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54 The Augsburg Confession Worksheet        54 The Augsburg Confession

Diet of Augsburg 

The Edict of Worms, 1521, had condemned Martin Luther and all his writings. It was a law passed by the emperor, but it was never enforced because Charles was busy with wars that were breaking out in his territories at that time. Luther was condemned by demand of the pope because Luther had challenged the authority of the pope by saying the sale of indulgences, which the pope authorized, was wrong. He’d also challenged the authority of the church by saying that the doctrines of the church must pass the test of the Scriptures. Nine years later, the Reformation had spread so much that it could no longer be ignored. The emperor at last gave way to the Protestant princes and allowed them to read their Confession of faith, a summary of the evangelical beliefs and doctrines.

The Emperor’s Chapel

On June 25, 1530, a large crowd gathered outside the emperor’s palace church since there was room for only about 200 people inside. The emperor had refused to hear the Confession read at the large town hall where the diet meetings were held and he would not allow the public inside the chapel. Inside the chapel, the electors and princes of the empire sat on either side of the emperor. Cardinal Campeggio, the pope’s representative, refused to attend the reading. He didn’t want people to think that the pope had approved of the gathering.

Confession Read in German

The Protestant prince, John, Elector of Saxony, had appointed two of his officials to read the Confession. They rose and approached Charles on his throne. Chancellor Bruck held the Confession in Latin. Chancellor Bayer held the copy written in German. Emperor Charles told Chancellor Bruck to read the Latin copy. Elector John objected, saying that since the princes were German and the diet was meeting in Germany, the German copy should be read. The emperor gave his permission.

The Confession is Heard by Many

Chancellor Bayer read the Lutheran beliefs loudly enough that even the people outside the church could hear him. Luther later said that although the Protestant preachers had been forced to stop preaching in the churches of Augsburg, the elector himself, through Bayer, had preached before the emperor and the whole empire because representatives of the whole empire were present at the reading of the Confession. “The Word of God cannot be bound,” Luther rejoiced. “They forbid it in the pulpit and are forced to hear it in the palace.”

After reading the Lutheran beliefs, Bayer read the list of practices the Protestants had put in place to correct Roman Catholic errors and abuses. The Confession said that:

  • The Bible taught that the Lord’s Supper included wine and bread as symbols and that it was wrong to allow only the priests to take the wine;
  • Celibacy of priests was wrong and that, according to the Bible, ministers ought to be married men;
  • Mass had been changed into a market item that purchased salvation for those who could afford to pay for private masses, and therefore, private masses would not be performed in evangelical churches;
  • Only those who confessed their sins to God were allowed to take communion in the evangelical churches;
  • The Roman Church had substituted man-made traditions such as the celebration of festivals, fasting, and other religious rules for the real good works required of God, such as mothers having and caring for their children, fathers working to support their families, and rulers governing their citizens;
  • Vows taken by monks should be abolished because those vows could not pardon sins, as the Roman Church taught;
  • The confusion of church powers with powers of the state, or government powers, had resulted in wars and uprisings and therefore, church and state should be separated.

In support of the last item on the list, Bayer quoted from Scripture. He read Christ’s statement recorded in John 18:36, “My kingdom is not of this world,” Paul’s statements in Philippians 3:20, “Our citizenship is in heaven” and in 2 Corinthians 10:4, “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal.” The last part of the Confession must have upset the many archbishop-princes in the room who had both church and state authority.

Sola Scriptura

In closing, Bayer read, “It is not from hatred that we have spoken, nor to insult anyone; but we have explained the doctrines that we maintain to be essential, in order that it may be understood that we admit of neither dogma nor ceremony which is contrary to the Holy Scriptures, and to the usage of the universal church.”

With that, Bayer finished reading the Confession and sat down. It had taken two hours to read the document. Some said the emperor had been attentive through the reading. Others said he fell asleep. It was well known that he struggled with the German language, so it is doubtful, even if he was awake, that he understood what was being read.

Chancellor Bruck handed the German and Latin copies of the Confession to the emperor. He replied to the elector that he had graciously heard the Confession and would give his reply at a later date. As he left the room, he quietly asked the Protestant princes not to publish the Confession. They agreed to his request.