Augsburg Confession, Articles 13-14

Eucharist (610x345)AC XIII: The Use of the Sacraments

Our churches teach that the Sacraments were instituted, not merely to be marks of profession among people, but even more, to be signs and testimonies of the God’s will toward us, intended to awaken and strengthen faith in those who use them. That is why we must use the Sacraments in such a way that faith, which believes the promises that are set forth through the Sacraments, is increased.

Our churches, therefore, condemn those who teach that the Sacraments justify simply by the outward act. They condemn those who do not teach that faith, which believes that sins are forgiven, is required in the use of the Sacraments.

  • According to this article in the Augsburg Confession, what purposes do the Sacraments serve?


  • If the Sacraments “awaken and strengthen faith,” how then should we view the Sacraments?


  • Based on such a worldview, what should be the obvious conclusion about understanding how often the Lord’s Supper should be celebrated within a congregation?


Rome’s Response:

The 13th article gives no offense. . . . Nevertheless, we must request that what they describe about the Sacraments in general they are to confess specifically concerning the seven Sacraments of the Church and take measures that their subjects observe them.



Rome’s Confutation demanded that the Lutherans acknowledge seven sacraments:

  1. Baptism,
  2. Confirmation (Chrismation),
  3. The Lord’s Supper (Sacrament of the Altar, Eucharist, Communion),
  4. Penance (Confession and Absolution),
  5. Ordination,
  6. Marriage, and
  7. Extreme Unction (included in Last Rites).

On the other hand, the Protestant churches in Luther’s day insisted on not more and not less than two sacraments: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Opposing both the Roman and Protestant positions, the Lutheran Church deliberately leaves the number of Sacraments an open question. Numbering the Sacraments is a matter of human definition, not divine mandate. In other words, Scripture does not define what a Sacrament is, and so a Sacrament is whatever a church body defines it as. That’s why our Confessions aren’t too concerned about deciding the number of sacraments.

Our Confessions state, “We do not think it makes much difference if, for purposes of teaching, the number varies, provided what is handed down in Scripture is preserved” (AP XIII, 2).

  • Instead of quibbling about the number of Sacraments, what concerned our Lutheran fathers more?


What Jesus instituted to take place in the New Covenant 

  1. discipling by baptism and teaching (Mt 28:19-20),
  2. the Lord’s Supper (Luke 22:17-20),
  3. the forgiving and retaining of sin (John 20:23), and
  4. preaching (Luke 24:47).

We don’t routinely call preaching a Sacrament, because Lutherans usually–but not always–use the word Sacrament to refer to something that Christ commanded with a visual sign attached to it: Baptism (water) and the Lord’s Supper (bread and wine). Yet, our Apology also calls absolution a Sacrament, which has no visual sign (Ap XIII, 4). It even goes so far to say, “But if ordination is understood as carrying out the ministry of the Word, we are willing to call ordination a Sacrament” (Ap XIII, 11). So, in a broad sense, we can even call preaching a Sacrament.

But what really matters is not what we call a Sacrament, but that what Christ commanded is faithfully done in His Church!


What Jesus gave His Apostles to do (His “Sacraments”)

Matthew 28:18-20

Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and disciple all nations by baptizing them into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and teaching them to keep all that I have commanded you.”

Luke 22:19-20:

Then Jesus took bread, and after giving thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, he also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”

John 20:21-23:

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent [apostled] me, so also I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain them, they are retained.”

Luke 24:45, 47:

Then he [Jesus] opened their minds to understand the Scriptures…. repentance into the forgiveness of sins must be preached in his [Jesus’] name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.


Excursus: The Sticky Wicket of Confirmation

The Lutheran Church practices confirmation. But where does that fit in, since Jesus never commanded it to be done? Why then do we practice it?

The New Testament says that every Christian is part of the New-Covenant Priesthood (1 Peter 2:5, 9; Revelation 1:6, 5:10). What the New Testament doesn’t tell us is how God ordains us into His Royal Priesthood within the New Covenant. From the New Testament alone, we would have to guess. But we don’t have to because we have the Old Testament.

The early Christian Church adopted the pattern God commanded in the Old-Covenant for priestly ordination. But they did so deliberately recognizing the New-Covenant forms that Jesus instituted to fulfill what God had commanded in the Old Covenant for priestly ordination, which according to God’s command, was to last “forever” (Exodus 29, Matthew 5:17).

The Church saw:

  1. Baptism fulfilling the washing ritual in Old-Covenant priestly ordination (1 Peter 3:21, Titus 3:5).
  2.  Baptism fulfilling being clothed in garments in Old-Covenant priestly ordination (Galatians 3:27).
  3.  Being anointed with oil had no direct mandate from Christ. But since God had commanded such anointing to go on “forever” for priestly ordination (Exodus 29:8-9), the early Christian Church anointed the one who was baptized with oil, just as the one being ordained in the Old Covenant was anointed with oil. Since Christ did not directly fulfill such anointing with oil, then such anointing with oil in continued in the New Covenant from its original mandate in the Old Covenant.
  4.  The Lord’s Supper fulfilling the communal meal of eating what was sacrificed in Old-Covenant priestly ordination.

Thus, ordination into the New-Covenant Royal Priesthood consisted of: Baptism, anointing with oil (confirmation/chrismation), and the Lord’s Supper.[1]


Although we don’t call certain churchly rites, for example, marriage, as “Sacraments,” that doesn’t mean that we don’t retain them. We simply don’t want to give the impression that they are of equal standing in the Church with what Jesus instituted. To such churchly rites, this quotation from our Confessions applies:

Nothing in the customary rites may be changed without good reason. Instead, in order to foster harmony, those ancient customs should be observed that can be observed without sin or without proving to be a great burden [Ap XV, 51].


AC XIV: Order in the Church

Our churches teach that no one should preach publicly in the Church or administer the sacraments without a rightly ordered call.


Rome’s Response:

In the 14th article, they confess that no one should administer in the Church the Word of God and the sacraments unless he has a rightly ordered call. This should be understood that he has a rightly ordered call when he is called according to the form of law and the ecclesiastical ordinances. 



The Roman-Catholic Church would agree that since the Office of Pastor involves spiritual supervision (1 Timothy 3:1; Hebrews 13:7), a man may not take this Office for himself. Instead, the Church is to call him legitimately and place him into the Office (Acts 1:23-26, 13:2-3; 2 Corinthians 8:19).

Our confessions use the Latin term, rite vocatus, to describe this, which was translated as “a rightly ordered call.” Yet, without historical context, it’s hard to know what that term specifically means. For our Lutheran fathers, rite vocatus meant “called and ordained.” How do we know this?

  1. Rome defined rite vocatus as: A pastor “has a rightly ordered call when he is called according to the form of law and the ecclesiastical ordinances.” That means a pastoral call according to their canon law, which meant being ordained by their bishops. Since the pastors ordained in the Lutheran Church after the Reformation were not ordained by Roman-Catholic bishops, the Church of Rome considered those Lutheran pastors as fake pastors.


  1. In the Apology [Defense] of the Augsburg Confession, we didn’t respond that ordination wasn’t needed and so what they charged the Lutheran Church with didn’t matter. Instead, we said: “The [Roman Catholic] bishops compel our priests to reject and condemn the doctrine we have confessed” (AP XIV, 2). Concerning rite vocatus, we know the doctrine that the Lutheran Church confessed and so practiced was presbyteral [pastoral] ordination, which has roots in the earliest Christian Church and Scripture (1 Timothy 4:14). Thus, by our response, we know that rite vocatus means “called and ordained.”


We also replied in our Apology that the Roman Catholic Church “accepts the article, but on the condition that we use canonical ordination [their ordination by their bishops] . . . . Furthermore, we want to declare again that we will gladly keep Church and canonical government, so long as the bishops stop attacking our churches” (Ap XIV, 1, 5).


  • What sense do you get about the Lutheran Church wanting to retain canonical ordination, and even that type of government?


  • What does this say about our willingness of go back to Rome if the conditions were right?


  • What would those conditions be?


Read Acts 22:21: “Then he [Jesus] said to me, ‘Go, because I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”

  • Who called Paul to his work as an Apostle to the Gentiles?


Read Acts 13:1-3

  • Even so, Paul did not begin his work until what took place?


  • What are the implications for us in how pastors are placed to serve in the Church?




[1] We read from Tertullian (160-225, from Carthage): “Having come out of the baptismal pool, we are anointed with blessed oil according to the ancient discipline in which it was customary to be anointed with oil spread on the horn to receive the priesthood. It is with this oil that Aaron was anointed by Moses; from which comes his name of the Anointed (christus) which comes from chrisma, meaning ‘anointing.’” (Tertullian, “On Baptism,” ch.7; ANF 3:672)

From Hippolytus (170-235, from Rome): “After this [being baptized], pouring the sanctified oil from his hand and putting it on his head he [the bishop] shall say: “I anoint you with holy oil in God the Father Almighty and Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit.” And signing him on the forehead he shall give him the kiss of peace …” (On The Apostolic Tradition, 21:22-23, Stewart-Sykes translation)

From On the Apostolic Tradition, we find that the priestly “ordination” rite for those being brought into the Church consisted of baptism, anointing with oil (chrismation/confirmation), and the Lord’s Supper. We find this sequence in chapter 21, “On the handing over of holy baptism.”


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