“Concord” is a weekly study of the Lutheran Confessions, where we will take up a topic from the Book of Concord and reflect on what we believe, teach, and confess in the Lutheran Church. The purpose of this series is to deepen readers’ knowledge and appreciation for the confessions of the Lutheran Church, and to unite them “with one heart” to confess the teachings of Holy Scripture.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, became flesh and gave Himself as the sacrifice for sin for the sinner’s justification. But that was 2,000 years ago and half a world away. What good does Jesus do for me in rural Missouri in 2017 (or wherever you happen to be at any given time)?
If Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection is only information about a man who lived long ago in a strange land, then He really is just a historical footnote. Nothing more than a fable or a fairy tale to inspire you to live your life a certain way. Faith in Him would really be no faith at all. It is only a memory of something that happened long ago and far away.
But the story of Jesus doesn’t end there. The book of Acts begins, “In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen” (Acts 1:1-2). The Gospel is only the beginning; Jesus’ work continues in the Church, where He continues to deliver the faith of the cross through the Holy Spirit and the apostolic teaching. This is the ministry of Jesus in the Church.
“That we may obtain this faith, the Ministry of Teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Ghost is given, who works faith; where and when it pleases God, in them that hear the Gospel, to wit, that God, not for our own merits, but for Christ’s sake, justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake” (Augsburg Confession V.1-3).
The preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments are the instruments that the Holy Spirit uses to give faith to you, here and now. The ministry is the “for you” of the Gospel. These means deliver and create faith. We reject that we can get a hold of either faith or the Holy Spirit by our own preparations or works.
In the German translation of the Book of Concord, this article is called Predigtamt. Preaching Office. The office of the pastor. This is your pastor’s job—preach the Gospel; administer the sacraments. This is where you go to find the faith delivered—the hearing of the Gospel; the receiving of the sacraments. There is no more blessed place for you to be in the Church than on the receiving end of the means of grace.
You can read the Book of Concord at http://www.bookofconcord.org
Rev. Jacob Ehrhard serves as pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in New Haven, MO.