Kolb, Robert. The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000.
Epitome “X Concerning Ecclesiastical Practices Which Are Called Adiaphora or Indifferent Matters” pp. 515-516.
Solid Declaration “X Concerning Ecclesiastical Practices That Are Called Adiaphora or Indifferent Things” pp. 635-640.
There are numerous practices which are carried on in churches which are not commanded in Scripture but are not forbidden. The authors of the Formula of Concord observe that these statements refer to those practices which are carried on for good order. At the heart of the question was a dispute. When enduring persecution, could ceremonies which had previously been abandoned be revived due to the demands of the persecutors? The authors affirm that such activities are not commanded by God and are not mandatory. However, the community can institute ceremonies which are not frivolous or offensive but which will help edify the body of Christ (Kolb 2000, 515). However, there is considerable New Testament confirmation that says we do not need to cave to the pressure of others when that pressure would turn people from the free gospel. No concessions are permitted in these cases (Kolb 2000, 516). Further, it is not appropraite for one church body to condemn another because of the ceremonies not commanded or prohibited by God, provided those ceremonies do not interfere in the Christian faith. Human commands and ceremonies are not to be applied with coercive force. They are not part of divinely commanded worship. Because some demands for concession in those ceremonies do conflict with the freedom of the gospel, it is inappropriate to make concessions, whether by adding or taking away ceremonies.
The Solid Declaration again specifies that the non-biblical ceremonies under discussion are those which led to good order or decorum. Again, the specific context of persecution is in mind, not simply a discussion which suggests certain ceremonies may be helpful or not helpful (Kolb 2000, 636). The issue at hand is whether non-biblical cermonies may be imposed by coercion. The authors confirm that the ceremonies, when they create an illusion that they are required by God, immediately hinder the teaching of the gospel. They are therefore not allowed because the coercive force imposes a non-biblical standard upon a congregation. The matters which may have been considered adiaphora become a matter of “teaching human precepts as doctrines” (Matthew 15:9) as soon as they are considered a requirement (Kolb 2000, 636). The authors therefore confirm that the power to establish or reject extra-biblical ceremonies resides in the local congregation, not in imposition from outside. Those who would impose ceremony on another congregation by force do not have the freedom to do so. This is well established in the New Testament (Kolb 2000, 638). The authors find this point of view to be in harmony also with the 1537 Smalcald Articles, particularly quoting from article three. The view is also in concord with the Treatise on the Power and Authority of the Pope (Kolb 2000, 639). Non-biblical commands are not to be imposed on a people by force, especially if there is any hint that those commands will be viewed as God’s commands or means of grace (Kolb 2000, 640).