of sins. In Luther’s day, such visitors who had such beliefs would’ve have been a rarity.

Since Lutherans believe that someone may receive the Lord’s Supper to his or her spiritual harm, we practice closed communion. This is done, not out of spiritual arrogance, but for the spiritual welfare of all who come to receive the Lord’s Supper.


Excursus: Closed Communion and 1 Corinthians 11:27-31

“So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks from the cup unworthily will be guilty of the Lord’s body and blood.”

How someone becomes unworthy in answered next. 

“A person should judge himself; in this way he should eat the bread and drink from the cup. For whoever eats and drinks without recognizing the body, eats and drinks judgment against himself.”

A person should judge himself. This is more than “examining” [diakrino in the Greek]. In this verse, “body” refers to the congregation and to the Lord’s body. That’s why Paul makes the next link that if someone is in conflict with one body (the congregation), he’s in conflict with the other (Jesus’ body). That’s why he eats and drinks judgment against himself. This includes sinning against someone in the congregation (which was what Paul was mainly addressing) but also in conflict with what a congregation confesses the Lord’s Supper to be: For us, that’s Jesus’ body and blood.

“That’s why so many of you are weak and sick and a considerable number are dying.”

The Lord’s body and blood gives the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. But if one receives the Lord’s Supper in an unrepentant state of sinning against the body (congregation and Jesus), the Supper gives him harm instead of blessing.

“But if we judged ourselves, we would not be judged.”

Yet, this judging [diakrino] is not only for the person receiving but also for the congregation to practice. That’s why Paul used the plural “we”: “If we judged ourselves.” And a congregation is held accountable in her communion practice: “If we judged ourselves, we would not be judged.” Such judging is for each person to exclude himself if he is openly and unrepentantly sinning against “the body” but also for the congregation to do so in how she chooses to practice communion.


  • Discussion of our congregational Communion statement:

We receive the Lord’s Supper believing what our Lord says–that He places into our mouths His body to eat and His blood to drink for the forgiveness of sins (Matt 26:28). Our Lord invites to His Supper those who trust His words, turn from their sins, and put aside any refusal to forgive and love as He forgives and loves. But those who eat and drink our Lord’s body and blood unworthily, do so to their harm (1 Cor 11:27). If this is not your belief and practice, or if you are not sure, please do not receive communion until you can be instructed in God’s truths as we believe and confess them.


AC XII: Repentance (Part 1) 

Our churches teach that those who have fallen after baptism can receive forgiveness of sins whenever they are brought to repentance, and that the church should give absolution to those who return to repentance [Jeremiah 3:12]. Properly speaking, repentance consists of these two parts.

  1. One part is contrition, that is, terrors striking the conscience with the knowledge of sin.
  2. The other is faith, which is brought to life by the Gospel [Romans 10:17], or of absolution, and believes that sins are forgiven because of Christ. It comforts the conscience and delivers it from terror.

Then good works are bound to follow, which are the fruits of repentance [Galatians 5:22-23].


Rome’s Response:

That there are three parts of repentance–confession, contrition, and satisfaction–has no foundation in Scripture or in Holy Christian doctors . . . Even more, satisfactions should not be abolished in the Church. This would go against the Gospel and the decrees of councils and fathers, for those absolved by the priest should perform the mandated penance. St. Paul writes, He “gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for Himself a people of His own who are zealous for good deeds” [Titus 2:14]. Christ made satisfaction for us, that we might be zealous for good deeds, completing the mandated satisfaction.



Rome taught that Baptism only forgave Original Sin, and removed all sins committed up to the time of Baptism, but not sins committed after that. For post-baptismal sins, the Sacrament of Penance was needed. The Roman Church taught–and still teaches–that we must make satisfaction for our post-baptismal sins.

In 1439, Pope Eugenius V decreed that the sacrament of penance consisted of three parts: the contrition of the heart, the confession of the mouth, and the satisfaction for sins. The person’s forgiveness of sins depended on if:

  1. he was sufficiently contrite,
  2. he confessed all his sins, and
  3. he performed the satisfactions the priest had given him.

Rome’s understanding is similar to Protestant thinking that says: “If you really sincerely repent . . . if you truly believe.” This removes the focus from where it should be–on the reliability of Christ’s promise of forgiveness (Matthew 16:19; 18:18; John 20:23).

One’s forgiveness does not depend on the quality of a person’s contrition. If that were so, then no human being would ever be forgiven because his contrition would never be pure enough to warrant such forgiveness!


2 Corinthians 7:10: Godly sorrow produces repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regrets, but worldly sorrow produces death.

  • Which kind of sorrow did Judas have after betraying Jesus?


  • Who is the source of such “godly sorrow”?


  • How does this verse speak against the Roman-Catholic view of penance?


Psalm 51:17: The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. O God, you do not despise a broken and sorrowful heart.

  • In this context, what does “broken” mean?


  • What then is the value of a broken heart over sin?


Acts 5:29-31: Peter and the other apostles replied [to the Sanhedrin]: “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. God exalted him to his right hand as Ruler and Savior, to grant repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.


  • How many parts are there to repentance shown in this passage?


  • What are they?


  • According to the Confessors in article XII, what follows true repentance and forgiveness?


Repentance = Contrition + Faith

  • Contrition: Psalm 6:2-3; 32:3-5; 130:1-3; 143:1, 2; Isaiah 38:10,13; Galatians 2:19; Psalm 51:17
  • Faith: Romans 5:1-2, 10:17; Luke 10:16; Acts 16:31


“Faith without regret and remorse is not genuine Christian faith. Repentance and faith must be there together.” (Urbanus Rhegius)


AC XII: Repentance (Part 2) 

Our churches condemn the Anabaptists who deny that those who have once been justified can lose the Holy Spirit. They also condemn those who contend that some may reach such perfection in this life that they cannot sin.

The Novatians are also condemned, who would not absolve those who had fallen after Baptism, although they returned to repentance.

Our churches also reject those who do not teach that forgiveness of sins comes through faith, but command us to merit grace through satisfactions of our own.


Excursus: “Once Saved, Always Saved”

The Anabaptists were the first to teach “once saved, always saved.” The descendants of the Anabaptists are many, including today’s Baptists, which was a denomination that John Smyth started in 1609. As an Anglican Church Separatist, he broke away from the Anglican Church while in Amsterdam, being strongly influenced by the Anabaptist movement in Europe.

But where did the Anabaptists and their theological descendants get this “once saved, always saved” teaching from the Bible? First, they did not deny that a Christian could theoretically fall away from faith. After all, they had to recognize such biblical passages that stated that very fact!

Read Hebrews 6:4-6

Read 1 Timothy 1:19

Read 2 Peter 2:20-22

Yet, they read those passages in a new way. They held that someone could fall away, but if he was a genuine believer, he would persevere to the end.

Read John 6:37-40

  • How does this passage attest to the faithfulness of Jesus?


  • How does this passage attest to the faithfulness of those whom the Father has given to Jesus?


That was how they could explain how someone whom they thought was a Christian and “on fire” for God would later repudiate the faith and live a blatant, non-Christian life. The conclusion was that he was never a “genuine Christian.” He just thought he was and looked like one.

  • With such a theology, how does one ever truly know he if is “saved”?


When Scripture speaks of enduring to the end, it refers to someone not throwing away his faith and walking away from God. If falling away from faith was only theoretical, then why would Scripture have so many warning about that? For example, see: Galatians 5:4, Luke 8:13, 1 Corinthians 10:12, and 2 Peter 3:17.

And if enduring in the faith wasn’t automatic for someone who was “saved,” then why would Scripture encourage us to persevere in the faith? For example, see Matthew 10:22, Colossians 1:21-23, and Hebrews 3:12-14.

Cleary Scripture teaches that one can fall from faith. However, persevering in the faith is not because you are climbing your way to heaven; it’s because are choosing not to walk away from God and the faith He has given you.


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