“In the year 1530, the Lutherans were required to present their confession of faith before the emperor in Augsburg, Germany. Philipp Melanchthon wrote the Augsburg Confession and it was read before the imperial court on June 30, 1530. One year later, the Lutherans presented their defense of the Augsburg Confession, which is what "apology" here means. It too was written by Philipp Melanchthon. The largest document in the Book of Concord, its longest chapter, is devoted to the most important truth of the Christian faith: the doctrine of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.”1
Philipp Melanchthon, the author of the Augsburg Confession writes of the first 21 articles: “Since this teaching is grounded clearly on the Holy Scriptures and is not contrary or opposed to that of the universal Christian church, or even of the Roman church, … we think that our opponents cannot disagree with us [on these particular Articles].” Although Melanchthon and the Evangelical Reformers believed these articles could not be disputed, they encountered much resistance to reforms they sought on matters ranging from the concept of Original Sin to the efficacy of praying to the Saints. Since they faced such opposition to what were, to them, indisputably necessary reforms, it is no surprise that Articles XXII-XXVIII resulted in the formation of a new, Protestant church.
Appropriately titled, “Articles About Matters in Dispute,” these articles repeatedly call the Church back to God’s command (the Law) and God’s promise (the Gospel). The call to one or the other or both resounds through these articles and compels us to take an in-depth look at the Scriptures and the practices of the early Church and the writings of the early Church Fathers to discover (and re-discover) the true faith. For a summary of the Augsburg Confession, click the "Read More" link at the bottom right corner of the page.
portrait of Philipp Melanthon painted by Lucas Cranach the Elder, in the public domain.
Chief Articles of Faith
Lutherans believe in the Triune God and reject other interpretations regarding the nature of God.
II Original Sin
Lutherans believe that the nature of man is sinful, described as being without fear of God, without trust of God and with concupiscence. Sin is redeemed through Baptism the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
III The Son of God
Lutherans believe in the incarnation, that is, the union of the fully human with the fully divine in the person of Jesus. Jesus Christ alone brings about the reconciliation of humanity with God.
IV Justification By Faith
Man cannot be justified before God through our own abilities; we are wholly reliant on Jesus Christ for reconciliation with God. (This is often described as the one article by which the "Lutheran church stands or falls".)
V The Office of Preaching
Lutherans believe that to ensure that the gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed throughout the world, Christ has established His office of the holy ministry.
VI Of The New Obedience
Lutherans believe that good deeds of Christians are the fruits of faith and salvation, not a price paid for them.
VII Of The Church
Lutherans believe that there is one holy catholic church, and it is found wherever the gospel is preached in its truth and purity and the sacraments are administered according to the gospel.
VIII What The Church Is
Despite what hypocrisy may exist in the church (and among men), the Word and the Sacraments are always valid because they are instituted by Christ, no matter what the sins may be of the one who administers them.
IX Of Baptism
Lutherans believe that Baptism is necessary, and that through Baptism is offered the grace of God. Children are baptized as an offering to them of God's grace.
X Of the Lord's Supper
Lutherans believe that Christ's body and blood is truly present in, with, and under the bread and wine of the sacrament and reject those that teach otherwise.
XI Of Confession
Lutherans believe that private absolution should remain in the church, though a believer does not need to enumerate all of his sins as it is impossible for a man to enumerate all of the sins for which he should be forgiven.
XII Of Repentance
Repentance comes in two parts: in contrition for sins committed according to the Law and through faith offered through the Gospel. A believer can never be free from sin, nor live outside of the grace of God.
Of the Use of the Sacraments
The Sacraments (Baptism and the Eucharist) are physical manifestations of God's Word and His commitment to us. The Sacraments are never just physical elements, but have God's word and promises bound to them.
XIV Of Ecclesiastical Order
Lutherans allow only those who are "rightly called" to administer the Sacraments.
XV Of Ecclesiastical Usages
Lutherans believe that church holidays, calendars and festivals are useful for religious observance, but that observance and ritual is not necessary for salvation. Human traditions (such as observances, fasts, distinctions in eating meats) that are taught as a way to "merit" grace work in opposition to the Gospel.
XVI Of Civil Affairs
Secular governments and vocations are considered to be part of God's natural orders; Christians are free to serve in government and the military and to engage in the business and vocations of the world. Laws are to be followed unless they are commandments to sin.
XVII Of Christ's Return to Judgment
Lutherans believe that Christ will return to raise the dead and judge the world; the godly will be given everlasting joy, and the ungodly will be "tormented without end". This article rejects notions of a millennial kingdom before the resurrection of the dead.
XVIII Of Free Will
Lutherans believe that we have free will in the realm of "civil righteousness" (or "things subject to reason"), but that we do not have free will in "spiritual righteousness". In other words, we are free to choose and act in every regard except for the choice of salvation. Faith is not the work of men, but of the Holy Spirit.
XIX Of the Cause of Sin
Lutherans believe that sin is caused not by God but by "the will of the wicked", turning away from God.
XX Of Good Works
The Lutheran notion of justification by faith does not somehow condemn good works; faith causes them to do good works as a sign of our justification (or salvation), not a requirement for salvation.
XXI Of the Worship of the Saints
Lutherans keep the saints, not as saviors or intercessors to God, but rather as examples and inspirations to our own faith and life.
Articles in Dispute (abuses to be corrected)
XXII Of Both Kinds In The Sacrament (Eucharist)
It is proper to offer communicants the consecrated bread and wine, not just the bread.
XXIII Of the Marriage of Priests
Lutherans permit their clergy to enter the institution of marriage, for the reasons that the early Church bishops were married, that God blesses marriage as an order of creation, and because marriage and procreation is the natural outlet for human sexual desire.
XXIV Of the Mass
Lutherans retain the practice of the Mass, but only as a public gathering for the purposes of community worship and the receiving of the Eucharist. Lutherans reject the practice of using the Mass as a "work" for both salvation and worldly (monetary) gain.
XXV Of Confession
Lutherans uphold the need for confession and absolution, but reject the notion that Confession should induce guilt or anxiety to the Christian. Absolution is offered for all sin, not just sins that can be recounted in a confession, as it is impossible for a man to know all of his transgressions.
XXVI Of the Distinction of Meats
Human traditions that hold fasting and special observances with dietary restrictions as a means of gaining the favor of God are contrary to the gospel. While fasting and other practices are useful spiritual practices, they do not justify man nor offer salvation.
XXVII Of Monastic Vows
Man cannot achieve purity in community or isolation from the rest of the world, and perfection cannot be attained by any vow taken or actions of man alone.
XXVIII Of Ecclesiastical Power
The only power given to priests or bishops is the power offered through Scripture to preach, teach and administer the sacraments. The powers given to the clergy in issues of government or the military are granted and respected only through civil means; they are not civil rulers of governments and the military by divine right.