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December 2014 / January 2015 (Vol. 59, No.12)

Dear Saints of Grace,

In the previous article it was explained that the Augsburg Confession was written to reveal the Lutheran’s doctrinal understandings about certain theological topics. After the public reading of this great Confession a reply was given to the Lutherans by the emperor but not in written form, it was only read to them. It basically told the Lutherans to back down from their doctrinal standings or else.

Further meetings were then called for between the emperor’s theologians and the Lutheran theologians. At this point Luther was still unable to attend these meetings for he would have been arrested and burned as a heretic. Two meetings then happened where some of the Lutheran theologians actually gave up on some of the doctrinal stances put forth in the Augsburg Confession. But it was the remaining Lutheran laymen, along with some princes, who would resist the emperor’s threats of exile and loss of property, prevailing in the end (by the grace of God, of course).

The response of the emperor to the Augsburg Confession was officially called the Pontifical Confutation of the Augsburg Confession. As stated before, the Lutherans were never given a copy of this Pontifical Confutation but were ordered to do the following: Accept the Confutation’s conclusions (even though unseen), make no reply to it, and not allow it to be published. Fortunately while the Confutation was being read stenographers were writing it down and they had an accurate reading of its contents. Some Lutheran theologians then wrote a response to the Confutation at the request of the Lutheran princes, but Emperor Charles V refused to accept it. The Lutheran party then left the meeting in Augsburg.

A Lutheran theologian named Philip Melanchthon, who at first was willing to give into the emperor’s requests in the Pontifical Confutation, was later encouraged by Luther to remain strong. Melanchthon would then write what would become known as The Apology to the Augsburg Confession (the word “apology” in the Greek language means “defense”). So essentially what he wrote was a defense of what was put forth the first time in the Augsburg Confession. This time, however, it would contain much more detail with regard to the topics discussed.

The Apology is the longest and most detailed confession in the Book of Concord. It carefully works through the Roman response to the Augsburg Confession, refuting errors and setting forth the truth. The driving force behind the Apology to the Augsburg Confession is the repeated insistence that the Bible’s most important and comforting teaching is justification by grace alone, through faith alone, on account of Christ alone. Again and again, Melanchthon returns to this critical teaching of Holy Scripture.

The Apology contains all twenty-eight of the articles found in the original Augsburg Confession. But it is Melanchthon’s special attention to answering the Roman’s Pontifical Confutation that reveals much more of what they, and we, believe. This is exactly why the Apology should be given our time to be examined, held, and firmly proclaimed as our confession of faith as Confessional Lutherans.

With you IN Christ!