Kolb, Robert. The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000.
“The Smalcald Articles” pp. 295-328.
In the editor’s introduction, Kolb briefly details the fairly rapid succession of popes from Leo X to Paul III between 1511 and 1534 (Kolb 2000, 295). The Elector John Frederick wanted a clear statement of the principles of the Reformation. In December 1536 he commissioned a gathering at Wittenberg to draw up “The Smalcald Articles” (Kolb 2000, 295). The articles were presented in February 1537 to an assembly of Lutheran princes. Though the princes later chose to use the Augsburg Confession in their defense, these Articles were published along with Melanchthon’s “Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope” (Kolb 2000, 296). Both documents were included in the 1580 Book of Concord.
Luther’s introduction acknowledges that he expects nothing more than to die in the near future and that the papacy will refuse all moves at reformation (Kolb 2000, 298). This is a brief statement of only critical matters, as opposed to an attempt at exhaustive explanation (Kolb 2000, 300).
The first article addresses the nature of the Trinity briefly in terms similar to those of the Nicene Creed, stating agreement between the parties (Kolb 2000, 300).
The second part discusses Jesus and redemption. The concept of salvation by grace through faith is made very clear (Kolb 2000, 301). It speaks against the Mass when viewed as a work which grants salvation by its operation. If this is the case, it should be stopped (Kolb 2000, 302). The Mass, as celebrated in Rome, is a human work, earning merit, while among the Lutherans it is a divine work, a gift from Christ (Kolb 2000, 303). The text continues with several abuses of the Mass, such as warding off purgatory, the sale of Masses, special societies, prayers to saints, etc. Likewise, monastic orders should serve society rather than retreat from the world (Kolb 2000, 307). Papal authority should not be recognized (Kolb 2000, 308). The headship of the church belongs to Christ (Kolb 2000, 309).
The third part of the Smalcald Articles turns to matters of conscience (Kolb 2000, 310). Scholastic errors such as freedom of a good human will are discussed and rejected (Kolb 2000, 311) Sin is presented as real and pervasive. God’s Law confronts sin, leading to repentance (Kolb 2000, 312). This is not the result of human wisdom (Kolb 2000, 313). Likewise, our acts of penance will not forgive sin (Kolb 2000, 315). The cure for sin then is the Gospel, given through preaching, baptism, communion, and absolution (Kolb 2000, 320). In baptism God’s Word and water wash away sin (Kolb 2000, 321). In communion the true body and blood are offered and received (Kolb 2000, 321). The bread and wine also remain present. Confession and absolution are very valuable but if some sins are omitted by accident in confession it is still valid (Kolb 2000, 322). Al is rooted in God’s Word (Kolb 2000, 323).
Because the Roman bishops were refusing ordination to the Lutherans, the Lutheran leader had appointed some emergency bishops (Kolb 2000, 324). As celibacy is not a biblical requirement for priests, the Lutherans did not retain it (Kolb 2000, 325). The text again affirms a pursuit of true righteousness and biblical concerns in the church (Kolb 2000, 325).