“You shall not do according to all that we are doing here today, everyone doing whatever is right in his own eyes, for you have not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance that the Lord your God is giving you” (Deuteronomy 12:8-9 ESV). Man is by nature a spiritual beast. Unlike the other creatures, we contemplate right and wrong, good and bad. We think on spiritual questions. The problem is that our sinful, fallen, corrupted natures cannot by nature comprehend who God is or what He is like or what He wills for us. So we resort to doing what’s right in our own eyes, thinking what’s right in our own minds, and believing what’s right in our own hearts. It makes for as many religions as there are people.
How does anyone come to an agreement on what to believe? Put a bunch of people in a room and ask them agree about something. In business or other civil matters, people can sometimes come to an agreement—perhaps even a win/win solution. But drop a spiritual question and soon you’ll find that everyone has his own opinion and no one wants to budge even an inch. Agreement over spiritual questions, over matters of faith, can never be produced by human endeavor. Concord is not reached by debate or rhetoric or persuasive speech. It can only be received as a gift from God.
So agreement over spiritual matters must be primarily an agreement with what God says. This is what a confession is. To confess means to say the same thing as someone else. “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32 NKJV). “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” (Romans 10:9-10 ESV).
The confessions of the Lutheran Church are found in the Book of Concord. Concord means, “with one heart.” With one heart, the Lutheran Confessions say the same thing that God says and provide the basis for agreement concerning matters of faith. “We indeed (to repeat in conclusion what we have mentioned several times above) have wished, in this work of concord, in no way to devise what is new, or to depart from the truth of the heavenly doctrine which our ancestors, renowned for their piety, as well as we ourselves, have acknowledged and professed” (Preface to the Christian Book of Concord).
Concord begins with the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament as the sole source and norm of everything we believe and teach. And we confess with the ancient ecumenical creeds (Apostles’, Nicene, Athanasian); the Augsburg Confession and its Apology; the Smalcald Articles and the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope; the Small and Large Catechisms; and the Formula of Concord because they say the same thing that God says in Holy Scripture. This is our confession. This is our concord.
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.