10 Things Christians Should Know about Lutherans

Contributing Writer
10 Things Christians Should Know about Lutherans

What is the Lutheran Church? How did it begin, and what do they believe?

Lutheranism comes from the teachings of Martin Luther. Martin Luther was alive during the time of the Protestant Reformation. Luther was formally an Augustinian friar before becoming the leader and founder of Lutheranism.

The Lutheran Church: 10 Things to Know

It is good for all Christians to be knowledgeable about the Lutheran denomination of Christianity and educated in its beliefs. Here are ten things Christians should know about Lutherans.

1. Lutheranism Began During the Protestant Reformation

Christians should first know about Lutherans that Lutheranism began during the Protestant Reformation. The Protestant Reformation was a true time of change for Christianity. This event in history marked the turn of the Christian denomination.

The Protestant Reformation brought about the separation of the Catholic Church with a new denomination, known as Protestantism. In other words, a sect of believers chose to break away from the Catholic Church and start Protestantism.

Within the breakaway from the Catholic Church, Martin Luther started Lutheranism. Martin Luther is known for nailing the Ninety-Five Theses, originally known as the Disputatio pro declaratione virtutis indulgentiarum, to the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.

Luther was seen as a radical and a nuisance to the Catholic Church because Luther was going against the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. It is important for Christians to know the genesis of Lutheranism and how it was pivotal to the Christian faith.

The Protestant Reformation allowed us to read the Bible for ourselves and learn the truth of the scriptures without it being tampered with by the Roman Catholic Church.

Luther was not the only reformer during the Protestant Reformation as John Calvin was also a reformer during this era in history. Thus, Lutheranism began during the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century.

2. Martin Luther Preferred the Title ‘Evangelical’

A second thing Christians should know about Lutherans is that Martin Luther preferred the title “evangelical” rather than Lutheran. The term “Lutheran” was actually used first by Martin Luther’s opponents.

Martin Luther wanted to use the term “evangelical,” but this term started to be used in reference to other reformers such as John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli. 

Therefore, followers of Martin Luther called themselves Lutherans and adopted the title for themselves by the middle of the 16th century (Ibid.). 

3. Involved with a Synod

A third thing Christians should know about Lutherans is that all Lutherans are part of a synod. Each Lutheran congregation is part of either a national or a regional organization, called a synod (Ibid.).

Synods are important parts of the Lutheran community as synods “unite the work of congregations within their areas, serve as regional support, and guide the hiring of pastoral and other staff candidates” (Ibid.).

The largest synods are the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.

Each synod holds different beliefs concerning biblical inerrancy: communion with other Christians, women’s role in the church, and other issues such as homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

Depending on which synod a Lutheran belongs to will impact how they view the Bible, others, and morals.

4. The Book of Concord

A fourth thing Christians should know about Lutherans is The Book of Concord. The Book of Concord is the historical doctrinal standard of the Lutheran belief.

Within The Book of Concord, there are ten creedal documents seen as authoritative for Lutherans, which include the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed, the Small Catechism of Martin Luther, the Large Catechism of Martin Luther, the Augsburg Confession, the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, the Smalcald Articles of Martin Luther, the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope, and the Formula of Concord (Ibid.).

Each of these ten creedal documents is seen as crucial to Lutheran doctrine. It is vital for Christians to be aware of The Book of Concord and the emphasis that is placed on this book by Lutherans.

5. The Augsburg Confession

A fifth thing for Christians to know about Lutherans in the Augsburg Confession. The Augsburg Confession is the number one confession for Lutherans, and it is seen as the confession that makes a person a Lutheran.

Philip Melanchthon wrote the Augsburg Confession in 1530; ever since then, it has become the primary confession for Lutherans (Ibid.).

Contained with the Augsburg Confession is the profession of faith of the Lutheran Church and what they believe about God, the Bible, salvation, justification, redemption, and other key doctrinal beliefs.

6. The Two Sacraments

A sixth thing Christians should know about Lutherans is the two sacraments. The two sacraments of Lutheranism are baptism and communion. Lutherans call these sacraments “rites.”

Lutherans believe baptism is required for salvation (Ibid.). Communion is vital for Lutherans as they believe Jesus’ true blood and body is part of communion in the wine and in the bread.

Most reformers taught that wine, and bread are only symbolic of Christ, but Luther taught that Jesus’ blood and body were truly present in the wine and bread, not allegorical. Therefore, Lutherans place a high view on baptism and communion.

While we know as believers, that baptism is not required for salvation, Lutherans teach that it is. This is one of the main differences between Lutherans and Christians because the Bible never tells us that salvation depends upon baptism.

Rather baptism is simply an outward sign of your faith, but it does not cause a person to become saved.

7. Three Solas

A seventh thing Christians should know about Lutherans is the Three Solas. The Three Solas consist of the belief in grace alone, faith alone, and Scripture alone. In other words, the Three Solas teach that salvation is by grace alone (Sola Gratia) and faith alone (Sola Fide).

The third Sola of Scripture alone (Sola Scriptura) teaches that the Bible is everything we need to know about God and grow in our walk with Him. Martin Luther believed the Bible was “the cradle” of Christ.

The Three Solas are crucial to Lutherans, and it is good for Christians to know about the Three Solas and their meaning.

8. Salvation by Grace Through Faith

An eighth thing for Christians should know about Lutherans is that Lutherans believe salvation is by grace through faith alone, as stated in Ephesians 2:8-9.

Many Christians believe Lutherans have radically different doctrines than other Protestants, and while they have some different doctrinal views, they have the same view of salvation.

They believe a person cannot be saved apart from placing faith in Jesus by believing that He died for their sins, was buried, and on the third day was raised to life.

Salvation by grace through faith is a hallmark of Lutheran theology, and it ultimately caused him to question the Roman Catholic Church.

People did not have to pay through heaven or purchase indulgences. Instead, a person is saved by grace through faith as Luther discovered by his own Scripture reading and this is what he taught his followers, which continues into the present day.

9. Martin Luther Became an Exile

A ninth thing Christians should know about Lutherans is that Martin Luther became an exile. Luther was sent as an exile due to being a political enemy of Rome. Luther escaped his exile with the help of Frederick III, Elector of Saxony.

Luther was taken to Wartburg Castle at Eisenach, where he could remain safe from his enemies. During his time at the Wartburg Castle, he translated the New Testament into German and wrote many important writings such as the “Refutation of the argument of Latomu.”

Even though Martin Luther was exiled, he received help from his friend and could continue to write and spread Lutheranism for others to know the true message of the Bible. Lutherans continued to acknowledge Luther’s accomplishments through his exile and escape.

10. 72 Million Lutherans in the World

A tenth thing Christians should know about Lutherans is that there are 72 million Lutherans in the world. These are pretty high numbers as it shows us that it is crucial for us to know about this denomination.

As the years pass, this number will likely continue to rise as more individuals identify as being Lutheran. As Christians, it is important for us to remember that Lutherans believe in Jesus as their God and Savior, and they also believe that salvation is by grace through faith.

In other words, they have the correct doctrine of salvation, which means they are saved. It is a dangerous business to begin to look down on different denominations simply because they are not in the denomination we are.

The Lutheran Church is a very large denomination within Protestantism, and it is important that we understand its major beliefs.

For further reading:

The Lutheran Church — 15 Facts To Know About Martin Luther, Lutheran History and Beliefs

What Is the Importance of Reformation Day?

10 Things to Know about Martin Luther and His 95 Theses

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Igor Banaszczyk

Vivian BrickerVivian Bricker loves Jesus, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She has earned a Bachelor of Arts and Master's degree in Christian Ministry with a deep academic emphasis in theology. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, reading, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, she is embarking on other adventures.