A Brief History of Lutheranism

Ever since they were first called Lutherans (and before), the Lutheran church has been a confessional church. This means that Lutherans confess before the world what they believe about their Savior.

On October 31st, 1517, Luther confessed against the sale of indulgences. The people of electoral Saxony, where Luther taught at a university in Wittenberg, believed that by purchasing a certificate from a papal representative that they could be guaranteed eternal life. Luther wanted the people to repent of their sins and believe the Gospel rather than trust in the pope for salvation. This brought Luther into direct conflict with the institutional church of his day. Because of this, Luther and those who with him desired to reform the church found themselves in a constant state of confession against the errors of the Roman church.

This culminated in the presentation of the Augsburg Confession to Emperor Charles V on June 25, 1530. When the emperor ordered the princes who were assembled to quit teaching the Gospel, one of them, George, Margrave of Brandenburg, bared his neck and said that the emperor could take his life but that he would not give up the Gospel. In shock the emperor replied in broken German, "No chop off head, sweet prince. No chop off head."

Eventually, in 1580, the Lutheran Church's confessions were gathered in one book called Concordia or The Book of Concord. All pastors in the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod are required to unconditionally subscribe to The Book of Concord because it is a correct exposition of the teaching of the Word of God. This allows a Lutheran congregation to be sure that what their pastor teaches them will be in accord with the Scriptures.