October is the month in which we Lutherans celebrate the reformation of the Western Christian Church. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, which set in motion a rediscovery of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Years of teaching that man can merit God’s satisfaction by his works had obscured this Gospel, but the writings of Luther and other Lutheran Reformers shone with a particularly brilliant light in the darkness of the medieval Church. Beginning today, this column will explore what makes the Lutheran confession unique among the Christian churches.
To begin, to be Lutheran is not to have a different faith. To be Lutheran means to have a confession of the Christian faith. Lutherans hold to and confess the creeds of the ancient Church—namely the Apostles,’ the Nicene, and the Athanasian Creeds. Lutherans confess the same faith handed down by the Apostles, faith in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Three persons; one God. The Apostles’ Creed sets forth the simple, baptismal faith in the Triune God. The Nicene Creed expands on the person and work of Christ—that He was and is true God and true Man—as well as on the work of the Holy Spirit through the Christian Church. The Athanasian Creed is the final word on the divine mystery of the Holy Trinity.
At the outset, Lutherans make these ecumenical creeds their own, and therefore are not a Church that is founded on Luther, but a Church that is founded upon faith in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as taught and passed down by the Lord’s own Apostles.