Thanks to Paul McCain for posting this wonderful article on his blog, Cyberbrethren. What he says goes for me too. He articulates quite well three of the great strengths of the Confessions. These are not dead, dry-as-dust historical documents for professional egghead theologians; they’re meant for everyday people living their everyday lives as Christians — for Christians who deal with unruly children or bad bosses or devious coworkers, who have bills to pay and worries about the future and hopes and dreams, too. Christians like you, in other words.
The only devotional literature I’ve ever found that surpasses the Lutheran Confessions is Holy Scripture itself. If you’re looking for the absolute best devotional writing you’ll ever find, dig into the Scriptures and the Confessions together. The Confessions will help you understand what you’re reading and I guarantee you’ll get more out of Scripture that way. God really blessed the men who drew up the Confessions, and we are blessed when we study, learn, appreciate, and apply their work.
The Lutheran Confessions are Pastoral: The constant drum beat throughout them is the goal of comforting and caring for souls. The Lutheran Confessions are not theological speculations or abstractions. The times in which it was written called for pastoral care on a scale that could only be compared to a national emergency. Souls bruised and bullied by legalisms and demands placed on them outside of and beyond the Sacred Scriptures were healed by the healing and life-giving Gospel. Persons who were not hearing the comforting promises of the Holy Gospel, the free and full forgiveness of all salvation through Christ, received the mercy of God as they heard of the Savior who loved them and died and rose for them. The Lutheran Confessions speak to us today because they speak of the most important issues any of us ever face in our life. Who am I? What is life’s meaning? Who do I know God? Am I loved? How can I be sure? What am I do to with my life?
The Lutheran Confessions are Practical: They go right to the heart of the key issues and, even in spite of the length of some articles in them, never wander off on side paths. It is a book on a mission and that is to deliver the Gospel: purely, cleanly, correctly and practically, again, for the care of souls. They are not journal articles indulging in scholarly pursuits, or the pet interests of their authors in the pursuit of credibility and respect in the academic community. The Confessions are practical resources for people’s faith and life, as they live and especially, as they die. Why? Because the golden thread running throughout them is the chief and most important teaching of the Christian faith: justification by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, on account of Christ alone, the teaching drawn from Scripture, alone: the Gospel.
The Lutheran Confessions are Personal: The Book of Concord was written by people who had deep and long first-hand experience with the various theological ills they are decrying and had first-hand knowledge of just how powerfully comforting and consoling the Gospel is. Therefore, for example, when you read about monasticism in this book, always behind these discussions stands the man who spent well over a decade of his life in this lifestyle, tortured and tormented no end by the lack of Gospel: Martin Luther. The book could almost be said to be a spiritual autobiography of all those who contributed to it. They are not dispassionate scientific essays. They are not mystical and obscure texts. They are personal statements of faith expressed on behalf of the Church, and for the Church, in order to gather more and more into the Church.
Those are three reasons why I am so passionate about the Book of Concord. Reader, why do you like the Book of Concord? What have you found helpful in it? What do you keep coming back to in it that has been of particular help and meaning to you?