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Appreciative heirs watch for significant dates in the life of Dr. Martin Luther, thus to seize the opportunity another anniversary affords to highlight God’s working in his life. By now most Lutherans are aware that this is the 450th anniversary of Luther’s death. It was February 18, 1546 when he died, falling asleep confidently in the faith in Christ Jesus he had so boldly professed.

To mark this anniversary cities around Germany which are in one way or another associated with Luther are taking part in “Luther Year 1996.” Most religious periodicals are noting the anniversary as well. How about the Spokesman? We have been marking it coincidently and indirectly with the very informative series of articles by Pastor Gregory Jackson called: “After the Death of Luther — How the Formula Of Concord Was Forged.”

Every Reformation season we give thanks for Luther’s life — that God used him as an instrument for reforming the church. Seldom do we mark his death, and even more seldom, I’m afraid, do we pay attention to the very crucial events which were, in effect, ushered in by his death.

What happened not long after he died he had, in fact, prophesied: “This doctrine,” Luther said, “will be obscured again after my death.” The doctrine of which he spoke was the doctrine by which the church stands or falls — the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone without the works of the Law.

As Pastor Jackson’s articles bring out, Luther proved to be a prophet indeed. Soon after Luther’s death one doctrinal controversy after another arose. These controversies were eventually settled one by one over a period of some 30 years, only after much back and forth wrangling and debate, by the Formula of Concord of 1577. This confession as well as the rest of our Lutheran Confessions, including Luther’s Catechisms, were published in the Book of Concord of 1580.

In all this there are many lessons for us. One is that, while good men — staunch confessors of His Truth — die, God continues to protect His Church, raising up other faithful to carry the torch of light and truth and life.

It has been suggested that Pastor Jackson’s informative series of articles about how and why the Formula of Concord was written be compiled in pamphlet form. We have reason to believe that this will be done in due time.


We give God thanks for the confessions contained in the Book of Concord. Let us be reminded to give thanks for another confession of our church body. Earlier this year our confessional document, Concerning Church Fellowship (CCF), officially adopted by the CLC in 1961, was reprinted in an independent Lutheran journal of theology — Logia.

A Logia footnote explains, in part: “The breakup of the Synodical conference revolved around many issues, but finally at stake was the doctrine of fellowship and church relations. We print this confessional statement here because we believe that it is the last and most thorough articulation of the doctrine of church fellowship as it was confessed in the Synodical Conference. . . .”

There is considerable history behind the forging of any confession of faith. It would be well to acquaint ourselves — or reacquaint, as the case may be — on what was involved in the forging of CCF. Below we draw from essays on CLC history by Pastor M. J. Witt (1970) and Prof. C. M. Gullerud (1978).

The idea for the confession was born before the CLC existed — by a small group at a Free Conference in Lyons, Nebraska. “From the very start,” explained Prof. Gullerud, “it has been evident that this was not the product of hasty and ill-conceived composition but rather a document thoroughly Scriptural which grew out from the life of a small, tried, and tested fellowship of believers at a time when such a confession was sorely needed.”

Let’s trace the forging:

Free Conference at Lyons, Nebr. (Oct. 1957) — “At this meeting it was mutually agreed that there was a need for an Article to be drawn up on the doctrine of Church fellowship. (It had been noted that the 16th century Lutheran confessions did not treat the subject at any length — ED.) This was the initial move toward the framing of the document later to be known by the title: ‘Concerning Church Fellowship.’ … ” “All who were interested in contributing to this study were invited to participate freely …”

Free Conference at Cheyenne, Wyo. (May, 1958) — “The first draft of the essay on church fellowship was thoroughly reviewed and examined in the light of Scripture. Certain changes were proposed and received …”

Meeting at Spokane, Wash. (Aug. 1958) — “After more polishing the document on fellowship was again read and then accepted as to its essence.” It was reported that “special attention was given to the false doctrines to be rejected.”

Interim Conference at Mankato, Minn. (Jan. 1959) — “The minutes of this conference indicate that a lively and fruitful discussion was carried on in connection with . . .” the document on fellowship.

Interim Conference at Red Wing, Minn. (Aug. 1959) — “It was a happy moment when some who had made far-reaching protests and charges concerning our confession Concerning Church Fellowship found that the discussion and study at this conference revealed the obstacles to be misunderstandings. . . .”

Interim Conference at Mankato, Minn. (Jan. 1960) — “The editing committee chosen to edit Concerning Church Fellowship reported, and assignment was made for the writing of a preamble to it.”

Constituting Convention at Watertown, S.Dak. (Aug. 1960) and recessed to Sleepy Eye, Minn. (Jan. 1961) — “The minutes (of the Watertown meeting) show that the essay Concerning Church Fellowship was adopted unanimously as a confessional statement of the conference. . . .”

Those who trace this history are surely inclined to agree with Prof. Gullerud’s summary:

“Upon examining the records, reports, and minutes of the above-cited conferences and meetings one is impressed with the careful and conscientious deliberations on the part of the participants as they, under God, were moving toward the establishment of a sound and Scripture-grounded church body which might serve as a truly united fellowship-assembly dedicated to the Lord’s work in the widening field of activity which the Spirit of God was opening in those formative years.”

As a CLC member, do you have a copy of the 45-page pamphlet Concerning Church Fellowship? More importantly, are you familiar with its contents? Ask your pastor, or write to the Spokesman editor, if you would like to order a copy. It is available, for a nominal price, in the tract racks of most of our churches and/or through the CLC Bookhouse in Eau Claire.

May our Lutheran confessions — each of which was painstakingly forged and molded by our fathers, be more than dust catchers in our tract racks and on our desks and end tables. Based as they are on the time- less Word of God, all of them have an urgent message to the current generation. The need spoken of in Lyons, Nebraska for a confessional statement on church fellowship has hardly decreased 40 years later. If we would remain a confessional church body in the polluted sea of doctrinal compromise, unionism, and ecumenicalism all around us, we need to be acquainted with — and pray to practice in accord with — the contents of Concerning Church Fellowship.


To answer the question posed in last month’s issue: It was a Church of Christ (Reformed and Calvinistic) which advertised itself on an outdoor sign with the statement: “God allows our choosing of Him to be His choosing of us.”

We hear a lot about “choices” today, also in the realm of the spiritual. In that connection consider these quotes:

“. . .The Holy Scriptures ascribe conversion, faith in Christ, regeneration, renewal, and all that belong to their efficacious beginning and completion, not to the human powers of the natural free will, neither entirely, nor half, nor in any, even the least or most inconsiderable part, but in solidum, that is, entirely, solely, to the divine working and the Holy Ghost. . . .” (Concordia Triglotta, T.D. II. Free Will, p. 891)

“It is also taught among us that man possesses some measure of freedom of the will which enables him to live an outwardly honorable life and to make choices among the things that reason comprehends. But without the grace, help, and activity of the Holy Spirit man is not capable of making himself acceptable to God, of fearing God and believing in God with his whole heart, or of expelling inborn evil lusts from his heart. This is accomplished by the Holy Spirit, who is given through the Word of God, for Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:14, ‘Natural man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God.'” (Augsburg Confession, Art. XVIII, Freedom of the Will) Compare the above statement to what is said in

As we sing in the hymn:

Lord, ’tis not that I did choose Thee; That, I know, could never be; For this heart would still refuse Thee Had Thy grace not chosen me. (cf. TLH #37, Stz 1)