Today is a very auspicious day for Lutherans. On this day in 1530, many German princes and leaders stood before the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire as the Augsburg Confession was read. This Confession was drawn up to differentiate the Lutherans from the Roman Catholic church on the one hand, and from all the Reformed/splinter/sectarian groups on the other (the ancestors of today’s Baptists and Methodists). The Lutherans had been set on this path when Martin Luther refused to follow the Roman church’s corrupt teaching of indulgences. The controversy had spiraled out of control as Luther uncovered the rotten roots of the Romanists’ doctrine and they had attempted to silence him. So then it came to this: a group of men standing up for what they believed, knowing full well that they were bringing down the wrath of the organized church on their heads. These men faced serious repercussions for themselves, their families, and the areas they governed — and they stood up anyway. Amazing. Who among us is willing to make that kind of a stand today? It’s worth noting that the men who signed the Augsburg Confession were all laymen. The theologians, the doctors of theology, the monks, the priests — they touched off the powder keg that history refers to as the Reformation, but the Reformation would have been dead in the water without stout-hearted laymen backing them up. Without the conviction and courage of these pious leaders — good Christians, but not necessarily formally trained in theology — we wouldn’t have the treasures of our Lutheran faith that we enjoy today.
These treasures – in our Confessions, the writings of the Reformers, even in the hymns we sing – are meant to be used. So in connection with this anniversary, do yourself a favor: Read the Augsburg Confession. See why you’re Lutheran. See what genuine, authentic Lutheranism looks like. Test and approve what you say you believe. Being Lutheran matters, not because we like the labels or because that’s how we grew up and others are Roman Catholic or Baptist or whatever — it matters because this is God’s truth. It conforms itself to, it bows before, the Bible, and it is a ringing witness to the truths of Scripture. It is clear. It is beautiful. It is what I believe and what I hope you believe — not just because it’s Lutheran, but because it’s the truth.
You can read the Augsburg Confession here for free. If you want something that’s a little less flowery in the language (& has shorter sentences), I recommend CPH’s Concordia: the Lutheran Confessions, a Reader’s Edition. It’s got lots of neat stuff in it. It makes the Confessions accessible for the average person.
I will speak of thy testimonies before kings, and will not be put to shame. — Psalm 119:46