“Concord” is a weekly study of the Lutheran Confessions, where we will take up a topic from the Book of Concord and reflect on what we believe, teach, and confess in the Lutheran Church. The purpose of this series is to deepen readers’ knowledge and appreciation for the confessions of the Lutheran Church, and to unite them “with one heart” to confess the teachings of Holy Scripture.
The Lutheran faith is not an entirely new faith, but is a continuation of the ancient faith of the Christian Church. The beginning of the first Lutheran confession recalls the creedal faith that was articulated in the first several centuries of the New Testament. Many disagreements and false teachings concerning the nature of God and the person of Christ had arisen almost from the time of Pentecost. In the year 325 A.D., pastors and bishops from across the Christian Church assembled a council in the town of Nicaea to hash out what Christians really believe. The result was the Nicene Creed.
“Our Churches, with common consent, do teach that the decree of the Council of Nicaea concerning the Unity of the Divine Essence and concerning the Three Persons, is true and to be believed without any doubting; that is to say, there is one Divine Essence which is called and which is God: eternal, without body, without parts, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, the Maker and Preserver of all things, visible and invisible; and yet there are three Persons, of the same essence and power, who also are coeternal, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. And the term “person” they use as the Fathers have used it, to signify, not a part or quality in another, but that which subsists of itself” (Augsburg Confession I.1-4).
Simply put, the God of the Christian Church is three distinct persons—Father, Son, Spirit—who share the same divine substance. Anything that denies this in whole or in part is contrary to the faith and cannot be called Christian. Some errors include considering Jesus or the Holy Spirit to be creatures or something less than fully God, or considering God to be one person who shows Himself in three different ways.
The Augsburg Confession grounds our confession of God in the Nicene Creed, but that does not mean that it’s a faith that was created by a bunch of men hanging out in Nicaea a few hundred years after Jesus suffered, died, rose, and ascended. The faith of Nicaea is grounded in Scripture, and thus the confession of the Lutheran Church is grounded in Scripture.
God’s nature is revealed very simply in the baptismal formula that Jesus gives in the last chapter of Matthew. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19 ESV). Three distinct persons; one shared name. The ancient creeds, and the Augsburg Confession that follows, are nothing more than an unfolding of what this divine name means—this name that is baptism’s gift for you.
You can read the Book of Concord at http://www.bookofconcord.org
Rev. Jacob Ehrhard serves as pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in New Haven, MO.