Compiled and Edited by David Jay Webber

Confessional quotations are from The Book of Concord, edited by Robert Kolb
and Timothy J. Wengert (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000).


Confessional Lutherans accept the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments as the divinely inspired and inerrant Word of God, and submit to this Word of God as the only infallible authority in all matters of doctrine, faith, and life. They also accept the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, embodied in the Book of Concord of 1580, not insofar as, but because they are a correct presentation and exposition of the pure doctrine of the Word of God.

Quite simply, then, what the Lutheran Confessions teach about the public ministry of the Gospel is, authoritatively, the Confessional Lutheran doctrine of the public ministry of the Gospel. Those who subscribe to the Confessions are not declaring by this subscription that the Confessions say everything that can be said on the subject, but they are declaring, at the very least, that what the Confessions do say on the subject is a correct presentation and exposition of the pure doctrine of the Word of God. St. Peter writes: “in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15-16a, ESV). The “Nineteen Articles on the Public Ministry,” derived as they are from the Lutheran Confessions, are intended to be a summary and a “defense” of what the orthodox Lutheran Church has always taught, and still does teach, on this important topic.

In the New Testament we are also told:

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings... (Hebrews 13:7-9a, ESV)

The exegetical and theological insights of the sixteenth-century Lutheran Reformers – especially those who participated in the writing of our Confessions – are, or should be, of great value to us. Providentially, in the history of the Lutheran Church, there was also a great resurgence and renewal of Confessional theology in the nineteenth century, and it would be beneficial for us to be familiar with the writings of the leaders of that movement as well. For these reasons an extensive collection of testimonies from influential and respected Lutheran theologians of the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, addressing various aspects of the doctrine of the public ministry, is appended to the Nineteen Articles.

In the words of the Formula of Concord,

we have no intention of giving up anything of the eternal, unchangeable truth of God (which we also do not have the power to do) for the sake of temporal peace, tranquillity, and outward unity. Such peace and unity, which is intended to contradict the truth and suppress it, would not last. It makes even less sense to whitewash and cover up falsifications of pure teaching and publicly condemned errors. Rather we have a deep yearning and desire for true unity and on our part have set our hearts and desires on promoting this kind of unity to our utmost ability. This unity keeps God’s honor intact, does not abandon the divine truth of the holy gospel, and concedes nothing to the slightest error. Instead, it leads poor sinners to true, proper repentance, raises them up through faith, strengthens them in new obedience, and thus justifies and saves them eternally, solely though the merit of Christ. (FC SD XI:95-96, K/W pp. 655-66)

Also in the words of the Formula of Concord,

we must steadfastly maintain the distinction between unnecessary, useless quarrels and disputes that are necessary. The former should not be permitted to confuse the church since they tear down rather than edify. The latter, when they occur, concern the articles of faith or the chief parts of Christian teaching; to preserve the truth, false teaching, which is contrary to these articles, must be repudiated. (FC SD R&N: 15, Kolb/Wengert p. 530)

May the material that is herein presented be useful in the cause of promoting genuine unity, and of overcoming unnecessary divisions, among all Lutherans who sincerely wish to embrace and confess the historic faith of their church.


I. We believe that “the two chief works of God in human beings” are “to terrify and to justify the terrified or make them alive. The entire Scripture is divided into these two works. One part is the law, which reveals, denounces, and condemns sin. The second part is the gospel, that is, the promise of grace given in Christ.” The “gospel offers Christ to us and promises the forgiveness of sins freely on account of Christ. By means of this promise, the gospel urges us to trust that we are reconciled to the Father on account of Christ.” We believe that “we cannot obtain forgiveness of sin and righteousness before God through our merit, work, or satisfactions, but that we receive forgiveness of sin and become righteous before God out of grace for Christ’s sake through faith when we believe that Christ has suffered for us and that for his sake our sin is forgiven and righteousness and eternal life are given to us. For God will regard and reckon this faith as righteousness in his sight, as St. Paul says in Romans 3[:21-26] and 4[:5]. To obtain such faith God instituted the office of preaching, giving the gospel and the sacraments. Through these, as through means, he gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when he wills, in those who hear the gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe.” We reject the teaching “that we obtain the Holy Spirit without the external word of the gospel through our own preparation, thoughts, and works.” The gospel actually “gives guidance and help against sin in more than one way, because God is extravagantly rich in his grace: first, through the spoken word, in which the forgiveness of sins is preached to the whole world (which is the proper function of the gospel); second, through baptism; third, through the holy Sacrament of the Altar; fourth, through the power of the keys and also through the mutual conversation and consolation of brothers... Matthew 18[:20]: ‘Where two or three are gathered...’” (Ap XII:53, K/W p. 195; Ap XII:76, K/W p. 200; AC-G IV:1–V:4, K/W pp. 38,40; SA III, IV, K/W p. 319)

II. We believe that “in his immeasurable goodness and mercy God provides for the public proclamation of his divine, eternal law and of the wondrous counsel of our redemption, the holy gospel of his eternal Son, our only Savior Jesus Christ, which alone can save. By means of this proclamation he gathers an everlasting church from humankind, and he effects in human hearts true repentance and knowledge of sin and true faith in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. God wants to call human beings to eternal salvation, to draw them to himself, to convert them, to give them new birth, and to sanctify them through these means, and in no other way than through his holy Word (which people hear proclaimed or read) and through the sacraments (which they use according to his Word). 1 Corinthians 1[:21]: ‘Since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe.’ Acts 11[:14]: ‘[Peter] will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.’ Romans 10[:17]: ‘So faith arises from the proclamation, and proclamation comes through God’s word.’ John 17[:17,20]: ‘Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. I ask on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word.’ Therefore, the eternal Father calls from heaven regarding his dear Son and all who proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins in his name, ‘Listen to him!’ (Matt. 17[:5]).” In “this life hypocrites and evil people are mingled with the church and are members of the church according to the external association of the church’s signs – that is, the Word, confession of faith, and sacraments... However, the church is not only an association of external ties and rites like other civic organizations, but it is principally an association of faith and the Holy Spirit in the hearts of persons. It nevertheless has its external marks so that it can be recognized, namely, the pure teaching of the gospel and the administration of the sacraments in harmony with the gospel of Christ. Moreover, this church alone is called the body of Christ, which Christ renews, sanctifies, and governs by his Spirit as Paul testifies in Ephesians 1[:22-23], when he says, ‘And [God] has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.’” “In the Large Catechism, Luther wrote, ‘Of this community I also am a part and member, a participant and co-partner in all the blessings it possesses. I was brought into it by the Holy Spirit and incorporated into it through the fact that I have heard and still hear God’s Word, which is the beginning point for entering it. Before we had come into this community, we were entirely of the devil, knowing nothing of God and of Christ. The Holy Spirit will remain with the holy community or Christian people until the Last Day. Through it he gathers us, using it to teach and preach the Word. By it he creates and increases holiness, causing it daily to grow and become strong in the faith and in the fruits which the Spirit produces....’ In these words the catechism...ascribes everything to the Holy Spirit, namely, that through the ministry of preaching he brings us into the Christian community, in which he sanctifies us and brings about in us a daily increase in faith and good works.” We reject the teaching “That the church’s ministry – the Word as it is proclaimed and heard – is not a means through which God the Holy Spirit teaches human beings the saving knowledge of Christ and effects conversion, repentance, faith, and new obedience in them.” (FC SD II:50-51, K/W pp. 553-54; Ap VII/VIII:3,5, K/W p. 174; FC SD II:36-38 [quoting LC II:52-53], K/W p. 551; FC SD XII:30, K/W p. 659)

III. We believe that “the ministry of the New Testament is not bound to places and persons like the Levitical ministry, but is scattered throughout the whole world and exists wherever God gives God’s gifts: apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers [cf. Eph. 4:11]. That ministry is not valid because of the authority of any person but because of the Word handed down by Christ.” (Tr 26, K/W p. 334)

IV. We “believe that, according to the gospel, the power of the keys or the power of the bishops is the power of God’s mandate to preach the gospel, to forgive and retain sins, and to administer the sacraments. For Christ sent out the apostles with this command [John 20:21-23]: ‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you. ... Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’ And Mark 16[:15]: ‘Go...and proclaim the good news to the whole creation....’ This power is exercised only by teaching or preaching the gospel and by administering the sacraments either to many or to individuals, depending on one’s calling. For not bodily things but eternal things, eternal righteousness, the Holy Spirit, eternal life, are being given. These things cannot come about except through the ministry of Word and sacraments, as Paul says [Rom. 1:16]: ‘The the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith.’ And Psalm 119[:50]: ‘Your promise gives me life.’ ...this power of the church bestows eternal things and is exercised only through the ministry of the Word.” “Christ gave to his apostles only spiritual authority, that is, the command to preach the gospel, to proclaim the forgiveness of sins, to administer the sacraments, and to excommunicate the ungodly without the use of physical force. ... Indeed, Christ said, ‘Go, ...teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you’ [Matt. 28:19-20]. Again, ‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you’ [John 20:21].” (AC-L XXVIII:5-10, K/W p. 93; Tr 31, K/W p. 335)

V. We believe that “priests are not called to offer sacrifices for the people as in Old Testament law so that through them they might merit the forgiveness of sins for the people; instead they are called to preach the gospel and to administer the sacraments to the people. We do not have another priesthood like the Levitical priesthood – as the Epistle to the Hebrews [chaps. 7-9] more than sufficiently teaches. But if ordination is understood with reference to the ministry of the Word, we have no objection to calling ordination a sacrament. For the ministry of the Word has the command of God and has magnificent promises like Romans 1[:16]: the gospel ‘is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith.’ Likewise, Isaiah 55[:11], ‘ shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose. ...’ If ordination is understood in this way, we will not object to calling the laying on of hands a sacrament. For the church has the mandate to appoint ministers, which ought to please us greatly because we know that God approves this ministry and is present in it. Indeed, it is worthwhile to extol the ministry of the Word with every possible kind of praise against fanatics who imagine that the Holy Spirit is not given through the Word but is given on account of certain preparations of their own.” “Concerning church order” we “teach that no one should teach publicly in the church or administer the sacraments unless properly called.” (Ap XIII:9-13, K/W p. 220; AC-L XIV, K/W p. 47)

VI. We believe that “wherever the church exists, there also is the right to administer the gospel. Therefore it is necessary for the church to retain the right to call, choose, and ordain ministers. This right is a gift bestowed exclusively on the church, and no human authority can take it away from the church, as Paul testifies to the Ephesians [4:8,11,12] when he says: ‘When he ascended on high...he gave gifts to his people.’ Among those gifts belonging to the church he lists pastors and teachers and adds that such are given for serving and building up the body of Christ. Therefore, where the true church is, there must also be the right of choosing and ordaining ministers, just as in an emergency even a layperson grants absolution and becomes the minister or pastor of another. So Augustine tells the story of two Christians in a boat, one of whom baptized the other (a catechumen) and then the latter, having been baptized, absolved the former. Pertinent here are the words of Christ that assert that the keys were given to the church, not just to particular persons: ‘For where two or three are gathered in my name...’ [Matt. 18:20]. Finally this is also confirmed by Peter’s declaration [1 Peter 2:9]: ‘You are a...royal priesthood.’ These words apply to the true church, which, since it alone possesses the priesthood, certainly has the right of choosing and ordaining ministers. The most common practice of the church also testifies to this, for in times past the people chose pastors and bishops. Then the bishop of either that church or a neighboring one came and confirmed the candidate by the laying on of hands. Ordination was nothing other than such confirmation.” (Tr 67-70, K/W pp. 340-41)

VII. We believe that “true bishops...attend to the church and the gospel.” At the time of the Reformation the Lutherans did not give the papal bishops “leave to ordain and confirm” them and their “preachers,” because those bishops did “not want to be true bishops.” They did “not want to preach, teach, baptize, commune, or perform any proper work or office of the church,” but they did “persecute and condemn those who” did “take up a call to such an office.” It would have been wrong for “the church” to “remain without servants on their account,” and therefore it was appropriate for the Lutherans to follow “the ancient examples of the church and the Fathers” and “ordain suitable persons to this office” themselves. Lutheran “pastors and preachers” should “take note” of the fact that their “office has now become a completely different one than it was under the pope.” (SA III, X:1-3, K/W pp. 323-24; SC Pref.: 26, K/W p. 351)

VIII. We believe that “the authority of the ministry depends upon the Word of God... In 1 Corinthians 3[:4-8,21-22] Paul regards all ministers as equals and teaches that the church is superior to its ministers. Thus he grants neither preeminence nor lordship over the church or the other ministers to Peter. For he says, ‘All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas’ [1 Cor. 3:21-22], which is to say, neither Peter nor the other ministers may assume lordship or preeminence over the church or burden the church with traditions or allow the authority of any person to count for more than the Word.” (Tr 10-11, K/W p. 331)

IX. We believe that those who “hold office in the church...represent the person of Christ on account of the call of the church and do not represent their own persons, as Christ himself testifies [Luke 10:16], ‘Whoever listens to you listens to me.’ When they offer the Word of Christ or the sacraments, they offer them in the stead and place of Christ.” Accordingly, “the one minister who consecrates gives the body and blood of the Lord to the rest of the people, just as a minister who preaches sets forth the gospel to the people, as Paul says [1 Cor. 4:1], ‘Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries,’ that is, of the gospel and the sacraments. And 2 Corinthians 5:20, ‘So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.’” (Ap VII/VIII:28, K/W p. 178; Ap XXIV:80, K/W p. 272)

X. We believe that “our churches and schools” should be directed and earnestly exhorted “first of all to the Holy Scriptures and the Creeds and then to the...Augsburg Confession, in order that especially the youth who are being trained for service in the church and for the holy ministry may be instructed faithfully and diligently, so that among our descendants the pure teaching and confession of the faith may be kept and spread through the help and assistance of the Holy Spirit until the glorious return of our only Redeemer and Savior, Jesus Christ.” (Preface 21, K/W p. 14)

XI. We believe that “The Gospel bestows upon those who preside over the churches the commission to proclaim the gospel, forgive sins, and administer the sacraments. In addition, it bestows legal authority, that is, the charge to excommunicate those whose crimes are public knowledge and to absolve those who repent. It is universally acknowledged...that this power is shared by divine right by all who preside in the churches, whether they are called pastors, presbyters, or bishops. For that reason Jerome plainly teaches that in the apostolic letters all who preside over churches are both bishops and presbyters. He quotes Titus [1:5-6]: ‘I left you behind in Crete for this reason, so that you should...appoint presbyters in every town,’ which then continues, ‘It is necessary for the bishop to be the husband of one wife’ [v. 6]. Again, Peter and John call themselves presbyters [1 Peter 5:1; 2 John 1; 3 John 1]. Jerome goes on to say: ‘One person was chosen thereafter to oversee the rest as a remedy for schism, lest some individuals draw a following around themselves and divide the church of Christ. For in Alexandria, from the time of Mark the evangelist until that of bishops Esdras [Heracles] and Dionysius, the presbyters always chose one of their number, elevated him to a higher status, and called him bishop. Moreover, in the same way that an army provides a commander for itself, the deacons may choose one of their own, whom they know to be diligent, and name him archdeacon. What, after all, does a bishop do, with the exception of ordaining, that a presbyter does not?’ Jerome, then, teaches that the distinctions of degree between bishop and presbyter or pastor are established by human authority.” Nevertheless, “it is our greatest desire to retain the order of the church and the various ranks in the church – even though they were established by human authority. We know that church discipline in the manner described by the ancient canons was instituted by the Fathers for a good and useful purpose.” Regarding the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, “The ancient canons also indicate that one priest officiated and gave the sacrament to the other priests and deacons. For the words of the Nicene canon read: ‘After the priests, the deacons shall receive the sacrament from the bishop or priest in order.’” (Tr 60-63, K/W p. 340; Ap XIV:1, K/W p. 222; AC-G:XXIV:37-38, K/W p. 70)

XII. We believe, in regard to “Bishops, Pastors, and Preachers,” that “‘A bishop is to be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, virtuous, moderate, an apt teacher, not a drunkard, not vicious, not involved in dishonorable work, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not stingy, one who manages his own household well, who has obedient and honest children, not a recent convert, who holds to the Word that is certain and can teach, so that he may be strong enough to admonish with saving teaching and to refute those who contradict it.’ From 1 Timothy 3[:2-4,6a; Titus 1:9].” We “confess that hypocrites and evil people are mixed together in the church and that the sacraments are efficacious even though they may be dispensed by evil ministers, because the ministers act in the place of Christ and so do not represent their own person. This accords with that passage [Luke 10:16], ‘Whoever listens to you listens to me.’ The ungodly teachers must be avoided because they no longer act in the person of Christ but are Antichrists. Christ says [Matt. 7:15], ‘Beware of false prophets,’ and Paul says [Gal. 1:9], ‘If anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed!’ Moreover, Christ has also warned us in his parables on the church [Matt. 13:24-50] that when offended by the personal conduct of either priests or people, we should not incite schisms as the Donatists wickedly did.” In “Colossians [3:14], ‘Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which is the bond of perfection,’” Paul “is speaking about community in the church. For he says that love is a bond or unbroken chain in order to show that he is talking about linking and binding together the many members of the church with one another. In all families and communities harmony needs to be nurtured by mutual responsibilities, and it is not possible to preserve tranquillity unless people overlook and forgive certain mistakes among themselves. In the same way, Paul urges that there be love in the church to preserve harmony, to bear with (if need be) the crude behavior of the brothers [and sisters], and to overlook certain minor offenses, lest the church disintegrate into various schisms and lest enmities, factions, and heresies arise from such schisms. For harmony will inevitably dissolve whenever bishops impose excessive burdens upon the people or have no regard for their weakness. Dissensions also arise when the people judge the conduct of their teachers too severely or scorn them on account of some lesser faults, going on to seek other kinds of doctrine and other teachers. On the contrary, perfection (that is, the integrity of the church) is preserved when the strong bear with the weak, when people put the best construction on the faults of their teachers, and when the bishops make some allowances for the weakness of their people.” (SC TD:2, K/W p. 365; Ap VII/VIII:47-49, K/W p. 183; Ap IV:231-34, K/W pp. 155-56)

XIII. We believe that the catechism “contains what every Christian should know. Anyone who does not know it should not be numbered among Christians nor admitted to any sacrament.” Those “who are either pastors or preachers” should therefore “take up” their “office boldly, ...have pity on” the “people who are entrusted to” them, and “bring the catechism to the people, especially to the young. ... Those who do not want to learn these things – who must be told how they deny Christ and are not Christians – should also not be admitted to the sacraments, should not be sponsors for children at baptism, and should not exercise any aspect of Christian freedom.” In our churches “those who instruct the people about the worth and fruits of the sacraments do so in such a way as to invite the people to use the sacraments frequently.” However, “Christ says [1 Cor. 11:29] that ‘all who eat and drink unworthily, eat and drink judgment against themselves.’ Our pastors, accordingly, do not force those who are not ready to use the sacraments.” “Also, excommunication is pronounced on the openly wicked and on those who despise the sacraments.” “Chrysostom tells how the priest stands every day and invites some to receive the sacrament, but forbids others to approach.” The faithful “guardians of souls and pastors” in our time likewise “do not intend to admit to the sacrament and administer it to those who do not know what they seek or why they come.” (LC Sh.Pref.: 2, K/W p. 383; SC Pref.: 6,11, K/W p. 348; Ap XI:3,5,4, K/W p. 186; AC-G XXIV:36, K/W p. 70; LC L.Pref.: 2, K/W p. 379; LC V:2, K/W p. 467)

XIV. We believe, in regard to the “ministry” of superintendents (bishops) and theological professors, that they should “not look on passively or remain silent if anything contrary to” the Augsburg Confession “is introduced into” their “churches and schools, in which the almighty God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has placed” them “as teachers and shepherds.” (FC SD XII:6, K/W p. 656)

XV. We believe that “the name of spiritual father those who govern and guide us by the Word of God. St. Paul boasts that he is such a father in 1 Corinthians 4[:15], where he says, ‘In Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.’ Because they are fathers, they are entitled to honor, even above all others. is necessary to impress upon the common people that they who would bear the name of Christ owe it to God to show ‘double honor’ [1 Tim. 5:17] to those who watch over their souls and to treat them well and make provision for them.” (We also believe that the church – the Holy Spirit’s “unique community in the world” – “is the mother that begets and bears every Christian through the Word of God.”) (LC I:158-61, K/W p. 408; LC II:42, K/W p. 436)

XVI. We believe that “young people should be thoroughly taught the parts of the catechism (that is, instruction for children) and diligently drilled in their practice.” “Among us,” in regard to the “catechesis of children,” “pastors and ministers of the church are required to instruct and examine the youth publicly, a custom that produces very good results.” “At one time there were schools of Holy Scripture and other disciplines useful for the Christian church in the monasteries, so that pastors and bishops were taken from the monasteries.” But, “While monasteries were once schools for Christian instruction,” by the time of the Reformation they had “degenerated – as though from a golden to an iron age” – although “here and there in the monasteries” there were “still some virtuous people serving the ministry of the Word.” At the time of the Reformation it was therefore appropriate that “The foundations and monasteries, established in former times with good intentions for the education of learned people and decent women, should be returned to such use so that we may have pastors, preachers, and other servants of the church, as well as other people necessary for earthly government in cities and states, and also well-trained young women to head households and manage them.” (We also believe that a schoolmaster’s “authority is derived and developed out of the authority of parents,” since, “Where a father is unable by himself to bring up his child, he calls upon a schoolmaster to teach him.” It is “the duty of every head of a examine the children and servants one after the other and ascertain what they know or have learned of” the catechism, “and, if they do not know it, to keep them faithfully at it.” In general, “the young people...must be brought up in Christian teaching and in a right understanding of it. With such training we may more easily instill the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer into the young so that they will receive them with joy and earnestness, practice them from their youth, and become accustomed to them. ... In this way God’s Word and a Christian community will be preserved. Therefore let all heads of a household remember that it is their duty, by God’s injunction and command, to teach their children or have them taught the things they ought to know.”) (LC Sh.Pref.: 3, K/W p. 383; Ap XV:41, K/W p. 229; AC-G XXVII:15, K/W pp. 82,84; Ap XXVII:5, K/W p. 278; Ap XXVII:22, K/W p. 281; SA II, III:1, K/W p. 306; LC I:141, K/W p. 405; LC Sh.Pref.: 4, K/W p. 383; LC V:85-87, K/W pp. 475-76)

XVII. We believe that it is wrong “to forbid marriage and burden the divine estate of priests with perpetual celibacy.” “Therefore, because God’s Word and command cannot be changed by any human vow or law, priests and other clergy have taken wives for themselves... It can also be demonstrated from the historical accounts and from the writings of the Fathers that it was customary in the Christian church of ancient times for priests and deacons to have wives. This is why Paul says in 1 Timothy 3[:2]: ‘Now a bishop must be above reproach, the husband of one wife.’” “How can the marriage of priests and clergy, especially of the pastors and others who are to serve the church, be disadvantageous to the Christian church as a whole?” (SA III, XI:1, K/W p. 324; AC-G XXIII:8-11, K/W pp. 62,64; AC-G XXIII:16, K/W p. 66)

XVIII. We believe that “each and every theologian and minister of church or school” should be “reminded and exhorted to consider diligently and earnestly the doctrine contained” in the Book of Concord, so that when they find “that the explanation of the dissensions which had arisen conformed to and agreed with first of all the Word of God and then with the Augsburg Confession as well,” they can “freely and with due consideration” accept, approve, and subscribe to “this Book of Concord (with great joy and heartfelt thanks to God Almighty) as the correct, Christian understanding of the Augsburg Confession,” and publicly attest to the same “with hearts and hands and voices. For this reason this Christian accord is called and also is the unanimous and concordant confession not only of a few of our theologians but generally of each and every one of our ministers of church and school.” (Preface 14-16, K/W p. 9)

XIX. We believe, therefore, on the basis of the Holy Scriptures and in harmony with the Lutheran Confessions, that
A) God has instituted the public ministry of the Gospel, and it is his clearly-revealed will and mandate that the means of grace be publicly administered in and for the church, fully and completely, by individuals who have been properly trained and properly called to do this. (cf. Articles I, II, III, IV, V, X)
B) Those men (1 Cor. 14:33-38; 1 Tim. 2:8-15) who are “apt teachers,” and who have been called to carry out, definitively and culminantly, the public administration of one or more of the means of grace, are public ministers of the Gospel in the narrow sense. This would include parish pastors and bishops, who are called to preach and teach “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27-28), and who are called to officiate at the administration of the sacraments and admit people thereto. This would also include chaplains and theological professors, who are called to preach and teach “the whole counsel of God,” even if they are not called to officiate at the administration of the sacraments and admit people thereto on a regular basis. Those who serve in such offices are carrying out the indispensable ministry of spiritual oversight in the church, through Word and sacrament, that was originally entrusted by Christ to his apostles. (cf. Articles VII, XI, XII, XIII, XIV)
C) Those men and women who have been called to carry out a constituent part of the divinely-instituted public ministry (in conformity with the Biblical directives on the proper roles of men and women in the church), but who have not been called to carry out, definitively and culminantly, the public administration of one or more of the means of grace, are public ministers of the Gospel in a broader sense. This would include catechists and parochial school teachers, who are called to assist pastors and Christian parents in instructing the church’s children in the rudiments of Christian doctrine, but who are not called to preach and teach “the whole counsel of God.” This would also include (male) deacons, who are called to serve as liturgical assistants in public worship, but who are not called to preach and teach “the whole counsel of God,” and who are not called to officiate at the administration of the sacraments and admit people thereto. Those who serve in such offices are carrying out important spiritual duties in the church that were originally entrusted by Christ to his apostles, or that have been directly derived from such apostolic duties. (cf. Articles XVI [monks who teach in monastery schools are serving the ministry of the Word], XVIII [school ministers are coordinated with theologians and church ministers], XVII [deacons are included among the clergy], XI [deacons do not officiate at the administration of the sacrament])
D) It is permissible and proper to say that such public ministers of the Gospel, in a broader sense, have been called to an ecclesiastical helping office to which a part of the divinely-instituted public ministry has been entrusted, in comparison to those men who have been called to an ecclesiastical office to which the whole divinely-instituted public ministry (according to its essential features) has been entrusted. It is also permissible and proper to say that such public ministers of the Gospel, in a broader sense, have been called to a form of the divinely-instituted public ministry that is limited or restricted in scope, in comparison to those men who have been called to a form of the divinely-instituted public ministry that is comprehensive or general in scope.

(articles rev. 27 Aug. 2003)


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