statements of faith

  The Three Ecumenical Creeds

    Apostle's Creed
  • The Apostles’ Creed.

    I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

    And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

    I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen. 

    Nicene Creed
  • The Nicene Creed.

    I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

    And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father from eternity, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

    And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedes from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified; who has spoken by the Prophets.

    And I believe in one holy Christian and Apostolic Church. I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead,  and the life of the world to come. Amen. 

    Athanasian Creed
  • The Creed of Athanasius.

    Written against the Arians.

    Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Christian faith.

    Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.

    And the Christian faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity;

    Neither mingling the Persons, nor dividing the Substance.

    For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost.

    But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost is all one: the glory equal, the majesty coeternal.

    Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost.

    The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate, and the Holy Ghost uncreate.

    The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible.

    The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Ghost eternal.

    And yet they are not three Eternals, but one Eternal.

    As there are not three Uncreated nor three Incomprehensibles, but one Uncreated and one Incomprehensible.

    So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Ghost almighty.

    And yet they are not three Almighties, but one Almighty.

    So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God.

    And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.

    So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord.

    And yet not three Lords, but one Lord.

    For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by Himself to be God and Lord,  so are we forbidden by the Christian religion to say there be three Gods, or three Lords.

    The Father is made of none: neither created nor begotten.

    The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created, but begotten.

    The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son: neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.

    So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.

    And in this Trinity none is before or after other; none is greater or less than another;

    But the whole three Persons are coeternal together, and coequal: so that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshiped. 

    He, therefore, that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.

    Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe faithfully the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    For the right faith is, that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man;

    God of the Substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man of the substance of His mother, born in the world;

    Perfect God and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.

    Equal to the Father as regarding His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as regarding His humanity;

    Who, although He be God and Man, yet He is not two, but one Christ:

    One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking the humanity into God;

    One altogether; not by confusion of Substance, but by unity of Person.

    For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and Man is one Christ;

    Who suffered for our salvation; descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead;

    He ascended into heaven; He sitteth on the right hand of the Father, God Almighty; from whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

    At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies, and shall give an account of their own works.

    And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil, into everlasting fire.

    This is the Christian faith; which except a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved. 

  Dr. Martin Luther's Small Catechism

  • Martin Luther to All Faithful and Godly Pastors and Preachers: Grace, Mercy, and Peace in Jesus Christ, our Lord.

    1] The deplorable, miserable condition which I discovered lately when I, too, was a visitor, has forced and urged me to prepare [publish] this Catechism, or Christian doctrine, in this small, plain, simple form. 2] Mercy! Good God! what manifold misery I beheld! The common people, especially in the villages, have no knowledge whatever of Christian doctrine, and, alas! many pastors are altogether incapable and incompetent to teach [so much so, that one is ashamed to speak of it]. 3] Nevertheless, all maintain that they are Christians, have been baptized and receive the [common] holy Sacraments. Yet they [do not understand and] cannot [even] recite either the Lord’s Prayer, or the Creed, or the Ten Commandments; they live like dumb brutes and irrational hogs; and yet, now that the Gospel has come, they have nicely learned to abuse all liberty like experts.

    4] O ye bishops! [to whom this charge has been committed by God,] what will ye ever answer to Christ for having so shamefully neglected the people and never for a moment discharged your office? [You are the persons to whom alone this ruin of the Christian religion is due. 5] You have permitted men to err so shamefully; yours is the guilt; for you have ever done anything rather than what your office required you to do.] May all misfortune flee you! [I do not wish at this place to invoke evil on your heads.] You command the Sacrament in one form [but is not this the highest ungodliness coupled with the greatest impudence that you are insisting on the administration of the Sacrament in one form only, and on your traditions] and insist on your human laws, and yet at the same time you do not care in the least [while you are utterly without scruple and concern] whether the people know the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, the Ten Commandments, or any part of the Word of God. Woe, woe, unto you forever!

    6] Therefore I entreat [and adjure] you all for God’s sake, my dear sirs and brethren, who are pastors or preachers, to devote yourselves heartily to your office, to have pity on the people who are entrusted to you, and to help us inculcate the Catechism upon the people, and especially upon the young. And let those of you who cannot do better [If any of you are so unskilled that you have absolutely no knowledge of these matters, let them not be ashamed to] take these tables and forms and impress them, word for word, on the people, as follows:—

    7] In the first place, let the preacher above all be careful to avoid many kinds of or various texts and forms of the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, the Sacraments, etc., but choose one form to which he adheres, and which he inculcates all the time, year after year. For [I give this advice, however, because I know that] young and simple people must be taught by uniform, settled texts and forms, otherwise they easily become confused when the teacher to-day teaches them thus, and in a year some other way, as if he wished to make improvements, and thus all effort and labor [which has been expended in teaching] is lost.

    8] Also our blessed fathers understood this well; for they all used the same form of the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments. Therefore we, too, should [imitate their diligence and be at pains to] teach the young and simple people these parts in such a way as not to change a syllable, or set them forth and repeat them one year differently than in another [no matter how often we teach the Catechism].

    9] Hence, choose whatever form you please, and adhere to it forever. But when you preach in the presence of learned and intelligent men, you may exhibit your skill, and may present these parts in as varied and intricate ways and give them as masterly turns as you are able. 10] But with the young people stick to one fixed, permanent form and manner, and teach them, first of all, these parts, namely, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, etc., according to the text, word for word, so that they, too, can repeat it in the same manner after you and commit it to memory.

    11] But those who are unwilling to learn it should be told that they deny Christ and are no Christians, neither should they be admitted to the Sacrament, accepted as sponsors at baptism, nor exercise any part of Christian liberty, but should simply be turned back to the Pope and his officials, yea, to the devil himself. 12] Moreover, their parents and employers should refuse them food and drink, and [they would also do well if they were to] notify them that the prince will drive such rude people from the country, etc.

    13] For although we cannot and should not force any one to believe, yet we should insist and urge the people that they know what is right and wrong with those among whom they dwell and wish to make their living. For whoever desires to reside in a town must know and observe the town laws, the protection of which he wishes to enjoy, no matter whether he is a believer or at heart and in private a rogue or knave.

    14] In the second place, after they have well learned the text, then teach them the sense also, so that they know what it means, and again choose the form of these tables, or some other brief uniform method, whichever you like, and adhere to it, and do not change a single syllable, 15] as was just said regarding the text; and take your time to it. 16] For it is not necessary that you take up all the parts at once, but one after the other. After they understand the First Commandment well, then take up the Second, and so on, otherwise they will be overwhelmed, so as not to be able to retain any well.

    17] In the third place, after you have thus taught them this Short Catechism, then take up the Large Catechism, and give them also a richer and fuller knowledge. Here explain at large every commandment, [article,] petition, and part with its various works, uses, benefits, dangers, and injuries, as you find these abundantly stated in many books written about these matters. 18] And particularly, urge that commandment or part most which suffers the greatest neglect among your people. For instance, the Seventh Commandment, concerning stealing, must be strenuously urged among mechanics and merchants, and even farmers and servants, for among these people many kinds of dishonesty and thieving prevail. So, too, you must urge well the Fourth Commandment among the children and the common people, that they may be quiet and faithful, obedient and peaceable, and you must always adduce many examples from the Scriptures to show how God has punished or blessed such persons.

    19] Especially should you here urge magistrates and parents to rule well and to send their children to school, showing them why it is their duty to do this, and what a damnable sin they are committing if they do not do it. For by such neglect they overthrow and destroy both the kingdom of God and that of the world, acting as the worst enemies both of God and of men. 20] And make it very plain to them what an awful harm they are doing if they will not help to train children to be pastors, preachers, clerks [also for other offices, with which we cannot dispense in this life], etc., and that God will punish them terribly for it. For such preaching is needed. [Verily, I do not know of any other topic that deserves to be treated as much as this.] Parents and magistrates are now sinning unspeakably in this respect. The devil, too, aims at something cruel because of these things [that he may hurl Germany into the greatest distress].

    21] Lastly, since the tyranny of the Pope has been abolished, people are no longer willing to go to the Sacrament and despise it [as something useless and unnecessary]. Here again urging is necessary, however, with this understanding: 22] We are to force no one to believe, or to receive the Sacrament, nor fix any law, nor time, nor place for it, but are to preach in such a manner that of their own accord, without our law, they will urge themselves and, as it were, compel us pastors to administer the Sacrament. This is done by telling them: Whoever does not seek or desire the Sacrament at least some four times a year, it is to be feared that he despises the Sacrament and is no Christian, just as he is no Christian who does not believe or hear the Gospel; for Christ did not say, This omit, or, This despise, but, This do ye, as oft as ye drink it, etc. Verily, He wants it done, and not entirely neglected and despised. This do ye, He says.

    23] Now, whoever does not highly value the Sacrament thereby shows that he has no sin, no flesh, no devil, no world, no death, no danger, no hell; that is, he does not believe any such things, although he is in them over head and ears and is doubly the devil’s own. On the other hand, he needs no grace, life, Paradise, heaven, Christ, God, nor anything good. For if he believed that he had so much that is evil, and needed so much that is good, he would not thus neglect the Sacrament, by which such evil is remedied and so much good is bestowed. Neither will it be necessary to force him to the Sacrament by any law, but he will come running and racing of his own accord, will force himself and urge you that you must give him the Sacrament.

    24] Hence, you must not make any law in this matter, as the Pope does. Only set forth clearly the benefit and harm, the need and use, the danger and the blessing, connected with this Sacrament, and the people will come of themselves without your compulsion. But if they do not come, let them go and tell them that such belong to the devil as do not regard nor feel their great need and the gracious help of God. 25] But if you do not urge this, or make a law or a bane of it, it is your fault if they despise the Sacrament. How could they be otherwise than slothful if you sleep and are silent? 26] Therefore look to it, ye pastors and preachers. Our office is now become a different thing from what it was under the Pope; it is now become serious and salutary. Accordingly, it now involves much more trouble and labor, danger and trials, 27] and, in addition thereto, little reward and gratitude in the world. But Christ Himself will be our reward if we labor faithfully. To this end may the Father of all grace help us, to whom be praise and thanks forever through Christ, our Lord! Amen. 

    The Ten Commandments
  • The Ten Commandments

    as the Head of the Family Should Teach Them in a Simple Way to His Household.


    The First Commandment.

    Thou shalt have no other gods.

    What does this mean?

    We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.

    The Second Commandment.

    Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain.

    What does this mean?

    We should fear and love God that we may not curse, swear, use witchcraft, lie, or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.

    The Third Commandment.

    Thou shalt sanctify the holy-day.

    What does this mean?

    We should fear and love God that we may not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred, and gladly hear and learn it.

    The Fourth Commandment.

    Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother [that it may be well with thee and thou mayest live long upon the earth].

    What does this mean?

    We should fear and love God that we may not despise nor anger our parents and masters, but give them honor, serve, obey, and hold them in love and esteem.

    The Fifth Commandment.

    Thou shalt not kill.

    10] What does this mean?

    We should fear and love God that we may not hurt nor harm our neighbor in his body, but help and befriend him in every bodily need [in every need and danger of life and body].

    The Sixth Commandment.

    Thou shalt not commit adultery.

    What does this mean?

    We should fear and love God that we may lead a chaste and decent life in words and deeds, and each love and honor his spouse.

    The Seventh Commandment.

    Thou shalt not steal.

    What does this mean?

    We should fear and love God that we may not take our neighbor’s money or property, nor get them by false ware or dealing, but help him to improve and protect his property and business [that his means are preserved and his condition is improved].

    The Eighth Commandment.

    Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

    What does this mean?

    We should fear and love God that we may not deceitfully belie, betray, slander, or defame our neighbor, but defend him, [think and] speak well of him, and put the best construction on everything.

    The Ninth Commandment.

    Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house.

    What does this mean?

    We should fear and love God that we may not craftily seek to get our neighbor’s inheritance or house, and obtain it by a show of [justice and] right, etc., but help and be of service to him in keeping it.

    The Tenth Commandment.

    Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his cattle, nor anything that is his.

    What does this mean?

    We should fear and love God that we may not estrange, force, or entice away our neighbor’s wife, servants, or cattle, but urge them to stay and [diligently] do their duty.

    What Does God Say of All These Commandments?

    He says thus (Exod. 20:5ff): "I the Lord, thy God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me, and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me and keep My commandments."

    What does this mean?

    God threatens to punish all that transgress these commandments. Therefore we should dread His wrath and not act contrary to these commandments. But He promises grace and every blessing to all that keep these commandments. Therefore we should also love and trust in Him, and gladly do [zealously and diligently order our whole life] according to His commandments. 

    The Creed

    as the Head of the Family Should Teach It in the Simplest Way to His Household.


    The First Article.

    Of Creation.

    I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

    What does this mean?

    I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my limbs, my reason, and all my senses, and still preserves them; in addition thereto, clothing and shoes, meat and drink, house and homestead, wife and children, fields, cattle, and all my goods; that He provides me richly and daily with all that I need to support this body and life, protects me from all danger, and guards me and preserves me from all evil; and all this out of pure, fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me; for all which I owe it to Him to thank, praise, serve, and obey Him. This is most certainly true.

    The Second Article.

    Of Redemption.

    And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

    What does this mean?

    I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won [delivered] me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, in order that I may be [wholly] His own, and live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.



    The Third Article.

    Of Sanctification.

    I believe in the Holy Spirit; one holy Christian Church, the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.

    6] What does this mean?

    I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith; in which Christian Church He forgives daily and richly all sins to me and all believers, and at the last day will raise up me and all the dead, and will give to me and to all believers in Christ everlasting life. This is most certainly true. 


    as the Head of the Family Should Teach It In a Simple Way to His Household.


    What is Baptism?

    Baptism is not simple water only, but it is the water comprehended in God’s command and connected with God’s Word.

    Which is that word of God?

    Christ, our Lord, says in the last chapter of Matthew: Go ye into all the world and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

    What does Baptism give or profit?

    It works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.

    Which are such words and promises of God?

    Christ, our Lord, says in the last chapter of Mark: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

    How can water do such great things?

    It is not the water indeed that does them, but the word of God which is in and with the water, and faith, which trusts such word of God in the water. For without the word of God the water is simple water and no baptism. But with the word of God it is a baptism, that is, a gracious water of life and a washing of regeneration in the Holy Ghost, as St. Paul says, Titus, chapter three: By the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ, our Savior, that, being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying.

    What does such baptizing with water signify?

    It signifies that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts, and, again, a new man daily come forth and arise; who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

    Where is this written?

    St. Paul says Romans, chapter 6: We are buried with Christ by Baptism into death, that, like as He was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life

    Holy Communion
  • THE SACRAMENT OF THE ALTAR (Holy Communion),

    as the Head of a Family Should Teach It in a Simple Way to His Household.

    What is the Sacrament of the Altar?

    It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine, for us Christians to eat and to drink, instituted by Christ Himself.

    Where is this written?

    The holy Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and St. Paul, write thus:

    Our Lord Jesus Christ, the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread: and when He had given thanks, He brake it, and gave it to His disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you. This do in remembrance of Me.

    After the same manner also He took the cup, when He had supped, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Take, drink ye all of it. This cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the remission of sins. This do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me.

    What is the benefit of such eating and drinking?

    That is shown us in these words: Given, and shed for you, for the remission of sins; namely, that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.

    How can bodily eating and drinking do such great things?

    It is not the eating and drinking, indeed, that does them, but the words which stand here, namely: Given, and shed for you, for the remission of sins. Which words are, beside the bodily eating and drinking, as the chief thing in the Sacrament; and he that believes these words has what they say and express, namely, the forgiveness of sins.

    Who, then, receives such Sacrament worthily?

    Fasting and bodily preparation is, indeed, a fine outward training; but he is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: Given, and shed for you, for the remission of sins.

    But he that does not believe these words, or doubts, is unworthy and unfit; for the words For you require altogether believing hearts. 

    To Prepare for Holy Communion

    For those preparing to receive the Lord's Supper


    1. Do you believe that you are a sinner?

        Yes, I believe that I am a sinner.


    2. How do you know this?

        I know this from the Ten Commandments, which I have not kept.


    3. Are you sorry for your sins?

        Yes, I am sorry that I have sinned against God.


    4. What have you deserved from God because of your sins?    

        I deserve his wrath and displeasure, temporal death, and eternal damnation.


    5. Do you hope to be saved?

        Yes, such is my hope.


    6. In whom, then, do you trust?

        I trust in my dear Lord Jesus Christ.


    7. Who is Jesus Christ?

        Jesus Christ is the Son of God, true God and true man.


    8. How many Gods are there?

        There is only one God, but there are three persons:  Father, Son and Holy Spirit.


    9. What has Christ done for you that you trust in him?

        He died for me and shed his blood on the cross for the forgiveness of sins.


    10.  Did the Father also die for you?

        He did not; for the Father is God only, the Holy Spirit likewise.  But the Son is true God and true man.  He died for me and shed his blood for me.


    11. How do you know this?

        I know this from the holy gospel and from the words of the sacrament of Holy Communion.


    12.  Which are those words?

        Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night he was betrayed, took bread; and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, and said:  "Take and eat.  This is my body which is given for you.  Do this in remembrance of me."

        In the same way, after supper, he took the cup, gave thanks, gave it to them, and said:  "Drink from it, all of you.  This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.  Do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me."


    13. Do you believe, then, that the true body and blood of Christ are in the sacrament?

        Yes, I believe it.


    14. What moves you to believe this?

        I am moved to believe this by the words of Christ, "Take, and eat. This is my body…. Drink from it all of you.  This cup is the new covenant in my blood."


    15. What does Christ want you to do when you eat his body and drink his blood in the Lord's Supper?

        Christ wants me to remember and proclaim his death and the pouring out of his blood as he taught me:  "Do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me."


    16. Why does Christ want you to remember and proclaim his death?

        He wants me to do this so that I learn to believe that no creature could make satisfaction for my sins, but only Christ, who is true God and man could and did do that; so that I learn to look with terror upon my sins and regard them as great indeed; so that I find joy and comfort in Christ alone and believe that I have salvation through faith in him.


    17. What moved him to die and make a complete payment for your sins?

        He was moved to do this by his great love for his Father and for me and other sinners, as the scriptures teach (John 14:31; Romans 5:8; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 5:2).


    18. Finally, why do you desire to receive Holy Communion?

        I desire to do this so that I learn to believe that Christ out of great love died for my sins and that I also learn of him to love God and my neighbor.


    19. What admonishes and moves you to receive Holy Communion frequently?

        The command and promise of Christ my Lord admonishes and moves me. Also, the burden of sin which lies heavy upon me causes me to hunger and thirst for Holy Communion.


    20. But what can a person do if he is not aware of the burden of sin and does not feel hunger and thirst for Holy Communion?

        To such a person no better advice can be given than that, in the first place, he put his hand into his bosom and feel whether he still has flesh and blood, and that he by all means believes what the Scriptures say about this (Galatians 5:17,19-21; Isaiah 64:6; Romans 7:18).

        Secondly, that he look around to see whether he is still in the world and keep in mind that there will be no lack of sin and trouble, as the Scriptures say (John 15:18-25; Matthew 24:9-13; Acts 14:22).

        Thirdly, he will certainly have the devil also about him, who with his lying and murdering, day and night, will let him have no peace, as the Scriptures picture him (John 8:44; 1 Peter 5:8; Ephesians 6:10-12; 2 Timothy 2:26).


    21. What can you do if you are sick and are unable to come to Holy Communion?

        Then I can send for my pastor to pray with me and to give me Holy Communion privately.


    22. When is the proper time to do this?

        The time to do this is not only when death is at hand, but earlier before all physical and mental power is gone.


    23. Why would you want to do this?

        I would want to do this to receive the assurance through Holy Communion that my sins are forgiven and that salvation is mine.

    Confessing Sins

    What is Confession?

    Confession embraces two parts: the one is, that we confess our sins; the other, that we receive absolution, or forgiveness, from the confessor, as from God Himself, and in no wise doubt, but firmly believe, that our sins are thereby forgiven before God in heaven.

    What sins should we confess?

    Before God we should plead guilty of all sins, even of those which we do not know, as we do in the Lord’s Prayer. But before the confessor we should confess those sins alone which we know and feel in our hearts.

    Which are these?

    Here consider your station according to the Ten Commandments, whether you are a father, mother, son, daughter, master, mistress, a man-servant or maid-servant; whether you have been disobedient, unfaithful, slothful; whether you have grieved any one by words or deeds; whether you have stolen, neglected, or wasted aught, or done other injury.

    Brief Form of Confession
    You should speak to the confessor thus: 

    Reverend and dear sir, I beseech you to hear my confession, and to pronounce forgiveness to me for God’s sake.

    I, a poor sinner, confess myself before God guilty of all sins; especially I confess before you that I am a man-servant, a maidservant, etc. But, alas, I serve my master unfaithfully; for in this and in that I have not done what they commanded me; I have provoked them, and caused them to curse, have been negligent [in many things] and permitted damage to be done; have also been immodest in words and deeds, have quarreled with my equals, have grumbled and sworn at my mistress, etc. For all this I am sorry, and pray for grace; I want to do better.

    A master or mistress may say thus:
    In particular I confess before you that I have not faithfully trained my children, domestics, and wife [family] for God’s glory. I have cursed, set a bad example by rude words and deeds, have done my neighbor harm and spoken evil of him, have overcharged and given false ware and short measure.
    And whatever else he has done against God’s command and his station, etc.

    But if any one does not find himself burdened with such or greater sins, he should not trouble himself or search for or invent other sins, and thereby make confession a torture, but mention one or two that he knows. Example: In particular I confess that I once cursed; again, I once used improper words, I have once neglected this or that, etc. Let this suffice.

    But if you know of none at all (which, however is scarcely possible), then mention none in particular, but receive the forgiveness upon your general confession which you make before God to the confessor.

    Then shall the confessor say:

    God be merciful to thee and strengthen thy faith! Amen.  Dost thou believe that my forgiveness is God’s forgiveness?

    Yes, dear sir.

    Then let him say:

    As thou believest, so be it done unto thee. And by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ I forgive thee thy sins, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Depart in peace.

    But those who have great burdens upon their consciences, or are distressed and tempted, the confessor will know how to comfort and to encourage to faith with more passages of Scripture. This [above] is to be merely a general form of confession for the unlearned. 

    The Lord's Prayer

    as the Head of the Family Should Teach It in the Simplest Way to His Household.

    Our Father who art in heaven.

    What does this mean?

    God would thereby [with this little introduction] tenderly urge us to believe that He is our true Father, and that we are His true children, so that we may ask Him confidently with all assurance, as dear children ask their dear father.

    The First Petition.

    Hallowed be Thy name.

    What does this mean?

    God’s name is indeed holy in itself; but we pray in this petition that it may become holy among us also.

    How is this done?

    When the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity, and we as the children of God also lead holy lives in accordance with it. To this end help us, dear Father in heaven. But he that teaches and lives otherwise than God’s Word teaches profanes the name of God among us. From this preserve us, Heavenly Father.

    The Second Petition.

    Thy kingdom come.
    What does this mean?

    The kingdom of God comes indeed without our prayer, of itself; but we pray in this petition that it may come unto us also.

    How is this done?

    When our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead a godly life here in time and yonder in eternity.

    The Third Petition.

    Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

    What does this mean?

    The good and gracious will of God is done indeed without our prayer; but we pray in this petition that it may be done among us also.

    How is this done?

    When God breaks and hinders every evil counsel and will which would not let us hallow the name of God nor let His kingdom come, such as the will of the devil, the world, and our flesh; but strengthens and keeps us steadfast in His Word and in faith unto our end. This is His gracious and good will.

    The Fourth Petition.

    Give us this day our daily bread.

    What does this mean?

    God gives daily bread, even without our prayer, to all wicked men; but we pray in this petition that He would lead us to know it, and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.

    What is meant by daily bread?

    Everything that belongs to the support and wants of the body, such as meat, drink, clothing, shoes, house, homestead, field, cattle, money, goods, a pious spouse, pious children, pious servants, pious and faithful magistrates good government, good weather, peace, health, discipline, honor, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.

    The Fifth Petition.

    And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

    What does this mean?

    We pray in this petition that our Father in heaven would not look upon our sins, nor deny such petitions on account of them; for we are worthy of none of the things for which we pray, neither have we deserved them; but that He would grant them all to us by grace; for we daily sin much, and indeed deserve nothing but punishment. So will we verily, on our part, also heartily forgive and also readily do good to those who sin against us.

    The Sixth Petition.

    And lead us not into temptation.

    What does this mean?

    God, indeed, tempts no one; but we pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us, so that the devil, the world, and our flesh may not deceive us, nor seduce us into misbelief, despair, and other great shame and vice; and though we be assailed by them, that still we may finally overcome and gain the victory.

    The Seventh Petition.

    But deliver us from evil.

    What does this mean?

    We pray in this petition, as in a summary, that our Father in heaven would deliver us from all manner of evil, of body and soul, property and honor, and at last, when our last hour shall come, grant us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this vale of tears to Himself into heaven.


    What does this mean?

    That I should be certain that these petitions are acceptable to our Father in heaven and heard; for He Himself has commanded us so to pray, and has promised that He will hear us. Amen, Amen; that is, Yea, yea, it shall be so. 


    Should Teach His Household to Bless Themselves in the Morning and in the Evening.


    Morning Prayer.

    In the morning, when you rise, you shall bless yourself with [by making the sign of] the holy cross and say:

    In the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

    Then, kneeling or standing, repeat the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. If you choose, you may, in addition, say this little prayer:

    I thank Thee, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Thy dear Son, that Thou hast kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray Thee to keep me this day also from sin and all evil, that all my doings and life may please Thee. For into Thy hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Thy holy angel be with me, that the Wicked Foe may have no power over me. Amen.

    Then go to your work with joy, singing a hymn, as the Ten Commandments, or what your devotion may suggest.

    Evening Prayer

    In the evening, when you go to bed, you shall bless yourself with [by making the sign of] the holy cross and say: In the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

    Then, kneeling or standing, repeat the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. If you choose, you may, in addition, say this little prayer:

    I thank Thee, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Thy dear Son, that Thou hast graciously kept me this day, and I pray Thee to forgive me all my sins, where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. For into Thy hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Thy holy angel be with me, that the Wicked Foe may have no power over me. Amen.

    Then go to sleep promptly and cheerfully.

    Asking a Blessing and Returning Thanks at Mealtime


    Asking a Blessing

    The children and servants shall go to the table with folded hands and reverently, and say:

    The eyes of all wait upon Thee, O Lord; and Thou givest them their meat in due season; Thou openest Thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing.

    (Note:  To satisfy the desire means that all animals receive so much to eat that they are on this account joyful and of good cheer; for care and avarice hinder such satisfaction.)

    Then the Lord’s Prayer, and the prayer here following:
    Lord God, Heavenly Father, bless us and these Thy gifts, which we take from Thy bountiful goodness, 
    through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.


    Returning Thanks

    Likewise also after the meal they shall reverently and with folded hands say:

    O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good; for His mercy endureth forever. He giveth food to all flesh; He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry. He delighteth not in the strength of the horse; He taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man. The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear Him, in those that hope in His mercy.

    Then the Lord’s Prayer and the prayer here following:
    We thank Thee, Lord God, Father, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, for all Thy benefits, who livest and 
    reignest forever and ever. Amen. 

    Table of Duties

    Consisting of Certain Passages of Scripture for Various Holy Orders and Stations, Whereby These are to be Admonished, as by a Special Lesson, Regarding Their Office and Service.


    For Bishops, Pastors, and Preachers.

    A bishop must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach; not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; not a novice; holding fast the faithful Word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. 1 Tim. 3, 2ff ; Titus 1, 6.

    What the Hearers Owe to Their Pastors.

    Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel. 1 Cor. 9, 14. Let him that is taught in the Word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. Gal. 6, 6. Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the Word and doctrine. For the Scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn; and the laborer is worthy of his reward. 1 Tim. 5, 17. 18. Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves; for they watch for your souls as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy and not with grief; for that is unprofitable for you. Heb. 13, 17.]

    Concerning Civil Government.

    Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For the power which exists anywhere is ordained of God. Whosoever resisteth the power resisteth the ordinance of God; and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For he heareth not the sword in vain; for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Rom. 13, 1–4.

    What Subjects Owe to the Magistrates.

    Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s. Matt. 22, 21. Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers, etc. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For, for this cause pay ye tribute also; for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom, to whom custom; fear, to whom fear; honor, to whom honor. Rom. 13, 1. 5ff. I exhort, therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men; for kings and for all that are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 1 Tim. 2, 1f Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, etc. Titus 3, 1. Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether it be to the king as supreme, or unto governors as unto them that are sent by him, etc. 1 Pet. 2, 13f ]

    For Husbands.

    Ye husbands, dwell with your wives according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers be not hindered. 1 Pet. 3, 7. And be not bitter against them. Col. 3, 9.

    For Wives.

    Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord, even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord; whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement. 1 Pet. 3, 6; Eph. 5, 22.

    For Parents.

    Ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Eph. 6, 4.

    For Children.

    Children, obey your parents in the Lord; for this is right. Honor thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise: that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. Eph. 6, 1–3.

    For Male and Female Servants, Hired Men, and Laborers.

    Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service as to the Lord, and not to men; knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. Eph. 6, 5ff ; Col. 3, 22.

    For Masters and Mistresses.

    Ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening, knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with Him. Eph. 6, 9; Col. 4, 1.

    For Young Persons in General.

    Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility; for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you in due time. 1 Pet. 5, 5. 6.

    For Widows.

    She that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day. But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth. 1 Tim. 5, 5. 6.

    For All in Common.

    Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Herein are comprehended all the commandments. Rom. 13, 8ff And persevere in prayer for all men. 1 Tim. 2, 1. 2.

    Let each his lesson learn with care, And all the household well shall fare. 


  This We Believe

A statement of beliefs of the Wisconsin Evanglical Lutheran Synod (WELS)
  • 1.We believe that there is only one true God (Isaiah 44:6). He has made himself known as the triune God, one God in three persons. This is evident from Jesus’ command to his disciples to baptize “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). Whoever does not worship this God worships a false god, a god who does not exist. Jesus said, “He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him” (John 5:23).

    2.We believe that God has revealed himself in nature. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1). “Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). So there is no excuse for atheists. Since the requirements of the law are written on people’s hearts, the consciences of people also bear witness that there is a God to whom they are accountable (Romans 2:15). However, nature and conscience present only a partial revelation of God and one that is not able to show the way to heaven.

    3.We believe that God has given the full revelation of himself in his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known” (John 1:18). In Jesus, God has revealed himself as the Savior-God, who “so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

    4.We believe that God has also given a written revelation for all people in the Holy Scriptures. His revelation in the Bible has two main messages, the law and the gospel. The law declares what is right and wrong, and it threatens God’s punishment for sin. The gospel presents the love of God, which he has shown especially by providing salvation from sin through Jesus Christ.

    5.We believe that the entire Bible is Christ-centered. In the Old Testament God repeatedly promised a divine deliverer from sin, death, and hell. The New Testament proclaims that this promised deliverer has come in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus himself says of the Old Testament, “These are the Scriptures that testify about me” (John 5:39).

    6.We believe that God gave the Scriptures through men whom he chose, using the language they knew and the style of writing they had. He used Moses and the prophets to write the Old Testament in Hebrew (some portions in Aramaic) and the evangelists and apostles to write the New Testament in Greek.

    7.We believe that in a miraculous way that goes beyond all human investigation, God the Holy Spirit moved these men to write his Word. These men “spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). What they said was spoken “not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:13). Every thought they expressed and every word they used were given them by the Holy Spirit. Saint Paul wrote to Timothy, “All Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16). The church has called this miraculous process inspiration, which means “breathing into.” Since every word of Scripture was inspired, we also call this process verbal inspiration, or word-for- word inspiration. This is not to be equated with mechanical dictation, since the Holy Spirit guided the writers as they used their individual vocabularies and writing styles.

    8.We believe that Scripture is a unified whole, true and without error in everything it says, for the Savior said, “The Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). Therefore it is the infallible authority and guide for everything we believe and do.

    9.We believe that the Bible is fully sufficient, clearly teaching people all they need to know to get to heaven. It makes them “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15), and it equips them for “every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17). Since God’s plan of salvation has been fully revealed in the canonical books of the Bible, we need and expect no other revelations (Hebrews 1:1,2). The church is built on the teachings of the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20).

    10.We believe and accept the Bible on its own terms, accepting as factual history what it presents as history and recognizing as figurative speech what is evident as such. We believe that Scripture must interpret Scripture, clear passages throwing light on those less easily understood. We believe that no authority--whether it is human reason, science, or scholarship--may stand in judgment over Scripture. Sound scholarship will faithfully search out the true meaning of Scripture without presuming to pass judgment on it.

    11.We believe that the original Hebrew text of the Old Testament and the Greek text of the New Testament are the inspired Word of God. Translations of the Hebrew and Greek that accurately reflect the meaning of the original text convey God’s truth to people and can properly be called the Word of God.

    12.Although the original documents themselves have been lost, we believe that the Lord in his providential care has accurately preserved the Hebrew and Greek texts through the many hand-copied manuscripts that exist. Although there are minor differences or “variants” between the various hand-copied manuscripts, these variants do not cause any changes in doctrine.

    13.We believe that the three ecumenical creeds (the Apostles’, the Nicene, and the Athanasian) as well as the Lutheran Confessions as contained in the Book of Concord of 1580 express the true doctrine of Scripture. Since the doctrines they confess are drawn from Scripture alone, we are bound to them in our faith and life. Therefore all preaching and teaching in our churches and schools must be in harmony with these confessions, and we reject all the errors that they reject.

    14.We reject any worship that is not directed to the triune God as revealed in the Bible. We reject the use of feminine names and pronouns for God because in Scripture God reveals himself as Father and Son. We reject the opinion that all religions lead to the same God.

    15.We reject any thought that makes only part of Scripture God’s Word or that allows for the possibility of factual error in Scripture, even in so-called nonreligious matters such as historical or geographical details. We likewise reject all views that say Scripture is merely a human record of God’s revelation as he encounters mankind in history, and so is a record subject to human imperfections.

    16.We reject any emphasis upon Jesus as the personal Word of God (John 1:1) that minimizes the role of the Scriptures as the written Word of God (Romans 3:2).

    17.We reject every effort to reduce the confessions contained in the Book of Concord to historical documents that do not have binding confessional significance for the church today. We likewise reject any claim that the church is bound only to those doctrines of Scripture that are specifically addressed in these confessions.

    This is what Scripture teaches about God and his revelation. This we believe, teach, and confess. 

  • 1.We believe that the universe, the world, and the human race came into existence in the beginning when God created heaven and earth and all creatures (Genesis 1,2). Further testimony to this event is found in other passages of the Old and New Testaments (for example, Exodus 20:11; Hebrews 11:3). The creation happened in the course of six consecutive days of normal length by the power of God’s almighty word.

    2.We believe that the Bible presents a true, factual, and historical account of creation.

    3.We believe that God created Adam and Eve in his own image (Genesis 1:26,27), that is, holy and righteous. Their thoughts, desires, and will were in full harmony with God (Colossians 3:10; Ephesians 4:24). They were furthermore given the capacity to “subdue” God’s creation (Genesis 1:28) and the responsibility to care for it (Genesis 2:15).

    4.We believe that God created a multitude of good angels. Sometime after creation, a number of these angels rebelled against God under the leadership of one of their own who is called Satan or the devil (2 Peter 2:4). Ever since, these evil angels have opposed God and God’s people (1 Peter 5:8).

    5.We believe that Adam and Eve lost their divine image when they yielded to the temptation of Satan and disobeyed God’s command. This brought upon them the judgment of God: “You will surely die” (Genesis 2:17). Since that time all people are conceived and born in a sinful condition (Psalm 51:5) and are inclined only to evil (Genesis 8:21). “Flesh gives birth to flesh” (John 3:6). Since all people are by nature dead in sin and separated from God (Ephesians 2:1), they are unable to reconcile themselves to God by their own efforts and deeds.

    6.We believe that God in his gracious providence richly and daily provides for the bodily needs of all people (Psalm 145:15,16). He furthermore protects believers against all danger by keeping evil away from them (Psalm 121:7) or by making it serve their good (Romans 8:28).

    7.We reject all theories of evolution as an explanation of the origin of the universe and the human race and all attempts to harmonize the scriptural account of creation with such theories.

    8.We reject interpretations that reduce the first chapters of Genesis to a narration of myths or parables or poetic accounts that are not factual history.

    9.We reject all theories that blur the distinction between human beings and animals, since only human beings have immortal souls and are accountable to God.

    10.We reject all theories that blur the distinction between God and his creation (pantheism).

    11.We reject all views that look upon people as basically good by nature; that consider their natural tendencies to be mere weaknesses, which are not sinful; or that fail to recognize their total spiritual depravity and their inability to please God (Romans 3:9-18). This is what Scripture teaches about creation, mankind, and sin. This we believe, teach, and confess.

    This is what Scripture teaches about creation, mankind, and sin. This we believe, teach, and confess. 

  • 1.We believe that Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God, one with the Father from all eternity (John 1:1,2). In the course of time, he took a true and complete, yet sinless, human nature to himself (Galatians 4:4) when he was conceived as a holy child in the virgin Mary through a miracle of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35). God’s angel testified, “What is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20). Jesus Christ is unique, for in him the true God and a true human nature are inseparably united in one person, the holy God-man. He is called Immanuel, which means “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).

    2.We believe that Jesus at all times possessed the fullness of the Deity with all divine power, wisdom, and glory (Colossians 2:9). His divinity was evident when he performed miracles (John 2:11). But while he lived on earth, he took on the form of a servant, humbling himself by laying aside the continuous and full display and use of his divine characteristics. During this time he lived as a man among mankind, endured suffering, and humbled himself to the shameful death on the cross (Philippians 2:7,8). We believe that Christ descended into hell to proclaim his victory over Satan (1 Peter 3:18,19). We believe that he rose again from the grave with a glorified body, ascended, and is exalted on high to rule with power over the world, with grace in his church, and with glory in eternity (Philippians 2:9-11).

    3.We believe that Jesus Christ, the God-man, was sent by the Father to redeem all people, that is, to buy them back from the guilt and punishment of sin. Jesus came to fulfill the law (Matthew 5:17) so that on the basis of his perfect obedience all people would be declared holy (Romans 5:18,19). He came to bear “the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6), ransoming all people by his sacrifice for sin on the altar of the cross (Matthew 20:28). We believe that he is the God-appointed substitute for all people. His righteousness, or perfect obedience, is accepted by the Father as our righteousness, his death for sin as our death for sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). We believe that his resurrection gives full assurance that God has accepted the payment he made for all (Romans 4:25).

    4.We believe that God reconciled “the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them” (2 Corinthians 5:19). We believe that Jesus is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The mercy and grace of God are all-embracing; the reconciliation through Christ is universal; the forgiveness of sins has been gained as an accomplished fact for all people. Because of the substitutionary work of Christ, God has justified all people, that is, God has declared them to be not guilty. This forms the firm, objective basis for the sinner’s assurance of salvation.

    5.We reject any teaching that in any way limits Christ’s work of atonement. We reject any teaching that says Christ paid the penalty only for the sins of some people. We reject any teaching that says Christ made only a partial payment for sins.

    6.We reject the views that consider the Gospel accounts to be pious fiction developed by early Christians to express their ideas about Jesus Christ rather than a true account of what actually happened in history. We reject all attempts to make the historical accuracy of events in Christ’s life--such as his virgin birth, his miracles, or his bodily resurrection--appear unimportant or even doubtful. We reject the attempts to stress a “present encounter with the living Christ” in such a way that Jesus’ redemptive work recorded in Scripture loses its importance.

    This is what Scripture teaches about Christ and redemption. This we believe, teach and confess. 

  • 1.We believe that God has justified all sinners, that is, he has declared them righteous for the sake of Christ. This is the central message of Scripture upon which the very existence of the church depends. It is a message relevant to people of all times and places, of all races and social levels, for “the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men” (Romans 5:18). All need forgiveness of sins before God, and Scripture proclaims that all have been justified, for “the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men” (Romans 5:18).

    2.We believe that individuals receive this free gift of forgiveness not on the basis of their own works, but only through faith (Ephesians 2:8,9). Justifying faith is trust in Christ and his redemptive work. This faith justifies not because of any power it has in itself, but only because of the salvation prepared by God in Christ, which it embraces (Romans 3:28; 4:5). On the other hand, although Jesus died for all, Scripture says that “whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). Unbelievers forfeit the forgiveness won for them by Christ (John 8:24).

    3.We believe that people cannot produce this justifying faith, or trust, in their own hearts, because “the man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him” (1 Corinthians 2:14). In fact, “the sinful mind is hostile to God” (Romans 8:7). It is the Holy Spirit who gives people faith to recognize that “Jesus is Lord” (1 Corinthians 12:3). The Holy Spirit works this faith by means of the gospel (Romans 10:17). We believe, therefore, that a person’s conversion is entirely the work of God’s grace. Rejection of the gospel is, however, entirely the unbeliever’s own fault (Matthew 23:37).

    4.We believe that sinners are saved by grace alone. Grace is the undeserved love of God for sinners. This love led God to give sinners everything they need for their salvation. It is all a gift of God. People do nothing to earn any of it (Ephesians 2:8,9).

    5.We believe that already before the world was created, God chose those individuals whom he would in time convert through the gospel of Christ and preserve in faith to eternal life (Ephesians 1:4-6; Romans 8:29,30). This election to faith and salvation in no way was caused by anything in people but shows how completely salvation is by grace alone (Romans 11:5,6).

    6.We believe that at the moment of death, the souls of those who believe in Christ go immediately to be with the Lord in the joy of heaven because of the atoning work of Christ (Luke 23:43). The souls of those who do not believe in Christ go to an eternity of misery in hell (Luke 16:22-24).

    7.We reject every teaching that people in any way contribute to their salvation. We reject the belief that people with their own power can cooperate in their conversion or make a decision for Christ (John 15:16). We reject the belief that those who are converted were less resistant to God’s grace than those who remain unconverted. We reject all efforts to present faith as a condition people must fulfill to complete their justification. We reject all attempts of sinners to justify themselves before God.

    8.We reject any suggestion that the doctrine of justification by faith is no longer meaningful today.

    9.We reject the teaching that believers can never fall from faith (“once saved, always saved”), because the Bible says it is possible for believers to fall from faith (1 Corinthians 10:12).

    10.We reject the false and blasphemous conclusion that those who are lost were predestined, or elected, by God to damnation, for God wants all people to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9).

    11.We reject universalism, the belief that all people are saved, even those without faith in Christ (John 3:36). We reject pluralism, the belief that there are other ways to salvation besides faith in Christ (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). We reject any teaching that says it does not matter what one believes so long as one has faith in God.

    This is what Scripture teaches about justification by grace through faith. This we believe, teach and confess. 

  • 1.We believe that faith in Jesus Christ always leads a believer to produce works that are pleasing to God. “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17). As a branch in Christ the vine, a Christian produces good fruit (John 15:5).

    2.We believe that works pleasing to God are works of love, for “love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10). Faith, however, does not set up its own standards to determine what is loving (Matthew 15:9). True faith delights to do only what agrees with God’s holy will. That will of God is revealed in the Bible, particularly in the Ten Commandments as their content is repeated in the New Testament. In wrestling with current moral problems, the Christian will therefore seek answers from God’s law.

    3.We believe, for example, that the Fifth Commandment teaches that all human life is a gift from God. This commandment speaks against abortion, suicide, and euthanasia (“mercy killing”).

    4.We believe that the Sixth Commandment regulates marriage and the family. God instituted marriage as a lifelong union of one man and one woman (Matthew 19:4-6). It is the only proper context for sexual intimacy and the procreation of children. A marriage can be ended without sin only when God ends the marriage through the death of one of the spouses. Nevertheless, a Christian may obtain a divorce if his or her spouse has broken the marriage through adultery (Matthew 19:9) or malicious desertion (1 Corinthians 7:15). The Sixth Commandment forbids all sexual intimacy apart from marriage, including homosexuality (1 Corinthians 6:9,10).

    5.We believe that individuals are free to make their own decisions concerning matters that are neither forbidden nor commanded by God’s Word (adiaphora). People must be careful, however, that their use of this freedom does not cause others to sin.

    6.We believe that good works, which are fruits of faith, must be distinguished from works of civic righteousness performed by unbelievers. Although unbelievers may do much that appears to be good and upright, these works are not good in God’s sight, for “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). While we recognize the value of such works for human society, we know that unbelievers cannot do their duty to God through works of civic righteousness.

    7.We believe that in this world even the best works of Christians are tainted with sin. A sinful nature still afflicts every Christian. Therefore Christians often fail to do the good they want to do but keep on doing the evil they do not want to do (Romans 7:18-21). They must confess that all their righteous acts are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Because of Christ’s redemption, however, these imperfect efforts of Christians are considered holy and acceptable by their heavenly Father.

    8.We believe that the Holy Spirit enables every believer to produce good works as fruits of faith (Galatians 5:22-25). The Holy Spirit gives every believer a new nature, or “new man,” that cooperates with the Holy Spirit in doing good works. The Holy Spirit uses the gospel to motivate believers to do good works.

    9.The Holy Spirit also equips the church with all the spiritual gifts it needs for its well-being (1 Corinthians 12:4-11). During the beginning of the New Testament era, special charismatic gifts were given to the church, such as signs, miracles, and speaking in tongues. These gifts were connected with the ministry of the apostles (2 Corinthians 12:12). There is no evidence in Scripture that we today should expect the continuation of such charismatic gifts.

    10.We believe that a life of prayer is a fruit of faith. Confidently, through faith in their Savior, Christians address their heavenly Father with petitions and praise. They present their needs and the needs of others, and they give thanks (1 Timothy 2:1). Such prayers are a delight to God, and he grants their requests according to his wisdom (Matthew 7:7,8; 1 John 5:14).

    11.We reject every thought that the good works of Christians in any way earn or contribute toward establishing a right relationship with God and gaining salvation in heaven.

    12.We reject every attempt to abolish the unchanging moral law of God as revealed in the Bible as the absolute standard of what is right and wrong.

    13.We reject the view that people may decide for themselves what is right and wrong apart from God’s Word. We reject any misuse of the term love to condone behavior contrary to God’s Word. We recognize these arguments as schemes of Satan to obscure the knowledge of God’s holy will and to undermine the consciousness of sin.

    14.We reject any view that considers the act of praying a means of grace. Although God certainly gives good gifts to believers in answer to their prayers, he conveys his forgiving grace and strengthens faith only through the Word and sacraments. Furthermore, we reject any view that looks upon prayer as beneficial only because it helps the one who prays feel better.

    15.We reject the view that all prayers are acceptable to God, and we hold that the prayers of all who do not have faith in Christ are vain babbling addressed to false gods (Matthew 6:7).

    This is what Scripture teaches about good works and prayer. This we believe, teach, and confess. 

  • 1.We believe that God bestows all spiritual blessings upon sinners by special means established by him. These are the means of grace, the gospel in Word and sacraments. We define a sacrament as a sacred act established by Christ in which the Word connected with an earthly element gives the forgiveness of sins.

    2.We believe that through the gospel, the good news of Christ’s atoning sacrifice for sinners, the Holy Spirit works faith in people, whose hearts are by nature hostile to God (1 Peter 1:23). Scripture teaches that “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). This Spirit-worked faith brings about a renewal in sinners and makes them heirs of eternal life in heaven.

    3.We believe that also through the Sacrament of Baptism the Holy Spirit applies the gospel to sinners, giving them new life (Titus 3:5) and cleansing them from all sin (Acts 2:38). The Lord points to the blessing of Baptism when he promises, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). We believe that the blessing of Baptism is meant for all people (Matthew 28:19), including infants. Infants are born sinful (John 3:6) and therefore need to be born again, that is, to be brought to faith, through Baptism (John 3:5).

    4.We believe that all who join in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper receive the true body and blood of Christ in, with, and under the bread and wine (1 Corinthians 10:16). This is true because, when the Lord instituted this sacrament, he said, “This is my body. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:26,28). We believe that Christ’s words of institution cause the real presence--not any human action. As believers receive his body and blood, they also receive the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:28) and the comfort and assurance that they are truly his own. Unbelievers also receive Christ’s body and blood, but to their judgment (1 Corinthians 11:29).

    5.We believe that the Lord gave his Word and the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper for a purpose. He commanded his followers, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19,20). Through God’s Word and sacraments he preserves and extends the holy Christian church throughout the world. Believers should therefore be diligent and faithful in the use of these divinely established means of grace for themselves and in their mission outreach to others. These are the only means through which immortal souls are brought to faith and to life in heaven.

    6.We reject any views that look for the revelation of the grace of God and salvation apart from the gospel as found in the Scriptures. We reject any views that look for the Holy Spirit to work faith apart from the means of grace. We likewise reject the view that the law is a means of grace.

    7.We reject the view that babies should not be baptized and that they cannot believe in Christ (Luke 18:15-17). We reject the view that baptism must be by immersion.

    8.We reject all teachings that the Sacrament of the Altar offers nothing more than signs and symbols of Jesus’ sacrifice, thereby denying that Christ’s true body and blood are received in the Lord’s Supper. We reject the view that those who eat the body of Christ in the sacrament merely receive Christ spiritually by faith. We reject the claim that unbelievers and hypocrites do not receive the true body and blood of Jesus in the Sacrament.

    9.We reject the doctrine of transubstantiation, which teaches that the substance of the bread and wine are changed entirely into the body and blood of Christ. Scripture teaches that all communicants receive both the bread and wine and the body and blood of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:16).

    10. We reject any attempt to set the precise moment within the celebration of the Lord’s Supper when the body and blood of Christ become present. We therefore reject the view that one must believe that Christ’s body and blood are present as soon as the words of consecration have been spoken and the view that one must believe that Christ’s body and blood become present only at the moment of eating and drinking.

    This is what Scripture teaches about the means of grace. This we believe, teach and confess. 

  • 1.We believe that there is one holy Christian church, which is the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16) and the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:23; 4:12). The members of this one church are all those who are the “sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26). The church, then, consists only of believers, or saints, whom God accepts as holy for the sake of Jesus’ righteousness, which has been credited to them (2 Corinthians 5:21). These saints are scattered throughout the world. All people who believe that Jesus is their Savior from sin are members of the holy Christian church, regardless of the nation, race, or church body to which they belong.

    2.We believe that this holy Christian church is a reality, although it is not an external, visible organization. Because “man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7), only the Lord knows “those who are his” (2 Timothy 2:19). The members of the holy Christian church are known only to God; we cannot distinguish between true believers and hypocrites. The holy Christian church is therefore invisible and cannot be identified with any one church body or with the total membership of all church bodies.

    3.We believe that the presence of the holy Christian church nevertheless can be recognized. Wherever the gospel is preached and the sacraments are administered, the holy Christian church is present, for through the means of grace true faith is produced and preserved (Isaiah 55:10,11). The means of grace, therefore, are called the marks of the church.

    4.We believe that it is the Lord’s will that Christians meet regularly to build one another up by using the means of grace together (Hebrews 10:24,25) and to work for the spread of the gospel into all the world (Mark 16:15). Since these visible gatherings (for example, congregations and synods) use the means of grace, they are called churches. They bear this name, however, only because of the true believers present in them (1 Corinthians 1:2).

    5.We believe that God directs believers to acknowledge oneness in faith with Christians whose confession of faith submits to all the teachings of Scripture (John 8:31; 1 Thessalonians 5:21,22). We believe, furthermore, that individuals through their membership in a church body commit themselves to the doctrine and practice of that church. To assert that unity exists where there is no agreement in confession is to presume to look into people’s hearts. Only God can look into people’s hearts. It is not necessary that all Christians agree on matters of church ritual or organization. About these the New Testament gives no commands (Romans 14:17).

    6.We believe that those whose confession of faith reveals that they are united in the doctrines of Scripture will express their fellowship in Christ as occasion permits (Ephesians 4:3). They may express their fellowship by joint worship, by joint proclamation of the gospel, by joining in Holy Communion, by joint prayer, and by joint church work. God directs believers not to practice religious fellowship with those whose confession and actions reveal that they teach, tolerate, support, or defend error (2 John 10,11). When error appears in the church, Christians will try to preserve their fellowship by patiently admonishing the offenders, in the hope that they will turn from their error (2 Timothy 2:25,26; Titus 3:10). But the Lord commands believers not to practice church fellowship with people who persist in teaching or adhering to beliefs that are false (Romans 16:17,18).

    7.We believe that every Christian is a priest before God (1 Peter 2:9). All believers have direct and equal access to the throne of grace through Christ, the mediator (Ephesians 2:17,18). God has given the means of grace to all believers. All Christians are to declare the praises of him who called them out of darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9). In this sense all Christians are ministers, or servants, of the gospel. God wants all Christians to share the message of salvation with other people (Matthew 28:19,20; 10:32).

    8.We believe that God has also established the public ministry of the Word (Ephesians 4:11), and it is the will of God that the church, in accordance with good order (1 Corinthians 14:40), call qualified individuals into this public ministry (1 Timothy 3:1-10; 1 Corinthians 9:14). Such individuals minister publicly, that is, not because as individuals they possess the universal priesthood but because they are asked to do this in the name of fellow Christians (Romans 10:15). These individuals are the called servants of Christ and ministers of the gospel. They are not to be lords over God’s church (1 Peter 5:3). We believe that when the church calls individuals into this public ministry, the Lord himself is acting through the church (Acts 20:28). We believe that the church has the freedom to establish various forms within the one ministry of the Word, such as pastors, Christian teachers, and staff ministers. Through its call, the church in Christian liberty designates the place and scope of service.

    9.We believe that the church’s mission is to serve people with the Word and sacraments. This service is usually done in local congregations. We look upon the pastoral office as the most comprehensive form of the public ministry of the Word. Pastors are trained and called to provide such comprehensive spiritual oversight for the gathering and nurturing of souls in congregations (1 Peter 5:2).

    10.We believe that women may participate in offices and activities of the public ministry except where that work involves authority over men (1 Timothy 2:11,12). This means that women may not serve as pastors nor participate in assemblies of the church in ways that exercise authority over men (1 Corinthians 11:3; 14:33-35).

    11.We reject any attempt to identify the holy Christian church with an outward organization. We reject any claim that the church must function in the world through specific organizational forms.

    12.We reject as false ecumenicity any views that look for the true unity of the church in some form of external or organizational union, and we oppose all movements toward such union made at the expense of a clear confession of all the teachings of Scripture. We reject the contention that religious fellowship may be practiced without agreement in doctrine and practice. There must be agreement in the confession of scriptural doctrines, and also one’s actions or practice must show that error is not tolerated.

    13.We reject participation or membership in organizations that have religious features in conflict with the Christian faith, such as most lodges.

    This is what Scripture teaches about church and ministry. This we believe, teach, and confess. 

  • 1.We believe that not only the church but also the state, that is, all governmental authority, has been instituted by God. “The authorities that exist have been established by God” (Romans 13:1). Christians will, therefore, for conscience’ sake obey the government that rules over them (Romans 13:5) unless that government commands them to disobey God (Acts 5:29).

    2.We believe that God has given the church and the state their own distinct responsibilities. To the church the Lord has assigned the responsibility of calling sinners to repentance, of proclaiming forgiveness through the cross of Christ, and of encouraging believers in their Christian living. The purpose is to lead the elect of God to eternal salvation through faith in Christ. To the state the Lord has assigned the duty of keeping good order and peace, of punishing the wrongdoer, and of arranging all civil matters in society (Romans 13:3,4). The purpose is “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:2).

    3.We believe that the only means God has given to the church to carry out its assigned purpose are the Word and sacraments (Matthew 28:19,20). People are converted by the Holy Spirit only through the message of law and gospel, sin and grace, the wrath of God against sin and the mercy of God in Christ. We believe that the means given to the state to fulfill its assignment is civil law with its punishments and rewards, set up and used according to the light of reason (Romans 13:4). The light of reason includes the natural knowledge of God, the natural knowledge of the law, and conscience.

    4.We believe the proper relation is preserved between the church and the state only when each remains within its divinely assigned sphere and uses its divinely entrusted means. The church should not exercise civil authority nor interfere with the state as the state carries out its responsibilities. The state should not become a messenger of the gospel nor interfere with the church in its preaching mission. The church should not attempt to use the civil law and force to lead people to Christ. The state should not seek to govern by means of the gospel. On the other hand, the church and the state may cooperate in an endeavor as long as each remains within its assigned place and uses its entrusted means.

    5.We believe that Christians are citizens of both realms and serve God by faithfully fulfilling their duties in both (Romans 13:6,7).

    6.We reject any attempt by the state to restrict the free exercise of religion. 7.We reject any views that look to the church to guide and influence the state

    directly in the conduct of its affairs.

    8.We reject any attempt on the part of the church to seek the financial assistance of the state in carrying out its saving purpose.

    9.We reject any views that hold that citizens are free to disobey such laws of the state with which they disagree on the basis of personal judgment.

    This is what Scripture teaches about church and state. This we believe, teach, and confess. 

  • 1.We believe that Jesus, true God and true man, who rose from death and ascended to the right hand of the Father, will come again. He will return visibly, in the same way as his disciples saw him go into heaven (Acts 1:11).

    2.We believe that no one can know the exact time of Jesus’ return. This knowledge is hidden even from the angels in heaven (Matthew 24:36). Nevertheless, our Lord has given signs to his believers to keep them in constant expectation of his return (Matthew 24:4-14). He has told them to be alert and to watch so that day will not come upon them unexpectedly (Luke 21:34).

    3.We believe that at Jesus’ return this present world will come to an end. “In keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13).

    4.We believe that when Jesus returns and his voice is heard throughout the earth, all the dead will rise, that is, their souls will be reunited with their bodies (John 5:28,29). Together with those still living, the resurrected will appear before his throne of judgment. The unbelievers will be condemned to an eternity in hell. Those who by faith have been cleansed in the blood of Christ will be glorified and will live with Jesus forever in the blessed presence of God in heaven (Philippians 3:21).

    5.We reject the teaching that Christ will reign on earth for a thousand years in a physical, earthly kingdom. This teaching (millennialism) has no valid scriptural basis and falsely leads Christians to set their hopes upon an earthly kingdom of Christ (John 18:36). We reject as unscriptural any claim that Christians will be physically removed, or “raptured,” from the earth prior to judgment day. We likewise reject as unscriptural any claim that all the Jews will be converted in the final days.

    6.We reject the teaching that Christians should look for one individual to arise in the end times as the great Antichrist. The characteristics of the Antichrist as presented in Scripture have been and are being fulfilled in the institution of the papacy (2 Thessalonians 2:4-10). We reject the opinion that the identification of the papacy with the Antichrist was merely a historical judgment valid only at the time of the Reformation.

    7.We reject any denial of a bodily resurrection and of the reality and eternity of hell. We reject the teaching that the souls of people who have died return to earth in other bodies (reincarnation) (Hebrews 9:27).

    8.We reject all attempts to interpret the New Testament descriptions of Jesus’ second coming, of the end of the world, and of the judgment as mere figures of speech for events that take place not at the end of time but within the ongoing history of the world.

    This is what Scripture teaches about Jesus’ return and the judgment. This we believe, teach and confess. 

  The Book of Concord

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The Unaltered Book of Concord of 1580

  Historical Introduction to the Book of Concord

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