Augsburg Confession, Articles 15-16

Incense Thuribles (610x352)AC XV: Church Ceremonies

Our churches teach that those ceremonies should be observed that can be observed without sin. Also, ceremonies and other practices that contribute to peace and good order in the church, such as holy days, festivals, and the like, should be observed.

Yet, the people are taught not to be burden consciences with such things, as if observing such ceremonies are needed for salvation [Colossians 2:16-17]. They are also taught that human traditions that are instituted to win God’s favor, to merit grace, and to make satisfaction for sins are opposed to the Gospel and the teaching of faith. That is why vows and traditions about foods, days, and so forth–instituted to merit grace and to make satisfaction for sins–are useless and contrary to the Gospel.


Rome’s Response:

In the 15th article, their confession that Church ceremonies are to be observed that can be observed without sin, and that contribute to peace and good order in the Church, is accepted . . . Nevertheless, . . . it is false that human laws instituted to win God’s favor and make satisfaction for sins are opposed to the Gospel.

  • What is the Roman-Catholic Church saying when it asserts that “it is false that human laws instituted to win God’s favor and make satisfaction for sins are opposed to the Gospel”?



This article grows out the article on justification. And so this article rejects all human attempts to win God’s favor. Yet, the Lutheran Church still saw value in following the received tradition from the early Church.

Deuteronomy 12:32: Be sure to do everything I [God] command you. Do not add to it or take away from it.

Jeremiah 23:31: “I am against the prophets,” declared the LORD, “who wag their own tongues and yet declare, ‘The Lord declares.’”

Matthew 15:9: [Jesus quoting the Prophet Isaiah,] “They worship me in vain, teaching as doctrines the commands of men.”

  • Does the Church have the right to bind the consciences of her members based on human-made traditions?


Judges 17:6, 21:25: In those days Israel had no king. Everyone did whatever he considered right.

  • Then what is to prevent chaos if everyone were to starting doing what was right in his own eyes?


Read Matthew 18:1-7, 1 Corinthians 14:26-28

  • From a scriptural worldview, what are we to observe if we must change Church tradition?

1 Corinthians 11:23: For I received from the Lord what I also passed on [“traditioned”]to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread …

1 Corinthians 15:3: For I [the Apostle Paul] passed on [“traditioned”] to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.

  •  What traditions must be observed by the church?


  • According to this Article of the Augsburg Confession, what do we voluntarily bind ourselves to do?


  • What does this mean for us today? Where do personal preferences fit in?


AC XVI: Civil Government, part 1

Our churches teach that lawful civil regulations are good works of God. They teach that Christians may hold political office, serve as judges, decide matters by imperial and other existing laws, impose just punishments, engage in just wars, serve as soldiers, make legal contracts, own property, take oaths when required by magistrates, marry, and be given in marriage [Romans 13. 1 Corinthians 7:2].


The Doctrine of Vocation

The Lutheran Church does not teach that, for us to be holy, we need to separate ourselves from the world. In fact, it’s just the opposite. That’s why Christians may hold political office, serve and judges, etc. Now why is this?Since God the Holy Spirit has brought us into Christ’s Church, we represent Christ to the rest of the world and join with Him in His work. After all, how do others see Christ if not through those whom He had brought into His Church? God doesn’t save us only to put us on a shelf us. He has work for us to do! This work that God has given us to do as His people is a “calling” as serious as any other. We call these God-given tasks “vocations.”


God Calls Me to My Vocation 

Read 1 Corinthians 7:17-24

  • Some in Corinth might have thought their place in life was owed to their skill or intelligence, or maybe bad luck or bad birth. How does 1st Corinthians answer this?


  • Some think that to be serving God you have to be doing something at church. What does this passage say about that worldview?


  • Where then do we serve God? Discuss.


God has called a Christian husband, wife, father, mother, doctor, farmer, city-council member, or nurse to his or her station in life, no less than He has called a pastor to be a pastor. The way God has called you is different–but it is still a calling!

  • Discuss. Is any one vocation inherently better than another?


  • How do we (or should we) honor others in their vocation to serve others?


  • Discuss. What are some vocations you have?


Your vocation, however, is more than the various job titles you hold. Your vocation is even more than all the different roles you’ve been called to take part in throughout the week. Vocation is also the entire web of personal relationships in which, at God’s direction, you are involved in at any given time.


Spiritual Sacrifices in Our Vocations

Read 1 Peter 2:4-5

  • Why does Peter call our good works spiritual sacrifices?


  • How can God accept those works if they’re stained with sin?


  • Knowing that God views my work “through Jesus Christ” changes the way I look at my work. Discuss.


Think about and discuss the vocations you have while we go over these Bible verses:

  • It is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose. [Philippians 2:13]
  • Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. [1 Corinthians 15:58]
  • Working together with Him, we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. [2 Corinthians 6:1]



Freed to Serve

Through Word and Sacrament (Jesus coming to us to save us and continue saving us) Christ frees us from sin and its eternal consequences. But Jesus didn’t only save us from something–and that applies here on earth and in eternity! He also saved us for something. Here and now, that translates into being freed to do good works. “We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).

Before the Holy Spirit joined us to Christ, our sinful nature defined who we were and what we did. Since our master was the sinful flesh, sin enslaved us–because we were unable to do anything good without the stain of sin ruining it. (That’s why you were a slave to sin, not that you continually did wretched deeds in the eyes of the world.)

In our vocations, we become masks of God, behind which He works to do His will. For example: Had Gideon done nothing to fight against the Midianites, the Midianites would not have been defeated (Judges 7). Yet, we know that God could have defeated them without Gideon. God could also populate the world without using men and women. But that’s not how God normally works in the world. Instead, He joins us, so what is done looks like the work of people–and yet it is God doing His work through us!

Understanding your neighbor’s need as God’s call to action may not change your view of your neighbor. But it should change your view of the work you do to help him. The work through which your neighbor is benefited is not merely godly; it is God’s work! Through your vocation, you take your place between God and your neighbor and become a conduit through which divine blessings reach others. You become a “mask” God wears or “the hands” God uses as He does His work in the world.


Vocation, God working through you


AC XVI: Civil Government, part 2

Our churches condemn the Anabaptists who forbid Christians to participate in these civil functions. They also condemn those who place the perfection of the Gospel–not in the fear of God and in faith–but in forsaking civil duties. The Gospel transmits an eternal righteousness of the heart (Romans 10:10). At the same time, it does not require the destruction of the civil state or the family. On the contrary, the Gospel very much requires both their preservation as ordinances of God and the exercise of love in these ordinances. That is why Christians owe obedience to their rulers and laws. The only exception is when they are commanded to sin. Then they are to obey God instead of people [Acts 5:29].

Romans 13:1: Let every person be subject to the governing authorities, for no authority exists except by God’s permission. The existing authorities have been established by God. So then, whoever resists the authority opposes what God has established.

  • Where do civil governments get their authority?


  • What do Christians owe their government?

Acts 5:29: [When the Sanhedrin commanded Peter and the Apostles to do what was contrary to God’s commands, they] replied, “We must obey God rather than people.”

  • When may we be civilly disobedient?


Rome’s Response:

The 16th article, concerning civil rulers, is received with pleasure. This article is not only in harmony with civil law, but also canonical law, the Gospel, the Holy Scriptures, and the universal norm of faith.



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