Upon the death of the Reformer, Dr. Martin Luther, differences arose within the Lutheran Church—a name assigned to those who held the doctrines he had taught from Scripture.
Consequently in 1577, the Formula of Concord, the defining confession of the Lutheran faith and teaching, was written as an effort to settle disputes that had arisen. Thousands of Lutheran pastors subscribed to the Formula. In the introduction to the symbolical books in the Concordia Triglotta we read, “Accordingly Lutherans, the natural advocates of a truly wholesome and God-pleasing union based on unity in divine truth, will not only themselves hold fast what they possess in their glorious Confession, but strive to impart its blessings also to others, all the while praying incessantly, fervently, and trustingly with the pious framers of the Formula: ‘May Almighty God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ grant the
grace of His Holy Ghost that we all may be one in Him, and constantly abide in this Christian unity, which is well pleasing to Him! Amen’” (F. Bente, Historical Introduction, p. 256).
Nevertheless, over the centuries divisions arose within Lutheranism. While we hesitate to call them minor differences—because no departure from God’s Word is minor!—in the context of the chasm that divides Reformation Lutherans today from Lutherans in name only, past differences may by some be described as minor.
What Lutherans teach today is not easy to describe since many church bodies within Lutheranism have to a great extent forsaken the Scriptures and the confessions of Reformation Lutheranism. Today we are in an era best described by Bente in these words: “Wherever and whenever, in the course of time, the Formula of Concord was ignored, despised, or rejected, the Lutheran Church fell an
easy prey to unionism and sectarianism…” (ibid, p. 254).
We will not mince words. Any Lutheran Church which claims the name Lutheran while teaching and promoting a cafeteria “pick and choose” theology—as well as claiming to hold to the Lutheran Confessions while denying the Scripture doctrines set forth therein—is lying and is hypocritical! Such churches are free to believe what they want and to twist the Scriptures as they want—God will judge them—but they are not truly Lutheran!
Questions need to be asked:
Do we know what we believe and what it means to be genuinely Lutheran?
Will we call a spade a spade when we see the doctrine of Christ, our faith, and the Lutheran name abused?
Martin Luther resisted papal
tyranny and suffered as a consequence, yet the gracious
Lord preserved him steadfast in faith and delivered him to his heavenly home.
We are living in an age in which—if we care for the cardinal doctrine of salvation, justification by grace though faith in Jesus Christ alone, for that is what is at stake—we must stand up without fear against the enemies of our souls including those who may
arise from among our own selves (Acts 20:30).
Luther said, “Our church will not be endangered as greatly by the oppressive measures of tyrants as by the indifference
of our own people” (What Luther Says,
Vol. II, p. 870).
We are being confronted in our day with tyrants in the government and in society. But our greatest enemies are those who, bearing the Lutheran name, have forsaken the genuine Lutheran faith and deceived many.
May the gracious God give us faith to love the truth, and strength to confess it! Amen.
(To Be Continued)