The Lutheran Church Confessions hold a vital place within the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS). They are a direct outflow of the Bible, providing a doctrinal framework that elucidates and explains the Holy Scriptures. They are considered the correct and necessary interpretation of the Bible, and their authority extends to all pastors, congregations, and workers within the LCMS.
These confessions serve as a guide in preaching, teaching, and administration of the sacraments. They provide clarity and consistency in matters of doctrine, liturgy, and church governance. By affirming the ecumenical creeds and adhering to the teachings of the Book of Concord, the LCMS establishes its identity as a confessional Lutheran body.
Moreover, the confessions connect the LCMS to the broader historical and theological tradition of the Reformation. They serve as a reminder of our commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and its fidelity to the teachings of the early church fathers.
The Lutheran Church Confessions include the affirmation and adherence to three ecumenical creeds: the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. These creeds encapsulate fundamental Christian beliefs and serve as cornerstones of faith for Lutherans worldwide.
The Apostle's Creed is a statement of Christian faith that dates back to the early Church. Although not believed to have been written directly by the apostles themselves, the Creed reflects their teachings and beliefs. It has become a foundational statement of faith for Christians throughout history.
The Creed begins by expressing faith in God the Father, the almighty creator of heaven and earth. It then affirms belief in Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, and suffered, died, and was buried. The Creed highlights His resurrection on the third day, ascension into heaven, and His eventual return to judge the living and the dead.
The Apostle's Creed also affirms belief in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. These aspects of the Creed provide a comprehensive overview of core Christian teachings and offer believers hope and assurance.
The Nicene Creed is one of the most important statements of Christian belief in history. It originated from the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD and was crafted to address theological disputes surrounding the nature of Jesus Christ.
The Nicene Creed is divided into twelve articles, each addressing a different aspect of Christian belief. It begins by proclaiming faith in one God, the Father, who is the almighty creator of all things. The Creed then affirms belief in Jesus Christ as the only-begotten Son of God, who is of one substance with the Father. It describes His incarnation through the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary, His crucifixion, death, and resurrection.
The Nicene Creed further asserts belief in the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and the Son and is worshiped and glorified together with them. It affirms belief in the holy Christian church, baptism for the forgiveness of sins, and the hope of the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.
The Nicene Creed played a pivotal role in defining orthodox Christian doctrine, particularly in clarifying the nature of the Trinity and the divinity of Christ. It continues to be widely embraced by Christian denominations, including the Lutheran Church, as a statement of essential beliefs.
The Athanasian Creed, named after the renowned church father Athanasius, is less well-known than the Apostle's Creed and the Nicene Creed. It is a lengthy creed that provides a detailed exposition of Trinitarian doctrine and the nature of Christ. While it may not be recited as frequently as the other creeds, it remains an important confessional document within the Lutheran Church.
The Athanasian Creed begins by affirming the unity of the Trinity, emphasizing that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are each eternal, uncreated, and equal in glory. It then expounds on the incarnation of Christ, stating that He is both fully God and fully human, without confusion or division of His divine and human natures.
This creed strongly emphasizes the belief that salvation comes through faith in the Triune God, and it warns against the rejection of any part of the Trinity or the nature of Christ. It concludes by stating that those who hold to the orthodox faith will receive eternal life, while those who reject it will face everlasting punishment.
In addition to the three ecumenical creeds, the Lutheran Church Confessions encompass other documents collectively known as the Book of Concord. This collection includes writings from the time of the Reformation, such as the Augsburg Confession, the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, the Smalcald Articles, and the Formula of Concord.
The Augsburg Confession, presented in 1530, is the primary confession of faith of the Lutheran Church. It provides a comprehensive overview of Lutheran teachings and serves as a foundation for doctrinal unity.
The Apology of the Augsburg Confession, written by Philipp Melanchthon, offers a defense and clarification of the teachings presented in the Augsburg Confession. It addresses criticisms and objections raised by opponents of the Lutheran movement.
The Smalcald Articles, composed by Martin Luther in 1537, highlight essential teachings of the Reformation, such as the doctrine of justification by grace through faith. These articles were intended to serve as a call for reform within the Catholic Church.
The Formula of Concord, finalized in 1580, aimed to resolve theological controversies that arose after Martin Luther's death. It addresses matters such as the nature of the Lord's Supper, the election of grace, and the perseverance of saints, among others.
Within the vast array of Lutheran confessions, including the Augsburg Confession, the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, the Smalcald Articles, and the Formula of Concord, Lutheranism upholds a profound understanding of the necessity for personal confession and absolution. While the Book of Concord offers a comprehensive outline of Lutheran teachings, serving as a unifying doctrinal foundation, Martin Luther himself stressed the importance of upholding private church confession and absolution.
Luther recognized that this practice had a special purpose in bringing comfort to troubled consciences that were deceived by the devil. Confession serves as a safe place for those who feel trapped and without hope, offering them a way to unload their burdens and find peace through the forgiveness of their sins. The pain and uncertainty that come with a troubled heart are some of the hardest things to endure in life, but private confession provides a solution for these hardships.
Luther emphasized that private confession ensures that the word and absolution are individually spoken to each believer. This personalized approach brings forgiveness directly to the penitent, acknowledging their specific sins and offering the assurance of God's grace. Such individualized attention provides not only forgiveness but also comfort, guidance, and counsel tailored to the needs of the confessing soul. Private church confession, when approached voluntarily and without imposition, becomes a precious resource for seeking solace and direction whenever necessary.
To partake in confidential church confession and absolution, one can seek guidance from their pastor. Engaging in this sacred practice requires scheduling a convenient time to engage in open and honest conversation with the pastor. The Lutheran Service Book also provides a helpful guide, outlining a form for individual church confession and absolution. It serves as a valuable resource for those seeking a structured approach to confession. It is crucial to remember that pastors are bound by their oath to maintain strict confidentiality, ensuring that everything revealed during private confession remains confidential. Hence, fear of judgment or different treatment should not deter individuals from seeking personal church confession.
Confession holds incredible power as it paves the way for healing and renewal for every soul willing to embrace it. Through the acknowledgment of one's transgressions and the reception of complete forgiveness through Christ, individuals can find spiritual solace and liberation. Confession provides the opportunity to unburden the soul, seek guidance, and experience the transformative power of forgiveness. By availing themselves of this sacred practice, individuals can embark on a journey towards spiritual growth and renewal.