About Being Christian

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Rejection of the False, Opposite Teachings

11 1. We reject and condemn the teaching that original sin is only a debt based on what has been committed by another person ‹diverted to us› without any corruption of our nature.

12 2. We reject and condemn the teaching that evil lusts are not sin, but are created, essential properties of human nature. This is taught as though the above-mentioned defect and damage were not truly sin, because of which a person would be a child of wrath without Christ ‹not ingrafted into Christ›.

13 3. We likewise reject the Pelagian error. It alleged that human nature even after the fall is not corrupt, and especially in spiritual things human nature has remained entirely good and pure in its natural powers.

14 4. We reject the teaching that original sin is only a slight, insignificant spot on the outside, smeared on human nature, or a blemish that has been blown upon it, beneath which the nature has kept its good powers even in spiritual things.

15 5. We reject the teaching that original sin is only an outward obstacle to the good spiritual powers and not a spoiling or lack of the powers. It is not like when a magnet is smeared with garlic juice, and its natural power is not removed, but only blocked; or when a stain can be easily wiped away, like a spot from the face or paint from a wall.

16 6. We reject the teaching that in a person the human nature and essence are not entirely corrupt, but a person still has something good in him, even in spiritual things (e.g., capacity, skill, aptitude, or ability in spiritual things to begin, to work, or to help working for something good).

17 7. On the other hand, we also reject the false teaching of the Manichaeans, who taught that original sin, like something essential and self-sustaining, has been infused by Satan into human nature and intermingled with it, like when poison and wine are mixed.

18 8. We reject the teaching that the natural man does not sin, but something else sins apart from man and, on account of this, human nature is not accused but only original sin in the nature.

19 9. We also reject and condemn as a Manichaean error the teaching that original sin is properly and without any distinction the substance, nature, and essence itself of the corrupt person. This teaching states that a distinction between the corrupt nature (as such) after the fall and original sin should not even be conceived of, nor that they could be distinguished from each other even in thought.

20 10. Now, original sin is called by Dr. Luther “nature sin,” “person sin,” and “essential sin.” This is not because the nature, person, or essence of man is itself—without any distinction—original sin. He uses such words in order to show the distinction between original sin, which belongs to human nature, and other sins, which are called actual sins.

21 11. Original sin is not an actual sin that is committed. It is inherent to the nature, substance, and essence of humanity. So even if no wicked thought should ever arise in the heart of a corrupt person, no idle word should be spoken, no wicked deed should be done, human nature is still corrupted through original sin. Original sin is born in us because of the sinful seed and is a source of all other actual sins, such as wicked thoughts, words, and works, as it is written in Matthew 15:19, “out of the heart come evil thoughts.” Also [Genesis 8:21 says], “The intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” (See also Genesis 6:5.)

22 12. There is also to be noted well the different uses of the word nature, by which the Manichaeans hide their error and lead astray many simple people. For sometimes this word means the essence ‹the very substance› of man, as when it is said, “God created human nature.” At other times it means the attitude and the base quality of a thing, which belongs to its nature or essence, as when it is said, “The nature of the serpent is to bite, and the nature and way of man is to sin, and is sin.” Here the word nature does not mean the substance of man, but something that belongs to the nature or substance.

23 13. Now, consider the Latin terms substantia (substance) and accidens (a nonessential quality). They are not words of Holy Scripture and, besides, are unknown to the ordinary person. So they should not be used in sermons before ordinary, uninstructed people. Simple people should be spared them.

24 But in the schools, among the learned, these words are rightly kept in disputes about original sin. For they are well known and used without any misunderstanding to distinguish exactly between the essence of a thing and what attaches to it in an accidental way.

25 The distinction between God’s work and that of the devil is made in the clearest way by these terms. For the devil can create no substance, but can only, in an accidental way—with God’s consent—corrupt the substance created by God.
Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, 474-477 (Formula of Concord: Epitome I)

  1. What's so special about Jesus?

A Christian trusts that Jesus proved He is God-with-us by His works and by His words.

Matthew 1:18-25

  1. Who is Jesus?

Jesus said He was the Son of God and knew this would get Him killed; either He is a legend (if He never said it), a liar (if He said it and knew it wasn't true), a lunatic (if He said it but didn't know it wasn't true), or legitimate (if He said it and knew it was true).

Mark 14:61-62

  1. Why isn't Jesus a legend?

The four Gospels provide information and evidence about Jesus that were written or dictated by trustworthy eyewitnesses very soon after He died, are virtually unchanged even after centuries, and have been verified by history and archaeology.

Luke 1:1-2; 1 John 1:1; 2 Peter 1:16

  1. Is the Bible the only proof of Jesus?

Even ancient non-Christian writings talk about Jesus as a Jewish teacher who people believed was the Messiah because He worked miracles; the Jewish leaders rejected Him and Pontius Pilate crucified Him, but many still worshiped Him as God returned to life.

Acts 2:22; Acts 26:26; Acts 1:3; Luke 2:1-2

  1. Why isn't Jesus a liar?

Jesus resisted every opportunity for fame rather than promote Himself, He defended His claims to the death rather than protect himelf, He never changed His story, and He had a spotless reputation for helping the poor and powerless.

Matthew 16:21; Mark 7:37; John 6:15; Matthew 22:46

  1. Why isn't Jesus a lunatic?

Jesus acted normally in stressful situations, He spoke out of knowledge and not out of confusion, He showed no signs of delusions or hallucinations, and He had meaningful relationships.

Mark 5:3; John 15:13; Luke 2:47; 1 Peter 2:22; Matthew 9:11

  1. What makes Jesus legitimate?

Jesus fulfilled all the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah, performed many miracles with the kind of power only God's Son could have, and accurately prophesied about the future.

John 14:11; Luke 24:44; Matthew 13:54; Matthew 16:13-15

  1. What makes Jesus human?

Jesus was born, grew, walked, wept, slept, felt, got tired, thirsty, hungry, and angry.

Matthew 13:55-56; Luke 2:42; John 11:35; Luke 8:23; Matthew 4:2; 9:36; John 19:28; 4:6; 2 John 1:7

  1. Why must Jesus be truly and fully God and truly and fully man?

Jesus has to be human because only a human being can die for another human being, and Jesus has to be God because only God can redeem all humankind at the same time.

Galatians 4:4-5; Hebrews 2:14; Matthew 20:28; Romans 5:19

  1. How is this good news?

Jesus knows our needs and feels our pain because He is human, and He can do something about it because He is God.

Hebrews 2:17-18; Hebrews 4:15; Hebrews 7:25-26


Note: God withholds nothing from us, but gives all that we need for our life on earth. Even more, He gives us all that we need for eternal life with Him in heaven. Luther focuses on the one phrase he believes is the very essence of this article: “in Jesus Christ, … our Lord.” Providing a sweeping description of Creation and the fall, Luther notes that the word we includes every single person in the horrible drama of the Garden of Eden. In that sin we all fell away from God and were doomed to everlasting damnation. Yet Christ, our Lord, came and snatched us from the jaws of hell. This description of Christ’s victory over Satan would have been very familiar to the people who first read the Large Catechism. Many paintings from that era depict hell with horrifying detail, showing men and women being led into the gaping mouth of a dragonlike creature. Luther uses the biblical motif of Christ as Victor to describe His work of salvation for us. Jesus offered His own precious blood as satisfaction for our sins. This article of the Creed is essential for proper understanding and confession of the Gospel.

25 And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.
26 Here we learn to know the Second Person of the Godhead. We see what we have from God over and above the temporal goods mentioned before. We see how He has completely poured forth Himself [Matthew 26:28] and withheld nothing from us [2 Corinthians 8:9]. Now, this article is very rich and broad. But in order to explain it briefly also and in a childlike way, we shall take up one phrase and sum up the entire article. As we have said, we may learn from this article how we have been redeemed. We shall base this on these words, “In Jesus Christ, our Lord.”

27 Now, if you are asked, “What do you believe in the Second Article about Jesus Christ?” answer briefly,

“I believe that Jesus Christ, God’s true Son, has become my Lord.”

“But what does it mean to become Lord?”

“It is this. He has redeemed me from sin, from the devil, from death, and from all evil. For before I did not have a Lord or King, but was captive under the devil’s power, condemned to death, stuck in sin and blindness” [see Ephesians 2:1–3].

28 For when we had been created by God the Father and had received from Him all kinds of good, the devil came and led us into disobedience, sin, death, and all evil [Genesis 3]. So we fell under God’s wrath and displeasure and were doomed to eternal damnation, just as we had merited and deserved. 29 There was no counsel, help, or comfort until this only and eternal Son of God—in His immeasurable goodness—had compassion upon our misery and wretchedness. He came from heaven to help us [John 1:9]. 30 So those tyrants and jailers are all expelled now. In their place has come Jesus Christ, Lord of life, righteousness, every blessing, and salvation. He has delivered us poor, lost people from hell’s jaws, has won us, has made us free [Romans 8:1–2], and has brought us again into the Father’s favor and grace. He has taken us as His own property under His shelter and protection [Psalm 61:3–4] so that He may govern us by His righteousness, wisdom, power, life, and blessedness.

31 Let this, then, be the sum of this article: the little word Lord means simply the same as redeemer. It means the One who has brought us from Satan to God, from death to life, from sin to righteousness, and who preserves us in the same. But all the points that follow in this article serve no other purpose than to explain and express this redemption. They explain how and by whom it was accomplished. They explain how much it cost Him and what He spent and risked so that He might win us and bring us under His dominion. It explains that He became man [John 1:14], was conceived and born without sin [Hebrews 4:15], from the Holy Spirit and from the virgin Mary [Luke 1:35], so that He might overcome sin. Further, it explains that He suffered, died, and was buried so that He might make satisfaction for me and pay what I owe [1 Corinthians 15:3–4], not with silver or gold, but with His own precious blood [1 Peter 1:18–19]. And He did all this in order to become my Lord. He did none of these things for Himself, nor did He have any need for redemption. After that He rose again from the dead, swallowed up and devoured death [1 Corinthians 15:54], and finally ascended into heaven and assumed the government at the Father’s right hand [1 Peter 3:22]. He did these things so that the devil and all powers must be subject to Him and lie at His feet [Hebrews 10:12–13] until finally, at the Last Day, He will completely divide and separate us from the wicked world, the devil, death, sin, and such [Matthew 25:31–46; 13:24–30, 47–50].

32 To explain all these individual points does not belong to brief sermons for children. That belongs to fuller sermons that extend throughout the entire year, especially at those times that are appointed for the purpose of treating each article at length—for Christ’s birth, sufferings, resurrection, ascension, and so on.

33 Yes, the entire Gospel that we preach is based on this point, that we properly understand this article as that upon which our salvation and all our happiness rests. It is so rich and complete that we can never learn it fully.
Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, 401-402 (Large Catechism II.II)

The Son of God

Note: The Augsburg Confession teaches the historic, biblical doctrine of Christ. Many early controversies about Christ’s human and divine natures were resolved through careful study of God’s Word, and are reflected in the Nicene Creed. Article III echoes that creed—our Lord Jesus Christ is one person having two natures: truly God and truly man. This is another mystery of the Christian faith that we receive with thanks, bowing before Christ in humble adoration. His incarnation in the womb of His virgin mother, Mary, was for our salvation. He is, and remains, for all eternity the God-man, the One who appeased, or propitiated, God’s wrath against our sin and won for us eternal life. Even now He is present with us through His appointed means of grace—the Gospel and the Sacraments. He comes to strengthen, sustain, and support us, and to bring us safely to our heavenly home.

1 Our churches teach that the Word, that is, the Son of God [John 1:14], assumed the human nature in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. 2 So there are two natures—the divine and the human—inseparably joined in one person. There is one Christ, true God and true man, who was born of the Virgin Mary, truly suffered, was crucified, died, and was buried. 3 He did this to reconcile the Father to us and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for all actual sins of mankind [John 1:29].

4 He also descended into hell, and truly rose again on the third day. Afterward, He ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father. There He forever reigns and has dominion over all creatures. 5 He sanctifies those who believe in Him, by sending the Holy Spirit into their hearts to rule, comfort, and make them alive. He defends them against the devil and the power of sin.

6 The same Christ will openly come again to judge the living and the dead, and so forth, according to the Apostles’ Creed.
Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, 32 (Augsburg Confession III)


The Chief Article

Note: Agreeing on the content of the historic Christian Creed is one thing. Agreeing on what it means is quite another. Luther launches immediately into the “chief article” of the Christian faith: Christ’s saving work can never be given up, or compromised, for the sake of peace and unity in the Church. This teaching is the very heart of the Gospel itself; therefore, it must be kept pure and free from error and proclaimed boldly and thoroughly. Luther returns to this chief article over and over again throughout the rest of the Smalcald Articles, demonstrating how the various errors and abuses in the Church of his day originate from false teaching about justification by grace through faith.

The first and chief article is this:

1 Jesus Christ, our God and Lord, died for our sins and was raised again for our justification (Romans 4:24–25).

2 He alone is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29), and God has laid upon Him the iniquities of us all (Isaiah 53:6).

3 All have sinned and are justified freely, without their own works or merits, by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, in His blood (Romans 3:23–25).

4 This is necessary to believe. This cannot be otherwise acquired or grasped by any work, law, or merit. Therefore, it is clear and certain that this faith alone justifies us. As St. Paul says:
For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. (Romans 3:28)

That He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. [Romans 3:26]

5 Nothing of this article can be yielded or surrendered, even though heaven and earth and everything else falls [Mark 13:31].
For there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

And with His stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)

Upon this article everything that we teach and practice depends, in opposition to the pope, the devil, and the whole world. Therefore, we must be certain and not doubt this doctrine. Otherwise, all is lost, and the pope, the devil, and all adversaries win the victory and the right over us.
Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, 263 (Smalcald Articles II.I)

Note: Many objections to the Lutheran doctrine of the Lord’s Supper are based on faulty understandings. These misunderstandings concern the relationship of Christ’s divine and human natures. The issue confronting the writers of the Formula of Concord was this: Does the human nature of Christ share in the divine attributes so that Christ, according to both natures, is present everywhere, even under the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper? The biblical position, explained in this article, is clearly Yes. The doctrine of the incarnation—Christ the Son of God taking on human flesh—is a powerful comfort and treasure for Christians, and Article VIII explains why. Many ancient heresies about Christ are rejected by this article, and along with them the Christological errors of Reformed theology. Appended to many editions of the Book of Concord was a listing of various quotations from Scripture and Early Church Fathers demonstrating that the Lutheran doctrine concerning Christ’s two natures is the same as that of the Early Church.

1 From the controversy about the Holy Supper a disagreement has arisen between the pure theologians of the Augsburg Confession and the Calvinists. The Calvinists have also confused some other theologians about the person of Christ and the two natures in Christ and their properties.


2 The chief question, however, has been this: Because of the personal union, do the divine and human natures, and also their properties, really [realiter] have communion with each other? In other words (in deed and truth), do the divine and human natures commune with each other in the person of Christ, and how far does this communion extend?

3 The Sacramentarians have asserted that the divine and human natures in Christ are united personally in such a way that neither one has real communion. This means (in deed and truth) that they do not share with the other nature what is unique to either nature. They share nothing more than the name alone. For they plainly say, “The personal union does nothing more than make the names common.” In other words, God is called man, and man is called God. Yet this happens in such a way that the divine has no real communion (that is, in deed and truth) with humanity. And humanity has nothing in common with divinity, its majesty, and properties. Dr. Luther and those who agreed with him have contended against the Sacramentarians for the contrary teaching.

The Pure Teaching of the Christian Church about the Person of Christ

4 To explain this controversy and settle it according to the guidance ‹analogy› of our Christian faith, our doctrine, faith, and confession is as follows:

5 1. The divine and human natures in Christ are personally united. So there are not two Christs, one the Son of God and the other the Son of Man. But one and the same person is the Son of God and Son of Man (Luke 1:35; Romans 9:5).

6 2. We believe, teach, and confess that the divine and human natures are not mingled into one substance, nor is one changed into the other. Each keeps its own essential properties, which can never become the properties of the other nature.

7 3. The properties of the divine nature are these: to be almighty, eternal, infinite, and to be everywhere present (according to the property of its nature and its natural essence, of itself), to know everything, and so on. These never become properties of the human nature.

8 4. The properties of the human nature are to be a bodily creature, to be flesh and blood, to be finite and physically limited, to suffer, to die, to ascend and descend, to move from one place to another, to suffer hunger, thirst, cold, heat, and the like. These never become properties of the divine nature.

9 5. The two natures are united personally (i.e., in one person). Therefore, we believe, teach, and confess that this union is not the kind of joining together and connection that prevents either nature from having anything in common with the other personally (i.e., because of the personal union). It is not like when two boards are glued together, where neither gives anything to the other or takes anything from the other. But here is described the highest communion that God truly has with the man. From this personal union, the highest and indescribable communion results. There flows everything human that is said and believed about God, and everything divine that is said and believed about the man Christ. The ancient teachers of the Church explained this union and communion of the natures by the illustration of iron glowing with fire, and also by the union of body and soul in man.

10 6. We believe, teach, and confess that God is man and man is God. This could not be true if the divine and human natures had (in deed and truth) absolutely no communion with each other.

11 For how could the man, the Son of Mary, in truth be called or be God, or the Son of God the Most High, if His humanity were not personally united with the Son of God? How could He have no real communion (that is, in deed and truth) with the Most High, but only share God’s name?

12 7. So we believe, teach, and confess that Mary conceived and bore not merely a man and no more, but God’s true Son. Therefore, she also is rightly called and truly is “the mother of God.”

13 8. We also believe, teach, and confess that it was not a mere man who suffered, died, was buried, descended to hell, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and was raised to God’s majesty and almighty power for us. But it was a man whose human nature has such a profound ‹close›, indescribable union and communion with God’s Son that it is one person with Him.

14 9. God’s Son truly suffered for us. However, He did so according to the attributes of the human nature, which He received into the unity of His divine person and made His own. He did this so that He might be able to suffer and be our High Priest for our reconciliation with God, as it is written in 1 Corinthians 2:8, They “crucified the Lord of glory.” And Acts 20:28 says, with God’s blood we have been redeemed.

15 10. We believe, teach, and confess that the Son of Man really is exalted. He is (in deed and truth) exalted according to His human nature to the right hand of God’s almighty majesty and power. For He was received into God when He was conceived of the Holy Spirit in His mother’s womb, and His human nature was personally united with the Son of the Highest.

16 11. Christ always had this majesty according to the personal union. Yet He abstained from using it in the state of His humiliation, and because of this He truly increased in all wisdom and favor with God and men. Therefore, He did not always use this majesty, but only when it pleased Him. Then, after His resurrection, He entirely laid aside the form of a servant, but not the human nature, and was established in the full use, manifestation, and declaration of the divine majesty. In this way He entered into His glory [Philippians 2:6–11]. So now not just as God, but also as man He knows all things and can do all things. He is present with all creatures, and has under His feet and in His hands everything that is in heaven and on earth and under the earth, as He Himself testifies [in Matthew 28:18], “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me” [see also John 13:3]. And St. Paul says in Ephesians 4:10, “He … ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.” Because He is present, He can exercise His power everywhere. To Him everything is possible and everything is known.

17 12. Christ may give His true body and blood in the Holy Supper, as one who is present—and it is very easy for Him to do so. He does not do this according to the mode or ability of the human nature, but according to the mode and ability of God’s right hand. Dr. Luther says this in accordance with our Christian faith [as we teach it to] children: this presence ‹of Christ in the Holy Supper› is not ‹physical or› earthly, nor Capernaitic; yet it is true and substantial, as the words of His testament read, “This is, is, is My body,” and so on.

18 Our doctrine, faith, and confession about the person of Christ is not divided, as it was by Nestorius. He denied the true communion of the properties of both natures in Christ (communicatio idiomatum). So he divided the person, as Luther has explained in his book Concerning Councils. The natures, together with their properties, are not mixed with each other into one essence (as Eutyches erred). The human nature in the person of Christ is not denied or annihilated. Nor is either nature changed into the other. Christ is and remains to all eternity God and man in one undivided person. Next to the Holy Trinity, this is the highest mystery, upon which our only consolation, life, and salvation depends, as the apostle testifies in 1 Timothy 3:16.
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