About Our Church

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Who We Are

Our Team & Leadership

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Our Pastor: Richard Kanzenbach

Our Pastor: Richard Kanzenbach


More to come

Casey Aichele


Conrad Aichele


Our Mission & Vision

The Church of the Lutheran Confession

(CLC) considers itself to be the true spiritual descendant of the Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference, which was formed in 1872 and lasted until the early 1960s. As that association of formerly conservative Lutheran church bodies in North America was drawing its last breath, the CLC was just becoming a church body.

The CLC emerged from three of the former member churches of the Synodical Conference: primarily from the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), but also from the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS), and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS). The Synodical Conference had originally been formed on the basis of full
agreement in doctrine and practice on the part of the member churches; it broke apart when that basis and the biblical doctrine of church fellowship on which it rested was no longer fully practiced by the member churches.

Members of the CLC are eager to testify to the truths that had been held by the Synodical Conference in the days when it had been faithful to the doctrines of Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, as found in the Book of Concord of 1580; thus the name that was chosen: Church of the Lutheran Confession.

This desire is also attested by the CLC’s adopting the Brief Statement of 1932 as one of the confessional writings cited in its constitution. Thus the CLC confesses: “In our teaching and preaching we rely wholly upon the Bible, the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. We regard this Book of Books as the Word of God, verbally inspired and wholly without error as written by holy men of God. We consider our mission to be that of communicating the words and message of this Book to those who will hear them; and we know of no other divine source of true doctrine and instruction in the way of salvation and in God-pleasing living.”

Further: “We therefore reject as sacrilegious and destructive every effort by which the intellect or science of man would modify or set aside a single inspired word. We deplore the wide-spread apostasy…which reduces the Bible to the status of a human document containing errors and myths.”

In the above-mentioned doctrine of the Scriptures the CLC differs widely from the most liberal branches of general Lutheranism, namely those Lutheran churches found in European nations and, in the United States, that Lutheran church body identifying itself, since 1988, as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The ELCA is admittedly not agreed in doctrine among the church bodies which formed it through merger. Even its most conservative wing would not accept the high view of the Scriptures as verbally inspired and wholly without error, which is unashamedly taught in the CLC.

As the ELCA is the most liberal of the Lutheran church bodies in the United States, so the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) may be regarded as the moderate, more middle-of-the-road, wing of American Lutheranism. It does not as yet go so far, for example, as the ELCA in permitting women to serve as parish pastors (although
a poll of LCMS pastors reported that more than 1,000 of them had no objection to women clergy), yet it has changed its former position (as held by earlier leaders C.F.W. Walther and F. Pieper) and now permits women to vote and hold office in the church. This is one illustration of the present-day attitude of the LCMS toward the inviolability of Scripture. The LCMS espouses the notion that the words of St. Paul regarding women in the church were culturally-affected and are no longer applicable in today’s society. The CLC, on the other hand, holds that St. Paul, writing words which were verbally inspired and inerrant, was expressing the eternal will of God.

Another illustration of this difference can be seen in the doctrine of the Church, particularly in reference to church fellowship. Because we of the CLC deplore any attempt to modify or set aside a single inspired word of Scripture, we also wish to be obedient to those words of God which instruct regarding the Church and the practice of fellowship. We firmly believe that the Church consists of all who, by God’s mercy and according to His own purpose and grace, were from eternity ordained unto eternal life, and that the factor uniting the Church is “the one true faith.” Faith cannot be seen by human eyes, and therefore the very existence of the Church is an article of faith. Since the word of God promises it, we believe that where the gospel in word and sacrament is in use there true believers are present.


In the exercise of fellowship in worship (praying together) and joint church work, we cannot recognize our brethren by the faith in their hearts, which is not visible to us. Instead, by the grace of God and in accordance with His instruction, we are permitted to exercise fellowship only with those who in their confession and life bow to the rule of the divine word of God. Because Christ Himself urged: “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you”; and because the Holy Spirit inspired St. Paul to write: “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” – we know in faith that it is the divine will that Christians are to be perfectly united in doctrine and practice, and that they are not to be indifferent in this matter (perhaps “agreeing to disagree agreeably”) but are to seek agreement on the basis of God’s word. Where there is such unity in doctrine and practice there is to be the practice of fellowship in all its phases; where there is not such unity, God’s word in Romans 16:17 sets forth the God-pleasing refusal of the practice of fellowship: “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark (keep on taking note of) them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.”

The CLC, accordingly, upholds the following in the Brief Statement of 1932: “Since God ordained that His Word only, without the admixture of human doctrine, be taught and believed in the Christian Church (1 Pet. 4:11; John 8:31,32; 1 Tim. 6:3,4) all Christians are required by God to discriminate between orthodox and heterodox church-bodies, and, in case they have strayed into heterodox church-bodies, to leave them (Rom. 16:17). We repudiate unionism, that is, church-fellowship with adherents of false doctrine, as disobedience to God’s command, as causing divisions in the Church (Rom. 16:17; 2 John 9,10), and as involving the constant danger of losing the Word of God entirely (2 Tim. 2:17-21). … The orthodox character of a church is established not by its mere name nor by its outward acceptance and subscription to, an orthodox creed, but by the doctrine which is actually taught in its pulpits, in its theological seminaries, and in its publications.”

In place of the above, which was once held by the LCMS, that church body now practices what they term “levels of fellowship,” according to which fellowship may be practiced among Christians of varying confessions under certain curcumstances: such as open communion, ecumenical services and the like.

The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) and the Evangelical

Lutheran Synod (ELS) are in fellowship with each other, though not completely agreed on the involvement of admonition in the process of terminating fellowship on their part with a church body which has “become infected with error.” Both bodies, however, do maintain that it is necessary to make the judgment (“come to the conviction”)
that “admonition is of no further avail” before termination of fellowship can take place. The CLC, on the other hand, holds that such a subjective judgment regarding the further results of admonition is not only impossible, because only God can read human hearts, but also unnecessary; for Rom. 16:17 says only that when it has been ascertained that an individual or a church body is causing divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine of Holy Scripture, the directive to avoid is as binding as any word addressed to us by our Savior God in Holy Scripture. The apostle’s premptory “avoid!” is the voice of the Good Shepherd Himself, as He lovingly protects His sheep and lambs from the deception of error and as He graciously gives warning to the false teacher. … We reject any interpretation of Rom. 16:17-18 which, in the name of
Christian love, would make the avoiding of causers of divisions and offenses contingent upon the subjective judgment that admonition is of no further avail and that an impasse has been reached.

It might be felt that the CLC exists merely to testify against the errors of others. The truth is that the CLC is, in fact, for something very precious, namely the full
and complete revelation of God’s word to the world of sinners, among whom we include ourselves. Surely, then, the CLC is an evangelical church, in the full sense of the term; our most important mission is to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news that God has redeemed the whole world and has declared it righteous through the death and bodily resurrection of the God-Man, Jesus Christ; and that believers in Him will inherit everlasting life in heaven.

As part of its mission, the CLC is deeply interested and involved in Christian education. Christian day schools, taught by professionally trained teachers, are operated by
more than one-fourth of its congregations. The CLC also educates young people for leadership as dedicated lay members, Christian day-school teachers, or pastors, at its Immanuel Lutheran College in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. The college has three departments: high school, liberal arts college, and theological seminary. There are four-year programs leading to a bachelor’s degree in elementary education or pre-theological studies, and a two-year general studies program granting an associate degree.

Member congregations of the CLC are located in 23 states and Canada, and the church body presently supports missions in 18 U.S. cities. While not in fellowship with any other U.S. Lutheran body, the CLC has fellowship with three overseas church bodies it is helping to support in India and Nigeria.

The CLC has three official publications:

Ministry by Mail, Lutheran Spokesman, and Journal of Theology.

Of Holy Scriptures

We teach that the Holy Scriptures differ from all other books in the world in that they are the Word of God. They are the Word of God because the holy men of God who wrote the Scriptures wrote only that which the Holy Ghost communicated to them by inspiration, 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21. We teach also that the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures is not a so-called theological deduction, but that it is taught by direct statements of the Scriptures, 2 Tim. 3:16, John 10:35, Rom. 3:2; 1 Cor. 2:13. Since the Holy Scriptures are the Word of God, it goes without saying that they contain no errors or contradictions, but that they are in all their parts and words the infallible truth, also in those parts which treat of historical, geographical, and other secular matters, John 10:35.

We furthermore teach regarding the Holy Scriptures that they are given by God to the Christian Church for the foundation of faith, Eph. 2:20. Hence the Holy Scriptures are the sole source from which all doctrines proclaimed in the Christian Church must be taken and therefore, too, the sole rule and norm by which all teachers and doctrines must be examined and judged. — With the Confessions of our Church we teach also that the rule of faith (analogia fidei) according to which the Holy Scriptures are to be understood are the clear passages of the Scriptures themselves which set forth the individual doctrines. (Apology. Triglot, p. 441, Paragraph 60; Mueller, p. 684). The rule of faith is not the man-made so-called totality of Scripture (Ganzes der Schrift).

We reject the doctrine which under the name of science has gained wide popularity in the Church of our day that Holy Scripture is not in all its parts the Word of God, but in part the Word of God and in part the word of man and hence does, or at least, might contain error. We reject this erroneous doctrine as horrible and blasphemous, since it flatly contradicts Christ and His holy apostles, sets up men as judges over the Word of God, and thus overthrows the foundation of the Christian Church and its faith.

Of God

On the basis of the Holy Scriptures we teach the sublime article of the Holy Trinity; that is, we teach that the one true God, Deut. 6:4; 1 Cor. 8:4, is the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, three distinct persons, but of one and the same divine essence, equal in power, equal in eternity, equal in majesty, because each person possesses the one divine essence entire, Col. 2:9, Matt. 28:19. We hold that all teachers and communions that deny the doctrine of the Holy Trinity are outside the pale of the Christian Church. The Triune God is the God who is gracious to man, John 3:16-18, 1 Cor. 12:3. Since the Fall, no man can believe in the fatherhood of God except he believe in the eternal Son of God, who became man and reconciled us to God by His vicarious satisfaction, 1 John 2:23; John 14:6. Hence we warn against Unitarianism, which in our country has to a great extent impenetrated the sects and is being spread particularly also through the influence of the lodges.

Of Creation

We teach that God has created heaven and earth, and that in the manner and in the space of time recorded in the Holy Scriptures, especially Gen. 1 and 2, namely, by His almighty creative word, and in six days. We reject every doctrine which denies or limits the work of creation as taught in Scripture. In our days it is denied or limited by those who assert, ostensibly in deference to science, that the world came into existence through a process of evolution; that is, that it has, in immense periods of time, developed more or less of itself. Since no man was present when it pleased God to create the world, we must look for a reliable account of creation to God’s own record, found in God’s own book, the Bible. We accept God’s own record with full confidence and confess with Luther’s Catechism: I believe that God has made me and all creatures.

Of Man and Sin

We teach that the first man was not brutelike nor merely capable of intellectual development, but that God created man in His own image, Gen. 1:26, 27; Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10, that is, in true knowledge of God and in true righteousness and holiness and endowed with a truly scientific knowledge of nature, Gen. 2:19-23.

We furthermore teach that sin came into the world by the fall of the first man, as described [sic] Gen. 3. By this Fall not only he himself, but also his natural offspring have lost the original knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, and thus all men are sinners already by birth, dead in sins, inclined to all evil, and subject to the wrath of God, Rom. 5:12, 18; Eph. 2:1-3. We teach also that men are unable, through any efforts of their own or by the aid of culture and science, to reconcile themselves to God and thus conquer death and damnation.

Of Redemption

We teach that in the fulness of time the eternal Son of God was made man by assuming, from the Virgin Mary through the operation of the Holy Ghost, a human nature like unto ours, yet without sin, and receiving it unto His divine person. Jesus Christ is therefore true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, true God and true man in one undivided and indivisible person. The purpose of this miraculous incarnation of the Son of God was that He might become the Mediator between God and men, both fulfilling the divine Law and suffering and dying in the place of mankind. In this manner God reconciled the whole sinful world unto Himself, Gal. 4:4-5; 3:13; 2 Cor. 5:18-19.

Of Faith in Christ

Since God has reconciled the whole world unto Himself through the vicarious life and death of His Son and has commanded that the reconciliation effected by Christ be proclaimed to men in the Gospel, to the end that they may believe it, 2 Cor. 5:18-19; Rom. 1:5, therefore faith in Christ is the only way for men to obtain personal reconciliation with God, that is, forgiveness of sins, as both the Old and the New Testament Scriptures testify, Acts 10:43; John 3:16-18, 3:36. By this faith in Christ, through which men obtain the forgiveness of sins, is not meant any human effort to fulfill the Law of God after the example of Christ, but faith in the Gospel, that is, in the forgiveness of sins, or justification, which was fully earned for us by Christ and is offered by the Gospel. This faith justifies, not inasmuch as it is a work of man, but inasmuch as it lays hold of the grace offered, the forgiveness of sins, Rom. 4:16.

Of Conversion

We teach that conversion consists in this, that a man, having learned from the Law of God that he is a lost and condemned sinner, is brought to faith in the Gospel, which offers him forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation for the sake of Christ’s vicarious satisfaction, Acts 11:21; Luke 24:46, 47; Acts 26:18.

All men, since the Fall, are dead in sins, Eph. 2:1-3, and inclined only to evil, Gen. 6:5; 8:21; Rom. 8:7. For this reason, and particularly because men regard the Gospel of Christ, crucified for the sins of the world, as foolishness, 1 Cor. 2:14, faith in the Gospel, or conversion to God, is neither wholly nor in the least part the work of man, but the work of God’s grace and almighty power alone, Phil. 1:29; Eph. 2:8; 1:19; — Jer. 31:18. Hence Scripture call the faith of men, or his conversion, a raising from the dead, Eph. 1:20; Col. 2:12, a being born of God, John 1:12, 13, a new birth by the Gospel, 1 Pet. 1:23-25, a work of God like the creation of light at the creation of the world, 2 Cor. 4:6.

On the basis of these clear statements of the Holy Scriptures we reject every kind of synergism, that is, the doctrine that conversion is wrought not by the grace and power of God alone, but in part also by the co-operation of man himself, by man’s right conduct, his right attitude, his right self-determination, his lesser guilt or less evil conduct as compared with others, his refraining from willful resistance, or anything else whereby man’s conversion and salvation is taken out of the gracious hands of God and made to depend on what man does or leaves undone. For this refraining from willful resistance or from any kind of resistance is also solely a work of grace, which changes unwilling into willing men, Ezek. 36:26; Phil. 2:13. We reject also the doctrine that man is able to decide for conversion through powers imparted by grace, since this doctrine presupposes that before conversion man still possesses spiritual powers by which he can make the right use of such powers imparted by grace.

On the other hand, we reject also the Calvinistic perversion of the doctrine of conversion, that is, the doctrine that God does not desire to convert and save all hearers of the Word, but only a portion of them. Many hearers of the Word indeed remain unconverted and are not saved, not because God does not earnestly desire their conversion and salvation, but solely because they stubbornly resist the gracious operation of the Holy Ghost, as Scripture teaches, Acts 7:51; Matt. 23:37; Acts 13:46. As to the question why not all men are converted and saved, seeing that God’s grace is universal and all men are equally and utterly corrupt, we confess that we cannot answer it. From Scripture we know only this: A man owes his conversion and salvation, not to any lesser guilt or better conduct on his part, but solely to the grace of God. But any man’s non-conversion is due to himself alone; it is the result of his obstinate resistance against the converting operation of the Holy Ghost. Hos. 13:9.

Our refusal to go beyond what is revealed in these two Scriptural truths is not masked Calvinism (Crypto-Calvinism) but precisely the Scriptural teaching of the Lutheran Church as it is presented in detail in the Formula of Concord (Triglot, p. 1081, paragraphs 57-59, 60b, 62, 63; M. p. 716f.): That one is hardened, blinded, given over to a reprobate mind, while another, who is indeed in the same guilt, is converted again, etc. — in these and similar questions Paul fixes a certain limit to us how far we should go, namely, that in the one part we should recognize God’s judgment. For they are well-deserved penalties of sins when God so punished a land or nation for despising His Word that the punishment extends also to their posterity, as is to be seen in the Jews. And thereby God in some lands and persons exhibits His severity to those that are His in order to indicate what we all would have well deserved and would be worthy and worth, since we act wickedly in opposition to God’s Word and often grieve the Holy Ghost sorely; in order that we may live in the fear of God and acknowledge and praise God’s goodness, to the exclusion of, and contrary to, our merit in and with us, to whom He gives His Word and with whom He leaves it and whom He does not harden and reject…And this His righteous, well-deserved judgment He displays in some countries, nations and persons in order that, when we are placed alongside of them and compared with them (quam simillimi illis deprehensi, i.e., and found to be most similar to them), we may learn the more diligently to recognize and praise God’s pure, unmerited grace in the vessels of mercy…When we proceed thus far in this article, we remain on the right way, as it is written, Hos. 13:9: ‘O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in Me is thy help.’ However, as regards these things in this disputation which would soar too high and beyond these limits, we should with Paul place the finger upon our lips and remember and say, Rom. 9:20: ‘O man, who art thou that repliest against God?’ The Formula of Concord describes the mystery which confronts us here not as a mystery in man’s heart (a psychological mystery), but teaches that, when we try to understand why one is hardened, blinded, given over to a reprobate mind, while another, who is indeed in the same guilt, is converted again, we enter the domain of the unsearchable judgments of God and ways past finding out, which are not revealed to us in His Word, but which we shall know in eternal life. 1 Cor. 13:12.

Calvinists solve this mystery, which God has not revealed in His Word, by denying the universality of grace; synergists, by denying that salvation is by grace alone. Both solutions are utterly vicious, since they contradict Scripture and since every poor sinner stands in need of, and must cling to, both the unrestricted universal grace and the unrestricted by grace alone, lest he despair and perish.

Of Justification

Holy Scripture sums up all its teachings regarding the love of God to the world of sinners, regarding the salvation wrought by Christ, and regarding faith in Christ as the only way to obtain salvation, in the article of justification. Scripture teaches that God has already declared the whole world to be righteous in Christ, Rom. 5:19; 2 Cor. 5:18-21; Rom. 4:25; that therefore not for the sake of their good works, but without the works of the Law, by grace, for Christ’s sake, He justifies, accounts as righteous, all those who that is, believe, accept, and rely on, the fact that for Christ’s sake their sins are forgiven. Thus the Holy Ghost testifies through St. Paul: There is no difference; for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, Rom. 3:23, 24. And again: Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the Law, Rom. 3:28.

Through this doctrine alone Christ is given the honor due Him, namely, that through His holy life and innocent suffering and death He is our Savior. And through this doctrine alone can poor sinners have the abiding comfort that God is assuredly gracious to them. We reject as apostasy from the Christian religion all doctrines whereby man’s own works and merit are mingled into the article of justification before God. For the Christian religion is the faith that we have forgiveness of sins and salvation through faith in Christ Jesus, Acts 10:43.

We reject as apostasy from the Christian religion not only the doctrine of the Unitarians, who promise the grace of God to men on the basis of their moral efforts; not only the gross work-doctrine of the papists, who expressly teach that good works are necessary to obtain justification; but also the doctrine of the synergists, who indeed use the terminology of the Christian Church and say that man is justified by faith, by faith alone, but again mix human works into the article of justification by ascribing to man a co-operation with God in the kindling of faith and thus stray into papistic territory.

Of Good Works

Before God only those works are good which are done for the glory of God and the good of man, according to the rule of divine Law. Such works, however, no man performs unless he first believes that God has forgiven him his sins and has given him eternal life by grace, for Christ’s sake, without any works of his own, John 15:4, 5. We reject as a great folly the assertion, frequently made in our day, that works must be placed in the fore, and faith in dogmas — meaning the Gospel of Christ crucified for the sins of the world — must be regulated to the rear. Since good works never precede faith, but are always and in ever instance the result of faith in the Gospel, it is evident that the only means by which we Christians can become rich in good works (and God would have us to be rich in good works, Titus 2:14) is unceasingly to remember the grace of God which we have received in Christ, Rom. 12:1; 2 Cor. 8:9. Hence we reject as unchristian and foolish any attempt to produce good works by the compulsion of the Law or through carnal motives.

Of the Means of Grace

Although God is present and operates everywhere throughout all creation and the whole earth is therefore full of the temporal bounties and blessings of God, Col. 1:17; Acts 17:28; 14:17, still we hold with Scripture that God offers and communicates to men the spiritual blessings purchased by Christ, namely, the forgiveness of sins and the treasures and gifts connected therewith, only through the external means of grace ordained by Him. These means of grace are the Word of the Gospel, in every form in which it is brought to man, and the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and of the Lord’s Supper. The Word of the gospel promises and applies the grace of God, works faith and thus regenerates man, and gives the Holy Ghost, Acts 20:24; Rom. 10:17; 1 Pet. 1:23; Gal. 3:2. Baptism, too, is applied for the remission of sins and is therefore a washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, Acts 2:38; 22:16; Titus 3:5. Likewise the object of the Lord’s Supper, that is, of the ministration of the body and blood of Christ, is none other than the communication and sealing of the forgiveness of sins, as the words declare: Given for you, and: Shed for you for the remission of sins, Luke 22:19-20; Matt. 26:28, and This cup is the New Testament in My blood, 1 Cor. 11:23; Jer. 31:31-34 (New Covenant).

Since it is only through the external means ordained by Him that God has promised to communicate the grace and salvation purchased by Christ, the Christian Church must not remain at home with the means of grace entrusted to it, but go into the whole world with the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments, Matt. 28:19, 20; Mark 16:15, 16. For the same reason also the churches at home should never forget that there is no other way of winning souls for the Church and keeping them with it than the faithful and diligent use of the divinely ordained means of grace. Whatever activities do not either directly apply the Word of God or subserve such application we condemn as new methods, unchurchly activities, which do not build, but harm the Church. We reject as a dangerous error the doctrine, which disrupted the Church of the Reformation, that the grace and the Spirit of God are communicated not through the external means ordained by Him, but by an immediate operation of grace. This erroneous doctrine bases the forgiveness of sins, or justification, upon a fictitious infused grace, that is, upon a quality of man, and thus again establishes the work-doctrine of the papists.

Of the Church

We believe that there is one holy Christian Church on earth, the Head of which is Christ and which is gathered, preserved, and governed by Christ through the Gospel.

The members of the Christian Church are the Christians, that is, all those who have despaired of their own righteousness before God and believe that God forgives their sins for Christ’s sake. The Christian Church, in the proper sense of the term, is composed of believers only, Acts 5:14; 26:18; which means that no person in whom the Holy Ghost has wrought faith in the Gospel, or — which is the same thing — in the doctrine of justification, can be divested of his membership in the Christian Church; and, on the other hand, that no person in whose heart this faith does not dwell can be invested with such membership. All unbelievers, though they be in external communion with the Church and even hold the office of teacher or any other office in the Church, are not members of the Church, but, on the contrary, dwelling-places and instruments of Satan, Eph. 2:2. This is also the teaching of our Lutheran Confessions: It is certain, however, that the wicked are in the power of the devil and members of the kingdom of the devil, as Paul teaches, Eph. 2:2, when he says that ‘the devil now worketh in the children of disobedience,’ etc. (Apology, Triglot, p. 231, Paragraph 16; M., p. 154.)

Since it is by faith in the gospel alone that men become members of the Christian Church, and since this faith cannot be seen by men, but is known to God alone, 1 Kings 8:39; Acts 1:24; 2 Tim. 2:19, therefore the Christian Church on earth is invisible till Judgment Day, Col. 3:3, 4. In our day some Lutherans speak of two sides of the Church, taking the means of grace to be its visible side. It is true, the means of grace are necessarily related to the Church, seeing that the Church is created and preserved through them. But the means of grace are not for that reason a part of the Church; for the Church, in the proper sense of the word, consists only of believers, Eph. 2:19, 20; Acts 5:14. Lest we abet the notion that the Christian Church in the proper sense of the term is an external institution, we shall continue to call the means of grace the marks of the Church. Just as wheat is to be found only where it has been sown, so the Church can be found only where the Word of God is in use.

We teach that this Church, which is the invisible communion of all believers, is to be found not only in those external church communions which teach the Word of God purely in every part, but also where, along with error, so much of the Word of God still remains that men may be brought to the knowledge of their sins and to faith in the forgiveness of sins, which Christ has gained for all men, Mark 16:16; Samaritans: Luke 17:16; John 4:25.

Local Churches or Local Congregations

Holy Scripture, however, does not speak merely of the one Church, which embraces the believers of all places, as in Matt. 16:18; John 10:16, but also of churches in the plural, that is, of local churches, as in 1 Cor. 16:19; 1:2; Acts 8:1: the Churches of Asia, the church of God in Corinth, the church in Jerusalem. But this does not mean that there are two kinds of churches, for the local churches also, in as far as they are churches, consist solely of believers, as we see clearly from the addresses of the epistles to local churches; for example, unto the church which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified, in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, 1 Cor. 1:2, Rom. 1:7, etc. The visible society, containing hypocrites as well as believers, is called a church only in a improper sense, Matt. 13:47-50, 24-30, 38-43.

On Church-Fellowship

Since God ordained that His Word only, without the admixture of human doctrine, be taught and believed in the Christian Church, 1 Pet. 4:11; John 8:31, 32; 1 Tim. 6:3, 4, all Christians are required by God to discriminate between orthodox and heterodox church-bodies, Matt. 7:15, to have church-fellowship only with orthodox church-bodies, and, in case they have strayed into heterodox church-bodies, to leave them, Rom. 16:17. We repudiate unionism, that is, church-fellowship with the adherents of false doctrine, as disobedience to God’s command, as causing divisions in the Church, Rom. 16:17; 2 John 9, 10, and involving the constant danger of losing the Word of God entirely, 2 Tim. 2:17-21.

The orthodox character of a church is established not by its mere name nor by its outward acceptance of, and subscription to, an orthodox creed, but by the doctrine which is actually taught in its pulpits, in its theological seminaries, and in its publications. On the other hand, a church does not forfeit its orthodox character through the casual intrusion of errors, provided these are combated and eventually removed by means of doctrinal discipline, Acts 20:30; 1 Tim. 1:3.

The Original and True Possessors of All Christian Rights and Privileges

Since the Christians are the Church, it is self-evident that they alone originally possess the spiritual gifts and rights which Christ has gained for, and given to, His Church. Thus St. Paul reminds all believers: All things are yours, 1 Cor. 3:21, 22, and Christ Himself commits to all believers the keys of the kingdom of heaven, Matt. 16:13-19, Matt. 18:17-20, John 20:22, 23, and commissions all believers to preach the Gospel and to administer the Sacraments, Matt. 28:19, 20; 1 Cor. 11:23-25. Accordingly, we reject all doctrines by which this spiritual power or any part thereof is adjudged as originally vested in certain individuals or bodies, such as the Pope, or the bishops, or the order of the ministry, or the secular lords, or councils, or synods, etc. The officers of the Church publicly administer their offices only by virtue of delegated powers, and such administration remains under the supervision of the latter, Col. 4:17. Naturally all Christians have also the right and the duty to judge and decide matters of doctrine, not according to their own notions, of course, but according to the Word of God, 1 John 4:1; 1 Pet. 4:11.

Of the Public Ministry

By the public ministry we mean the office by which the Word of God is preached and the Sacraments are administered by order and in the name of a Christian congregation. Concerning this office we teach that it is a divine ordinance; that is, the Christians of a certain locality must apply the means of grace not only privately and within the circle of their families nor merely in their common intercourse with fellow-Christians, John 5:39; Eph. 6:4; Col. 3:16, but they are also required, by the divine order, to make provision that the Word of God be publicly preached in their midst, and the Sacraments administered according to the institution of Christ, by persons qualified for such work, whose qualifications and official functions are exactly defined in Scripture, Titus 1:5; Acts 14:23; 20:28; 2 Tim. 2:2.

Although the office of the ministry is a divine ordinance, it possesses no other power than the power of the Word of God, 1 Pet. 4:11; that is to say, it is the duty of Christians to yield unconditional obedience to the office of the ministry whenever, and as long as, the minister proclaims to them the Word of God, Heb. 13:17, Luke 10:16. If, however, the minister, in his teachings and injunctions, were to go beyond the Word of God, it would be the duty of Christians not to obey, but to disobey him, so as to remain faithful to Christ, Matt. 23:8. Accordingly, we reject the false doctrine ascribing to the office of the ministry the right to demand obedience and submission in matters which Christ has not commanded.

Regarding ordination we teach that it is not a divine, but a commendable ecclesiastical ordinance. (Smalcald Articles. Triglot, p. 525, paragraph 70; M., p. 342.)

Of Church and State

Although both Church and State are ordinances of God, yet they must not be commingled. Church and State have entirely different aims. By the Church, God would save men, for which reason the Church is called the mother of believers Gal. 4:26. By the State, God would maintain external order among men, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty, 1 Tim. 2:2. It follows that the means which the Church and State employ to gain their ends are entirely different. The Church may not employ any other means than the preaching of the Word of God, John 18:11, John 36; 2 Cor. 10:4. The State, on the other hand, makes laws bearing on civil matters and is empowered to employ for their execution also the sword and other corporal punishments, Rom. 13:4.

Accordingly we condemn the policy of those who would have the power of the State employed in the interest of the Church and who thus turn the Church into a secular dominion; as also of those who, aiming to govern the State by the Word of God, seek to turn the State into a Church.

Of the Election of Grace

By the election of grace we mean this truth, that all those who by the grace of God alone, for Christ’s sake, through the means of grace, are brought to faith, are justified, sanctified, and preserved in faith here in time, that all these have already from eternity been endowed by God with faith, justification, sanctification, and preservation in faith, and this for the same reason, namely, by grace alone, for Christ’s sake, and by way of the means of grace. That this is the doctrine of the Holy Scripture is evident from Eph. 1:3-7; 2 Thess. 2:13, 14; Acts 13:48; Rom. 8:28-30; 2 Tim. 1:9; Matt. 24:22-24 (cp. Form. of Conc. Triglot, p. 1065, Paragraphs 5, 8, 23; M., p. 705).

Accordingly we reject as an anti-Scriptural error the doctrine that not alone the grace of God and the merit of Christ are the cause of the election of grace, but that God has, in addition, found or regarded something good in us which prompted or caused Him to elect us, this being variously designated as good works, right conduct, proper self-determination, refraining from willful resistance, etc. Nor does Holy Scripture know of an election by foreseen faith, in view of faith, as though the faith of the elect were to be placed before their election; but according to Scripture the faith which the elect have in time belongs to the spiritual blessings with which God has endowed them by His eternal election. For Scripture teaches Acts 13:48: And as many as were ordained unto eternal life believed. Our Lutheran Confession also testifies (Triglot, p. 1065, Paragraph 8; M. p. 705): The eternal election of God however, not only foresees and foreknows the salvation of the elect, but is also, from the gracious will and pleasure of God in Christ Jesus, a cause which procures, works, helps, and promotes our salvation and what pertains thereto; and upon this our salvation is so founded that the gates of hell cannot prevail against it, Matt. 16:18, as is written John 10:28: ‘Neither shall any man pluck My sheep out of My hand’; and again, Acts 13:48: ‘And as many as were ordained to eternal life believed…’

But as earnestly as we maintain that there is an election of grace, or a predestination to salvation, so decidedly do we teach, on the other hand, that there is no election of wrath, or predestination to damnation. Scripture plainly reveals the truth that the love of God for the world of lost sinners is universal, that is, that it embraces all men without exception, that Christ has fully reconciled all men unto God, and that God earnestly desires to bring all men to faith, to preserve them therein, and thus to save them, as Scripture testifies, 1 Tim. 2:4: God will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. No man is lost because God has predestined him to eternal damnation. — Eternal election is a cause why the elect are brought to faith in time, Acts 13:48; but election is not a cause why men remain unbelievers when they hear the Word of God. The reason assigned by Scripture for this sad fact is that these men judge themselves unworthy of everlasting life, putting the Word of God from them and obstinately resisting the Holy Ghost, whose earnest will it is to bring also them to repentance and faith by means of the Word, Acts 13:46; 7:51; Matt. 23:37.

To be sure, it is necessary to observe the Scriptural distinction between the election of grace and the universal will of grace. This universal gracious will of God embraces all men; the election of grace, however, does not embrace all, but only a definite number, whom God hat from the beginning chosen to salvation, 2 Thess. 2:13, the remnant, the seed which the Lord left, Rom. 9:27-29, the election, Rom. 11:7; and while the universal will of grace is frustrated in the case of most men, Matt. 22:14; Luke 7:30, the election of grace attains its end with all whom it embraces, Rom. 8:28-30. Scripture, however, while distinguishing between the universal will of grace and the election of grace, does not place the two in opposition to each other. On the contrary, it teaches that the grace dealing with those who are lost is altogether earnest and fully efficacious for conversion. Blind reason indeed declares these two truths to be contradictory; but we impose silence on our reason. The seeming disharmony will disappear in the light of heaven, 1 Cor. 13:12.

Furthermore, by election of grace, Scripture does not mean that one part of God’s counsel of salvation according to which He will receive into heaven those who persevere in faith unto the end, but, on the contrary, Scripture means this, that God, before the foundation of the world, from pure grace, because of the redemption of Christ, has chosen for His own a definite number of persons out of the corrupt mass and has determined to bring them through Word and Sacrament, to faith and salvation.

Christians can and should be assured of their eternal election. This is evident from the fact that Scripture addresses them as the chosen ones and comforts them with their election, Eph. 1:4; 2 Thess. 2:13. This assurance of one’s personal election, however, springs only from faith in the Gospel, from the assurance that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; on the contrary, through the life, suffering, and death of His Son He fully reconciled the whole world of sinner unto Himself. Faith in this truth leaves no room for the fear that God might still harbor thoughts of wrath and damnation concerning us. Scripture inculcates that in Rom. 8:32, 33: He that spared not His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Luther’s pastoral advice is therefore in accord with Scripture: Gaze upon the wounds of Christ and the blood shed for you; there predestination will shine forth. (St. Louis ed., II, 181; on Gen. 26:9) That the Christian obtains the personal assurance of his eternal election in this way is taught also by our Lutheran Confessions (Formula of Concord, Triglot, p. 1071, Paragraph 26, M. 709): Of this we should not judge according to our reason nor according to the Law or from any external appearance. Neither should we attempt to investigate the secret, concealed abyss of divine predestination, but should give heed to the revealed will of God. For He has made known unto us the mystery of His will and made it manifest through Christ that it might be preached, Eph. 1:9ff.; 2 Tim. 1:9ff. — In order to insure the proper method of viewing eternal election and the Christian’s assurance of it, the Lutheran Confessions set forth at length the principle that election is not to be considered in a bare manner (nude), as though God only held a muster, thus: ‘This one shall be saved, that one shall be damned’ (Formula of Concord, Triglot, p. 1065, Paragraph 9; M., p. 706); but the Scriptures teach this doctrine in no other way than to direct us thereby to the Word, Eph. 1:13; 1 Cor. 1:7; exhort to repentance, 2 Tim. 3:16; urge to godliness, Eph. 1:14; John 15:3; strengthen faith and assure us of our salvation, Eph. 1:13; John 10:27ff.; 2 Thess. 2:13ff. (Formula of Concord, Triglot, p. 1067, Paragraph 12; M., p. 707). — To sum up, just as God in time draws the Christian unto Himself through the Gospel, so He has already in His eternal election endowed them with sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth, 2 Thess. 2:13. Therefore: If, by the grace of God, you believe in the Gospel of the forgiveness of your sins for Christ’s sake, you are to be certain that you also belong to the number of God’s elect, even as Scripture, 2 Thess. 2:13, addresses the believing Thessalonians as the chosen of God and gives thanks to God for their election.<

Of Sunday

We teach that in the New Testament God has abrogated the Sabbath and all the holy days prescribed for the Church of the Old Covenant, so that neither the keeping of the Sabbath nor any other day nor the observance of at least one specific day of the seven days of the week is ordained or commanded by God, Col. 2:16; Rom. 14:5 (Augsburg Confession, Triglot, p. 91, Paragraphs 51-60; M., p. 66).

The observance of Sunday and other church festivals is an ordinance of the Church, made by virtue of Christian liberty. (Augsburg Confession, Triglot, p. 91, Paragraphs 51-53, 60; M., p. 66; Large Catechism, Triglot, p. 603, Paragraphs 83, 85, 89, M., p. 401.) Hence Christians should not regard such ordinances as ordained by God and binding upon the conscience, Col. 2:16; Gal. 4:10. However, for the sake of Christian love and peace they should willingly observe them, Rom. 14:13; 1 Cor. 14:40. (Augsburg Confession, Triglot, p. 91, Paragraphs 53-56; M., p. 67.)

Of the Millennium

With the Augsburg Confession (Art. XVII) we reject every type of millennialism, or Chiliasm, the opinions that Christ will return visibly to this earth a thousand years before the end of the world and establish a dominion of the Church over the world; or that before the end of the world the Church is to enjoy a season of special prosperity; or that before a general resurrection on Judgment Day a number of departed Christians or martyrs are to be raised again to reign in glory in this world; or that before the end of the world a universal conversion of the Jewish nation (of Israel according to the flesh) will take place.

Over against this, Scripture clearly teaches, and we teach accordingly, that the kingdom of Christ on earth will remain under the cross until the end of the world, Acts 14:22; John 16:33; 18:36; Luke 9:23; 14:27; 17:20-37; 2 Tim. 4:18; Heb. 12:28; Luke 18:8; that the second visible coming of the Lord will be His final advent, His coming to judge the quick and the dead, Matt. 24:29, 30; 25:31; 2 Tim. 4:1; 2 Thess. 2:8; Heb. 9:26-28; that there will be but one resurrection of the dead, John 5:28; 6:39, 40; that the time of the Last Day is, and will remain, unknown, Matt. 24:42; 25:13; Mark 13:32-37; Acts 1:7, which would not be the case if the Last Day were to come a thousand years after the beginning of a millennium; and that there will be no general conversion, a conversion en masse, of the Jewish nation, Rom. 11:7; 2 Cor. 3:14; Rom. 11:25; 1 Thess. 2:16.

According to these clear passages of Scripture we reject the whole of Millennialism, since it not only contradicts Scripture, but also engenders a false conception of the kingdom of Christ, turns the hope of Christians upon earthly goals, 1 Cor. 15:19; Col. 3:2, and leads them to look upon the Bible as an obscure book.

Of the Antichrist

As to the Antichrist we teach that the prophecies of the Holy Scriptures concerning the Antichrist, 2 Thess. 2:3-12; 1 John 2:18, have been fulfilled in the Pope of Rome and his dominion. All the features of the Antichrist as drawn in these prophecies, including the most abominable and horrible ones, for example, that the Antichrist as God sitteth in the temple of God, 2 Thess. 2:4; that he anathematizes the very heart of the Gospel of Christ, that is, the doctrine of the forgiveness of sins by grace alone, for Christ’s sake alone, through faith alone, without any merit or worthiness in man (Rom. 3:20-28; Gal. 2:16); that he recognizes only those as members of the Christian Church who bow to his authority; and that, like a deluge, he had inundated the whole Church with his antichristian doctrines till God revealed him through the Reformation — these very features are the outstanding characteristics of the Papacy. (Cf. Smalcald Articles, Triglot, p. 515, Paragraphs 39-41; p. 401, Paragraph 45; M. pp. 336, 258.) Hence we subscribe to the statement of our Confessions that the Pope is the very Antichrist. (Smalcald Articles, Triglot, p. 475, Paragraph 10; M., p. 308.)

Of Open Questions

Those questions in the domain of Christian doctrine may be termed open questions which Scripture answers either not at all or not clearly. Since neither an individual nor the Church as a whole is permitted to develop or augment the Christian doctrine, but are rather ordered and commanded by God to continue in the doctrine of the apostles, 2 Thess. 2:15; Acts 2:42, open questions must remain open questions. — Not to be included in the number of open questions are the following: the doctrine of the Church and the Ministry, of Sunday, of Chiliasm, and of Antichrist, these doctrines being clearly defined in Scripture.

Of the Symbols of the Lutheran Church

We accept as our confession all the symbols contained in the Book of Concord of the year 1580. — The symbols of the Lutheran Church are not a rule of faith beyond, and supplementary to, Scripture, but a confession of the doctrines of Scripture over against those who deny these doctrines.

Since the Christian Church cannot make doctrines, but can and should simply profess the doctrine revealed in Holy Scripture, the doctrinal decisions of the symbols are binding upon the conscience not because they are the outcome of doctrinal controversies, but only because they are the doctrinal decisions of Holy Scripture itself.

Those desiring to be admitted into the public ministry of the Lutheran Church pledge themselves to teach according to the symbols not in so far as, but because, the symbols agree with Scripture. He who is unable to accept as Scriptural the doctrine set forth in the Lutheran symbols and their rejection of the corresponding errors must not be admitted into the ministry of the Lutheran Church.

The confessional obligation covers all doctrines, not only those that are treated ex professo, but also those that are merely introduced in support of other doctrines.

The obligation does not extend to historical questions, purely exegetical questions, and other matters not belonging to the doctrinal content of the symbols. All doctrines of the Symbols are based on clear statements of Scripture.


The 1968 Convention of the Church of the Lutheran Confession asked that a statement be prepared and published that would supply a simple but definitive expression of our faith in the basic doctrines of Scripture.

The Statement of Faith and Purpose was published in 1969. It has served well as a public confession of the Church of the Lutheran Confession, and experience has shown that it has spoken to the hearts of readers in an inspirational rather than dogmatic fashion.

The Statement of Faith and Purpose was written to present what the Bible says and what we believe and teach regarding the issues of the day. While our confessional position remains unchanged, there was an effort in this 4th edition to speak simply and clearly to a world that desperately needs to hear the words of life from Jesus.

Inquiries regarding the Church of the Lutheran Confession or this pamphlet may be directed to:

Church of the Lutheran Confession
501 Grover Road
Eau Claire, WI 54701

Further information can be found online at:


It is our single purpose to be a Christian church that proclaims the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Bible. This Gospel is the only way people can know the true God and the way to eternal life. Our purpose and commitment rest upon the following statements of the Bible:

Matthew 28:18-20: And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

John 17:3: And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

Acts 4:12: Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

We reject the idea of some that the main work of the church is to promote political and social causes. Our right of existence as a church body has been established by our Lord’s commission to “preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). Therefore we are committed to say with the Apostle Paul: “I am determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). As individuals, Christians will show fruits of their faith by concern for social and political issues, letting their light shine before others to the glory of God.

1 Peter 2:9: But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.

Matthew 5:13-16: You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out & trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before
men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.


In our teaching and preaching we rely entirely upon the Bible, the 66
books of the Old and New Testaments. We regard the Bible as the very Word of God, verbally inspired (every word “God-breathed”) and completely without error. Our mission is to faithfully communicate the words and message of the Bible. There is no other divine source of true doctrine and instruction in the way of salvation and in God-pleasing living.

We reject as ungodly and destructive every effort by which some would change, add to, or set aside a single inspired word of the Bible. God’s Word is clear and sufficient in all matters of faith and life. We deplore the widespread unfaithfulness — found even in some professing Christian churches — that reduces the Bible to a human document containing errors and myths.

2 Timothy 3:16-17: All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and
is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction
in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly
equipped for every good work.

John 10:35: . . . and the Scripture cannot be broken.

Luke 21:33: Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.

Jeremiah 23:28: The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream;
And he who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? says the LORD.

Psalm 119:105: Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.


We believe, as the Bible teaches, that mankind is a unique creation.
People are not products of an evolutionary process of millions of years. God created all things in heaven and earth during six twenty-four hour days by the power of His almighty Word. By that same Word He continues to uphold and sustain all things.

Exodus 20:11: For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
Man was created in the image of God (holy and righteous), but he lost that image through the fall into sin. Since the fall, he is by nature and from conception without spiritual goodness. Man is spiritually blind and dead, an enemy of God, and doomed to eternal damnation. In his lost condition he can do nothing to save himself.

Genesis 1:27: So God created man in His own image; in the image of
God He created him; male and female He created them.
Genesis, Chapter 3. (Adam’s Fall)
Genesis 8:21b: “… although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.”

Psalm 14:2-3: The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside, They have together become corrupt; There is none who does good, No, not one.

Psalm 51:5: Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.
Ephesians 2:3: . . . we all . . . were by nature children of wrath, just as
the others.

Romans 8:7: Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.


The creation of the world and the testimony of conscience (natural
knowledge) make evident the existence of God. However, the saving
knowledge of God is known only through His gracious revelation in Christ recorded in the Bible (revealed knowledge).

Romans 1:18-25: For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made
like corruptible man – and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. . . and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

We confess and worship the Triune (three-in-one) God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In this Triune God we find the source and promise of salvation.

Matthew 28:18: And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Without exception, any other god is an idol that cannot hear, see, or save. This describes false gods worshipped by non-Christians. In the darkness of their wicked hearts, sinners left to themselves follow the errors of idolatry – false worship.


God the Father is our Creator and Preserver. He loved the world, which was perishing in its sins, and from eternity planned the salvation of every sinner through God the Son.

Genesis 1:1: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Psalm 145:14-15: The eyes of all look expectantly to You, and You give
them their food in due season. You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.

John 3:16: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.


God the Son is our Redeemer. He came to this world in the flesh, and became man to be our Savior. Jesus Christ, true God and true man, lived a life of perfect obedience to God’s Law on behalf of every sinner. As the sinner’s substitute, He suffered the full punishment of hell on the cross. He atoned for the sins of the whole world, completely removed all guilt, and reconciled everyone to God.

On the third day He rose from the dead in glorious victory over sin and death. We believe that God has justified (declared righteous) all sinners because of Jesus’ perfect obedience and His sacrificial death.

Galatians 4:4-5: But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.

2 Corinthians 5:19-21: God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Romans 5:8-10: But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life

Holy Spirit

God the Holy Spirit is our Sanctifier (the One who sets us apart as believers in Christ). His function in our salvation is to enlighten our dark and sinful hearts. To accomplish this, He uses the Gospel (the good news of salvation through Jesus) to create saving faith and give the comfort of the forgiveness of sins. The Holy Spirit creates believers in Christ through His gracious working in the heart of the sinner. Scripture calls this change from unbeliever to believer regeneration, that is, a new birth (cf. John 3:1ff).

No one, by his own strength of mind or will, can do anything except resist and reject the life-giving Gospel. No one, by his own power, can choose to believe in Christ. The Apostle Paul told believers, in reviewing their former spiritual condition: “You were dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). So we recognize that no one is able to “accept Christ” or “welcome Him into his heart” by his own reason or strength. The sinner receives and accepts the blessing of his justification only through the faith which the
Holy Spirit creates.

The Holy Spirit dwells in the hearts of those in whom He has created faith, sanctifying them day by day. The Spirit empowers them to live before God as His children according to His revealed will and enables them to crucify the sinful urges that still cling to them in this life.

1 Corinthians 12:3: No one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 2:4-5: But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).

1 Corinthians 3:16: Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

Ephesians 2:10: For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Galatians 5:22-24: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Romans 10:17: So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.


We teach that the Holy Spirit creates one Holy Christian Church, which consists of all believers in Christ who, by God’s mercy, were from eternity appointed in Christ for eternal life. Faith in Christ makes one a member of the Holy Christian Church. Since we cannot see faith in the heart, it is impossible for us to determine which individuals are members of Christ’s Church. Therefore we cannot identify this Church with a particular organization or church body. Only God, who has the ability to look into the heart,
knows who the members of His Church are. For this reason we speak of the Holy Christian Church as “invisible.”

The Holy Spirit promises to gather the members of His Church by the “Means of Grace” (the Gospel in the Word and Sacraments). We can be certain that believers will be present wherever the Gospel is in use.

Acts 13:48: Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.

2 Timothy 2:19: Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal : “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”

Ephesians 1:3-6: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved.

Isaiah 55:11: So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.


We are confident that many people, though they may be members of
other church bodies (visible churches) and do not openly share with us the profession of the true Bible teachings, nevertheless are Christians and children of God through faith in Christ.

However, in worshipping together with others, and in doing joint church work, God directs us in His Word to join in confessional fellowship with them based on complete agreement in all doctrines of Holy Scripture.

We are also aware that in any church there may be hypocrites who in spite of their outward confession are not true believers in Christ.

1 John 1:7: But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

1 Corinthians 1:10: Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

Romans 15:5-6: Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Matthew 15:8: These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.

2 Corinthians 6:14-18: . . . what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? . . . Therefore “Come out from among them And be separate . . . ”

Ephesians 5:6-7: Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them.

2 John 1:10-11: If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.

Romans 16:17-18: Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.

Romans 14:1: Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things.

In our practice therefore:

1. We hold that the name “Christian” is not properly applied to those
who, in any way, reject the blood-bought salvation of Jesus

2. We follow Scripture which limits all forms of religious fellowship
to Christians who express full agreement with the teachings of
Scripture and do not by word or act reject any part of God’s

3. While in our religious fellowship we avoid all who preach, teach,
or advocate error, we gladly receive those who, though partly
uninformed or weak in understanding, profess faith in their
Savior, welcome instruction from the Word and are willing to
bow to its authority.

4. We are encouraged and heartened by every testimony, written or
spoken, that confesses and glorifies our Lord Jesus Christ. We
reject and condemn the false ecumenism that would require us to
make common cause in worship and church work with those who claim the Christian name, or even the Lutheran name, but
publicly adhere to that which contradicts any part of His Word.

5. We condemn separatism – the denial of fellowship with others for
reasons not in harmony with God’s revealed will.

6. We joyfully acknowledge that the Lord knows His elect children
even though some are members of false-teaching churches.
However, by their membership they are identifying with and
promoting error by which the salvation of souls is threatened.

7. We pray that all who believe in the Lord Jesus may be preserved
in this faith to their end and finally receive, by His merits and
mercy, the crown of eternal life.


Our Lord Jesus Christ has established the ministry of the Gospel so that sinners may be saved. Through the ministry of the Gospel the Holy Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. All those whom the Holy Spirit has called out of darkness into His light declare His praises and thus share in this ministry as priests of God. To accomplish the work of
the Gospel, the Lord enables Christians to establish congregations as well as other groups (sometimes called synods or denominations).

The believers within congregations and church bodies have the privilege of providing the public proclamation and teaching of God’s saving Word by calling pastors and teachers to whom God Himself has given the necessary gifts and abilities. These called servants are instruments of God, chosen and prepared by Him to act on His behalf as well as on behalf of the Christians who have called them. They are given the splendid privilege of publicly declaring the grace of God in Jesus Christ through the Word and Sacrament.

This service is called the “public ministry” which is carried out by those whom Christ gives to His Church and who are properly called by the Church for this work. These ministers of the Word are thus occupying a divinely instituted office. The specific area of the work of these public ministers is determined and defined in their respective calls by the assembly that has
called them. There is no distinction in rank or power in the public ministry, even though there is a diversity of gifts and responsibilities. Eligibility for a call to the public ministry is determined by the directives of God’s Word
(cf. 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9).

We further believe that when called ministers of Christ, in accordance with their respective calls, deal with us by Christ’s command, He works through them.

1 Timothy 2:11-14 teaches that women are not to be called to the pastoral ministry. This clear section also informs us that women are not to function in any position in the church in which they teach or have authority over men.

1 Peter 2:9-10: But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a
holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.

Ephesians 4:11-12: And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some
prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the
equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.

Acts 20:28: Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.

Luke 10:16: Jesus said: “He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me.”

Hebrews 13:7: Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct.

1 Timothy 2:11-14: Let a woman learn in silence with all submission.
And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.



The Sacrament of Holy Baptism is administered among us as a part of the Gospel ministry. We learn from God’s Word that Baptism is a washing of spiritual regeneration (new birth). The Holy Spirit works through the Word applied with the water of Baptism to create faith in the Savior and to give forgiveness of sins.

In this way Baptism imparts the blessings of Christ to young and old. We believe that infant Baptism is also taught by Scripture – both in the Savior’s command to baptize all nations and in God’s promise that Baptism has the power to save us and our children. The method of applying the water of Baptism is not prescribed in Scripture. We regard a Baptism as valid when it is performed in accordance with Christ’s institution – namely, that it is done with water and in the name of the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

John 3:5: Jesus answered . . . “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

Titus 3:5-8: . . . not by works of righteousness which we have done , but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.

Matthew 28:19: Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2:38-39: Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. “For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”

1 Peter 3:21: There is also an antitype which now saves us, namely baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The Sacrament of the Altar

The Sacrament of the Altar (Holy Communion/Lord’s Supper) is administered in our congregations as it was instituted by the Lord Jesus Christ. The body and blood of Christ are really and truly present in the eating and drinking of the bread and wine. We believe, according to Scripture, that this Sacrament – like Baptism – is a Means of Grace giving the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. This Sacrament is given to those for whom Christ intended it – namely, to penitent sinners who recognize the presence
of the Lord’s body and blood and are able to examine themselves. We also believe that attendance at the Lord’s Table is an expression of unity of faith and confession among those who partake. The Sacrament is therefore properly administered when participants are united in the confession of their faith. This is the “closeness” of Christian fellowship described by the Apostle Paul (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:17). We practice “close” Communion out of obedience to Christ’s will for the proper use of this Sacrament and
restrict participation out of love for souls, so that people do not partake of this Sacrament to their harm. This Holy Supper is a precious gift for our souls, worthy of frequent and sanctified use by all communicants.

1 Corinthians 11:23-29: For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord, Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks
judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.

1 Corinthians 10:15-19: I speak as to wise men; judge for yourselves
what I say. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.


We believe and teach that this world as it now exists will be destroyed. We have no illusions as to the final outcome of events and do not preach false millennialistic hopes. We reject the false teachings that there will be a mass conversion of the Jews and that Christ will return for a thousand-year rule on earth prior to or following a “rapture” of the elect. Rather, turning to and trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ, we point to the future city of God “…not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1). We
encourage all to look forward to the glorious appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ in His Second Coming to judge the living and the dead. On that day the believers will hear Jesus say, “Come, you blessed of my father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34)

2 Peter 3:10: But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.

Mark 16:16: He who believes and is baptized will be saved, but he whodoes not believe will be condemned.

2 Timothy 3:13: But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.

John 18:36: Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My
kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”

Ephesians 5:6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.

Matthew 25:31-46 (Christ’s glorious return)


We believe and desire to confess by word and deed before the Triune
God and all mankind these truths together with all other truths of Holy Scripture as set forth also in the Lutheran confessional statements as found in the Book of Concord (1580 AD).

We earnestly desire to share the rich blessings of Christ and extend a welcome to:

ALL who are in distress of mind and heart because of their guilt and
condemnation in the sight of Almighty God and who seek the pardon
and comfort that only the Gospel of Jesus Christ can give;

ALL who are bewildered by the confusion of many voices offering the theories of human wisdom in the name of religion and who desire to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, Whom God raised from the dead;

ALL who, though members of Christian churches, have come to recognize that their churches have departed from the truth of Holy Scripture and therefore “ask for the old paths where the good way is . . .” (Jeremiah 6:16);

ALL who have strayed from the faith and desire to be restored to the
Shepherd and Overseer of their souls (cf. 1 Peter 2:25).

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling,
And to present you faultless
Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,
To God our Savior, Who alone is wise,
Be glory and majesty, Dominion and power,
Both now and forever. Amen.
(Jude vv. 24-25)

A Statement of Principle

Revised Edition Church of the Lutheran Confession 1961, 1996 Re-edited Reprint CLC Book House, Eau Claire, Wisconsin


In presenting this our statement concerning church fellowship we are aware that even a casual reading will soon reveal that we have been following the pattern of the Formula of Concord, and sometimes employing its very words. This may seem presumptuous to some, as though by such a procedure we meant to place our “confession” on a par with the historic confessions of the Lutheran Church; as though we meant to provide the Book of Concord with a supplement. This is not our intention.

There are other and good reasons, however, for taking the classic Formula as a model. Among the great confessions of the 16th century it is the one which deals with the internal conflicts of Lutheranism. It was eminently successful in bringing order out of a welter of controversy and confusion. By the grace of God it served as an instrument for the restoration of unity on a large scale, far larger than seemed possible when the strife was at its height.

It has been said that the controversies of our day may well be compared with the situation that arose soon after the death of Luther, and that plagued the Church until the issues were settled by the Formula of Concord. What better model, then, could be found for our work?

It is true that the trend of our times is toward union, particularly also among Lutherans, and the great mergers of the current century seem to testify to its effectiveness. There was the Norwegian merger of 1917 (ELC), the formation of the United Lutheran Church in 1918 (ULCA), the American Lutheran Church (ALC) and the American Lutheran Conference in 1930, as well as the recent (1960) organic union of the chief partners in that Conference into one large body (TALC). And larger mergers are being planned. Then there are the wider associations of the National Lutheran Council (NLC) and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), as well as the official participation of many of these groups in the interdenominational National Council of Churches of Christ, and even the World Council of Churches. All this creates the appearance of progress—until one remembers how many doctrinal issues were left unresolved in these unions (e.g., the doctrine of Election in the Norwegian merger), and how this has practically become the accepted pattern for such movements. Nor has the Synodical Conference been left untouched. Its major body, Missouri,* has been drawn far into the area of these negotiations, and in conjunction with the American Lutheran Church has produced a “Common Confession,” a document which a sister synod, Wisconsin,** has had to call “untruthful” because it claimed to be a settlement of historical doctrinal controversies which were not settled in fact. Yet this document still stands as part of the doctrinal position of a once staunchly orthodox synod, committing also the sister synods as long as they remain in the fellowship. So the leaven is working, and error is acquiring parity status with the truth.

We have not tried to cover the entire field of the doctrines of Scripture, nor do we see any need for attempting this. We have not even touched on all the points that are in controversy today. But in addressing ourselves to certain specific issues which, as we firmly believe, are at the root of most if not all of the evils which are troubling our beloved Lutheran Church in our time, we are appealing to the precedent established by the confessors of 1580, who in their opening paragraphs stated:

Necessity, therefore, requires us to explain these controverted articles according to God’s Word and approved writings, so that every one who has Christian understanding can notice which opinion concerning the matters in controversy accords with God’s Word and the Christian Augsburg Confession, and which does not. And sincere Christians who have the truth at heart may guard and protect themselves against the errors and corruptions that have arisen. (Foreword to Thorough Declaration, Formula of Concord, Concordia Triglotta 849:10)

We harbor no extravagant notions as to the impression which this our little confession will make. Yet we venture to dedicate it to a great and noble purpose, one stated so clearly and masterfully in the closing statement of the Formula, so that we can only repeat:

From this our explanation, friends and enemies, and therefore every one, may clearly infer that we have no intention of yielding aught of the eternal, immutable truth of God for the sake of temporal peace, tranquillity, and unity. Nor would such peace and unity, since it is devised against the truth and for its suppression, have any permanency. Still less are we inclined to adorn and conceal a corruption of the pure doctrine and manifest, condemned errors. But we entertain heartfelt pleasure and love for, and are on our part sincerely inclined and anxious to advance, that unity according to our utmost power, by which His glory remains to God uninjured, nothing of the divine truth of the Holy Gospel is surrendered, no room is given to the least error, poor sinners are brought to true, genuine repentance, raised up by faith, confirmed in new obedience, and thus justified and eternally saved alone through the sole merit of Christ. (Conc. Trgl. 1095: 95)

That God may graciously use and bless our halting efforts toward this end, that is our earnest and confident prayer.

Since it was adopted by the CLC in 1961, and included as an official part of the constitutional position of that church body, this “statement of principle” has served well to present the CLC’s teaching and practice CONCERNING CHURCH FELLOWSHIP to all its readers. It has found its way to Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia in the more than three decades of its existence. This re-edited reprint is now presented with the assurance that the doctrinal position of the CLC on church fellowship has not altered from what is herein contained, and with the prayer that God may use our booklet to foster and strengthen belief in His truth.

September 1996   return to top


The State of the Controversy

§ 1 One of the most prominent developments in the church history of the first half of the twentieth century was the “Ecumenical Movement.” Under the influence of this movement, a serious dissension arose among the Lutheran Churches on the question of church fellowship. Using the “it is enough” of the Augsburg Confession,* various groups have developed conflicting teachings as to the extent of agreement necessary for church fellowship. Some maintain that it is enough to agree that Jesus is the Lord. Others contend that this means we are to avoid as heterodox only such as teach falsely concerning the cardinal doctrines of salvation. Still others make a distinction between errorists who err in fundamental doctrines and such as err in non-fundamental doctrines, contending that it is an infringement on Christian liberty to demand unity also in the non-fundamental doctrines. Still others would make the Augsburg Confession the standard of unity to the exclusion of other symbols of the Lutheran Church, particularly the Formula of Concord. In opposition to these varying views as to the extensiveness of agreement necessary for true unity, some have maintained that full agreement on all doctrines revealed in Scripture is necessary for that true unity on which alone the exercise of church fellowship may be based.

§ 2 Among those groups which have insisted on full doctrinal agreement as a necessary requisite for church fellowship, there has arisen dissension concerning the intensiveness of separation required from those who hold to errors. Some have taught that a limited amount of fellowship and cooperation is to be tolerated with certain false teachers and groups. Others maintain that all joint worship and religious work with such errorists is forbidden. Finally, among those who maintain that all manifestations of fellowship with errorists are forbidden, a dispute has arisen concerning the application of the term heterodox church to communions which had previously adhered to the true teachings of Scripture, but later departed from them. Some have taught that at least a limited fellowship is to be practiced as long as such erring groups do not blaspheme the Word of God and do not refuse to discuss the issues. Others teach that fellowship with such groups is forbidden when it becomes apparent after careful consideration that the error is actually being taught and defended.

Purpose of This Confession

§ 3 Now since Satan has sown much confusion in these matters in the Lutheran Churches in the past twenty years or more, it is our purpose to state and declare plainly, purely, and clearly our faith and confession concerning these various issues in thesis and antithesis, i.e., the true doctrine and its opposite, in order that the foundation of divine truth might be manifest in all points under discussion, and that all unlawful, doubtful, suspicious, and condemned doctrines, wherever they may be found or heard, might be exposed so that everyone may be faithfully warned against the errors, which are everywhere spread, and no one be misled in this matter by the reputation of any man. We have clearly declared ourselves to one another in these important matters of our faith, both for those now living and also for our posterity. To explain this controversy, and by God’s grace finally to settle it, we present to the Christian reader this our teaching in conformity with the Word of God. Hallowed be Thy name!

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A. The Need for Full Agreement

The Scriptural Standard of Unity

§ 4 We believe that the unity of the Church is real and actual. This is the unity of which Luther speaks in our Small Catechism when he says of the Holy Spirit that “He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.” Christians are united because each Christian is entirely a creation of the Spirit. Christians share the same nature from beginning to end. “ . . . for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:22-24). All Christians are God’s children on the basis of Christ’s redemption of the world and on the basis of the work of the Spirit who through baptism and the word appropriates this holiness to us: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). Through faith the Holy Spirit unites us with Jesus Christ, and we become part of His Body and united with every Christian, and Jesus’ prayer is fulfilled: “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us” (John 17:21). This unity of the Body of Christ, the Church, is expressed by Paul in Romans 12:5, “ . . . we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.” This unity is most beautifully expressed in Ephesians 4:4-6, “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”

§ 5 Christians according to the new man are perfectly joined together in the same mind. The Holy Spirit makes them children of God, and He makes them all the same. They are agreed on sin, its nature, its origin, its means, its fruits, etc. They are agreed on grace, its sufficiency, its means, its fruits, etc. There may be different degrees of understanding, differences in the intensity of the experience, yet as far as the essence is concerned all believers are perfectly agreed.

§ 6 As Christians are perfectly joined together in one mind by the Spirit, it follows that the Spirit moves them all that they all speak the same thing. Though the manner of speaking may vary, yet the truth spoken must be ever one and the same thing. The Church exists for the purpose of glorifying God, and only with speaking the same thing is this result attained: “That ye may with one mind and with one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 15:6).

§ 7 Thus the Church tolerates no divisions. The high standard of Scripture is clear. All members of the Church are to speak the same thing in all matters of faith. This is stated by St. Paul in just so many words in 1 Corinthians 1:10, “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and the same judgment.”

This Speaking is Restricted to the Scriptures

§ 8 We further believe and confess that this speaking of the Church is restricted to the Word of God. In so far as we are members of the Church we may speak, confess, and teach only the Word. “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth, that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ: to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Pet. 4:11). The Church is to speak the same thing, and that thing is called by Peter “the oracles of God.” In so far as they are human beings, the members of the Church have no wisdom, no truth. Their united message is the revelation sent down from heaven, God’s sayings. So testifies St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:12, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak . . . ” That St. John considers himself a messenger of wisdom from heaven is brought out in 1 John 1:3, “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you . . . ” Jesus promised these apostles His Spirit, who would insure that they taught His sayings exactly: “ . . . he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26). Thus the commission of the Church is “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20).

§ 9 The Church is at all times to follow the example of the first congregation, which “ . . . continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine . . . ” (Acts 2:42), and may be able to say with Paul, “ . . . I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). That the Church is absolutely limited to speaking the oracles of God is taught by Moses in Deuteronomy 4:2, “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.”

The Scriptures Are Inerrant

§ 10 That the Holy Scriptures are given by God to the Church for the foundation of faith and are the sole source from which all doctrines proclaimed in the Christian Church must be taken, presupposes also this teaching that the Holy Scriptures are divine revelation.* We accordingly teach that the Holy Scriptures differ from all other books in the world in that they are the Word of God. They are the Word of God because the holy men of God who wrote the Scriptures wrote only that which the Holy Ghost communicated to them by inspiration. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God [God-breathed], and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). And again, “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Pet. 1:21). We teach also that the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures is not a so-called theological deduction, but that it is taught by direct statements of the Scriptures, 2 Tim. 3:16; John 10:35: “ . . . and the Scriptures cannot be broken”; Rom. 3:2: “ . . . unto them were committed the oracles of God”; 1 Cor. 2:13: “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth . . . ” Since the Holy Scriptures are the Word of God, it goes without saying that they contain no errors or contradictions, but that they are in all their parts and words the infallible truth, also in those parts which treat of historical, geographical, and other secular matters (John 10:35).

§ 11 We reject the doctrine which under the name of science has gained wide popularity in the Church of our day that Holy Scripture is not in all its parts the Word of God, but in part the Word of God and in part the word of man and hence does, or at least might, contain error. We reject this erroneous doctrine as horrible and blasphemous, since it flatly contradicts Christ and His holy apostles, sets up men as judges over the Word of God, and thus overthrows the foundation of the Christian Church and its faith.

The Scriptures Are Inviolable

§ 12 We further believe that this inerrant Scripture which is the sole authority for all doctrine in the Church is inviolable. And it is this quality in particular which suffers at the hands of all who in these days desire latitude in matters of doctrine. We have already mentioned the passage in Deuteronomy 4:2 warning against any additions or subtractions from Scripture. To this must be added the curse of Revelation 22:18, “ . . . if any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book.” The warning is also contained in Proverbs 30:5f., “Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” God will tolerate no tampering with His Word, even in seemingly insignificant details, for even the individual jot and tittle must be respected as a part of the divine record (Matt. 5:18). And again, “ . . . the Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). Thus are we to tremble at the Word of God, and we believe that any changes, additions, or subtractions constitute a violation of the majesty and holiness of the eternal God, who in love descended to man with the truth.

The Scriptures Are Clear

§ 13 Neither, do we believe, is there room for private interpretation of Scripture on the basis of any supposed ambiguity or unclarity in the divine revelation. The perspicuity or clarity of Scripture is beyond dispute. To say that the Bible is unclear is blasphemy, charging the Author of our salvation with giving fallen man confused directions regarding His way to heaven. But we say and teach with all conviction that Holy Writ is clear and makes all doctrines and precepts laid down in the inspired Word freely accessible to every reader. The Bible makes this claim for itself. Psalm 119:105, 130: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. . . . The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.” Psalm 19:8 speaks: “ . . . the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.” Christ promises: “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32). Thus doctrines are not based on interpretation of Scripture, but on the Word itself. The Church cannot make the Bible clearer by its interpretations, but can only lead men to the naked words of Scripture, so they will base their faith on these words alone. We believe that the many differences in the teaching of the churches are due only to man who, in his perversity, refuses to take his reason captive under the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5), desiring to be a master over Holy Scripture (1 Tim. 1:7).

All Aberrations Are Condemned

§ 14 We also believe, teach, and confess that all aberrations from Holy Scripture are condemned. For what is false may not be mixed with truth. In Jeremiah 23:28 the Lord speaks to the preachers: “ . . . he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the LORD.” The Church is commissioned to speak only God’s Word in its purity, “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” Paul admonishes Timothy to “Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me” (2 Tim. 1:13). In his First Epistle to Timothy Paul obligates him to “charge some that they teach no other doctrine” (1 Tim. 1:3). Of those who mix the truth with error, Paul tells the Galatians in the first chapter of that letter: “If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:9). Jeremiah threatens all such with God’s wrath: “Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that use their tongues, and say, He saith. Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the LORD, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the LORD” (Jer. 23:31-32). For any person to change any teaching of the Holy, Holy, Holy God is a most grave offense against the majesty of God. When we see men dare to tamper with the Divine Record, not trembling at His Word, we can only shudder at what must inevitably be the consequence. We remember God’s wrath at the changing of His worship perpetrated by Aaron at Mt. Sinai, and say with the Psalmist: “Horror hath taken hold upon me because of the wicked that forsake thy law” (119:53).

§ 15 It would be a tempting of the Holy God even to make a distinction between small and great aberrations, for in all cases of false teaching there is, as far as man is concerned, a mutilating of the Godhead. Furthermore, the doctrines of the Bible are so closely interrelated that the denial of any one of them is a reflection of the false teacher’s attitude toward all revealed truth. So does Dr. Luther teach: “My dear sir, God’s word is God’s word, which will not permit men to find fault with it. He who makes God a liar and blasphemes Him in one word, or says it is a small thing for Him to be blasphemed and called a liar, he blasphemes the whole God and has little regard for all blasphemy of God” (St. Louis Ed. XX:775).

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B. Separation From All Who Deviate

§ 16 These are stern truths, indeed. But they are truths derived from Scripture and laid down there by God Himself for the sake of protecting and preserving for us that perfect truth which is the sole source of faith, life, and salvation. This then is also the reason why Scripture so emphatically and bluntly demands that Christians separate themselves from all who deviate in their doctrinal position from the truth of God’s Word.

A Summary of Our Belief

§ 17 For a brief summary of what we believe, teach, and confess in this point, we present the Christian reader first of all with this statement: “Since God ordained that His Word only, without the admixture of human doctrine, be taught and believed in the Christian Church, 1 Pet. 4:11; John 8:31-32; 1 Tim. 6:3-4, all Christians are required by God to discriminate between orthodox and heterodox church-bodies, Matt. 7:15, to have church-fellowship only with orthodox church-bodies, and, in case they have strayed into heterodox church-bodies, to leave them, Rom. 16:17. We repudiate unionism, that is, church-fellowship with the adherents of false doctrine, as disobedience to God’s command, as causing divisions in the Church, Rom. 16:17; 2 John 9, 10, and as involving the constant danger of losing the Word of God entirely, 2 Tim. 2:17-21″ (Brief Statement, Art. 28).

Two Kinds of Churches

§ 18 Now, as already has been established above, and as always has been taught by the fathers, we believe that there are two kinds of visible church bodies, pure and impure, or orthodox and heterodox. We have clearly shown that God requires of us that we establish the teaching of His Word in its truth and purity without admixture of error of any kind. This then is a pure or orthodox church which adheres to the unadulterated doctrine of God’s Word and administers the sacraments according to their divine institution. On the other hand, a church which contrary to the divine ordinance tolerates false doctrine in its midst or deviates from the divine institution in the administration of the sacraments is rightly called an impure or heterodox church. That there would be such church bodies is foretold in Scripture. St. Paul says to the elders of Ephesus, Acts 20:29-30: “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” These men who will speak false doctrine will succeed in gaining a following. “For there must be also heresies among you . . . ” (1 Cor. 11:19).

§ 19 Though it is generally held today that there is an advantage in having great variety among churches and that we demand too much when we maintain that all Christians should have the same faith, we firmly believe that it is not a thing well pleasing to God that there are heterodox church bodies. They are not desired by God, but exist by His permission only. And thereby we do not deny that there are dear children of God in heterodox churches. Also in those bodies children are born unto Him as long as in them His Word is still preached. But God does not want them to exist as heterodox church bodies. These churches have inscribed false doctrine on their banner and have established a separatistic body. God permits them to exist not because it is good or pleasing to Him, nor that we have a free choice to belong to any kind of groups, but He says: “For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you” (1 Cor. 11:19). So also did Dr. Luther write: “When it happens that men become disagreed in doctrine, it has this effect, that it separates them and reveals who the true Christians are, namely, those who have the Word of God in all its purity and excellence” (St. Louis Ed. XVII, 1346:71).

Christians Are to Test All Churches

§ 20 We further believe that all Christians are required by God to discriminate between false and true churches as well as teachers. We read in 1 John 4:1: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” And the Lord Jesus exhorts: “Beware of false prophets” (Matt. 7:15). Obedience to God’s command requires then that Christians distinguish between true and false prophets.

. . . and Act Accordingly

§ 21 We further believe, teach, and confess that Christians are required to have church fellowship only with orthodox church bodies. Having distinguished between heterodox and orthodox bodies, they are to act according to this knowledge. This is what God’s Word declares in all passages which admonish Christians not to hear false prophets, but to flee from them. These warnings tell the Christian not to listen to the false prophets but rather to stay clear of the danger involved in their teachings—the “good words and fair speeches” by which they “deceive the hearts of the simple” (Rom. 16:18). 2 John 10 bluntly requires: “If there come any unto you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God-speed; For he that biddeth him God-speed is partaker of his evil deeds.” In his First Letter to Timothy, chapter 6:3-5, St. Paul says: “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.”

§ 22 Nor should 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 be lightly dismissed: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”

§ 23 Though a casual reading of this passage might cause one to think it is speaking of unbelievers and not false churches, we would point out that erring churches, insofar as they err, are also unbelieving. They are unbelieving with respect to a number of Bible passages. By their errors they have divided the Church and oppose the truth. False teaching is unrighteousness, and there can be no fellowship with it. False doctrine is darkness and true revealed doctrine is the light in this world. They have no communion, nothing in common. All false doctrine is the work of Belial; when we fellowship with false teachers we make concord with Satan, the author of their errors. Scripture teaches that we should come out from among them, that is, from the adherents and teachers of error, and be separate.

§ 24 That this applies to all heterodox teachers and bodies is taught most clearly and explicitly in Romans 16:17. “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses [a cause of stumbling, snare to one’s faith] contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.” In this text both elements are included, namely, the act of distinguishing and the action resulting therefrom. The brethren of Paul are carefully to fix their eye on those who deviate by teaching or adhering to false doctrine alongside of the true doctrine, and are to avoid them.

The Confession Is the Basis

§ 25 From this passage it is clear that fellowship is to be based on one thing only, the doctrine which is proclaimed or confessed. It is right here where there is so much confusion sown by Satan. For he always inserts this thought, that since there are believers also in heterodox churches (which we have readily and happily admitted), Christians should not separate from such bodies, or should fellowship with them at least to a certain extent. Here it is necessary to distinguish between Christian brotherhood and Christian fellowship. The Holy Christian Church consists indeed of all believers in Jesus Christ, of all who have been begotten of the Father through the Word of truth and are members of His family. But since faith is invisible, these brethren are invisible, and we are assured of their existence only by the Word and promise of God. That is the brotherhood. Christian fellowship, on the other hand, is a fruit of this brotherhood—and an essential one. Since we belong together as brothers in Christ, we show this by joint worship, prayer, and work.

§ 26 Now the basis for this fellowship cannot be the same as that for the brotherhood, which is regeneration and true faith. Before we can fellowship we must recognize the brother, and recognition must have as its object something that can be seen. But faith cannot be seen. One cannot recognize a brother by his faith, and it is equally impossible to fellowship with him on that basis. Paul says in Romans 10:10, “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness . . . ” And in 1 Corinthians 4:5 he makes the significant statement: “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts . . . ”

§ 27 We therefore believe and teach that Christian fellowship is based only on profession of faith, by word and deed. As John says in his First Epistle, 4:2-3, “Hereby know ye the spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God . . . ” Confession is the basis for Christian fellowship, for when a man’s confession is in accord with the “teachings which we have learned,” we can recognize him as a brother.

§ 28 We know, of course, that our fellowship is not identical with the spiritual brotherhood. Behind a good confession may lie a hypocrite. And on the other hand, we know that there are Christians also in those church bodies which confess error together with the truth. We cannot recognize hypocrites in an orthodox body, nor can we recognize the believers in a false church. Moreover, we do not separate ourselves from the children of God among the false sects, but from the sects as such. The sects separate these dear children of God from us. We believe that it is for the benefit of the true believers among the heterodox that we are to refuse fellowship to these churches. Thereby we are constantly reminding them that they are in the wrong place. Time and again people have thereby been led out from the false church into the true, where God wants them to be.

This Includes All Who Deviate

§ 29 We further believe, teach, and confess that there are no exceptions to this precept to avoid all false teachers and their adherents. Any deviation from the truth is a violation of God’s honor and constitutes a grave threat to believers, who after all can be saved only by the Word of God. St. Paul tells the Galatians: “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (Gal. 5:9). Here Paul emphatically declares that errors, however small, are dangerous things to trifle with. The error into which the Galatians were falling was a false attitude over against circumcision, the assumption that by submitting to circumcision and observing the Sabbath and other ceremonies they could make their justification more secure. They stressed the Gospel, they confessed redemption by Christ, but they wanted to supplement the Gospel by some exercise of their own. Paul warns them against the far-reaching consequences of this “little” deviation from the truth revealed. Before long they will lose the Gospel, and in principle they have denied it already.

§ 30 Another picture used by Paul to stress that every single deviation is to be avoided is found in 2 Timothy 2:17-19. Here he compares error to gangrene (canker). It is a pitiful thing to behold a strong healthy man in the prime of life who has had an extremity frozen to the point that gangrene sets in. Unless the affected part is removed, the gangrene will relentlessly pursue its course of eating and spreading. The specific error to which Paul refers was in regard to the doctrine of the resurrection. He adds that there is safety in one rule only: “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (v. 19). Those who confess the truth should separate from all error. How very important this is we see from the source of this quotation. For Paul has taken this expression from the history of the rebellion of Korah in the wilderness. The people were commanded to stand apart from the tents of Korah and his cohorts. We know how fatal it would have been to disobey! Every deviation is a rebellion against the majesty and authority of God.

Such Exclusivism Is Evangelical

§ 31 Though such an exclusive attitude as we here confess is everywhere maligned and condemned as unevangelical, it is actually a principle which is in complete accord with the heart of the Gospel. In fact, it is the Gospel of universal salvation for all sinners which is at stake. God’s plan of salvation carried out in Christ indeed embraces all sinners. It is all-inclusive. He who would have all men to be saved has placed this life-giving message in the Bible (see 2 Cor. 5:19 and Rom. 5:18). Only these good tidings of God bring hope and comfort and peace to every sinner. On the other hand, every religious effort arising from the unregenerate heart of man will inevitably be just as legalistic as the elements of the world to which it is captive.

§ 32 It is man’s nature to suppress the truth in his unrighteousness. Ever since Eve first explored the possibility, every deviation from the divine truth, every addition or subtraction on the part of man has of necessity been an infringement on the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free. False doctrine is always a threat to the very universality and completeness of the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. It is in the interest of the preservation of the Good News that God is so explicit in forbidding fellowship with error, no matter how minute or trivial it may seem to be. Here Paul is our great teacher. No one will deny that he believed in the all-inclusive nature of the Gospel of Jesus. All his efforts were bent toward bringing this peace of God to every corner of the world. Yet it is Paul in particular who wages constant warfare against each and every effort of man to change, pervert, or mutilate that Gospel. For when men change the Word of God, they are attacking Christ Himself. Paul dreads the thought that his parishioners should be referred to a mutilated Christ for their source of “comfort.” What could be a greater tragedy for his posterity than to receive a Gospel less comforting in any way, and less universal, than the beautiful original entrusted to him?

Wrong Exclusivism Rejected

§ 33 It must be mentioned that there is a wrong exclusivism which does not stem from this all-inclusive Gospel. Where pride in one’s self or in one’s particular groups is the motive for isolation, this is sinful and shows a grave lack of understanding of the Gospel. Such was the separation of the Pharisees—and they have many followers who by their exclusive policies glorify only men. Any separation in the Church which is not made in the interest of God’s glory and the glory of His Gospel is to be condemned just as much as unionism, the fellowshipping of false teachers.

Examples From Scripture

§ 34 It is also contended by our opponents that the God of love who wants us to dwell in love and unity with men would not ask us to separate from all who deviate in matters of doctrine. For the Christian who places everything pertaining to his salvation into the divine hand, this is indeed a spurious argument. Just as the same God who gave the promise to Abraham could also instruct the same Abraham to offer up the son of promise as a sacrifice, so it is the same God of love and unity who also instructs the Christian to “avoid,” “withdraw,” “come out from among them,” “reject the heretic,” “have no company with him.” And since the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth the Christian knows from the outset that there is never a day when he may relax his efforts and not be on guard against the intrusion of false prophets and their errors, as well as the intrusion of error in his own teaching.

§ 35 Scripture gives countless examples of this endless war which Satan wages against truth. To our warning we see how dreadfully successful he often was. Even in their holiness our first parents lost the truth because they listened to the voice of temptation after it was clear that the voice had deviated from the true Word. From the first opposition altar of Cain to the activities of the beast in Revelation we observe the never-ending efforts of Satan to infiltrate the ranks of those who are to proclaim only the Word of God.

§ 36 Moses teaches us in Genesis 6:1ff. that all flesh had to be destroyed because “ . . . God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” This situation had come into being because of the mingling of the Church with the world. It was the joining spirit at Babel (in the interest of strength and security) which after the flood again threatened the Gospel with extinction. This led to a most drastic display of the principle of separation when God found it necessary to remove Abram completely from his family and from all nations so that the Gospel might be preserved until the fullness of the time. Though his children were blessed in every possible way by Jehovah, who delivered them from all their enemies and provided for their every need, yet God had to place them into the straitjacket of the law economy that they might be reminded in a hundred ways every day that they were His peculiar people with a particular destiny. Despite these drastic measures, the history of Israel is a sad story of oft-repeated compromises with error and syncretism, often leading to total apostasy.

§ 37 In connection with the worship of the golden calf at Sinai, we learn the relative position of our love toward God and that toward our fellow man. When His worship was changed (though they intended to be worshipping Jehovah) and God’s anger waxed hot, then the Levites, in love for God and to uphold His honor, were bidden to take the sword to their brethren, of whom three thousand fell that day. Whenever the Word of God is attacked, His honor is involved. In connection with 2 Timothy 2 we mentioned above the rebellion of Korah. The incident forcefully brings home the same thought of the impending wrath of a God whose honor has been violated when His instructions were disobeyed. The New Testament urgings to separate are indeed loving warnings to escape before we become involved in God’s wrath.

§ 38 In Joshua 24 we find a revealing chapter on the subtle and persistent efforts of Satan to syncretize and unionize religion. In the last assembly of Israel that Joshua convened he appealed to the people to put away their idols and to give undivided hearts to God. He is speaking of their attitudes. Although they repeatedly insist that they are Jehovah worshippers, he continues to admonish and plead for purity of worship, and expresses the principle of separation succinctly: “ . . . as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

§ 39 Though under God’s glorious guidance this principle of exclusivism for the Gospel’s sake gave to Israel full possession of the Holy Land and victory over all foes, nevertheless they soon became lax in this very matter, allowing some of the Canaanites to remain in the land. The apparent advantages of this compromise with God’s explicit orders were dissipated by the formal announcement of God at Bochim (Judges 2). Their humanistic tendencies brought endless trouble to them and their posterity, for now God would not drive out these Canaanites, but would permit them to remain as a snare and a trap to Israel. In the New Testament the consequence of tolerating errorists is still the same, namely, that they become thorns in our flesh and cause serious schisms, which God permits so that the Church may be purged (1 Cor. 11:19).

§ 40 We could adduce many more examples from Scripture illustrating that when men like Abraham stood quite alone—faithful to their God, building their own altars in defiance of all—there God’s blessings came in bountiful measure. Contrariwise, when Israel allowed error and falsehood to be mingled with the priceless truth committed to them, it brought ruin and havoc. From the times of the Judges, Solomon, the divided kingdom, the period of restoration, the voice cries out from every page: “ . . . come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord” (2 Cor. 6:17).

§ 41 Thus Scripture clearly teaches by precept and many examples that Christians are to separate from all false religion, from all false teachers, lest the honor of God be violated, His name profaned, and the possession of the Gospel endangered for them and their children; lest, as St. John says, they become partakers of their evil deeds.

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C. All Manifestations of Fellowship Are Involved

§ 42 We further believe, teach, and confess that when our Lord Jesus Christ forbids us to exercise church fellowship with those who deviate in their teachings from the Word of God, thereby all manifestations of Christian fellowship are forbidden. Though this appears very obvious in the light of the strong Scriptural words—to beware of such people, to avoid them, to reject them, to withdraw from such—we are required to make this matter very clear. Satan is so anxious to have true churches fraternizing with the false, that he has even inserted this thought, that some fellowship should be permitted, even though full recognition may be impossible. Now in church language it has been customary to speak of pulpit, altar, and prayer fellowship. But we must be very careful in using these terms, that we do not thereby think there are three different fellowships, and that each is to be treated differently. There is one fellowship, and these are three outstanding manifestations of that one glorious gift we enjoy.

§ 43 Christian fellowship is the outgrowth of our brotherhood which we have by virtue of our God-created faith in Jesus Christ. As brothers and sisters in Jesus, we are united in one family, and we express this unity by joining in worship and religious work. This fellowship is a great, glorious, living thing. It manifests itself in countless ways: in the gathering of the disciples on the evening of Easter, in their remaining together at Jerusalem while they were awaiting the fulfillment of the Father’s promise, in the life of the mother church as it is described in the last verses of Acts 2 and again in chapter 4, in the relation of the mother church to the congregations which now began to spring up on every hand. It manifested itself most beautifully in the concern of the Greek churches for the famine-stricken brethren of Judea, which Paul was so careful to cultivate.

§ 44 Now all these manifestations of fellowship are based on their unity in the Word, “in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship.” As long as they continued in God’s Word, then were they all disciples and could recognize each other as such. But when someone in his teaching departed from the Word, the basis for fellowship was removed. The people who adhere to false teaching are to be shunned and avoided. One can hardly fulfill that command of God by allowing some fellowship but not all. We believe there is one fellowship (koinonia), which manifests itself in many different ways. Where unity of the confessed faith, unity in the Word, is absent, we are forbidden to practice any fellowship.

§ 45 Though in this next point there is no disagreement (at least not of a general nature in the Lutheran churches), yet for the sake of complete clarity we re-emphasize that which has always been Lutheran teaching, namely, that our separation both from the world and from errorists and false churches does not involve a separation in purely secular matters. We are in the world, but not of the world. The separation of which Scripture speaks in the passages on church fellowship concerns religious associations with people, not cultural, economic, or civic relations. Here the Christian guards only against intimacy with people who are opposed to the truth, exercising his judgment and liberty with great care. On the other hand, it must be noted that when separation is required from such with whom Christians have been in intimate religious fellowship, even such associations as would ordinarily be within the bounds of Scripture may be wrong, because of the offense which might be given. Here the teachings of the Formula of Concord, Article X, concerning adiaphora (matters of Christian liberty) apply with full force.

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D. Suspension of Established Fellowships

§ 46 We further believe, teach, and confess that established fellowships or existing fellowships are to be terminated when it has been ascertained that a person or group through a false position is causing divisions and offenses in the Church.* Among our Lutheran teachers who have held a firm and Scriptural position in regard to making no alliances with those who deviate in their teachings from the Word, there are some who have shown the same humanistic weakness of the unionist when the matter occurred of separating from those with whom there has been fellowship of long standing.

§ 47 We must therefore maintain steadfastly that the only basis for fellowship is complete unity in the doctrine of Christ, and that when this unity is broken, there is no basis for fellowship. Toleration of error, partaking of another’s evil deeds, worshipping with someone who profanes the name of God by his false doctrine—all these things are no less wicked because of some previous relationship. In Romans 16:17 St. Paul in no way limits his statement to those outside of the fellowship of the Christians at Rome. Their marking of an errorist would not only include but begin within the communion itself. In Matthew 7:15, where Jesus tells us to beware of false prophets, He stresses that they will come in sheep’s clothing; that is, externally they will appear among the sheep. Paul tells the elders of Ephesus to be on the alert for those men who will arise “of your own selves” (Acts 20:30).

§ 48 Though we instruct “with all long-suffering and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:2) such as through ignorance hold erroneous opinions and beliefs, this in no wise restricts or limits the avoiding of those who by their deviations “cause divisions and offenses” in the Church. Those cannot be treated as “weak” brethren who are publicly teaching their erroneous opinions as God’s truth. Nor does isolation of errorists from one’s own communion in such cases indicate a lack of love. For we believe that to obey the Lord and avoid them is true love, and only by thus following God’s injunction can we “preserve unity” and heal the breaches in the walls of Zion. Where error is tolerated it will grow. When it is isolated it is unable to propagate itself.

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A. Limiting the Extent of the Application

§ 49 Now we turn to a refutation of the various counter-arguments to this Scriptural presentation, and accordingly with heart and mouth we reject and condemn as false, erroneous, and misleading all teachings which are not in accordance with, but contrary and opposed to, the doctrine above presented.


§ 50 That the application of the principle of separation is limited to non-Christian bodies is quite generally held among the majority of Protestant sects, most of which are quite willing to form alliances and unions with all church bodies which are willing to say that Jesus is the Lord. Even some Lutheran bodies have joined in such world organizations, though these organizations are not willing to define what is meant even by that statement that Jesus is the Lord. As shown above, there is no Scriptural license for such mingling of truth with error, and it leads only to ever greater indifference to doctrine. It stems from lack of understanding of the work of the Church, which is solely to administer the Office of the Keys, in Word and Sacrament.


§ 51 Thinking that they are serving the cause of truth, many in our day have made a selection of doctrines which they say are necessary for saving faith, and restrict the principle of separation to those who in some way deny the redemptive work of Christ. But actually they are serving the cause of unionism, namely, by their fellowship with those who err in any doctrine of Scripture. These people stress the fundamentals of evangelical truth, whence they are called fundamentalists or evangelicals, and permit differences of belief on all other points of Christian doctrine. We repudiate such groups as sinfully unionistic and condemn the aiding and supporting of such movements as involving a denial of Scriptural doctrines. Though it is true that these fundamentals of doctrine are usually quite Scriptural, and that he who believes these truths will be saved, the question of saving faith is not admissible in the matter of church fellowship, since such fellowship is based on confession and not on faith, which is invisible.   (REFUTATION OF ARGUMENTS)   Argument from John 17

§ 52 A favorite and supposedly unanswerable argument urged by protagonists of such church unions is that it is our Lord’s own express will that there should be only one visible church. The proof of this is said to be the prayer: “That they all may be one” (John 17:21). But the unity for which Christ prayed was clearly not an external one. It was a spiritual unity, a unity of faith. This is the unity that was created among His disciples in the early Church, and it is this unity which, with indissoluble bonds, still binds together in the Holy Christian Church all true believers, wherever they may be.   Argument on “Strength”

§ 53 We also refute as an insidious error the argument so frequently heard in these days, namely, that tolerance of other church bodies and a combining of efforts are necessary for the strengthening of the Church. It is said that the churches must unite in order to meet the dangers of atheism, materialism, modernism, secularism, etc. We are told that a united church would be a more powerful force in combating the social ills which beset the nation.

§ 54 These proponents of union among churches reveal the false motivation behind such efforts. The power of the Church of Christ lies in the Gospel that she preaches. It is blasphemous to think that human numbers and human organization can add strength and effectiveness to God’s holy Word. It is rather the mingling of that Gospel truth with error which weakens the Church and impedes its attack on the stronghold of Satan. “Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth” (Ps. 124:8). His strength is made perfect in our weakness. He who gave victory to Gideon with but 300 men, and He who evangelized the world through a far smaller number, does not need large organizations to accomplish His purpose. But of course it is right here that the opponents go astray, for they have set goals for the Church which God has not given us, such as combating social evils and improving the morality of the world and society.   Argument on “National Interest”

§ 55 Closely allied with this false argument is the plea that we should forget our doctrinal differences in the national interest. It is said by these people that we owe it to our nation to unite, not only (as shown above) to stem the tide of social ills such as juvenile delinquency and organized crime which hurt the nation, but particularly to meet the common foes of all Christendom, communism and others. The plea is that all Christian churches are in jeopardy and that our democracy is weakened by religious differences among its people.

§ 56 This is a vicious form of attack made from all sides against our dear Christians. It is bad enough that the world and its leaders and educators tie together our democracy and the Christian religion and constantly urge that for effective democracy we must give up our distinctive beliefs and exercise tolerance toward all other forms. But this is not surprising since the world cannot be expected to distinguish between the interest of the nation and of the churches. It is bad enough that the many Reformed denominations, following the principles of Calvin and other leaders, mingle the activities of the Church with those of the state. But when Lutheran teachers would make the Church the handmaiden of the state and speak as though this were our function as churches against the enemies of our nation, then we begin to realize how mightily Satan is raging against the pure doctrine in our churches.

§ 57 The Church which earnestly upholds the truth brings down blessings on the nation. In so far as churches give up any part of the Gospel, they bring down the wrath of God, also upon the nation. Again and again the prophets of Judah and Israel teach the horror of that logic which advocates toleration of error in the interest of “political expediency.” Therefore it is a lie of the Evil One that we serve the national interest by being “more tolerant” of the religious views of our fellow citizens. As citizens let all Christians be taught to be patriotic and loyal, and to grant to others the religious freedom which they claim for themselves. As church members let them be taught that the Church is not to be identified with any nation or form of government, nor are her interests to be tied to the interests of any nation, for “My Kingdom is not of this world.” All who urge their false views on these grounds lower their church to the level of any earthly organization with earthly goals. Our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20), and we believe that the Church has one function and one function only: to preach the Gospel.


§ 58 Though there is a correct and proper distinction made between fundamental and non-fundamental doctrines, we reject as false the teaching that we are required to separate only from those churches which err in the fundamental doctrines. These errorists contend: In non-fundamentals the theologians should have the liberty to propound differing views without laying themselves open to the charge of disturbing the unity of faith or breaking the ties of church fellowship. They say it is neither necessary nor possible to agree in all non-fundamental doctrines.

§ 59 The distinction between fundamental and non-fundamental doctrines has its place, but that place is most certainly not in the question of what constitutes a sufficient basis for church fellowship. Theologians of the Church have made this distinction in connection with saving faith. Of fundamental doctrines we speak in the sense that a denial or falsification of certain teachings of Scripture undermines the very foundation of saving faith. But non-fundamental doctrines are also Scripture doctrines, just as well as the ones called fundamental. They are all doctrines of faith, i.e., doctrines to be accepted in faith. Hence it is by no means a negligible matter when one adheres to erroneous views in non-fundamental doctrines. If adhered to despite ample information, errors in non-fundamental doctrines become open rebellion against God and His holy Word, and threaten to lead into perdition.

§ 60 We must not confound non-fundamental doctrines with theological problems, must not relegate them to the realm of open questions (questions which are not answered by the Word of God). But to say (when discussing the basis for church fellowship) that we neither need nor can attain agreement in non-fundamentals is to deny the clarity of Scripture, the inviolability of Scripture, and to grant equal status to error and truth as well as license to preach and teach unscriptural doctrines. The Bride of Christ is concerned about her purity in doctrine in all respects: “I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Cor. 11:2-3).


§ 61 We further reject the teaching that false teachers and churches are to be avoided only when they no longer listen to admonition. In those communions which agree with us that there must be unanimity in all doctrines of Scripture as a basis for fellowship, some teachers have arisen who have taught that an existing fellowship is not to be terminated as long as the errorists will discuss the issues involved and permit admonition to be addressed to them. Though this argument is presented in the sheep’s clothing of Christian love and patience, we must condemn it as unscriptural and unionistic. When errorists by their adherence to their errors “cause divisions and offenses” in the Church, we are told by the Holy Ghost through the Apostle Paul in Romans 16:17 to avoid them. To say in the face of this clear instruction that we are to fellowship with such as have become manifest errorists, simply because we are still admonishing them, must be condemned as disobedience to God, as allowing false teachers to ravage the flock, as disregarding the concern expressed in the next verse of Romans 16 (lest “ . . . by good words and fair speeches they deceive the hearts of the simple”)—in short, as belittling the Word of God and the importance of all revealed teaching. It can only, as must all unionism, lead to indifference to doctrine and to insecurity for the Christian in matters of faith.   (REFUTATION OF ARGUMENTS)

§ 62 Our opponents have contended that the passage from Scripture instructing the strong to bear the burdens of the weak must be taken into account in applying the passages on separation from false teachers. They refer, for example, to Galatians 6:1-2, where St. Paul admonishes the strong to restore a fallen brother in the spirit of meekness.

§ 63 Now let us state at the outset that we fully believe in dealing patiently and lovingly with weak brethren. In every congregation there are Christians who are strong and others who are weak. Each individual Christian is at times strong and at times weak. Certainly this is a prime reason why our Lord does not leave us alone, but sets the solitary into families, that we may serve one another in humility and love. There are members of congregations who are also weak in doctrine. This may be due to immaturity, since they may be novices and need more instruction, or it may be due to ignorance. It may be that some leader has sown confusion in the ranks of a group. Thus the Church is ever busy at this task of strengthening the weak in its midst, “teaching them to observe.” There are many, many Bible passages and Scriptural examples of this constant activity of the teaching, strengthening, edifying Church. But we most assuredly object to this, that this teaching and admonishing function be of necessity carried into the process of separating from errorists.

§ 64 Essentially the two groups of passages are addressed to opposite situations. Teaching, admonishing, edifying, instructing—all these presuppose disciples, learners, hearers. These learners and hearers may frequently entertain strange notions and erroneous thoughts. That is why they come to be taught the Word of God. Here the question of separation is totally out of place. But when Scripture tells us to avoid, withdraw, reject, beware, it certainly is not speaking of people who sit at the feet of the true church to learn the way to heaven. It is quite clearly in each case referring to people who are in the role of teaching, or who assume that role over against the true preachers of the Word. They are false prophets, men who claim that their errors are the truth; they are causers of division, men who lead a segment of the Church away from the truth; they are heretics, men who form a new party in connection with their deviations. Let us not fail to note in this connection that error is dangerous (beware!), and that God does not ask His children to risk their salvation on the altar of an admonition which is being carried on in an atmosphere of fellowship where He has prohibited fellowship.

§ 65 Then there is also the weakness of language. A person may not express himself as he intended the meaning, or others may read something into his words which is not there. We do therefore teach that any Christian ought to be very sure before he will raise the cry of “false teacher.” He will make careful inquiry and ascertain exactly what is being taught by the suspected speaker. This may require little or much time. In the case of a person or group with whom one has been in fellowship, it will by its nature involve an admonition, or several admonitions. But we emphatically teach that the admonishing per se and by itself is not an absolute must, a condition sine qua non, for the application of “avoid them.” As we have seen, there may be years of admonition before a person is revealed as causing divisions and offenses by his errors, or it could become clear at one meeting that the basis for fellowship has been removed by adherence to error. The argument that separation must be delayed as long as the errorist will listen to admonition does not take into account that he is not only listening, but he is teaching his error at the same time. The devil is very happy to have this errorist listen to endless admonition, if this will enable him to continue to fellowship and address the entire Church.

§ 66 The charge that they who call for separation do not have love is quite specious: for we are first to have love for Christ, who has been attacked by the errorist, and then we are to have love for all the sheep and lambs, who stand in mortal danger by reason of the teachings of this man or group. And surely, if we act in love for God and His Word, such action will also be the most loving thing toward the errorist, as Paul indicates when also in 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15 he advocates that we cease exercising fellowship with those who are disobedient to his words, that they may be ashamed. If the errorist would always suffer isolation from the Church, he would be induced to give serious thought to his aberrations. But we believe and confess that we dare not be partakers of the evil deeds nor, by offering the hand of fellowship, appear in any way to be sanctioning the error. That is not what is meant by confessing God before men.   Argument Concerning the Examples of Jesus

§ 67 The ministry of Jesus Christ is cited by the opponents as an example of loving patience with errorists. It is said by some that since He did not break off outward fellowship with Israel, we should not break with a synod which aberrates from the Word. The first fallacy in this argument is that a synod with a confessional position is made parallel to the nation of Israel with its worship that centered at the Temple in Jerusalem. Neither the Temple nor the synagogue had a confessional position as such, except that their worshipers represented God’s people of the Old Testament, who possessed the Law and were waiting for the Messiah. The second fallacy lies in the interpretation that is thus put on the actions of Jesus. But let the Lord speak for Himself—and we will not hear the words of the unionist of today: “And ye have not his word abiding in you” (John 5:38). Does this sound as though Jesus ever gave the impression that He either approved or tolerated the Jewish errors- Jesus publicly proclaimed that these false teachers were not of God’s family: “ . . . he that sent me is true, whom ye know not” (John 7:28). Is this perhaps a manifestation of fellowship? Or again, “ . . . ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:21-24). “ . . . beware of the leaven of the Pharisees” (Matt. 16:6-11).

§ 68 Whoever mentions the example of Jesus as an instance of fellowshipping with false teachers has lost sight of the fact that our Savior died on a cross at the hand of His fellowmen just because of His exclusivism and His refusal to sanction and tolerate any variations of doctrine or belief. We therefore refute and condemn as superficial and extreme sophistry this argumentation that would justify the fellowshipping of errorists on the basis of the example of Jesus.   Argument from Ephesians 4

§ 69 Quite a popular argument used by our adversaries is taken from Ephesians 4:1-7. We are to be zealous to preserve the unity! It is contended that to separate can hardly be evidence of a zeal to preserve the unity and union. It is true that to exclude oneself from a communion destroys the union. But it is not necessarily a breaking of the unity. For if an errorist has arisen and is causing divisions and offenses by his teaching, he bears the guilt of disrupting the unity. This division will grow on and on if unimpeded. The gangrenous member must be cut off. When we “apply” Romans 16:17 we are simply doing what God has advocated to heal the breach. The surgery may indeed be painful, but it is meant to halt the advance of the disease. Ephesians 4 in particular demonstrates that the unity is a unity of faith: one Lord, one baptism, etc.   Argument from Matthew 18

§ 70 We are also told that, in keeping with Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 18:15-17 for making every effort to regain the man who has trespassed against us, patience should be exercised toward the erring teachers. It should be clear that to avoid a false teacher and to look upon a man as a heathen and a publican are two entirely different things. The former is based on the danger inherent in the goods which are being peddled as truth. The latter is based on the evidence of an unrepentant heart. The false teacher may indeed, in individual cases, eventually prove himself to be an unrepentant sinner, one who is willfully blaspheming God’s Word against his better knowledge. In that case we would have to consider him as a heathen man and a publican. But to contend that until this is true he is to be allowed to have the status of a teacher in good standing in the Church, this is utterly preposterous. He is to be avoided because he is dangerous (Rom. 16:18). He is dangerous whether or not there is hope that he may still repent.

§ 71 Here we must be careful in our use of the word “persistent” in describing a false teacher. This word came into use in the Church as an antonym of “inadvertent.” In this connection it has its place, as we have shown above, namely, that the Christian exercise great care before charging a person or groups with heresy, first determining charitably whether it was done unwittingly and inadvertently, or whether the speaker sticks to his error, which is persistence. To say that we must be positive that the errorist intends stubbornly to pursue his course despite all admonition requires an omniscience not granted to mortals. Yet it is mortals who are asked to withdraw from such as teach falsely.

§ 72 In the case of one who trespasses against me, my one concern—of which he should be assured—is the sinner and his forgiveness. In the case of false teachers, however, there is first the immediate concern for the honor of God and for the endangered lambs. This does not by any means preclude a sincere concern for the erring man’s soul. The separating action taken in obedience to God is for the sake of His glory and the safety of souls entrusted to the Church. Previously, concurrently, and subsequently, as the Christian has call and opportunity, he will of course try to correct the erring one. Even here there may have to be a stopping point, however, due to the hazard involved in dealing with one who is endangering our faith by mingling lies with the truth. Paul tells Titus to dismiss, reject a heretical one after the first and second admonition (Tit. 3:10), which is an echo of the Savior’s words: “ . . . neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they . . . turn again and rend you” (Matt. 7:6).

§ 73 In an age noted for doctrinal indifference (for the cry of the day is “deeds, not creeds”) it is particularly damaging and harmful to urge the proposition that one should not terminate fellowship until the false teacher or false church refuses to listen to admonition, since it is characteristic of errorists and unionists, who breathe the very air of compromise, to be willing to lend an ear forever, so to speak, to what they term “another point of view.” Where latitude and academic freedom have been adopted as standards, the time may never come that “admonition” will not be allowed. Satan does not demand that truth be silenced; he is quite satisfied to have a partial voice in the matter, for well he knows that even a little lie, mingled with truth, destroys the truth.


§ 74 To sum up, we reject and condemn any limitations on the extent of the application of the scriptural injunctions to separate from false teachers and groups. All who deviate are to be avoided. They are to be avoided when it is clear that they are causing divisions and offenses in the Church. They are guilty of serving other interests (“their belly”—Rom. 16:18) rather than Christ, and to fellowship with them is to be a partaker of their evil deeds, a partaker of their influence, a partaker of the judgment they are calling down upon themselves. Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God!

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B. Limiting the Intensiveness of the Application


§ 75 The people who promote this thought, that only joint worship services with errorists are forbidden, recognize that there are injunctions in the Word which prohibit fellowship with errorists. Allowance for joint religious work and activity nevertheless is made by restricting this principle to certain forms or manifestations of our fellowship with other Christians. Now as we said above, there are many, many diverse ways in which our fellowship manifests itself. In each we bear witness to each other and to all men that we are brothers and sisters in Christ, that we are agreed in the faith. When the sad fact emerges that we must mark someone as a false teacher, we avoid him, and thereby give evidence that we are not agreed. We testify to that erring person and to all men that we do not share his views, but consider them false and contrary to the Word and will of the most high God. It has become part of our confession, the witness that we bring to the truth, that we reject him and his error.

§ 76 We owe such a confession first of all to God, who wants us to make a true and honest confession to demonstrate our loyalty to Him. We owe this confession to our brothers and sisters in the faith, so that they may be warned against the dangers involved in the errors being held and taught by that person. We owe this confession to the errorist himself, in order that he may not be receiving the false comfort from us that it is not a serious matter that he holds and teaches things which are contrary to the words of Jesus. In short, we are to confess the truth, and that involves rejecting the errors. If the Christian will keep this in mind, namely, that he is not only to believe in his heart but also to confess with his mouth, he will readily see that it is not material whether it be a worship service that is under consideration, or some other form of joint religious worship and work.

§ 77 To join with heterodox people or groups, as churches or as church people, in works of charity, in dedication services, in conducting a ministry among the armed forces, in producing educational and devotional literature, etc.—all this cannot by any stretch of the imagination be called “testifying” to them and to the world that they are false teachers. Coordination and cooperation with church groups having a different confession can hardly be described as avoiding, withdrawing, or coming out from among them and being separate. We repeat that especially in periods of indifference to doctrine and creeds and confessions, the faithful Christian is required to be very careful not to give the impression that he approves or tolerates the false position of the heterodox. When our people are told on every hand that the divisions in Christendom are not serious, that basically every church is good and that one religion is as good as the next, that all roads lead to heaven, and that the differences in teaching are only theological hair-splitting—what can they be expected to believe when even orthodox teachers and leaders join with heterodox in religious seminars, address each other’s conventions, work together on joint committees for various religious projects, etc. The trumpet must not give an uncertain sound.


§ 78 A distinction has been made between prayer fellowship and joint prayer. While it is granted that the general fellowship of prayer with heterodox bodies is out of the question, it is argued that under proper safe-guards a joint prayer on certain occasions would not be objectionable. This distinction is certainly not justified by any difference in the inherent quality or nature of the prayer that would be offered on such a special occasion. It is in either case an act of worship. Neither would it depend on the number of times this act of prayer is performed. Can the number of times, or the habitual performing of an act, affect its ethical nature? Can something be God-pleasing when done only occasionally, but become an offense to Him when repeated regularly?

§ 79 The sole question is, of course, whether the premises that warrant such prayer are actually present. They are clearly defined in Scripture: “Again I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:19-20). The warning of Paul to the Romans (“to avoid”—ch. 16:17) would lose its point if it did not cover joint prayer. He makes no exceptions. The warning of St. John in his Second Epistle deserves to be taken to heart: “Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God-speed: For he that biddeth him God-speed is partaker of his evil deeds” (2 John 8-11). John is, of course, not speaking against ordinary civility in manners, but warning against a formal brotherly greeting, one that would carry spiritual implications. Arguing now from the lesser to the greater: if we are to deny a brotherly reception to a man because he is an adherent of false doctrine, what about arranging a joint prayer? If by a mere greeting we already become guilty of the errorist’s evil deeds, how then may we join him in prayer? And what would be the nature of such a prayer? Our prayer must needs be directed against his “evil deeds,” while he would seek a blessing upon them. This is sheer hypocrisy!

§ 80 We must reject and condemn this distinction between prayer fellowship and joint prayer as a device for allowing fellowship where fellowship has been forbidden. The proponents of this distinction found it necessary to state that the passages calling for separation (Rom. 16:17; 2 Cor. 6:14-18; Gal. 1:6-9; 1 Tim. 6:3-5; Tit. 1:10-14; 3:10-11; Matt. 7:15; 2 John 7-11) are entirely directed against reprobates, anti-Christian errorists, enemies of Christ; in short, infidels. This sweeping assertion they must make in order to justify their “occasional joint prayer.” Since they say of these passages that they are applicable to non-Christians only, they have removed all passages which prohibit fellowship with errorists. Thereby it is manifest that they are opening the door not only to joint prayer, but to complete church fellowship with all those whom one cannot prove to be hardened and faithless enemies of Christ.


§ 81 With great subtlety unionism of many kinds has infiltrated the Church under the guise of innocent phrases such as “cooperation in externals.” Though we would not say that it is impossible (especially in days of confessional vigor and honesty) for churches to cooperate in certain secular activities even though they are divided in doctrine, yet when this expression is used to allow working together with heterodox bodies in religious matters, then we condemn the expression as a cloak for sinful disobedience to the Word of God, and a procedure which confuses and offends the simple Christian.


§ 82 Many joint services, prayers, and activities are justified by the claim that the specific false teaching that is involved was nevertheless not brought into question at that particular occasion, and that a certain degree of fraternizing with the errorist involved neither complicity in nor approval of his error. The Christian reader will know from all that we have stated from Scripture that it is not only the error that is to be avoided, but likewise the people who propagate it who are to be isolated. We therefore condemn also this phrase as a sophistry which may lead people astray from God’s paths.


§ 83 By this plea some teachers would allow for the continuation of external fellowship by stressing that our Lord wants our hearts to be pure and purged of error. The latter is of course very true. The prime consideration is that our faith be correct and that we keep the leaven of error from entering into our hearts. It is also true that the denouncing of error and errorists is in such a situation the paramount activity of a confessing Christian. But though these traits and Christian characteristics are essential and highly to be praised, they do not excuse the Christian from also separating externally and publicly from error and errorists. Many a fine confession is vitiated by keeping up the semblance of fellowship with the errorist whom one has rebuked, even though he does not change his ways.

§ 84 There have indeed been periods in the history of the Church when publicly to dissent from the established teaching of a church body meant automatic suspension, loss of office, loss of property, and even life. Then surely, to speak and rebuke was synonymous with external separation. But to call such testimony of words an “avoiding” and “shunning,” when one knows that for lack of action one will continue to be considered an integral part of the organization in question, that is to be using identical words indeed, but with totally different meaning.


§ 85 The idea of “protesting fellowship” or “a state of confession” is advanced at this point. This is closely related to the preceding, and we refute the abuse of such relationships on the same grounds.

§ 86 This point has to do with the external membership one has in an organization. When error rears its ugly head in an orthodox communion, the Christian has the duty of raising his voice, taking the sword of the Spirit, and driving out the error. As long as a church body thus attacks error it remains an orthodox church. The orthodox character of a church is established not by its outward acceptance of, and subscription to, an orthodox creed, but by the doctrine which is actually taught in its pulpits, in its theological seminaries, and its publications. On the other hand, a church does not forfeit its orthodox character through the casual intrusion of errors, provided these are combated and eventually removed by means of doctrinal discipline, Acts 20:30; 1 Timothy 1:3 (See the Brief Statement).

§ 87 Sometimes, however, the issue is in doubt, for it is not clear whether the error has taken such a firm hold that it has become the doctrina publica (public doctrine) of the groups, or whether it is being combated successfully and eradicated. During such a period of strife, and in order to make his confession clear, the Christian will be compelled publicly to disavow the various statements, actions, and policies which are not consistent with Scripture, before, however, breaking the organizational bond. He states thereby that he is still on the roster of this communion, but not in sympathy with all the teachings that have arisen within this communion.

§ 88 When, however, such a state of protesting fellowship is proclaimed, but business is carried on as usual, with the individual continuing to treat the errorists as though they were still faithful teachers and hearers of the Word—exchanging pulpits, transferring members, intercommuning, and the like—then that use of the expression is to be condemned as a cloak for unionistic activity. Without the appropriate action it becomes mere lip-service. Once again, the simple are deceived into thinking that these matters are not serious, not clearly taught in Scripture, not divisive.


§ 89 Finally, whatever other condemnable or erroneous opinions there may still be, over and above the foregoing, can easily be gathered and named from the preceding explanations. For we reject and condemn everything that is not in accordance with, but contrary and opposed to, the doctrine recorded above and thoroughly grounded in God’s Word.


§ 90 We believe that Jesus is our only Savior and that only in His precious Gospel do we find peace and joy and comfort and hope. With Him we would ever be in fellowship. We yearn for the day when we shall experience the fullness of that fellowship and see Him face to face. There, with the great cloud of witnesses that has gone before, we shall be in fellowship with all believers in Him. All visible fellowships on earth shall pass away, and are as the grass which withers. His Word shall never pass away. Though we be separated from all human beings, but united with Christ and His Word, we shall be rich in His fellowship, and through Him, with the Father. Deliver us from evil! Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly!

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A Summary of the Content of Our Confession


The Principal Question in This Controversy

Three questions have arisen in the Lutheran Church concerning this doctrine.

1. What extent of doctrinal agreement does Scripture require as a basis for fellowship? Some have taught that agreement in all doctrines is required; others, that fellowship is to be permitted though there be less than such complete agreement.

2. Later, a controversy arose among those who taught that complete agreement was necessary as a basis for fellowship. To what extent is fellowship forbidden among those who are not in complete doctrinal agreement? Some have taught that all manifestations of fellowship are forbidden with those who deviate in doctrine; others have taught that there are areas of church work which do not require complete agreement.

3. Finally, a controversy arose among those who taught that all manifestations of fellowship are forbidden with all who deviate in doctrine. What is the Scriptural criterion for termination of fellowship with errorists with whom one has been in fellowship, but who later deviate in doctrine? Some have taught that the exercise of church fellowship is to cease when it is clear that the error is actually being taught and defended; others have taught that fellowship may be practiced as long as the errorists do not blaspheme the Word of God and do not refuse to discuss the issues involved. (§ 1-3)

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1. We believe, teach, and confess that complete doctrinal agreement is the Scriptural basis for church fellowship. “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10). (§ 4-7)

2. We further believe that the doctrine which the Church should teach and hold is restricted to the doctrine of the Bible. “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God” (1 Pet. 4:11). (§ 8-9)

3. We further believe that the Word of God (the Old and New Testaments) is inerrant, inviolable, and clear. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16); “ . . . the Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35); “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path’’ (Ps. 119:105). (§ 10-13 )

4. We believe that all aberrations from the doctrines of Scripture are condemned by God. “Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that use their tongues, and say, He saith” (Jer. 23:31), and “If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (Gal. l:9). (§14-15)

5. We believe and teach that church fellowship is forbidden with all who deviate from the Word of God in their teachings. “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Rom. 16:17). (§ 16-41)

6. We further believe that all manifestations of fellowship are forbidden with those who deviate from the Word of God in their teachings (Rom. 16:17b). (§ 42-45)

7. We further believe and teach that suspension of an established fellowship is to take place when it has been ascertained that a person or group is causing divisions and offenses through a false position in doctrine or practice (Rom. 16:17-18). (§ 46-48)

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1. We reject and condemn any limitations on the extent of the application of the Scriptural injunctions to separate from false churches and teachers. (§ 49)

a. We reject the teaching that the application is limited to non-Christian bodies. (§ 50)

b. We reject the teaching that the application is limited to those who deny the redemptive work of Christ. (§ 51)

c. We reject the teaching that the application is limited to those who err in fundamental doctrines. (§ 58-60)

d. We further reject the teaching that errorists and their followers are to be avoided only when they no longer listen to admonition, or that we are to remain in fellowship with errorists as long as we think there is hope that they might give up their errors. (§ 61-72)

e. Though the teaching Church is ever an admonishing Church, we reject the opinion that separation from errorists is dependent upon the course of admonition. (§ 73)

2. We also reject and condemn all limitations on the intensiveness of such divinely commanded separation from false churches and teachers.

a. We reject as false the teaching which would forbid only joint worship services with errorists. (§ 75-77)

b. We reject as spurious the distinction which is made between prayer fellowship and joint prayer, namely, that while the former is indeed forbidden with errorists, an occasional joint prayer would not be displeasing to God. (§ 78-80)

c. We also reject the teaching that fellowship with errorists is permitted if there be no complicity with the error itself, or that the errorist may be fellowshipped but not his error. (§ 82)

d. We also reject the teaching that one may practice outward or external fellowship with errorists, if one does not embrace the error in his heart. (§ 83-84)

e. We also reject the idea of protesting fellowships when they are used as license to practice fellowship with errorists. (§ 85-88)

f. Finally, we reject the plea of “cooperation in externals” when it is used as license for actual joint church work with errorists. (§ 81)

Same-sex Marriage Policy



On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court declared that the United States Constitution requires states to license and recognize marriages between two people of the same sex, making “marriage” equality officially the law of the land. Inasmuch as the church has historically functioned as an arm of the state in the conduct of marriage, and inasmuch as same- sex “marriage” is now the law of the land, in exercise of our conscience bound by Scripture, we explain our position.


God instituted marriage and defines what marriage is in His Word. Because the consciences of faithful Christians are bound by God’s Word, it is necessary that the Church of the Lutheran Confession, and its constituent congregations, set forth their position with respect to the Supreme Court decision.

The Bible teaches that all governing authorities have been appointed by God. For this reason, God counsels Christians to submit themselves to the governing authorities for His sake (Romans 13:1-5). We teach that it is contrary to God’s revealed will for Christians to disobey the governing authorities.

The Bible also teaches that Christians must place their allegiance to God above their allegiance to the governing authorities (Acts 5:29) when the governing authorities command Christians to live or teach contrary to God’s Word. We recognize that when Christians for conscience reasons disobey the governing authorities, they may need to suffer the consequences.

We also believe that Christians should seek to change civil laws in conflict with God’s Word. All such efforts to change civil laws should be carried on within the framework of the law and not by armed conflict or civil disobedience. It is God’s will that Christians overcome evil with good and that they not fight against evil by engaging in evil themselves (Romans 12:21).


Membership admittance and fellowship practices within our constituent congregations are defined by God’s Word. We accept without reservation or qualification that acceptance into membership in our congregations is based on a mutual agreement in all the teachings of God’s Word (Romans 16:17-18, 1 Corinthians 1:10).

The only requirement for membership in our congregations is that individuals state their agreement with us on the teachings of God’s Word. Sex, race, or national origin is not a consideration for membership in our congregations.

It is common practice in our congregations for individuals to be received into membership following a course of instruction in God’s Word and after they have been familiarized with the teachings and practices of the congregation they are planning to join. Each constituent congregation of our church body has committed itself to the doctrinal platform of the Church of the Lutheran Confession drawn from the Bible. Since there is no membership in the Church of the Lutheran Confession apart from membership in a local congregation, such membership in a local congregation constitutes acceptance of the doctrinal platform of the Church of the Lutheran Confession.

It is customary among us for children to become members of a congregation through the sacrament of baptism as infants, after which they are instructed in the teachings of God’s Word and publicly pledge, on their confirmation day, to remain faithful to God’s Word. For adults, membership is attained through affirmation of faith following a course of Bible instruction. Membership may also be attained through transfer from a sister congregation of the Church of the Lutheran Confession.


Our purpose is defined in Article I of theCLC Statement of Faith and Purpose: “It is our single purpose to be a Christian church that proclaims the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Bible. This Gospel is the only way people can know the true God and the way to eternal life …  (Matthew 28:18-20, John 17:3, Acts 4:12) … We reject the idea of some that the main work of the church is to promote political and social causes … As individuals, Christians will show fruits of their faith by concern for social and political issues, letting their light shine before others to the glory of God” (1 Peter 2:9, Matthew 5:13-16).


God created Adam and Eve holy, without any vestige of sin. God is not responsible for the evils described in Galatians 5:19-21: “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I told you in  time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” God did not create people as or to be homosexuals or lesbians any more than He created people as or to be thieves, child abusers, or alcoholics.

The evils God condemns in His Word are a direct consequence of Adam and Eve’s fall into sin which was perpetrated by the devil (Genesis 3). All sin of whatever nature springs from hearts that have been corrupted by the fall into sin (Matthew 15:19). Those who claim that God made them as or to be homosexuals or lesbians are committing blasphemy against the holy name of God.

As confessors of the Lord Jesus Christ Who has redeemed us from sin, death, and the power of the devil, and Who has washed us clean by His blood, we believe that God earnestly desires the salvation of homosexuals and lesbians. In love He gave His Son to die on the cross for all sinners without exception.

People who have homosexual and lesbian tendencies may be members of our churches so long as they

  • understand what God’s Word teaches with respect to such a condition
  • understand that we will assist them in trying to overcome the condition
  • are not practicing the sins associated with such a life-style, and
  • are not promo ting homosexuality and lesbianism as an acceptable life style.

Because Jesus died to take away our sin, sin in and of itself does not condemn before God. What condemns before God is an unwillingness to repent of sin. The purpose of church discipline, in cases of established impenitence, is an expression of Christian love intended to lead souls to repentance so they may be saved. Sin, in and of itself, does not exclude from the Christian congregation, but impenitence will compel the caring congregation to exercise discipline (1 Corinthians 5:4-5). It will do so with the prayer that the unrepentant sinner may be won back to Christ through godly repentance, as was the happy result in case of the incestuous man excommunicated by the church at Corinth (2 Corinthians 2: 4-8).

God – in numerous places in His Word – condemns thepractice of homosexuality and lesbianism: Genesis 19:1-23; Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:26-28; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. In 1 Corinthians 6 the apostle Paul clearly shows that the sins of homosexuality and lesbianism are no more serious than any other sin, but that they are sin.


Our understanding of what constitutes marriage is determined by Scripture.

The Lord, the everlasting and eternal God, created the world (Genesis 1-2). On the 6th day of creation God created male and female (Genesis 1:26-27). God saw that it was not good for man to be alone so He created a woman and brought her to the man. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and they (male and female) shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:5).

The creation account in Genesis clearly shows that, when God instituted marriage, He intended it to be a lifelong union between one man and one woman.When no helper suitable was found for Adam, the Lord created a woman (Genesis 1:26-27, 2:18-25). Any contrary interpretation of God’s action and intent is a consequence, at least in part, of the evolutionary mindset of those who refuse to accept the Bible as the authoritative Word of God.

The patriarchs had female partners. The Lord through the prophet Malachi warns husbands about dealing treacherously with their wives (2:13-15). On the other hand, Solomon by the Spirit of God praises the wife in whom her husband trusts (Proverbs 31:10-31).

Joseph was espoused to Mary, his betrothed wife.Jesus quoted Genesis when He spoke of male and female,and of being joined to one’s wife(Matthew 19:4-6, Mark 10:6-9). The apostle Paul speaks of the relationship of a wife to a husband (Ephesians 5, Colossians 3:18-19). He speaks of a man having his own wife, and a wife having her own husband(1 Corinthians 7:2).

The apostle John describes the Church as the bride adorned for her husband (Revelation 21:2). He speaks of the marriage of the Lamb for whom His wife has made herself ready (Revelation 19:7-9). The apostle Paul uses the marriage relationship of a man to a woman to picture the relationship of Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:22-33). The denial of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, and the promotion of same-sex unions destroys the beauty of “the great mystery … concerning Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:32).

One blessing God gives to husbands and wives is the gift of children (Genesis 1:28, Psalm 127:3). Even the physical makeup of the man and the woman is evidence of God’s will and intent.


We do not conduct marriages of members or of people “off the street” without prior counseling, without discussing what constitutes marriage, and without explaining the duties and responsibilities of a man and woman toward each other in the marriage relationship. We expect that couples who are not of our fellowship will want to participate in an adult inquiry class of a length deemed necessary by the individual pastor. If we were asked to conduct same-sex unions we would proceed in the same way. We would in the course of the counseling sessions inform the individuals of our practice and show from Scripture what God says. In this scenario two possibilities present themselves. They could be convinced of the position set forth by the Word of God concerning marriage and choose not to enter into such a union, or they would persist in their intent. A faithful pastor would under no circumstance  perform such a ceremony for same-sex couples. Neither would a congregation rent its facility, dedicated to the glory of God, for such a ceremony.


As an expression of our faith and practice we do not receive into membership people of same-sex marriages whether the ceremony was performed in another church, by a justice of the peace, or by any other authority of the state.

Further, the Word of God Who created the world and everything in it, who brought Adam and Eve together, and Who through Jesus Christ, born of a woman, reiterated the marital union to be one man and one woman, binds us to believe and practice according to His will. We take our stand on His Word and we cannot think, teach, or practice otherwise. Therefore we do not conduct ceremonies which society claims to unite people of the same sex in what according to Scripture, as well as historically, has been the union of one man and one woman. To do so would violate the Word, blaspheme God, and invite divine judgment, as is clearly shown in Scripture.

We reject any suggestion that our practice discriminates against homosexuals or lesbians, or that it is unloving. Our position has everything to do with concern for souls and faithfulness to God’s Word. While we do not approve of same-sex unions, we recognize the right of people under the law to do as they choose. We ask only that those who disagree with us respect our right under the law to practice our faith according to the Word of God, and our conscience bound by that Word.

That sinful man chooses consciously or unconsciously to violate God’s Word concerning marriage does not change the fact that marriage is what God declares it to be. Concerning our position on this issue, we choose to face the wrath of the world in time, rather than the judgment of God in eternity.

This is a statement of the Church of the Lutheran Confession addressing the stance of conducting same sex marriage ceremonies. It describes the stance of the church body. Congregations may choose to make their own statement, or if they choose adopt this statement.


The marriage policy of _______________ Lutheran Church of _______________, _______________, is consistent with the beliefs on marriage which are taught in Scripture and held by member congregations of the Church of the Lutheran Confession.

We believe that marriage is a sacred union of one man and one woman (Genesis 2:20-24, Matthew 19:4-5). We believe that God gave marriage as a picture of the relationship between Christ and His bride, the Church (Ephesians 5:22-32).

The position of the Church of the Lutheran Confession is that homosexual unions are clearly and explicitly forbidden in the Old and New Testaments (Leviticus 18:22,24; 20:13; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:9-10) because they are contrary to the Creator’s design and will (Romans 1:26-27).

These positions and beliefs can be found in the “Online Library” section of the CLC Website, along with other statements, papers, and reports on the subject of homosexuality and same-sex civil unions and “marriage.” We expressly reject any conclusion or implication that the Scriptural stand of the CLC with regard to marriage arises from animosity or ill-will toward, or desire to injure or impugn, any person or class of persons. Our positions and beliefs on this subject are based solely upon the foundation of Holy Scripture.

In accordance with our stand on the teachings of Scripture, and our right to the free exercise of religion under the United States Constitution, our pastors will not officiate at or participate in any marriages inconsistent with our biblical stand; further, our church property may not be used for any ceremony that is inconsistent with our biblical stance on marriage.

Edited: 3/6/17

CLC – Concerning Church and Ministry

On the Relation of Synod and Local Congregation
to the Holy Christian Church The thoughts, words and subject matter in the Theses on the Relation of Synod and Local Congregation to the Holy Christian Church, as originally accepted by the Church of the Lutheran Confession, are herewith reaffirmed and taken up in their order with the purpose of expanding upon the meaning and intent of the truths therein expressed, in order that we may state with full clarity what they briefly say and suggest concerning that which Scripture teaches us to hold and confess regarding the doctrine of the Church. At the same time we desire, in this presentation, to disassociate ourselves from doctrines that conflict with scriptural teaching on this subject and from views of men which militate against the liberty that we have in Christ.
In so doing, we seek to preserve inviolate and unimpaired, for ourselves as a church body as well as for each believer in Christ, the full prerogatives and splendor of our function as royal priests of God and the true blessings of our faith in the Holy Christian Church.



Expression has been given in another of our confessions, the one entitled: Concerning Church Fellowship, to the unique character of the Church, the Communion of Saints, its singular unity and the legitimate manner, outlined in Scripture, by which that unity is to be reflected and maintained in outward, visible fellowship. Further clarification is needful only to the extent that a proper relationship be defined as it obtains between a so-called local congregation and the wider association of Christians by congregations within the framework of what in our age has often been called a Synod, or a Conference, or simply: a church. The use of the term church when speaking of outward, visible organizations has been a cause of considerable difficulty to all efforts at maintaining unity of faith and confession in this area of doctrine among otherwise like-minded Lutherans. The existence of these difficulties is recognized by the title of our Theses; and in a brief preamble we have offered an approach to the elimination of misunderstanding in this matter. The introductory paragraph reads:
In the discussion of the doctrine of the Church, specifically the relation of synod and local congregation, it is helpful and essential to distinguish between THE NATURE AND ESSENCE of these respective bodies on the one hand and their ORGANIZATIONAL FORM AND FUNCTION on the other.

It is of great importance to note that the scriptural concept of church can be applied to visible church organizations only in an improper sense. We acknowledge that they are thereby defined, not essentially, but by synecdoche, a figure of speech by which a part is put for the whole, or the whole for a part, the special for the general, or the general for the special, or the like. (Thorndike-Bartihart, Dictionary) If therefore we wish to apprehend clearly the relation of Synod and local congregation to the Church, we must necessarily begin by setting forth what Scripture means when it speaks of the Church. To this effort the first Thesis addresses itself.
We rejoice in the knowledge that, among those who retain as their heritage the fundamental blessing of the Lutheran Reformation, the doctrinal position affirmed by this Thesis will elicit only unqualified approval. It merely rephrases in the briefest possible way a truth which the Lutheran Confessions have taught us to regard as a part of the elementary knowledge of properly instructed Christians. All these will say, with the Apology of the Augsburg Confession:
Wherefore we hold, according to the Scriptures, that the Church, properly so called, is the congregation of saints (of those here and there in the world), who truly believe the Gospel of Christ and have the Holy Ghost. (Apol. Art. Vii, 28; Triglot, p. 237)

The Thesis, through the scripture references adduced, further declares that this Church is invisible to the eyes of men and its membership known only to the Lord; that it is nevertheless not a Platonic or imaginary state, but an actual spiritual priesthood of believers, a world-wide congregation of saints who are made holy through faith in Christ and who serve God in holy works; that it is not a mere idea or ideal, but an actuality for which Christ gave Himself into death, that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing: but that it should be holy and without blemish. (Eph. 5: 27)
We teach with Martin Luther that Christians are a separated, chosen people and are called not only a church or people (ecclesia), but holy, universal, Christian, that is: a Christian, holy people, who believe in Christ, wherefore they are called a Christian people; and who possess the Holy Ghost, who daily sanctifies them, not only through the remission of sins which Christ has gained for them (as the Antinomians foolishly suppose), but also through the putting off, sweeping out, and mortifying of sins, wherefore they are called a holy people . . . (Luther, of Councils and Churches, 1539)
Lest the nature of the sanctification of the Church be misconceived, we join John Gerhard in here declaring that we emphatically do not employ the designation of saints in an Anabaptist or Pelagian sense; nor do we indulge in the fantasy that the true citizens of the Church, in the weakness of this life, are wholly and utterly sinless . . . (Loc. de eccl., Par. 51) Rather, we confess with Luther: The holy Church sins and falters or indeed also errs, as the Lords Prayer teaches; but she neither defends nor excuses herself, but humbly prays for forgiveness and amends her ways as much as is ever possible. It is then forgiven her, so that her sin is no more counted as sin. (Walch, XIX, 1294) Cf. also: Luthers Works, Am. Ed., Vol. 22, pp. 178- 180 (Walch, VII, 1734, 425ff).
Thus before the Lord the Church indeed stands a living, holy temple, united and imperishable, an organism that is vital, alive and growing. Outside of this Church there is no salvation for men; such as should be saved will be, and are being, added to it constantly through the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments. These are the out-. ward marks which indicate the presence of the Church; but they are not a part of, nor do they belong to the essence of, the Church. We hold that to speak of a visible side of the invisible Church is unscriptural and a contradiction in terms. But we say with our Confessions: The Christian Church consists. . . especially in inward communion of eternal blessings in the heart, as of the Holy Ghost, of faith, of fear and love of God; which fellowship, nevertheless, has outward marks so that it can be recognized, namely, the pure doctrine of the Gospel, and the administration of the Sacraments in accordance with the Gospel of Christ. (Apol. VII, VIII, 5; Triglot, p. 227)
Whatever then maybe the relationship existing between the Church on the one hand and the congregational or synodical organization on the other, it is certain that they must in no wise be identified. Visible church bodies are neither holy nor perfect; they are not one, but many. Though they contain Christians, they do not consist of believers only, as does the Church; though the Word and Sacraments are present and operative in them, these are not entrusted to them as such and are not administered by them as such; though they grow and multiply, it is not these, or any one of them, of which the Lord Jesus spoke when He said: . . I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Mt. 16:18.)
Not only do we insist that this distinction must be made; we ask also that it be meticulously and consistently respected throughout any wider discussion of the doctrine of the Church and related matters. Much of the confusion that has in the past frequently be-clouded this doctrine even within the confines of the most conservative Lutheranism can be traced directly to the lack of consistency that loses sight of the doctrinal premises when they become involved in the process of practical application. We shall find it necessary to refer to aberrations of this type as we now proceed to an exposition of those Theses in our series which undertake to define the proper relevance of certain visible organizations to that object of our faith the Holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints.


When we speak of a Christian congregation, or local church, we always mean only the Christians or believers in the visible communion. The congregations, too, consist only of believers. As the wicked and hypocrites do not belong to the Church Universal, so they are no part of the congregation either. This is the clear teaching of Scripture. (Pieper, Dogmatics, III; Eng. Ed. p.419f)
These precise statements of a revered teacher, presumably agreed to by several generations of a Lutheran orthodoxy of which we desire to be heirs, well serve to introduce this portion of our confession. Sometimes they have been misunderstood. Oftener they have been ignored. Substantially they present a proposition basic to the scriptural thinking of our Theses.
The expressions: church; congregation; communion; belong to the vocabulary which must be employed when we wish to state clearly what we teach and believe in regard to the matters now under consideration. Yet it is by the very use of such terms that we may be misunderstood and may in turn fail to understand others. It must be regarded as an unhappy circumstance and a measure of human inadequacy that we are compelled to deal in words which through careless usage or by reason of their origins have become ambiguous. Of necessity, then, those who undertake to teach and confess the doctrine of Scripture in any point, and certainly not least in the area here under consideration, will at the outset define their terms.
We are told that Luther regarded the German equivalent of the word church (Kirche) as being unGerman, a vague and fuzzy expression. In his translation of the Old Testament he employed it only about fifteen times, and then invariably to denote idolatrous sanctuaries or associations and never as designation for the believers of the Old Covenant or their assemblies. In his translation of the New Testament Luther uses the expression  Kirche only twice, and these instances consist in compound words (church-dedication, Jn. lO:22; church~robbers, H Acts 19:37). Uniformly he translated the Greek ekklesia with Gemeinde (congregation). (Quartalschrift, Vol. 26, p. 207f) Despite such care on his part, Luther too has been misunderstood and cited for false positions relative to the doctrine of the Church.
It may not be possible to obviate all wrongful interpretations of what we endeavor to say in this our
confession. We shall nevertheless be at pains to remain as definitive as possible in our expression. To this end we desire herewith to establish and announce the policy to be pursued herein: Whenever we employ the term Church as a proper noun, or in its generic use as indicated by quotation marks (church), we wish to be understood as referring to the invisible ekklesia of the Scriptures in its essence and with its characteristics; to the Holy Christian Church, whether in its totality or in its parts. With this provision established, we trust that mutual understanding will prevail.
But it behooves us also to establish a consistent use of the word congregation for our purposes. In the statement of Dr. Pieper quoted above, we note that he carefully distinguishes between the concept Christian congregation, or local church and a visible communion, to which he does not want to apply the word congregation. Thus in the context in which he deals he wishes to be understood as equating congregation with church. This, then, is the definition of a congregation: A congregation is the assembly of believers who congregate about Word and Sacrament at a particular place. (Op. Cit. p. 420) The visible communion, so often loosely called a church or a local church or a local congregation for the sake of convenience in casual discussion as well as in theological debate, includes whatever number of unbelievers and hypocrites may be mingled therewith. Dr. Pieper in his doctrinal treatment does not wish the word congregation to be employed in that sense.
Our theses sympathize with that restriction. Indeed, they make an issue of it. Though they speak of the outward organizational form of a congregation, the very syntax of that phrase indicates that congregation is something distinct from its outward organizational form. And so it must be. Holy Scripture indeed recognizes the existence of visible communions or fellowshipping groups. But we have already pointed out that when our Savior, in Mt. 16:18, declares that He would build His Church, He was not speaking of any visible church body as such, but of His spiritual Body. This is the first instance of the New Testament use of the term ekklesia, which we translate as church; and in similar contexts the Apostles consistently employ the term in the same sense.

With these preliminaries serving to guard our terminology against semantic confusion, we turn to our thesis which says that any group of professing Christians gathered in Christs Name (Mt. 18:20) can rightly be called church because of the Christians in it. Therefore also a so-called local congregation … With these words we intend to convey this truth above all, that a local congregation (Ortsgemeinde) in the sense of a circumscribed group of professing Christians (as distinct from a group of believers) can be designated a church only because we believe that the Church is present in it, present wherever the Gospel is preached and the Sacraments are administered according to Christs institution. The very existence of the Church is a matter of faith and not of observation. When people are assembled in Christs Name, that is, in connection with the Name of the Lord, this means, as it has always been understood among us and as both the Second Commandment and the First Petition of the Lords Prayer have taught us, that such people are assembled about and concerning the Word and Sacraments. These are the marks which indicate what we cannot see but accept as fact: the presence of the Church.
The saints that come together within an outward fellowship, the faithful in Christ Jesus, make such visible communions church, and ARE church. Their sum is rightly labeled a congregation, namely an assembly of those who have been called out and separated from the world. Of this congregation, as part and parcel of the Holy Christian Church on earth, it can be said that it possesses all the rights, duties and powers of the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven; and this because each and every individual of the congregation so constituted, as a spiritual priest before God, is endowed with the treasures which Christ has earned, won and conferred upon His Church.
Scripture assures us that we shall be able to find the Church wherever men assemble about the true Gospel and the Sacraments in order to use them according to the Saviors directive (Mt. 18:20); and because His Word calls upon His disciples to do so (Mt. 18:17; Heb.l0:24-25), we recognize the fact that through their response to this need and the will of their Lord outward organizations will come into being. Their faith will bring Christians together as church; and the assembling will not be invisible. The Gospel and the faith that it generates will, by Gods grace, create tangible forms. We know also that in the very nature of things the assembling of Christians and the resulting form of their being together will, first of all, be of a local character and composition. In other words, we regard the establishment of local congregations as the primary outcome of the operation of the Holy Spirit Who gathers Gods elect and permits them to recognize one another by their confession. In this sense we may scripturally affirm that local visible communions in which the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity and the Sacraments are administered according to their divine institution exist by Gods will and order and through the operation of His power in the Gospel.
Concerning such local visible communions, however, our thesis in its second part rejects the thought that they must be cast into any one divinely fixed outward form. From the very outset of the life of the New Testament Church the structure of its visible communions as well as their manner of operation with the public ministry of Word and Sacrament varied substantially from place to place and region to region. Reference is made to the difference in this respect between the Mother Church at Jerusalem and the church at Corinth. In Jerusalem organizational design and functioning are evidenced, for example, in the purposeful and orderly procedure that marked the choosing of the seven deacons (Acts 6). In contrast, the worship of the Corinthian congregation reveals a use of the God-given charismatic gifts so individual and so joyfully uninhibited by organizational form that it actually created a problem to which Paul had to give considerable attention (I Cor. 14). Yet the Apostle did not simply impose upon the Corinthians the system of Jerusalem. For when Gods children are called together for the exercise of the priestly prerogatives of their holy station, it is Gods Spirit Who moves them; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. (II Cor. 3:17) They are dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world and are not subject to ordinances. (Col. 2:20) Among them prevails the divinely sanctioned diversity in unity described by the Apostle in I Cor. 12, a diversity which exists between them not only as individuals, but as groups as well. Therefore visible assemblies may and do operate under voluntary and diversified regulations and constitutional provisions designed, not to achieve structural uniformity but to promote the interests of good order and mutual love in the discharge of the labors in the Gospel, seeking to achieve as best possible under all circumstances the design of the Lord Who says through His Apostle that the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. (I Cor. 12:7)

In this sense and for this reason we affirm that the outward organizational form of a congregation is of human arrangement, and does not as such determine its character. When a visible local assembly is called a church, therefore, it must be borne in mind that this sacred term does not properly apply to it insofar as it is an outward assembly, but only to the extent that it is truly a congregation. While with the Catechism we speak of the church power (or authority) which Christ has given to His Church on earth, and apply this truth by saying that the Keys have been conferred upon the local congregation, we must bear in mind that such an assertion is correct only when we are properly defining local congregation as Dr. Pieper does. For it is to the Church in the true sense, that is, to the communion of saints, to which as such (or as to holy people) the Lord has entrusted and committed the preaching of the Gospel and therewith the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and not the church in the improper, or synecdochical sense, that is, insofar as the term is used to include persons who are not Christians, or insofar as it associates concrete things and forms (Sachen) with believers. Tt (Quartalschrift, Vol. 26, p. 217)


Some Lutheran teachers have argued that the formation of local churches must be regarded as having a divine mandate while the organization by congregations of larger bodies such as synods is a purely human and optional arrangement. The contention is that local churches originate through the inner necessity established by Gods will and order that Christians fellowship, institute the public preaching of the Word, exercise Christian discipline and celebrate the Holy Supper. Since these are manifestly enjoined upon Christians and since they could not be exercised without local assemblies, it follows that local churches are divinely instituted. Such logic, however, could be applied with similar authority in demonstrating that wider associations of Christians also have a divine mandate. For since our Savior has directed His disciples to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature, and since a single local church could hardly hope to approach an adequate implementation of this obligation, it follows that the mission command presupposes (and thus makes mandatory) the cooperation of many Christians in many places as necessitated by the needs and opportunities. This conclusion is supported by the fact that in the primitive Christian Church the believers linked hands and means in speeding the Apostles and their helpers upon their missionary enterprises.
We have pointed out that it is the Holy Ghost Who causes Christians to seek one another out by their confession and to engage in the exercise of fellowship and joint work. This is always true, no matter what outward form or organization may be set up for the furtherance of this exercise. Proper and divinely approved forms of worship and work are products of the faith and liberty of those who possess the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven; and faith in action is inventive, liberty is unfettered. (I Cor. 12:4-7; I Cor.3:2l-23)The New Testament knows of no specific forms that have been prescribed to restrict or limit, geographically or functionally, the manner in which the individual Christian will govern his association with his brethren in the administration of the Means of Grace. (Col. 2:20f; Gal.4:9f)
In the same sense in which a local congregation is church, therefore, a wider association of Christians reaching beyond the boundaries of a local congregation is also rightly called church. In our circles such a larger fellowship has often resulted in an outward organizational form which is popularly known as synod. If in the Theses as well as in this exposition we employ the synodical appellation, we wish it understood that we do not apply the term church to the form or to the name, even as we do not refer to a congregation as church in relation to its visible structure.
The circumstance that a number of confessing congregations, acting in Christian liberty, combine to constitute a larger church body, the outward form of which is indeed of human devising, does not denude such a larger body of the characteristics of church, but rather confers that character upon it. For the essential nature of the confessing congregations is not altered by their humanly constructed, yet wholly legitimate union with others of the same mind; rather, when these congregations are added together, the resultant total is again expressed by the concepts confessional congregation, or assembly, within which the Church proprie dicta, the communion of saints, the true possessor of all the treasures of Christ, is contained. In a synod are embodied all those Christians who lie hidden in all constituent congregations.

As the sum of all such congregations and their individual members, a synod therefore naturally and originally possesses all treasures and powers that Christ has given to His Church on earth: the authority to preach the Gospel, administer the Sacraments, the Office of the Keys, etc. . . (Quartalschrift, Vol. 8, p. 135f)
But in whatever manner the Church at large or the local church may establish herself outwardly, always it remains church in the proper sense of the word: Communion of Saints. By the process of their banding together as a larger outward communion, the members of a local congregation do not forfeit their faith, their membership in the Body of Christ; rather, the banding together is an outgrowth of their faith, and in this larger fellowship they desire to exercise their faith just as in the local congregation, though in areas of Christian work which lie beyond the capacities of the latter body.
Herein we cannot go wrong: Where the Gospel is preached in its purity and the Sacraments are administered in accordance with the Gospel, there is the Church, the communion of saints, be the form and name of the outward organization whatever it will. The synod embraces all Christians of the congregations which have joined it for the purpose of joint confession, joint preaching of the Gospel and mutual strengthening in faith. Synod is only another outward form of the Church, a different form of the Congregation of Christ than the local assembly, differing from this form not in its general, but in its specific task and activity.
The peculiar idea that only the local congregation has been ordained or instituted by God, and can possess the Gospel, Sacraments and power of the Keys only in this form, that the synod on the other hand is a purely human organization serving as human advisor to the congregation and for the purely human efforts in furthering the cause of the Gospel, . . . rests upon a confusion of the essence with the outward form of the church, of the concrete historical development of the church with the New Testament concept of the Kingdom of God, and upon the transfer of the Old Testament concept of the Church into the New Testament Church, as though God had established an outward church institution within the New Testament Church, a special church FORM with whose function the effective operation of the Gospel and the salvation of souls is inseparably linked. Thereby the freedom of the New Testament Church from the statutes of the old covenant is actually denied.
The fact is that the New Testament Church has not a single prescribed outward form, no outward divine institution, but that the Lord has given to His Bride, His communion of saints, the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, the Gospel, has entrusted it to her for her own use and for a preaching to all the world, commanding her to be a faithful steward of His goods and to let everything also in outward matters be done decently and in order. To this end He endows her through the Holy Spirit with specific men and gifts which she is to place into her service according to her best judgment. A particular church form . . . He did not prescribe for her. (Quartalschrift, Vol. Z5, p. 42f)
Against this the contention has been raised that the New Testament, which speaks of local churches, does not speak of synods. If this were intended to mean that the word synod is not known to the New Testament authors, or that no assembly of Christians outwardly constituted in the form of a present-day synod existed in apostolic times, we could agree. But the outward form is not essential, nor is the name. It remains true that from the outset of New Testament church life the various local congregations were aware of one another, exercised what fellowship was possible under the circumstances and cooperated in joint worship and work. (Acts l1:22ff; II Cor. 8:19. 22. 23) When Christians in various localities join forces thus to discharge their priestly functions, they are in this association church. Surely Christians who constitute congregations do not cease to be Christians or to act as Christians when they merge their forces congregation-wise in order to show forth the praises of Him who has called them into His marvelous light. For whatever a Christian be, of the same nature also is every other Christian, likewise the Christians as greater or smaller assembly or totality. What the Church is in its spiritual character, that it is by virtue of the spiritual character of its individual members. (Quartalschrift, Vol. 15, p.76)

To say, then, that a synod, an ecclesiastical body or federation, consisting of a number of congregations of the same confession, or any similar permanent organization, is not a church in the sense of Scripture, but is solely a human institution in which the individual congregations (and certain individuals as associates or advisory constituents) are members, for the purpose of performing in a more effective fashion such portions of church work as cannot be done by the average individual congregation alone with the same measure of effectiveness. . . (The Church, the Christian Congregation and the Ministerial Office, by P. E. Kretzmann, p. 105) is to misstate the case and could be rightly understood only if the observation limited itself to a synods organizational form. The very fact that a synod legitimately and by divine authorization engages in church work indicates that according to its essence it consists of Christians and is therefore church.


Resting upon previously established premises, these theses call for but little exposition. They concern themselves exclusively with the propriety and validity of the functions which congregations assign to their confederated associations. Here we find ourselves, on the one hand, in the domain of Christian liberty, where all things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not (I Cor. 10:23); and where Christians are children of their Father in heaven Who is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. (I Cor. 14:33) On the other hand, we find ourselves compelled by the instruction of Holy Scripture to recognize as wholly valid in the sight of Christ our Lord those activities in which a synod properly engages as church.
Where there are Christians, there is the Ministry (Office) of the Keys; for it was conferred upon them individually. The functions of this Office, moreover, are one and indivisible, even as the Gospel is a unit. One may not say that a Christian, or any confessional combination of Christians, has the authority to baptize but not to provide for the administration of the Sacrament of the Altar; the right to teach but not to preach the Gospel; the right to forgive sin but not to retain it. Yet such is the implication of the position taken by some who insist that Christians in a local association may exercise the functions of church discipline, but that Christians assembled as a synod may not. The latter group, it is said, may jointly send out missionaries, but may not in their gathering observe the celebration of the Holy Supper except as guests in and under the auspices of a local congregation. Such wholly unfounded restrictions, such arbitrary sundering of Christians from a portion of their spiritual powers, not by common consent and agreement based upon mutual love and a desire for good order but by dictum allegedly based upon some scriptural provision that to exercise them they must be congregation in a certain external form, does violence both to their prerogatives and to their glorious station.
The apprehension that a larger church body might invade the province of its member congregations or arrogate to itself functions which are properly discharged only by each constituent part of the body is a fear which has beat like a pulse in the throat of the Church for generations. As a defense against such usurpation the rights of the local congregation have been stressed. But not always wisely; for to safeguard those rights, as we have reported and heard above, some have resorted to the extreme measure of categorically denying to a synodical association the character of church.

The misgivings which support that position cannot be dismissed as baseless. The pages of history are dotted with instances of synodical tyranny imposed upon local churches too weak or too indifferent to resist it. In some cases synods trained and conditioned their constituency in an attitude of dependence which discouraged the exercise of individual sovereignty and created a state of mind sometimes called synoditis, a Big Brother complex that accepted synod, rather than the Scriptures, as the voice of God and the arbiter of doctrine and practice. The present-day slogans of a false ecumenicity, moreover, designed as they are to diminish the individual priesthood of the believer in favor of bigger and better majorities, create an atmosphere favorable to the growth of hierarchies and superchurches hostile to Christian liberty and respect for individual conscience.
We are in our day highly sensitive to the dangers that threaten us from this source; yet we hold that in the regulation of a proper relationship between the local congregations and the larger body, the highly articulate Scriptural rule of love and good order is a sufficient guide and admits of no conflict of interests or duties when faithfully followed. We also recognize the fact, however, that the arch-enemy of the Church and the sinful flesh still adhering to Christians in this life may at times hamper us in our desire to practice what we have learned and believe; and we know that against the wiles of these foes no humanly contrived constitutional provisions can of themselves form an impenetrable armor. We must persevere in watchfulness and prayer, looking to the Lord of the Church for deliverance from the evil of fleshly usurpation of power and disruption of good order in our midst.
It seems to us obvious, however, that this end will not be well served, and no protection can be afforded, by the expedient of denying to an association of congregations the character of church. It saddens us to observe that, among Christians who do regard their synod as church, instances of incredible abuse of power by synodical officials and slavish obedience of individuals and congregations have indeed come to abound. At the same time we have noted the fact that in Lutheran circles which in principle emphatically accord to a synod no status above that of a purely human organization, local reliance upon and subjection to synodical government, as well as a corresponding force of hierarchical control have been even more widely and deplorably in evidence.
The authority of a synod cannot be limited or secured against abuse by the claim that it is not church. Such an affirmation would prove far more than its proponents would wish to prove. For since a synod does, by common consent and intent of its constituency, do the work of the Church, a denial of its character would make of a synod an abomination, a pretender, a thief who enters into the fold by some way other then the Door. But in its proper place synodical association is as valid an arrangement as any that Christians make for the efficient pursuit of their divinely appointed task as valid as the forming of a local congregation. A synod is in its essence a sum of the local congregations involved; and by it, through its instrumentality, the congregations may choose jointly to administer the Keys in whatever manner they deem effective, expedient and consonant with Christian love and good order.
We have confessed and do again concede that good order is not always observed, and the law of love is transgressed even by Christians. Thus experience has shown that synods sometimes do go beyond the functions that have been assigned . . . by the constituting congregations. When this occurs, it requires immediate rectification. Abuses of this sort are, after all, not peculiar to synodical bodies. Instances are not unknown in which misguided, unscrupulous leaders and indifferent, uninstructed members, probably paced by a strong admixture of hypocrites and unbelievers, have turned visible local church organizations into horrors of papistic corruption. But these are matters for discipline for which Christian congregations should be fully competent, and do not in any way give just cause for the desperate measure of denying to a synod its right of priestly function as a church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
It has been our duty to offer the clearest possible witness of our agreement in, and our devotion to, the rightful function of the saints in their priesthood and their freedom in the perfect law of liberty; and this obligation we have herein sought to discharge. Being conscious of the truth, however, that the best testimony of words may by our weakness lose much in the translation into conduct and action, we close with a prayer offered by Martin Luther in his Instruction for Parish Visitors:
May God, the Father of all mercy, grant us through Jesus Christ, his dear Son, the spirit of unity and the power to do his will. Even though the finest spirit of unity prevails among us we still have our hands full to do good and to be established by the power of God. What would happen if there were to be disunity and disagreement among us? The devil has pious nor devout this year, nor so. So let us be on guard and (as Paul teaches) the spiritual of peace. (Eph.4:3). Amen. Am. Ed., Vol. 40, p. 273) become neither will he ever be anxious to keep unity in the bond (Luthers Works, 816

Concerning the Ministry of the Keys and the Public Ministry

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ conferred upon His disciples no more than a single assignment and thus instituted but one office, or service, in His Church on earth, namely, the service of preaching the Gospel. His directive reads: Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. (Mk. 16: 15) This order is further amplified and defined by the explicit statement that such work consists in teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I have commanded you. (Mt. 28: 20) That in this expression our Lord did not refer merely to an ethical or moral system which He allegedly established is understood by all who know that the Law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. (Jn. 1:17), and that the Ministry of the New Testament therefore is concerned with evangelical and not legalistic commandments. (Compare II Cor.5:18) Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you, the risen Savior said to His disciples; and when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. (Jn.20:Z1-23) This grant of power and authority, of duty and prerogative, the Lord had previously characterized by a graphic expression when He declared to Peter: I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. (Mt. 16:19) 
Concerning this spiritual endowment the Church of the Lutheran Confession has expressed itself confessional through a set of propositions entitled: Theses on the Ministry of the Keys and the Public Ministry. Their scriptural premises and the conclusions established thereon are herewith being subjected to closer scrutiny and to more extended definition, in order that both our doctrine and our practice may be fully understood by all and stand vindicated in the light of Holy Scripture.



The Gospel in its very nature is a proclamation. It is a Word, a Message. St. Paul calls it the word of reconciliation, (II Cor. 5:19) and cries: Woe is unto me, if I preach not the Gospel ! (I Cor. 9:16) An unpreached Gospel would be a contradiction in terms. Scripture itself is speech; for it is a speaking of God to him who reads it. Thus we may rightfully say that God through the very act of revelation of the Gospel instituted preaching.
St. Paul calls the Gospel the word of faith, which we preach, and in conjunction with Deut. 30: 14 declares that it is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thine heart. (Rom. 10:8) For Scripture teaches that those who receive the Gospel as a personal, inward possession by faith do in and through that very experience become preachers of the Gospel. The Holy Spirit, Who always accompanies the Gospel, not only creates faith by means thereof but in that very act also makes witnesses of those whom He enlightens and sanctifies. Thus Peter expressly assures believers that they are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation and a peculiar people in order that they may announce abroad the praises of Him who called them out of darkness into His marvelous light. (I Pet. 2:9) God so fashions His Christians that from within their new hearts they proclaim the Gospel; this is an inherent function of the new life within them.

Thus we cannot actually speak of an authority or a command to preach the Gospel in the sense that such an activity is permitted a Christian only if, when and because he has been especially called or authorized to engage in it. Preaching is an assigned duty only in the sense that prayer also is an assigned duty. Our Lord did not, therefore, institute a new function or create a new office when He charged His disciples, saying: Ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:8) In this, as well as in all His other statements defining and describing the Christian calling, He formally ratified the Vocation into which the Holy Spirit has placed every true believer since the beginning of time, gave it a New Testament definition, and by way of encouragement and exhortation placed Himself with His gifts and blessing at the head of His witnessing Body. In this sense we speak of a commissioning when we say that the Ministry (or service) of the Keys, which is the ministry of the Word, has been committed to the Holy Christian Church.
Obviously it is the will of God that the Gospel be preached. But this will is fulfilled, not by a formal institution of a preaching office in some abstract sense, but simply by the calling of human beings into the fellowship of the Gospel and thus making of them actual and active Gospel witnesses. They are to grow in the knowledge of God and unto ever fuller possession of the doctrines of the Word; they are to teach and admonish one another with the word of Christ that dwells in them richly (Col.3:16), for each is a messenger of the Lord (I Pet. 1:9); they are to judge the doctrine of others (I Jn.4: 1), and are directed to a-void those who teach otherwise than Gods Word teaches. All this belongs to the ministry of the Word. And these things have been committed to every Christian with a call to active duty. For the Christian is not merely in principle a preacher of the Gospel; he also administers this office or service to its fullest extent. When the Christian assembly meets In worship, such activity is in evidence on all sides. St. Paul calls the congregational singing of hymns a teaching and admonishing (Col. 3:16). The participation in the words of confession, in liturgical responses is an act of preaching, as is the witnessing of the children of the Church in catechumenal examinations and in Christmas services.
The only restrictions laid upon Gods spiritual priests in the exercise of the Gospel ministry arise from the provisions for mutual love and good order as stipulated by the Scriptures. Since the Church is a Body, its members defer to one another and conform their activities to that which best serves the common good. The orderly processes of life in the Christian community, or congregation, are not to be disrupted by any loveless individualism. The Apostle warned his spiritual children against such offenses in his instructions to the Corinthians (I Cor. 12:4-30; 14:1-40). Yet in principle there is no duty of the Ministry of the Keys from which any person is personally excluded. It was to no group of ecclesiastical dignitaries or body of clergy, but to the Christian laity and clergy alike that St. Paul wrote: For all things are yours . . . and ye are Christs; and Christ is Gods. (I Cor. 3:2123)


It is not in contradiction to what we have professed in our discussion of the first Thesis if now we say that there is a manner of administration of the Keys in which not every Christian is personally active as an individual. We call it the Public Ministry; but in so doing we need to define our terms precisely lest their true sense be mistaken and the Truth compromised. The Public Ministry is not a function different in content than the Ministry of the Keys which, as we have seen, is the inalienable possession of every child of God. We call it public, but not in the sense that it is either restricted to, or characterized by, an administration of the Keys that is public rather than private or hidden. The Gospel ministry is one and indivisible; and they who are charged with its duties, namely all Christians, perform them without regard to times, seasons or circumstances.
If the Public Ministry is distinct in character, it is because those who serve therein function, not only in their own right as disciples of Christ, but in behalf of, in the name of, and by request of, their fellow-Christians. It is the Gospel service performed, not by right of an individual priesthood alone, but vicariously for many spiritual priests; wherefore it is called public as distinguished from private or personal. It is of this Ministry that the Augsburg Confession speaks when it gays that no one should publicly teach in the Church or administer the Sacraments unless he be regularly called. (Article 14) German theology defines it as Das Amt von gemeinschaftswegen, since it is an office administered by one in the stead and in the name of others.
We confess and affirm that the Public Ministry is divinely ordained; and we reject the teaching of those who see it as a mere convenience or as no more than a development of the need for order among men. Our Confessions say: For the Church has the command to appoint ministers, which should be most pleasing to us, because we know that God approves this ministry, and is present in the ministry (that God will preach and work through men and those who have been chosen by men). The Apology, Trig. 311:12)

Gods Word makes it unmistakably clear that He desires that the Gospel be preached and the Sacraments administered.  It teaches that God expects His Christians to administer these Means of Grace. Scripture also reveals the divine design by which Christians are to implement the preaching and teaching of the Gospel in their own midst and for their personal instruction and nourishment, namely through a Public Ministry for which the Lord promises to supply the gift of adequate personnel. Thus St. Paul writes to the Ephesians: He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things. And he gave some, Apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. Eph.4:10-16

This marvelous passage supplies us with a true, evangelical understanding of the nature of the Public Ministry. The Church has indeed received no formal Gods Word makes it unmistakably clear that He desires that the Gospel be preached and the Sacraments administered. It teaches that God expects His Christians to administer these Means of Grace. Scripture also reveals the divine design by which Christians are to implement the preaching and teaching of the Gospel in their own midst and for their personal instruction and nourishment, namely through a Public Ministry for which the Lord promises to supply the gift of adequate personnel. Thus St. Paul writes to the Ephesians: He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things. And he gave some, Apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. Eph.4:

This marvelous passage supplies us with a true, evangelical understanding of the nature of the Public Ministry. The Church has indeed received no formal command which categorically institutes a public ministry of the Word. Rather, the Church has received the Gospel and the responsibility of proclaiming it. It administers the forgiveness of sins. By word of the Holy Ghost and the example of the Apostles it has learned how to do this in a God-pleasing manner; and the Lord places into its hands the gifts which the Church may and does use for its purposes. We reaffirm what our Confessions say in this context: For wherever the Church is, there is the authority (command) to administer the Gospel. Therefore it is necessary for the Church to retain the authority to call, elect and ordain ministers. And this authority is a gift which is in reality given to the Church, which no human power can wrest from the Church, as Paul also testifies to the Ephesians, 4:8, when he says: He ascended, he gave gifts to men. And he enumerates among the gifts specially belonging to the Church pastors and teachers, and adds that such are given for the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. Hence, wherever there is a true Church, the right to elect and ordain ministers necessarily exists . . . Here belong the statements of Christ which testify that the Keys have been given to the Church, and not merely to certain persons, Mt. 18:20: Where two or three are gathered together in my name, etc.
Lastly, the statement of Peter also confirms this, I Pet. 2:9: Ye are a royal priesthood. These words pertain to the true Church, which certainly has the right to elect and ordain ministers since it alone has the priesthood. (Smalcald Articles, Trig. 323f: 67f)

Thus the calling and ordaining of public servants of the Word is one of the functions of the spiritual priesthood by which Christians jointly discharge their Gospel ministry. In this they are guided by the instruction of Scripture which carefully lists the proper qualifications to be sought in those who are to serve in the name of their fellow-Christians and thus represent them. Having chosen them under guidance of the Holy Spirit and committed to them the duties to which they have called them, they regard these servants as stewards of God and esteem them highly in love for their works sake. Their respect for them is not such as is accorded to dignitaries clothed in a rank which exists as distinct from, and higher than, their own. For in I Cor. 3:6 Paul makes ministers equal, and teaches that the Church is above the ministers. (Smalcald Articles, Trig. 507 11) And how indeed could it be otherwise? For in and through their called servants all Christians, together with them, are performing their priestly functions as commissioned ministers of Christ. No Christian, in calling a pastor or teacher, elder or deacon to administer the Office of the Keys in his name, thereby relinquishes or forfeits his rights to that Office or his duties thereunder, but executes them as participant in the joint venture in which he thus engages with his brethren.

THESIS IIITHE OFFICE OF THE PUBLIC MINISTRY IS NOT LIMITED TO ANY DIVINELY FIXED FORM AS SUCH, FOR EXAMPLE, THE OUTWARD FORM OF THE PFARRAMT OR PASTORAL OFFICE. IN CHRISTIAN LIBERTY, AS CIRCUMSTANCES REQUIRE AND AS THE LORD SUPPLIES DIVERSITY OF GIFTS, OPERATIONS AND MINISTRIES (I Cor. 12:4-6 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. 12:28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healing, helps, governments, diversities.) THE CHURCH MAY SEPARATE THE ~VARIOUS FUNCTIONS OF THE PUBLIC MINISTRY OF THE WORD AND APPORTION THEM TO WHATEVER NUMBER OF QUALIFIED PERSONS IT MAY CHOOSE TO CALL. IT IS ESSENTIAL THAT EACH CALL THUS EXTENDED SHALL SPECIFY THE AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY AND THE TYPE OF DUTY THEREBY ASSIGNED, AND THAT EACH LABORER ABIDE BY THE TERMS OF HIS CALL. Acts 6:1-4; Phil. 1:1 (Cf. Thesis IV and V of On the Relation of Synod and Local Congregation to the Holy Christian Church.
As the spiritual priesthood of the believer and the preaching of the Gospel are correlative concepts, so likewise are the terms congregation and public ministry. For where an association of Christians exists, there will also be a public administration of the Means of Grace with all that such a function entails. We further recognize the fact that, of all associations in which Christians will seek to exercise their priestly calling, the most natural and immediate form is that of a local congregation. Within this form the office of the Public Ministry has come to exist in what we call the pastoral office. Hereof Dr. F. Pieper has written in part: It is not a human, but a divine command that Christians perform the works of their spiritual priesthood; accordingly, preach the Gospel not merely in their homes, but also in their intercourse with the brethren and with the world. Likewise it is not merely a human, but a divine regulation that Christians who live at one place fellowship with one another, form a congregation, and appoint men equipped with the necessary teaching ability to preach Gods Word in the name of the congregation both publicly (in the public assembly) and privately (to individual Christians). (Dogmatics, III, p.443)

A congregation calls a qualified man (or men) and places him (or them) in charge of the administration of the Keys. This office is therefore frequently referred to simply as the public ministry, and the incumbents are called ministers of the Gospel. Under the influence of tradition and popular as well as theological custom this narrow use of the term public ministry has tended to become an exclusive use; and the resultant identification of public ministry with the pastoral office has not been without disturbing consequences. It has contributed to a widespread impression that only pastors are public ministers of the Gospel in the strict scriptural sense; and indeed it has encouraged the erroneous belief that God instituted the pastorate precisely in the form in which it is prevalent among us today. This belief in turn has led some to the conclusion that all other offices in the Church having to do with the administration of the Gospel are subsidiary offices which exist only as branches of the actual ministerial office.
We affirm, to the contrary, that apart from the general directive addressed to children of God urging them to go out into all the world and preach the Gospel we look in vain in Scripture for words that constitute a divine institution of a public office of the ministry in any specific form, aside from the Old Testament priesthood. The New Testament records the fact that certain forms of the public ministry were in use in apostolic times. Men were employed as gifts of God for certain phases of the work, and their several offices are given specific names appropriate to the duties thereof. We cannot be certain that the functions of any one of these corresponded in all respects to those prescribed in the Call of a present-day pastor in the Church, although certainly the work and responsibilities represented by such a Call have been discharged by the Public Ministry of the New Testament Church since its inception.

We cannot point to a formal institution even of the office known as the Apostolate. God did not command that there be Apostles in the Church; He simply created them when He needed them. And to this day the Lord Jesus Christ creates forms of office, old and new, in His Church, through the Church, supplying her with the needed gifts for the occasion. The Gospel, working in the hearts of those who believe it, leads them to the establishment of the public administration of the Means of Grace in their midst. Whether in any given instance this work is to be done by one man, whether he is to have the entire supervision and the entire complex of duties in his hands, or whether there shall be two or more among whom it is shared. . . these matters lie in the freedom and discretion of the spiritual priests of God. Whatever they need, the Lord will supply; and they will use His gifts to the best advantage of the Church.
We deplore and reject any doctrine of the Public Ministry which interprets Scripture as teaching a divine institution of outward form and thus infringes upon the dearly bought liberty of the sons of God. We hold that in Christian liberty the Church may and does exercise the functions of the Public Ministry when it calls qualified persons into the pastorate, into the work of Christian Day-school teaching, into a professorship at its High schools and Colleges, or as elders and deacons who are to assist pastors and teachers in their ministry. We believe that each and all of these offices are administrations of the Public Ministry, that their duties are such as are prescribed by the Lord for the Gospel ministry, and that their respective form is governed, not by divine decree but by the terms of the Call as issued by the Church.
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Listing of Theses


On the Relation of Synod and Local Congregation to the Holy Christian ChurchThesis I
     The Church, according to its inner nature and essence, is the total number of all those whom God recognizes as His Dear Children by Faith in Christ Jesus.

Thesis II
     Any group of professing christians gathered in Christ’s name can rightly be called ‘Church’ because of he Christians in it.  Therefore also a so-called local congregation gathered about word and sacrament is rightly called ‘Church’ only because of the Christians in it.  The outward organizational form of a congregation is of human arrangement and may vary widely as it did even in the apostolic church. Compare Corinth with Jerusalem.

Thesis III
     When it is said that a synod is “Church”, this is said with reference to its inner nature and essence, namely insofar as it constitutes a communion of true believers.  When it is said that a synod or conference is a “human arrangement” this is properly said with reference to its outward organizational form which is determined and defined by the congregations that have constituted this body.

Thesis IV & V
     When the formal origin of synods as we know them is kept in mind there will be no room for a situation where a synod invades and overrules a congregation in its exercise of Christian discipline.  When a synod goes beyond the functions that have been assigned to it by the constituting congregations it oversteps its call and becomes a busybody in other men’s matters.
     If we remember that a synod is “church” with reference to its inner nature and essence, we will not doubt that when a synod faithfully and conscientiously fulfills its assigned functions (whether it be the training of pastors and teachers, in promoting the work of missions, or in the area of doctrinal discipline, the supervision of doctrine and practice) its actions are completely valid and have divine authority, for they are functions for which, as “Church”, it is fully competent and qualified.

Concerning the Ministry of the Keys and the Public Ministry

Thesis I
     The Mnistry of the Keys, which is the Ministry of the Word, has been committed to the Holy Christian Church — therefore to each Christian man, woman and child.  Christians are to be personally active in this ministry in every possible way which is not in violation of God’s Will and Ordinance.

Thesis II
 It is God’s Will and ordinance that Christians provide for the public administration of the keys.  This is achieved through the calling of qualified individuals who are thus placed in charge of the public administration of Word and Sacrament and perfom this task in behalf of their fellow Christians.  Such service is referred to as the public ministry; and its duties are to be exercised only by those who are properly called to it by the Church.  This public ministry is God-ordained and not a product of historical development.

Thesis III
 The office of the public ministry is not limited to any divinely fixed form as such, for example, the outward form of the ‘pfaramt’ or pastoral office.  In Christian liberty, as circumstances require and as the Lord supplies diversity of gifts, operations and ministries the church may separate the various functions of the Public Ministry of the Word and apportion them to whatever number of qualified persons it may choose to call.  It is ssential that each call thus extended shall specify the area of responsibility and the type of duty thereby assigned, and that each laborer abide by the terms of his call.