What does it mean to be Lutheran?

A Lutheran Christian has many traits found in other Christian traditions. But, the question arises what is a Lutheran Christian and how is he or she different from their fellow Christians like Presbyterians, Methodists, Pentecostals, Baptists, Orthodox Christians, Congregationalists, Adventists, Roman Catholics and other Christian traditions.  We most likely got the name, "Lutheran", because it was used by Martin Luther's enemies to label the movement he began.  In 1522 Luther attacked the use of his name to describe the movement. He simply preferred the term "Christians".  However, the name "Lutheran" stuck and has remained to this day thus people who are continuing to follow the reform movement he began are called "Lutherans".  A Lutheran Christian trusts God's unconditional love and that his promise is a gift of grace received by faith.  We teach that the word of God is a living word of truth which enters all times, all places, and into all our lives.

We should remember that the Lutheran movement is catholic and that we are not sectarians or a sect who sought to break away from the church of Rome, but to reform it from within where it had gone wrong.  We are a part of universal church and are a continuation of the catholic church which was built upon the foundation of Christ and his apostles.  We seek healing and union within the whole catholic church.  We are evangelical in the original sense of the word because we publicly proclaim the good news of the gospels.  We teach the center of Christian's faith is God's unconditional grace in Christ. It is unfortunate, that in today's world the word "evangelical", has had some negative press and connotations attached to it.

So, as Lutherans we are still part of a reforming movement and a teaching movement which teaches the good news of the living Word is in God in Christ, in water, in bread and wine, in the words of forgiveness.

The Lutheran Movement!

The reform movement which Martin Luther sparked began in the sixteenth century (the 1500's) in Germany.  He was university professor and Roman Catholic priest who began to notice that the church was on the wrong path and, in essence, it was preventing and hindering people from following the true message of Jesus Christ.  Some priests and bishops were preaching that people could simply buy God's mercy and forgiveness by purchasing indulgences or certificates guaranteeing the forgiveness of their sins.  Martin Luther was a teacher and a professor who just wanted to begin and to lead a teaching movement within the Roman Catholic Church.  He wanted to remain in the Roman Catholic Church and to just debate those whose teachings he believed were blocking the true message and the living word that he believed needed to be taught and preached from the Gospel and indeed would ultimately bring reform to the church.

The Augsburg Confession.

Martin Luther and his followers wanted to remain united with the Roman Catholic Church and just to have it as a movement within the church.  But, when a division seemed unavoidable Emperor Charles V order all parties to meet in Augsburg, Germany in order to reconcile their difference.  The Lutherans prepared a document which was written by Philipp Melanchthon, an associate of Luther's.  This document became know as the Augsburg Confession.  It explained and expressed the Lutheran position in a way which would be acceptable to the Papal authorities.  It was presented to Emperor Charles V and the Papal representatives on June 25, 1530.  However, no agreement was reached so it failed to preserve the unity within the church.  Thus Lutherans were forced to form their Christian Church outside of the Roman Catholic Church and they eventually became known as "Lutheran" or "Evangelical" Churches.

The Articles and Lutherans

The Augsburg Confession contains articles which explains and presents the Lutheran position and teachings on various catholic subjects.  In the first three articles Melanchton tries to show and persuade the Roman Catholic Church that they were indeed faithful catholics. But, were loyal to the reform movement and just wished to begin a renewal within the Roman Catholic Church.

In the Augsburg Confession the heart of the document is Article Four: IV [Justification].

"It is also taught among us that we cannot obtain forgiveness of sin and righteousness before God by our own merits, works, or satisfactions, but that we receive forgiveness of sin and become righteous before God by grace, for Christ's sake, through faith, when we believe that Christ suffered for us and that for His sake our sin is forgiven and righteousness and eternal life are given to us.  For God will regard and reckon this faith as righteousness, as Paul says in Rom. 3:21-26 and 4:5." Now what this means to Lutheran who are catholic Christians is that we receive forgiveness and righteousness before God by grace through faith and reconciled in Christ by his church.

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