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What Is a ‘Confessional’ Lutheran?

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing,
but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.” 

(Matthew 7:15)

“Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you
will save both yourself and those who hear you.” 

 (1 Timothy 4:16)

Jesus emphasized doctrine in His ministry. He went from city to city teaching about the coming of the Kingdom of God, preaching repentance and the forgiveness of sins. Jesus was very adamant about corrupt and false teachings that were being disseminated among the people. “He taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes” (Matthew 7:29). He possessed the authority of God, for Jesus was and is the Word made flesh. His Word is true, and only by continuing in His Word shall we be set free from sin, death, and the devil (John 8:31-32).

Jesus’ warning concerning the dangers of false teachers and corrupt doctrine should not be taken lightly. It is a deadly serious matter for our souls. Too many Christians dismiss His warning for themselves, thinking they are astute enough or wise enough to avoid the pitfalls of false teaching.

What is the result of this cavalier attitude toward doctrine? The world’s perception of what a Lutheran believes would horrify Martin Luther. One of the standards of the Lutheran Reformation is that Scripture alone is to be the authority for faith and life. Scripture alone is to determine the teaching of the church— whether spoken from the pulpit, taught in the classroom, or lived on the street.

This was Luther’s position as he stood against the reason of men, the authority of Rome, or the power of princes. It became necessary for the early leaders of the Reformation to state clearly what they believed and why they believed it—because it was clearly taught by Holy Scripture. When others taught something different, or when others distorted the teaching of the Lutheran Church for their own gain, the early leaders of the church, including the princes, clearly stated what they believed and what they rejected.

Apologetics is a fancy word for pointing out unscriptural positions, and then presenting the truth of Scripture. Many today are uncomfortable with the idea of pointing out doctrinal errors;
it is not considered polite or socially and politically correct.

Diversity is highly praised in our country, and rightly so when it comes to cultural and ethnic diversity.

However, the standard for theology, for doctrine, and for truth has been set by the Lord—and it is the Word of God! Teachings at variance with God’s Word undermine the truth of the cross. The most precious thing that we can hand down to our children is faith-life founded on the Word.

Many people suggest that a church which cares about purity of doctrine is dead, boring, and irrelevant. Nothing could be further from the truth! Jesus declared that the faithful teaching of the truth of Holy Scripture makes one truly free—free from the judgment of the law, free from slavery to sin, free from death and hell.

Because of this key element of Reformation Lutheranism, we are careful to describe ourselves as “confessional” Lutherans. We are not just “fundamental” (meaning that we regard only some doctrines as important to defend), and we are not simply “conservative” (for that allows some variance of opinion). Rather, we are “confessional,” meaning that we regard the entire Bible and every word in it as God’s Word.

As the fathers of the Reformation stood firmly upon the Word and would not be swayed by the opinions or pressures of the world, may we also study the Word and pray to remain steadfast to its truth in these last days.

“…We should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ” (Ephesians 4:14-15).

Lord, help us ever to retain
The Catechism’s doctrine plain
As Luther taught the Word of truth
In simple style to tender youth.
(WS2000 #775:3).