The Circuit 8 Revision of


March 15, 2005


Salvation Won by Christ and Received through Faith

We 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 for Christ’s sake, who by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God accounts as righteousness in His sight, Rom. 3 and 4. (Augsburg Confession IV, Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary, 9).


Salvation Distributed

That we may obtain this faith, the office of teaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Spirit is given, who works faith where and when it pleases God in those who hear the Gospel. That is, God, not because of our own merits, but for Christ’s sake, justifies those who believe that they are received into favor for Christ’s sake.

We condemn the Anabaptists and others who think that the Holy Spirit comes without the external Word but through their own preparations and works (AC V, ELH, 9).


The Role of the Church in Salvation Distributed


I. The Office of the Keys

“The Office of the Keys is the special authority which Christ has given to His Church on earth, to forgive the sins of the penitent sinners and to retain the sins of the impenitent as long as they do not repent” (Luther’s Small Catechism, “The Office of the Keys and Confession”, ELS 2001 ed., Matthew 16:19, Matthew 18:18-20, John 20:21–23; also see Smalcald Articles, Part III, Art. IV).) The Office of the Keys is the church’s authority to preach the Gospel, administer the Sacraments, and practice church discipline.  Individual Christians also speak the Gospel of forgiveness to others, forgive the sins of those who sin against them, confront in a brotherly way those who need to repent of their sins, and in “the mutual conversation and consolation of the brethren” comfort one another with the words of the Gospel.  This may be called the private or unofficial use of the keys. (1 Peter 2:9, Matthew 18:15-18, Matthew 6:12 – The 5th Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, SA Part III, Art. IV). Christians use the keys publicly when, as Christ’s church and by God’s authority, they call scripturally qualified males to forgive and retain sins in the stead and by the command of the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 10:14–17, Acts 14:23, Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope, 67).  All Christians also have the right and the duty to judge the teaching of their pastors and teachers; they are to beware of false prophets (Matthew 7:15–16, 1 John 4:1, 2 Timothy 3:16).

1. We reject any teaching that denies individual Christians the authority to speak both the law and the gospel privately in their calling as the Universal Priesthood of all Believers.

2. We reject any teaching that treats the Universal Priesthood and the Public Ministry as one and the same thing.


II. The Public Ministry of the Word and Sacraments

The Lord has instituted the Public Ministry of the Word and Sacraments to administer the Office of the Keys publicly.  “That we may obtain this faith, the office of teaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments was instituted” (Augsburg Confession V).  The divine institution of this preaching and teaching Office is not located in just one particular passage. Rather, throughout the New Testament, a divine ordering, establishment, and institution of the preaching-teaching office is indicated and presupposed (John 20:21–23, John 21:15ff, Matthew 28:18–20 [NKJV], Matthew 9:36–38, Ephesians 4:11–12, 1 Peter 5:1–4, Acts 20:28, 1 Corinthians 4:1; see also Treatise 10). Those in this office by virtue of God’s call through the church perform their duties in the name and in the stead of Christ and for the benefit of the church, so that whenever we hear Christ’s servant we hear Christ Himself speak. (Luke 10:16, AC XXVIII, 22, Apology of the Augsburg Confession VII & VIII, 28, 47).

3. We reject any teaching that the Public Ministry of the Word is a development of the church and not a divine institution.

4. We reject any teaching that the Public Ministry of the Word is established merely by the orderly carrying out of the universal priesthood according to 1 Corinthians 14:40.


The Pastoral Office (The Public Ministry in the Strict Sense)[1]

Since God has given the Public Ministry of the Word to His church the church is commanded to appoint ministers who will preside over the churches (2 Timothy 2:2, Titus 1:5, Ap XIII, 12), who must have the scriptural qualifications to carry out the duties God entrusted to the office.  “The Gospel requires of those who preside over the churches that they preach the Gospel, remit sins, administer the sacraments, and, in addition, exercise jurisdiction, that is, excommunicate those who are guilty of notorious crimes and absolve those who repent.…[T]his power belongs by divine right to all who preside over the churches, whether they are called pastors, presbyters or bishops” (Treatise 60-61). God commands that properly called men publicly preach, teach, administer the Sacraments, forgive and retain sins, and have oversight of doctrine in the name of Christ and the church (1 Timothy 2:11-12). This presiding office, whether it is called pastor, shepherd, bishop, presbyter, elder or by any other name, is indispensable for the church (Luke 10:16, 1 Corinthians 12:27-31, Matthew 28:18-20, Hebrews 13:17, Acts 20:28, Ephesians 4:11–12, 1 Peter 5:1-2).

5. We reject any teaching that denies the exercise of spiritual oversight by the pastoral office.

6. We reject any teaching that denies the divine institution of the pastoral office.

7. We reject any teaching that the apostolic authority of the public ministry of the Word or the validity of the sacraments depends on or is derived from ordination by a bishop standing in an unbroken chain of succession from the apostles, or the necessity of maintaining a “historic episcopate.”


Scripture clearly teaches that women may not be pastors.  This office includes the exercise of authority over men (1 Corinthians 14:34–35, 1 Timothy 2:11–12) and when Scripture refers to one who officiates at the Word and Sacrament liturgy it speaks in male terms (1 Timothy 3:2, 1 Timothy 4:13). Therefore women shall not read the Scripture lessons in the Divine Service, preach the sermon, administer Baptism or distribute the Lord’s Supper, for these things are intimately related to the pastoral office (1 Timothy 3:1–2, 1 Corinthians 4:1).[2]


The church is free to divide the labors of the pastoral office among qualified men (1 Corinthians 1:17, 1 Corinthians 12:4-6). While every incumbent of this office must be qualified to do what the office requires, it is not necessary that every incumbent of the office regularly carry out all of its duties.  Incumbents of this office may be serving as missionaries, assistant pastors, professors of theology, chaplains, etc.

8. We reject the teaching that the public ministry of the Word is limited to the ministry of the parish pastor.


One cannot hold the Office of the Public Ministry of Word and Sacrament unless called by God through His church (Romans 10:14-17, AC XIV).  The apostles were called immediately, directly by God, to the Public Ministry of the Word.  Since the time of the apostles God calls mediately (Acts 1:15-26) through the church (1 Corinthians 3:4-9, 21-23) so that God’s ministers will continue to administer publicly His means of grace for the salvation of souls (Acts 14:23, 20:28, Titus 1:5).  Through the regular call (rite vocatus, AC XIV), the church obligates her pastors to teach in accordance with the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions.  Those in the Public Ministry of the Word by virtue of a regular call are to conform to the specific and general qualifications given in Scripture (See especially 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus, as well as directives such as Matthew 28:19, 20, John 21: 15-17, Acts 14:23, and 20:28.)

    9. We reject the teaching that every Christian is a public minister of the Word.

    10. We reject any teaching that one may publicly teach, preach, or administer the

     sacraments in the church without a regular call (AC XIV).


III. Other Sacred Churchly Offices (The Public Ministry in a Wider Sense)

The church is free to establish offices that assist the Public Ministry of the Word and Sacraments[3] (for example, vicars, principals, Lutheran elementary school teachers and other teachers) but must not go beyond the bounds of God’s commands when calling men or women to serve in these offices (1 Corinthians 14:34, 1 Timothy 2:12f, etc.).  The church in her freedom determines the duties of such Sacred Ecclesiastical Offices.  (Acts 6:1-5, Philippians 1:1, 1 Timothy 3:8).


Teachers of Children in Christian Schools

In the Old and New Testaments, God commands parents to train their children in the fear of the Lord and to teach them His holy Word (Deuteronomy 6:1-7, Matthew 15:4, Ephesians 6:1-4, 2 Timothy 1:5, 3:15).  The church may establish Christian schools to help parents raise their children in God’s Word.  “Where a father is unable by himself to bring up his child, he calls upon a schoolmaster to teach him” (Large Catechism, I, 141).  When the church takes on this responsibility she does not take it away from the parents of the children but rather assists the parents in carrying out their God-given duties.  God commands the pastors of the church to feed both the sheep and the lambs of the flock (John 21:15-17).  Teachers of children in Christian schools established by the church therefore assist both parents and pastors in their divinely ordained duties.  While the office of Christian schoolteacher is established by human right, the work entrusted to this office is ordained by God.


Calls are extended to teachers who teach God’s word to children in Christian schools because they are entrusted with a Sacred Ecclesiastical Office that has been established by the church and are therefore servants of the church.  They are accountable to the church and to the parents of the children for their teaching. The pastors of congregations that establish Christian schools are also accountable for the teaching of Christian schoolteachers in those schools (Acts 20:28, 2 Timothy 4:1-5).

    11. We reject any teaching that denies the church the freedom to establish Sacred

     Ecclesiastical Offices to assist the ministry of the Word.

    12. We reject any teaching which would conclude that the means of grace are effective

     only when used by a pastor.

    13. We reject any teaching that makes the Lutheran elementary school teacher, Sunday

     school teacher or any other office of churchly origin equivalent to the pastoral office.


IV. Ordination and Installation

In the Lutheran Confessions ordination is understood as the rite by which the church confirms a man to be suitable for a call to the pastoral office (SA III, X; Treatise 66–69). Historically the Lutheran church has reserved this rite for those entering the pastoral office.


The church has also used rites of installation for men serving in the Public Ministry of the Word and Sacraments as well as for those who serve in Sacred Churchly Offices.  Through such rites, the church makes clear that those installed in office have been properly called to it and invokes the Lord's blessing on them.  At the same time those who are called to serve the people of God give public testimony to their submission to the Word of God as it is taught in the Lutheran Confessions.  Rites of installation have also been used among us for congregational officers and occasional teachers in Christian congregations (Sunday School teachers, etc.).



[1] The office to which God has entrusted the preaching of the gospel and the administration of the sacraments is called the pastoral office.  Usually the term “pastoral office” refers to the pastorate of the local congregation, but incumbents of this office may be serving in specialized fields of labor in which they do not regularly carry out all the duties of the office.  The pastoral office is called the Public Ministry in the Strict Sense because it is specifically instituted by God and is therefore necessary for the church.  Other Sacred Ecclesiastical Offices (see III. below) are called the Public Ministry in a Wider Sense because they are not specifically instituted by God and they are not a necessity for the church, but they are established by the church in her Christian freedom.

[2] Certainly emergency situations may arise, such as when our catechism states “Q. Who should administer baptism? A. Ordinarily the called minister of Christ should administer Baptism, but in emergency any Christian may and should do so” (ELS Catechism, p. 182). For further discussion of emergency situations, see the 1862 Lay Ministry Theses parr. 5–7 (Grace for Grace, p. 139).

[3] Christian freedom is given to the church by God. “By Divine right” refers to those things which are commanded by God; “By Human right” refers to those things neither commanded nor forbidden by God which Christians may arrange in their freedom. (Acts 6:1-7, 15:22-29, 4:32, 5:29, 1 Cor 3:21,22, 14:40, Gal 5:1, etc.).