Reformation devotions, October 1517+500 (homologoumena, part 6 of 8)

Morning prayer

In the morning, when you rise, you shall bless yourself with the holy cross and say:

In the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

Then, kneeling or standing, repeat the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. If you choose, you may, in addition, say this little prayer:

I thank Thee, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Thy dear Son, that Thou hast kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray Thee to keep me this day also from sin and all evil, that all my doings and life may please Thee. For into Thy hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Thy holy angel be with me, that the Wicked Foe may have no power over me. Amen.

As time allows, read a passage from the schedule found below or a reading from the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.

Then go to your work with joy, singing a hymn, as the Ten Commandments, or what your devotion may suggest.

Evening prayer

In the evening, when you go to bed, you shall bless yourself with the holy cross and say:

In the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

Then, kneeling or standing, repeat the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. If you choose, you may, in addition, say this little prayer:

I thank Thee, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Thy dear Son, that Thou hast graciously kept me this day, and I pray Thee to forgive me all my sins, where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. For into Thy hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Thy holy angel be with me, that the Wicked Foe may have no power over me. Amen.

Next, consider reading a passage from the schedule or a passage from the Evangelical Lutheran Synod.

Then go to sleep promptly and cheerfully.

Schedule of readings in October

Month Day Book Morning Evening

October

1

2 Corinthians 1:1-11 1:12-23

October

2

2:1-11 2:12-17

October

3

3:1-11 3:12-18

October

4

4:1-6 4:7-17

October

5

5:1-10 5:11-21

October

6

6:1-10 6:11-18

October

7

7:1-4 7:5-16

October

8

8:1-15 8:16-24

October

9

9:1-5 9:6-15

October

10

10:1-7 10:8-18

October

11

11:1-15 11:16-33

October

12

12:1-6 12:7-21

October

13

13:1-10 13:11-14

October

14

Galatians 1:1-10 1:11-24

October

15

2:1-10 2:11-21

October

16

3:1-14 3:15-29

October

17

4:1-20 4:21-31

October

18

5:1-12 5:13-26

October

19

6:1-10 6:11-18

October

20

Ephesians 1:1-14 1:15-23

October

21

2:1-10 2:11-22

October

22

3:1-13 3:14-21

October

23

4:1-16 4:17-32

October

24

5:1-21 5:22-33

October

25

6:1-9 6:10-24

October

26

Philippians 1:1-11 1:12-30

October

27

2:1-18 2:19-30

October

28

3:1-16 3:17-21

October

29

4:1-9 4:10-23

October

30

Psalm 4 91

October

31

7 104

About these devotions

1517-2017 grace alone, faith alone, Scripture alone

Reformation devotions, September 1517+500 (homologoumena, part 5 of 8)

Morning prayer

In the morning, when you rise, you shall bless yourself with the holy cross and say:

In the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

Then, kneeling or standing, repeat the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. If you choose, you may, in addition, say this little prayer:

I thank Thee, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Thy dear Son, that Thou hast kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray Thee to keep me this day also from sin and all evil, that all my doings and life may please Thee. For into Thy hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Thy holy angel be with me, that the Wicked Foe may have no power over me. Amen.

As time allows, read a passage from the schedule found below or a reading from the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.

Then go to your work with joy, singing a hymn, as the Ten Commandments, or what your devotion may suggest.

Evening prayer

In the evening, when you go to bed, you shall bless yourself with the holy cross and say:

In the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

Then, kneeling or standing, repeat the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. If you choose, you may, in addition, say this little prayer:

I thank Thee, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Thy dear Son, that Thou hast graciously kept me this day, and I pray Thee to forgive me all my sins, where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. For into Thy hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Thy holy angel be with me, that the Wicked Foe may have no power over me. Amen.

Next, consider reading a passage from the schedule or a passage from the Evangelical Lutheran Synod.

Then go to sleep promptly and cheerfully.

Schedule of readings in September

Month Day Book Morning Evening

September

1

Mark 1:1-12 1:13-28

September

2

Mark 1:29-45 2:1-13

September

3

Mark 2:14-27 3:1-12

September

4

Mark 3:13-35 4:1-25

September

5

Mark 4:26-41 5:1-20

September

6

Mark 5:21-43 6:1-13

September

7

Mark 6:14-32 6:33-56

September

8

Mark 7:1-13 7:14-37

September

9

Mark 8:1-26 8:27-38

September

10

Mark 9:1-13 9:14-29

September

11

Mark 9:30-50 10:1-16

September

12

Mark 10:17-52 11:1-14

September

13

Mark 11:15-33 12:1-12

September

14

Mark 12:13-27 12:28-44

September

15

Mark 13:1-23 13:24-37

September

16

Mark 14:1-11 14:12-42

September

17

Mark 14:43-72 15:1-15

September

18

Mark 15:16-21 15:22-47

September

19

Mark 16:1-8 16:9-20

September

20

Psalm 104 134

September

21

Psalm 121 139

September

22

Psalm 90 121

September

23

1 Peter 1:1-12 1:13-25

September

24

1 Peter 2:1-12 2:13-25

September

25

1 Peter 3:1-7 3:8-22

September

26

1 Peter 4:1-11 4:12-19

September

27

1 Peter 5:1-5 5:6-14

September

28

Psalm 63 3

September

29

Psalm 103 4

September

30

Psalm 130 8

About these devotions

1517-2017 grace alone, faith alone, Scripture alone

Reformation devotions, August 1517+500 (homologoumena, part 4 of 8)

Morning prayer

In the morning, when you rise, you shall bless yourself with the holy cross and say:

In the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

Then, kneeling or standing, repeat the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. If you choose, you may, in addition, say this little prayer:

I thank Thee, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Thy dear Son, that Thou hast kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray Thee to keep me this day also from sin and all evil, that all my doings and life may please Thee. For into Thy hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Thy holy angel be with me, that the Wicked Foe may have no power over me. Amen.

As time allows, read a passage from the schedule found below or a reading from the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.

Then go to your work with joy, singing a hymn, as the Ten Commandments, or what your devotion may suggest.

Evening prayer

In the evening, when you go to bed, you shall bless yourself with the holy cross and say:

In the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

Then, kneeling or standing, repeat the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. If you choose, you may, in addition, say this little prayer:

I thank Thee, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Thy dear Son, that Thou hast graciously kept me this day, and I pray Thee to forgive me all my sins, where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. For into Thy hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Thy holy angel be with me, that the Wicked Foe may have no power over me. Amen.

Next, consider reading a passage from the schedule or a passage from the Evangelical Lutheran Synod.

Then go to sleep promptly and cheerfully.

Schedule of readings in August

Month Day Book Morning Evening

August

1

Romans 1:1-17 1:18-32

August

2

Romans 2:1-16 2:17-29

August

3

Romans 3:1-18 3:19-31

August

4

Romans 4:1-12 4:13-25

August

5

Romans 5:1-11 5:12-21

August

6

Romans 6:1-11 6:12-23

August

7

Romans 7:1-12 7:13-25

August

8

Romans 8:1-16 8:17-39

August

9

Romans 9:1-13 9:14-33

August

10

Romans 10:1-13 10:14-21

August

11

Romans 11:1-16 11:17-36

August

12

Romans 12:1-8 12:9-21

August

13

Romans 13:1-14 14:1-12

August

14

Romans 14:13-23 15:1-25

August

15

Romans 15:26-33 16:1-24

August

16

1 Corinthians 1:1-17 1:18-31

August

17

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 2:6-16

August

18

1 Corinthians 3:1-9 3:10-23

August

19

1 Corinthians 4:1-7 4:8-21

August

20

1 Corinthians 5:1-13 6:1-8

August

21

1 Corinthians 6:9-20 7:1-20

August

22

1 Corinthians 7:21-40 8:1-13

August

23

1 Corinthians 9:1-14 9:15-27

August

24

1 Corinthians 10:1-13 10:14-32

August

25

1 Corinthians 11:1-16 11:17-34

August

26

1 Corinthians 12:1-13 12:14-31

August

27

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 14:1-19

August

28

1 Corinthians 14:20-40 15:1-11

August

29

1 Corinthians 15:12-28 15:29-49

August

30

1 Corinthians 15:50-58 16:1-24

August

31

Psalm 19 127

About these devotions

1517-2017 grace alone, faith alone, Scripture alone

Reformation devotions, July 1517+500 (homologoumena, part 3 of 8)

Morning prayer

In the morning, when you rise, you shall bless yourself with the holy cross and say:

In the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

Then, kneeling or standing, repeat the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. If you choose, you may, in addition, say this little prayer:

I thank Thee, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Thy dear Son, that Thou hast kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray Thee to keep me this day also from sin and all evil, that all my doings and life may please Thee. For into Thy hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Thy holy angel be with me, that the Wicked Foe may have no power over me. Amen.

As time allows, read a passage from the schedule found below or a reading from the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.

Then go to your work with joy, singing a hymn, as the Ten Commandments, or what your devotion may suggest.

Evening prayer

In the evening, when you go to bed, you shall bless yourself with the holy cross and say:

In the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

Then, kneeling or standing, repeat the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. If you choose, you may, in addition, say this little prayer:

I thank Thee, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Thy dear Son, that Thou hast graciously kept me this day, and I pray Thee to forgive me all my sins, where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. For into Thy hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Thy holy angel be with me, that the Wicked Foe may have no power over me. Amen.

Next, consider reading a passage from the schedule or a passage from the Evangelical Lutheran Synod.

Then go to sleep promptly and cheerfully.

Schedule of readings in July

Month Day Book Morning Evening

July

1

Matthew 1:1-16 1:17-25

July

2

Matthew 2:1-12 2:13-23

July

3

Matthew 3:1-12 3:13-17

July

4

Matthew 4:1-16 4:17-25

July

5

Matthew 5:1-20 5:21-48

July

6

Matthew 6:1-18 6:19-34

July

7

Matthew 7:1-14 7:15-29

July

8

Matthew 8:1-17 8:18-34

July

9

Matthew 9:1–17 9:18-38

July

10

Matthew 10:1-15 10:16-42

July

11

Matthew 11:1-19 11:20-30

July

12

Matthew 12:1-21 12:22-50

July

13

Matthew 13:1-23 13:24-58

July

14

Matthew 14:1-12 14:13-36

July

15

Matthew 15:1-20 15:21-39

July

16

Matthew 16:1-12 16:13-28

July

17

Matthew 17:1-13 17:14-27

July

18

Matthew 18:1-14 18:15-35

July

19

Matthew 19:1-12 19:13-30

July

20

Matthew 20:1-19 20:20-34

July

21

Matthew 21:1-22 21:23-46

July

22

Matthew 22:1-22 22:23-46

July

23

Matthew 23:1-22 23:23-39

July

24

Matthew 24:1-23 24:24-51

July

25

Matthew 25:1-13 25:14-46

July

26

Matthew 26:1-16 26:17-35

July

27

Matthew 26:36-56 26:57-75

July

28

Matthew 27:1-16 27:17-31

July

29

Matthew 27:32-44 27:45-66

July

30

Matthew 28:1-10 28:11-20

July

31

Psalm 7 104

About these devotions

1517-2017 grace alone, faith alone, Scripture alone

Reformation devotions, June 1517+500 (homologoumena, part 2 of 8)

Morning prayer

In the morning, when you rise, you shall bless yourself with the holy cross and say:

In the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

Then, kneeling or standing, repeat the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. If you choose, you may, in addition, say this little prayer:

I thank Thee, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Thy dear Son, that Thou hast kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray Thee to keep me this day also from sin and all evil, that all my doings and life may please Thee. For into Thy hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Thy holy angel be with me, that the Wicked Foe may have no power over me. Amen.

As time allows, read a passage from the schedule found below or a reading from the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.

Then go to your work with joy, singing a hymn, as the Ten Commandments, or what your devotion may suggest.

Evening prayer

In the evening, when you go to bed, you shall bless yourself with the holy cross and say:

In the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

Then, kneeling or standing, repeat the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. If you choose, you may, in addition, say this little prayer:

I thank Thee, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Thy dear Son, that Thou hast graciously kept me this day, and I pray Thee to forgive me all my sins, where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. For into Thy hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Thy holy angel be with me, that the Wicked Foe may have no power over me. Amen.

Next, consider reading a passage from the schedule or one from WELS.

Then go to sleep promptly and cheerfully.

Schedule of readings in June

Month Day Book Morning Evening

June

1

Psalms 4 3

June

2

Psalms 63 4

June

3

Psalms 103 8

June

4

Psalms 130 91

June

5

Colossians 1:1-12 1:13-29

June

6

Colossians 2:1-7 2:8-23

June

7

Colossians 3:1-11 3:12-25

June

8

Colossians 4:1-9 4:10-18

June

9

1 Thessalonians 1:1 1:2-10

June

10

1 Thessalonians 2:1-12 2:13-20

June

11

1 Thessalonians 3:1-10 3:11-13

June

12

1 Thessalonians 4:1-12 4:13-18

June

13

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 5:12-28

June

14

2 Thessalonians 1:1-5 1:6-12

June

15

2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 2:13-17

June

16

2 Thessalonians 3:1-5 3:6-18

June

17

1 Timothy 1:1-11 1:12-20

June

18

1 Timothy 2:1-8 2:9-15

June

19

1 Timothy 3:1-13 3:14-4:5

June

20

1 Timothy 4:6-11 4:12-16

June

21

1 Timothy 5:1-16 5:17-25

June

22

1 Timothy 6:1-10 6:11—21

June

23

2 Timothy 1:1-14 1:15-2:13

June

24

2 Timothy 2:14-19 2:20-26

June

25

2 Timothy 3:1-9 3:10-17

June

26

2 Timothy 4:1-8 4:9-22

June

27

Titus 1:1-4 1:5-16

June

28

Titus 2:1-10 2:11-15

June

29

Titus 3:1-11 3:12-15

June

30

Philemon 1:1-9 1:10-25

About these devotions

1517-2017 grace alone, faith alone, Scripture alone

Reformation devotions, May 1517+500 (homologoumena, part 1 of 8)

Morning devotions

In the morning, when you rise, you shall bless yourself with the holy cross and say:

In the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

Then, kneeling or standing, repeat the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. If you choose, you may, in addition, say this little prayer:

I thank Thee, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Thy dear Son, that Thou hast kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray Thee to keep me this day also from sin and all evil, that all my doings and life may please Thee. For into Thy hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Thy holy angel be with me, that the Wicked Foe may have no power over me. Amen.

As time allows, read a Psalm or a passage from the schedule found below.

Then go to your work with joy, singing a hymn, as the Ten Commandments, or what your devotion may suggest.

Evening devotions

In the evening, when you go to bed, you shall bless yourself with the holy cross and say:

In the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

Then, kneeling or standing, repeat the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. If you choose, you may, in addition, say this little prayer:

I thank Thee, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Thy dear Son, that Thou hast graciously kept me this day, and I pray Thee to forgive me all my sins, where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. For into Thy hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Thy holy angel be with me, that the Wicked Foe may have no power over me. Amen.

Next, consider reading a Psalm or a passage from the schedule.

Then go to sleep promptly and cheerfully.

Schedule of readings in May

Month Day Book Morning Evening

May

6

John 1:1-34 1:35-51

May

7

John 2:1-12 2:13-23

May

8

John 3:1-21 3:22-36

May

9

John 4:1-38 4:39-54

May

10

John 5:1-24 5:25-47

May

11

John 6:1-25 6:26-71

May

12

John 7:1-24 7:25-52

May

13

John 8:12-30 8:31-59

May

14

John 9:1-12 9:13-41

May

15

John 10:1-19 10:20-42

May

16

John 11:1-29 11:30-57

May

17

John 12:1-26 12:27-50

May

18

John 13:1-20 13:21-38

May

19

John 14:1-15 14:16-30

May

20

John 15:1-11 15:12-27

May

21

John 16:1-15 16:16-33

May

22

John 17:1-12 17:13-26

May

23

John 18:1-24 18:25-40

May

24

John 19:1-15 19:16-42

May

25

John 20:1-18 20:19-31

May

26

John 21:1-14 21:15-25

May

27

1 John 1:1-4 1:5-10

May

28

1 John 2:1-14 2:15-29

May

29

1 John 3:1-12 3:13-24

May

30

1 John 4:1-6 4:7-21

May

31

1 John 5:1-12 5:13-21

About these devotions

1517-2017 grace alone, faith alone, Scripture alone

Sharing in another’s teachings by expressing Christian unity

If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.
2 John 10-11, ESV

To express unity of faith with false teachers is to partake in their works—false teachings. In agreement with the Brief Statement once held by the LCMS, the theses on fellowship adopted by the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod teaches that “Those who practice church fellowship with persistent errorists are partakers of their evil deeds. 2 Jn 11.”

  • Paul, in unity with John, warned that false teachers arise because they have the support of “itching ears” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
  • That fellowship is a sharing of deeds is taught not only by the apostles but also by our Lord, who said whoever supports a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, etc. (Matthew 10:41).

In short, partaking in joint expressions of Christian unity by its nature is fellowship—sharing—in one another’s doctrine. A joint confession of faith is necessarily a confession of a joint faith.

The theses continue, “His clear injunction (also flowing out of love) to avoid those who adhere to false doctrine and practice and all who make themselves partakers of their evil deeds.”

  • Those sharing in the evil deed of causing division must be denied fellowship (Romans 16:17-18).

In other words, to condone sharing in that is to become a partaker. What about those who by their offerings, joint communion, church membership, and other expressions of a common faith take their stand with a leader making a common confession with false teachers in their name? They thereby take part in the leader’s work of false teaching:

If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.
2 John 10-11, ESV

Thy kingdom come

What foolishness, therefore, to be concerned about eating and drinking; to be full of hesitation and doubt, to look anxiously for help, like the mariner in a tempest-tossed vessel! These all are things which the people of the world, the heathen, make their prime concern; but as for you, the Father knows that ye need these things. Only one thing there is which should be the object of anxious search, that is the kingdom of God. To be a member of this kingdom, to have and keep true faith in the heart, through which such membership is [ensured], that is the one fact which should give every Christian his chief concern, on account of which he daily prays the Second Petition. All the other things that are necessary for the sustaining of life are added without worry or care, by the providence of God.

Paul E. Kretzmann, on Luke 12:27–31, hyperlink and “ensured” added

Fellowship with weak believers

The old LCMS and current WELS doctrine of fellowship is grounded in Scripture’s teaching that Christians must not worship with anyone who causes divisions contrary to what they have been taught (Romans 16:17). That verse does not forbid an individual Christian from praying with a weak believer who is not causing divisions and who is eager to learn and believe all of Scripture but who is led astray by false teaching. Rather, it refers to those who continue to support false doctrine even after the error is exposed to the light of God’s word.

Professor James Pope, at Martin Luther College, explained:

When Christians are joined together in faith and doctrine, they are able to express their unity by joint prayer and worship, cooperative educational endeavors and shared outreach efforts (Acts 1:14; 2:42; Hebrews 10:24-25; Psalm 78:4-7; 3 John 5-8).

When you and I interact with Christians whose faith differs from ours, we follow Scripture’s instructions and do not engage in those previously mentioned activities (Romans 16:17; Titus 3:10; 2 John 10-11).

By not worshiping or praying together with other Christians, you and I are not intending to say that we do not consider such people to be outside the faith. God alone can see what is in the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). We readily and happily acknowledge that the kingdom of God is bigger than our synod. Refraining from prayer and worship with people who are not united with us in faith and doctrine is, as our Catechism points out from Scripture, a matter of showing love for the truth of God’s word (2 Corinthians 13:8), love for our own souls (Galatians 5:9) and love for those who are mixing error with truth (James 5:19-20).

. . .

Praying with family members involves the same principles and application. Then again, you might be dealing with an exceptional situation in which family members belong to a church outside our fellowship, but they are not supportive of their church’s false teachings. In fact, they recognize the errors of their church and are seeking to point others to the truth of God’s word. In a situation like that, their confession of faith may match your confession of faith, and joint prayer in a private setting would not be a cause of offense to others. Exceptional situations like this are spelled out more fully in a book you might find valuable to read: Church Fellowship: Working Together for the Truth . . .”

We rightly join in prayer with Christians who hear God’s word but do not yet understand some teaching of Scripture. On the other hand, it is wrong for a Christian to pray with those who oppose any Scriptural teaching:

If one spouse is a non-Christian, the Christian partner may pray for and in the presence of the non-Christian husband or wife. Obviously, they cannot pray together. If the other spouse is a member of a heterodox church and ridicules or rejects the beliefs of our member, joint prayer is hardly possible. If the other spouse’s membership in a heterodox church is seen as a matter of weakness in understanding, joint prayer may be possible in the privacy of the home.

(Brug, p. 149, as quoted on Pastor David Jay Webber’s Lutheran Theology Web Site)

The principles of church fellowship set forth in the Scriptures do not change. God’s Word always remains the same; however, the manner in which these principles are applied may vary as different circumstances arise. The principles of church fellowship are not legalistic rules but loving directives of the Lord for the good of his church. They must be applied in the spirit of the gracious Savior who loved us so much that he gave his life for us. There will be times when prayer together with other Lutheran Christians or even with Christians of other denominations may be proper, such as when it is apparent that their membership in the false church body is the result of a weak faith which does not fully understand the error of the church body, or it is clear that they actually do not share in the error at all. In such situations one must consider more than the confession of their church membership. There will be times when it will be necessary to attend the worship services of an erring church, such as at the wedding or funeral of a loved one. Here care must be taken so that such attendance is not understood as agreement with the doctrine of the erring church.

The highly individualistic spirit of the times and the abandonment in practice of formal confessions of faith by many church bodies have resulted in many individuals being put in a state of flux regarding their religious convictions and confessions. They do not necessarily hold to the teaching of the church body to which they belong. They may indeed be open to instruction from the Word and may be seeking direction. When such individuals come to us, we cannot always deal with them solely on the basis of their formal confession of faith which they make by their formal church membership. One has to also consider their informal confession of faith. However, this informal confession too must be considered on the basis of the true marks of the church.

(Schmeling, pp. 46-47, as quoted on Pastor David Jay Webber’s Lutheran Theology Web Site)

The article “Prayer fellowship,” by Pastor Nathaniel Biebert, has helpful illustrations and practical applications alongside the supporting passages of Scripture.

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Stand on Scripture, not on an interpretation of Scripture

How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.
With my whole heart I seek you;
let me not wander from your commandments!
I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.
Blessed are you, O Lord;
teach me your statutes!
With my lips I declare
all the rules of your mouth.
In the way of your testimonies I delight
as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on your precepts
and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.

Psalm 119:9-16 (ESV)

Was the original purpose of the Lutheran confessions to serve as the lens through which the Scriptures must be understood? Are the Scriptures so ambiguous that they require authoritative human interpretation? No, the Lutheran confessions were derived directly from the light of the Scriptures, not from previous confessions or from quotations of church fathers. In fact, the Lutheran confessions do not offer yet another interpretation of Scripture, as Franz Pieper pointed out (Christian Dogmatics, Concordia Publishing House: St. Louis, Missouri, 1950, Vol. 1, p. 367):

The thought common in our day that all church bodies stand on Scripture and differ only in their interpretation of it is not in accordance with the facts. The Roman Catholic Church does not stand on Scripture, but on the papal interpretation of Scripture. The Reformed Churches, as far as they differ from the Lutheran Church, do not stand on Scripture, but on Zwingli’s, Calvin’s, etc. interpretation of Scripture. The Lutheran Church, however, does not stand on interpretation of Scripture, but on Scripture itself. This is not a mere assertion. It can be proved by induction in the face of universal contradiction.

The reason no human interpretation is needed is that Scripture interprets itself (ibid., pp. 363-364):

Luther is unalterably convinced that God gave Holy Scripture such a form that the entire Christian doctrine is revealed and submitted in passages which need no ‘exegesis’ (exegesis in the sense of removing obscurities). He who would determine the meaning of the clear passages through still other passages engages in a work of interminable adjustments, makes the entire Scriptures uncertain and obscure, and converts them into an inextricable chaos. Yes, there is the rule: ‘One passage must be explained by another,’ but, as Luther adds immediately: ‘Namely, a doubtful and obscure passage… must be explained by means of a clear and certain passage.

An author of the Formula of Concord similarly explained what it means for Scripture to interpret Scripture (Chemnitz, M., J. A. O. Preus, trans., The Lord’s Supper, Concordia Publishing House: St. Louis, Missouri, 1979, pp. 68-69):

For Scripture, especially when it treats of dogmas, because it is not of private interpretation, interprets itself either in the same passage or in other passages were the same dogma is touched on. Because of this, the same dogma is fully treated and repeated in various passages of Scripture in such a way that no one can dream up his own personal interpretation but must derive it from Scripture itself. For the same dogma is repeated on the basis of either the same or similar words which have the same meaning and set forth the same teaching, so that the simple, proper, and natural meaning of the passage may be confirmed… Or if something in one passage is too brief or obscure because of the puzzling nature of the figures of speech, Scripture will explain and interpret it in other passages where the same doctrine is repeated more fully, clearly, and openly, using proper, clear, natural, and commonly understood words.

With confessions derived from the word of God alone, it might be thought that Lutherans would not cite human authorities as proof texts instead of clear passages of Scripture. However, these words of August Pieper are as true today as they were in the beginning of the twentieth century (Mark Braun, “The Wauwatosa Gospel,” in Lord Jesus Christ, Will You Not Stay: Essays in Honor of Ronald Feuerhahn on the Occasion of his Sixty-Fifth Birthday, pp. 131-152, 2002, available from Concordia Publishing House, p. 24 of this Charis article):

This caused people to think that the point that was presented or discussed was sufficiently established by the quotations from Luther and the fathers without a study of Scripture itself.  It even led to this that later one did not stop with quoting Luther and the old fathers, but now one also quoted Walther and other celebrities for proof of the correct doctrine. The subject of study for new essays became not so much Scripture as the essays in the old synodical reports, and quotations from them were frequently used instead of proof from Scripture.

As August Pieper warned, implicit trust in any human authority for the correct interpretation of Scripture is idolatry leading to additional errors (ibid., p. 25):

We intend in the future to pursue scriptural study even more faithfully than before. . . . We submit in advance to the least word of Scripture that opposes us, no matter from whom it may come. But we submit to no man, be his name Luther or Walther, Chemnitz or Hoenecke, Gerhard or Stoeckhardt, so long as we have clear Scripture on our side. . . . We esteem the fathers highly, far higher than ourselves as far more learned and more devout than we are. Therefore, we want to use them, particularly Luther, as guides to Scripture, and to test their doctrines a hundred times before we reject them. But authorities equal to Scripture or opposed to Scripture they may never become for us, or we shall be practicing idolatry. . . . We renounce this authority-theology anew. It causes so much damage to the church. It is unfaithfulness to the Lord; slavery to men; it brings errors with it.

For extreme examples of inappropriate appeals to human authority, some say the Lutheran confessions require believing in the Perpetual Virginity and practicing communion weekly even though they cannot provide anything resembling Scriptural proof. They believe aspects of the confessions that are not expositions of any Scripture, on the direct authority of the confessions. That indicates severe misunderstanding of the historical context and purpose of the confessions as solemn affirmations of Scriptural teaching. A proper response is, “Where does the Bible say that?”

A less extreme but more common example is assuming the Lutheran fathers must have based their teaching about some topic on Scripture instead of carefully examining what the Scriptures actually say on the topic. Taking Luther’s or the synod’s word for it is never acceptable when it comes to doctrine, not even on a busy day.

The fathers should not be cited as final authorities, saying something like, “August Pieper said so, so you should believe it, too.” At the same time, they can be cited profitably, for instance, “See August Pieper for the exegetical details” or “I realized this thanks to Chemnitz’s insistence on the clear meaning of those Scriptures, which I had somehow overlooked.”

In discussions with other Lutherans, there is a time to appeal to the confessions as secondary authorities: when there is mutual agreement about their meaning. When there is not, it is usually counterproductive to spend much time arguing about what they really say, especially since we have no promise about their perspicuity. It is then time to say, “Look, the Teacher himself said so in clear language, so it’s not really up for interpretation.” He promises to enlighten us with his own words.