A Lutheran Influence (Part 3)

Go to Part 2

III. Justification/Good Works and Eucharistic Presence: A Case Study

Justification/Good Works. Justification might rightly be characterised as the most important doctrine for Luther and the Lutheran Reformation. It was elevated to the status of (and still holds today for much of Lutheranism) the doctrine on which the Church stands or falls. In the Augsburg Confession, justification is treated in the fourth article:

Our churches also teach that men cannot be justified before God by     their own strength, merits, or works but are freely justified for Christ’s sake through faith when they believe that they are received into favor   and that their sins are forgiven on account of Christ, who by his death made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God imputes for righteousness in his sight (Rom. 3-4).[1]

What needs to be highlighted in the AC’s teaching on justification is that human beings “cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works”. Instead, humankind is “freely justified for Christ’s sake through faith”. The stress of the AC is upon teaching that humans cannot earn salvation nor justify themselves in God’s eyes. It is only through faith (in the promises of God) that humans are justified on the basis of Christ’s justifying and salvific work.

In The Ten Articles (1536), which were penned shortly after the English delegates returned from Wittenberg and hence were influenced by The Wittenberg Articles, we read that justification “signifieth remission of our sins and our acceptation or reconciliation into the grace and favour of God…our perfect renovation in Christ.”[2] They proceed to state that sinners attain justification “by contrition and faith joined with charity…not as though our contrition or faith, or any works preceding thereof, can worthily merit or deserve to obtain said justification…” Instead, it is only the grace and mercy of the Father, promised to us for the sake of His Son, and the merits of his blood and passion, that are the only sufficient causes of our justification.[3]

Here we see the effects of the Wittenberg meetings upon the English doctrinal formulations as it is stressed that justification signifies the remission of sins and his or her acceptance and reconciliation into the grace and favour of God, or “our perfect renovation in Christ.” What is interesting is the stressed laid upon the role of good works in the life of a human being, both before and after justification, which is given much ink in The Ten Articles. It was stated that sinners attain justification by contrition and faith “joined with charity.” If this statement was left as it is, Lutherans probably would object, saying that our good works in no way contribute to our justification. But here we might see even more of the Lutheran influence as The Ten Articles precede to make the important caveat that works which precede our justification can in no way merit said justification. Instead, stress is laid upon the duty of the justified following his or her justification, stating that we must have good works of charity and obedience to God. Further, while the attainment of everlasting life is conjoined with justification “yet our good works be necessarily required to the attaining of everlasting life…”[4]

The Lutheran reformers were not blind to this vital, and possibly contentious, relationship between faith and good works, for they were “falsely accused of forbidding good works.”[5] They proceeded to confess that “our works cannot reconcile God or merit forgiveness of sins and grace…”,[6] hence dealing with the status of works prior to justification. But as the Ten Articles would later proceed to do, so to the framers of the AC treated of works subsequent to a sinner’s justification, stating “Our teachers teach in addition that it is necessary to do good works, not that we should trust to merit grace by them but because it is the will of God.”[7] While there is great consonance between the AC and The Ten Articles on both works prior and subsequent to justification, one could quibble that the traditionalist views of Henry still worked their influence in the statement of The Ten Articles due to the confession that our good works are “necessarily required to the attaining of everlasting life.”

According to Gerald Bray, The Ten Articles “remained part of the Church of England’s official statements until 1553, when they were superseded by The Forty-two Articles of Edward VI…”[8] In The Forty-Two Articles we find the articles treating of justification and good works separated. In Article 11, “Of the Justification of Man”, we read that “Justification by only faith in Jesus Christ, in that sense, as is declared in Homily of Justification, is a most certain and wholesome doctrine for Christian men.”[9] Apart from appealing to the Homily of Justification, these articles leave the source of justification simply to “only faith in Jesus Christ.” What The Forty-Two Articles do make explicit in Article 12 is the place of good works done before justification: “Works done before the grace of Christ and the inspiration of his Spirit, are not pleasant to God, forasmuch as they spring not of faith in Jesu Christ, neither do they make men meet to receive grace, or…deserve grace of congruity…”[10] This is quite a bit more explicit and finds consonance with Article XX of the AC, where it stated that “whoever trusts that he merits grace by works despises the merit and grace of Christ and seeks a way to God without Christ, by human strength…”[11]

In 1563 & 1571, under the reign of Elizabeth I, The Thirty-Eight Articles and Thirty-Nine Articles respectively were issued. The wording of The Forty-Two Articles was replaced in 1563 with, “We are accounted righteous before God only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by faith only, is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort, as more largely is explained in the Homily of Justification.”[12] Here justification is more fully explained than in The Forty-Two Articles, with stress laid upon the merit of Jesus Christ, by faith only and not by our own works or merits. This same wording and confession is replicated in The Thirty-Nine Articles.

The article on works before justification in The Forty-Two Articles becomes Article 13 in both the 38 and 39 Articles with virtually no change to the wording. What is added to The Thirty-Eight and Thirty-Nine Articles is a confession of “Good Works”, Article 12, and is consonant with the Lutheran reformers teaching on the same. Article 12 reads, “Albeit that good works, which are the fruits of faith, and follow after justification, cannot put away our sins, and endure the severity of God’s judgement; yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively faith, in so much that by them a lively faith may be as evidently known, as a tree discerned by the fruit.”[13] This same confession of the place of good works is found once again in Article 20 of the AC, where it reads, “…through faith the Holy Spirit is received, hearts are so renewed and endowed with new affections as to be able to bring forth good works.”[14]

In this first instance, regarding the articles of justification/good works, we can evidently see great consonance and a growing congruence between the confession of faith in The Augsburg Confession and documentary developments of The Church of England. While there might have a Henrician influence on the earlier documents, with vestiges of a semi-Pelagians “works righteousness”, later developments are much more consonant with the Lutheran insistence on justification being by grace alone through the merits of Jesus Christ and good works being necessary for the Christian life but not determinative of a person’s justification.

Eucharistic Presence. Contrary to the consonance witnessed between the AC and the documentary developments of the Church of England in regards to justification and good works, in the area of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist we find less congruence. The Augsburg Confession is quite straightforward in its confession regarding the Lord’s Supper, and simply states, “Our churches teach that the body and blood of Christ are truly present and are distributed to those who eat in the Supper of the Lord. They disapprove of those who teach otherwise.”[15] Luther was just as succinct in his own explanations of the presence of Christ in the Sacrament, most notably in his Small Catechism where he writes, “Instituted by Christ himself, it is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine, given to us Christians to eat and to drink.”[16]

Significantly, as a result of the meetings in Wittenberg in 1535, the English delegates were part of the formulation of The Wittenberg Articles, which, on the issue of the Lord’s Supper, read, “…we firmly believe and teach that in the sacrament of the Lord’s body and blood, Christ’s body and blood are truly, substantially and really present under the species of bread and wine, and that under the same species they are truly and bodily presented and distributed to all those who receive the sacrament.”[17] While these articles never attained official status for the Church of England, their wording did make its way into official texts.

For instance, in The Ten Articles of the same year (1536), we read, “…we will that all bishops and preachers shall instruct and teach our people…that they ought and must constantly believe, that under the form and figure of bread and wine, which we there presently do see and perceive by outward senses, is verily, substantially and really contained and comprehended the very selfsame body and blood of our Saviour Jesus Christ…and that under the same form and figure of bread and wine the very selfsame body and blood of Christ is corporally, really and in the very substance exhibited, distributed and received unto and of all them which receive the said sacrament…”[18] Much of the wording used here in The Ten Articles is verbatim from The Wittenberg Articles. By 1538, in The Thirteen Articles, nothing had changed as it reads, “Concerning the eucharist, we continue to believe and teach that in the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ, the body and blood of Christ are truly, substantially and really present under the forms of bread and wine. And that under these forms they are truly and really offered and administered to those who receive the sacrament, whether they be good or evil.”[19]

By the time we reach The Forty-Two Articles one can rightly judge that the language of Eucharistic presence has softened. Article 29, “Of the Lord’s Supper,” states, “Insomuch that to such as rightly, worthily and with faith receive the same, the bread which we break is a communion of the body of Christ, likewise the cup of blessing is a communion of the blood of Christ.” While this might be a softening of earlier language and confession, what follows is quite explicitly a rejection of the previous “real presence” language of the 10 and 13 Articles: “Forasmuch as the truth of man’s nature requireth, that the body of one and selfsame man cannot be at one time in diverse places, but must needs be in one certain place; therefore the body of Christ cannot be present at one time in many and diverse places. And because, as Holy Scripture doth teach, Christ was taken up into heaven, and there shall continue until the end of the world, a faithful man ought not either to believe or openly to confess the real and bodily presence, as they term it, of Christ’s flesh and blood, in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.”[20]

This quite explicit rejection of the bodily (corporeal) presence of Christ in the Sacrament was removed in both The Thirty-Eight and Thirty-Nine Articles, yet its sentiment remains in the Book of Common Prayer today.[21] Added to both The Thirty-Eight and Thirty-Nine Articles though, in absence of the deleted section quoted above, is the confession that “[t]he body of Christ is given, taken and eaten in the supper only after an heavenly manner; and the mean whereby the body of Christ is received and eaten in the supper is faith.”[22] Here we once again see a distancing from the earlier strong affirmation of the bodily presence of Christ in the Eucharist and an embracing of more Reformed, or Zwinglian, conception of Eucharistic presence compared to a Lutheran one.

One final aspect of the development of Eucharistic presence remains in the doctrinal development of the Church of England. It was quite explicitly stated in The Thirteen Articles that “…under these forms they are truly and really offered and administered to those who receive the sacrament, whether they be good or evil.” In other words, the belief of the communicant does not affect the presence of Christ in the Sacrament. But in The Thirty-Nine Articles, the following was added as Article 29, “Of the Wicked which do not eat the Body of Christ in the Use of the Lord’s Supper”: “The wicked, and such as be void of a lively faith, although they do carnally and visibly press with their teeth, as St Augustine saith, the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ; yet in no wise are they partakers of Christ, but rather to their condemnation do eat and drink the sign or sacrament of so great a thing.”[23] While such a teaching does not find explicit treatment in the Augsburg Confession, later Lutheranism would reject it in the Formula of Concord: “We believe, teach, and confess that not only the genuine believers and those who are worthy but also the unworthy and the unbelievers receive the true body and blood of Christ; but if they are not converted and do not repent, they receive them not to life and salvation but to their judgment and condemnation.”[24] And so we see, contrary to the evidence displayed in regards to the articles of justification/good works, the article on Eucharistic presence represents a divergence in earlier agreements between the Lutherans/The Augsburg Confession and the documentary developments of The Church of England.

Overall, we have seen that either in official discussion (in 1535-36 in Wittenberg) or in documentary influence, the Church of England was heavily influenced in its reformation by the German Reformation. While some of this influence waned over time, as in the teaching on the Eucharist, some it remained and actually became more explicit, as in the doctrines of justification and good works. Other articles of faith deserve the same analysis as offered here (ecclesial authority, cult of the saints, images, etc.), and while this essay has been limited in scope it is the hope that it has at least displayed that further analysis is necessary and would bear fruit today in discussions between Lutherans and Anglicans.

[1] The Augsburg Confession, Article IV

[2] Documents of the English Reformation, ed by Gerald Bray, (Cambridge: James Clarke & Co Ltd: 1994), 170.

[3] Documents, 170.

[4] Documents, 170.

[5] The Augsburg Confession, Article XX.1

[6] The Augsburg Confession, Article XX.9

[7] The Augsburg Confession, Article XX.27

[8] Documents, 162.

[9] Documents, 291.

[10] Documents, 292.

[11] The Augsburg Confession, Article XX.10

[12] Documents, 291.

[13] Documents, 291-2.

[14] The Augsburg Confession, Article XX.29

[15] The Augsburg Confession, Article X

[16] Martin Luther, The Small Catechism, VI.2

[17] Documents, 137.

[18] Documents, 169.

[19] Documents, 192.

[20] Documents, 301-02.

[21] The Book of Common Prayer, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 262. “…and the natural Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ are in Heaven, and not here; it being against the truth of Christ’s natural Body to be at one time in more places then one.”

[22] Documents, 302.

[23] Documents, 302-03.

[24] The Formula of Concord, VII.7

11 thoughts on “A Lutheran Influence (Part 3)

  1. Thanks for these articles – a nice summary of a tantalising and, from a Lutheran point of view, ultimately frustrating relationship. One thing you might have reflected on as a conclusion is the point of contact between the two areas of doctrine under scrutiny, perhaps using Luther’s distinction between the procurement of salvation and its distribution, not “only” through faith in the past event but also in the present means of its distribution. The eucharistic presence, after all, is not divorced from the doctrine of justification, but an essential element in its application. This is apparent in the structure of CA: articles V-VIII are really sub-clauses of article IV.

    It’s intriguing to speculate how much of the divergence of the two confessions in the C16th was a historical accident, what with the presence of Bucer and Peter Martyr in England and the exile of many English reformers in Switzerland – as well as the changing military situation in the mid-1530s that helped to torpedo the Anglo-Lutheran political alliance.

    Anyway, thanks again.

    1. Bryce

      Your suggestion–about exploring the point of contact between the two doctrines examined–is interesting and I am sure would produce some interesting finds. I hadn’t thought specifically of such a connection when writing this essay. Thanks for your comments and interest.

      1. Tapani Simojoki


        Let me clarify a bit more what I mean. As you know, the doctrine of justification does not stand as one doctrine among many other doctrines in a great system of doctrines. If it did, we would have to say that Christ is one aspect of the Christian faith! Justification flows out of christology, and everything else out of justification, to put it simplistically. Therefore, to compare Anglican and Lutheran doctrines of justification, one will ultimately have to investigate the way justification plays itself out in ecclesiology, the sacraments, etc. To say nothing of the christological implications of the ‘Real Presence’.

        This is not a criticism of your article, which had a different remit, just some musings stimulated by it.


  2. Trinity Sunday 2010

    Please see my comments for Part II, which also address the doctrinal issues of Part III. The AUTHORITATIVE LATIN 39 Articles are a general reiteration of the LATIN Augustana, and Articles XVII, XXVIII, & XXIX reject the Zwinglianism and Calvinism of the 42 in favour of Lutheranism. In Article XXVIII, the “Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten” only after a supernatural (“spiritual”) modality or manner. No Calvinistic formularies use such exclusively Lutheran language. Moreover, Article XXIX in Latin clearly states that the wicked and those devoid of faith are in no wise PROFITABLE (“EFFICIENTUR”) partakers of Christ….i.e.,they press with their teeth the Body of Christ, but eat not spiritually of Christ. This anticipates the Formula of Concord’s distinction between & ORAL & SPIRITUAL manducation in the Holy Supper. There is no official Latin title to Article XXIX….like the English body of the Article, the English title fails to include the crucial word, “PROFITABLY”. Thus, allowing as much wiggle room for Calvin as the Augustana Invariata did when he signed it!

  3. Father Philip,

    When you say the Latin articles are authoritative, do you mean that they have authority over the English articles, or alongside the English articles?

    Much as I would love the Anglican formularies to be Lutheran, it seems to be possible to have that only with wishful thinking, special pleading and selective use of sources.

  4. St. Barnabas

    Dear Tapani,

    The LATIN 39 Articles are historically authoritative over the English Articles….although this point has often been ignored or denied.

    If you contest that the Latin Articles are LUTHERAN, please make some attempt to prove your position with some EVIDENCE.

  5. Fr. Philip,

    I didn’t contest that the Latin articles are Lutheran when read on their own. What I do question is the way and extent to which they are “authoritative over the English articles” — where, when and who-says-so. Perhaps I’m ignorant (very likely), but I simply haven’t come across any evidence for this claim.

  6. Trinity II

    Dear Fr. Tapani,

    Please remember that the 39 Articles were originally composed and circulated in LATIN. Moreover; Parker, Hooker, Field, Andrewes, Overall, Bancroft, et al. are unanimous in recognizing that in the final analysis — the LATIN Articles are authoritative for clarifying the meaning of the English Articles….not vice versa. This is in line with Queen Elizabeth & Abp. Parker seriously acting upon Philipp Melanchthon’s long letter to the Queen, outlinig a Church Order for the C of E.

    The Confessionlly Lutheran position of the C of E has been largely ignored, due to the Calvinists in the C of E….and later, “Anglo-Catholics”. But the Latitudinarianism/Syncretism of the C of E was the inevitable result of various theological parties in the church placing their own “spin” upon the Articles (i.e.,the Augustana reiterated), without the corrective aid of the other Lutheran Symbols of the Book of Concord.

  7. Fr. Philip,

    Thank you for bearing with me in this conversation. I would be (genuinely) very grateful if you could point me to a source for the information you posted in your latest comment, since I have much to learn about the late Reformation period in England.

    Earlier, you asked me to engage with the Latin Articles. Well, here goes:

    Articulus XXXV: De Homiliis

    Tomus secundus Homiliarum, quarum singulos titulos huic Articulo subiunximus, continet piam et salutarem doctrinam et his temporibus necessarium, non minus quam prior tomus Homiliarum, quae editae sunt tempore Edwardi Sexti: itaque eas in Ecclesiis per ministros diligenter et clare, ut a populo intelligi possint, recitandas esse iudicamus.

    Catalogus Homiliarum

    16. De digna corporis et sanguinis Dominici in coena Domini participatione

    And now a quotation from this sixteenth Homily:

    It is well known, that the meat we seek for in this supper is spiritual food, the nourishment of our soul; a heavenly refection, and not earthly; an invisible meat, and not bodily; a ghostly substance, and not carnal; so that to think that without faith we may enjoy the eating and drinking thereof, or that that is the fruition of it, is but to dream a gross carnal feeding, basely objecting, and binding ourselves to, the elements and creatures. … Take then this lesson, … that, when thou goest up to the reverend communion, to be satisfied with spiritual meats, thou look up with faith upon the holy body and blood of thy God; thou marvel with reverence; thou touch it with thy mind; thou receive it with the hand of thy heart; and thou take it fully with thy inward man. (The Homilies: Sermons or Homilies, Appointed to be read in Churches. [London: The Prayer-Book and Homily Society, 1833], 310–11. Emphasis added.)

    I’d be interested in your take on this.

  8. Dear Fr. Tapani,

    The catena of Anglican divines to which I’ve referred are well known in their commentaries upon the Articles….and I do not doubt your ability to easily arrive at pertinent selections of their works. If most of my library were not still in storage, I would have provided specific cites to you.

    Thankfully, the Homilies are subordinate to the 39 Articles and are, historically a temporary measure until more properly schooled preachers were licensed. Although they contain sound doctrine, the Articles do not claim that they are “true summaries and pure expositions of God’s Word” — as the Book of Concord claims for Confessional Symbols.

    As for the meaning of your cite from Homily XVI, it goes far in following the Formula of Concord by condemning Capernatic notions, while emphasising the Spiritual Eating exposited in the Concordia. Of course, the oral manducation of the true Body & Blood of Christ in the Elements is ignored. Melanchthon would be pleased….while we Orthodox Lutherans rightly object. Nevertheless, the Homily XVI does not say enough to reject the. Lutheran position.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s