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Augsburg Confession, Article I: “God”

From The Lutheran Confessions

Augsburg Confession, Article I: “God”

1 Our churches teach with common consent that the decree of the Council of Nicaea about the unity of the divine essence and the three persons is true. 2 It is to be believed without any doubt. God is one divine essence who is eternal, without a body, without parts, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness. He is the maker and preserver of all things, visible and invisible [Nehemiah 9:6]. 3 Yet there are three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit [Matthew 28:19]. These three persons are of the same essence and power. 4 Our churches use the term person as the Fathers have used it. We use it to signify, not a part or quality in another, but that which subsists of itself.

5 Our churches condemn all heresies [Titus 3:10–11] that arose against this article, such as the Manichaeans, who assumed that there are two “principles,” one Good and the other Evil. They also condemn the Valentinians, Arians, Eunomians, Muslims, and all heresies such as these. 6 Our churches also condemn the Samosatenes, old and new, who contend that God is but one person. Through sophistry they impiously argue that the Word and the Holy Spirit are not distinct persons. They say that Word signifies a spoken word, and Spirit signifies motion created in things.

[From Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, CPH, St. Louis; p. 31]

The premier and first of our Lutheran Confessional documents, the Augsburg Confession was read to the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, on June 25, 1530, at the imperial diet in Augsburg, Germany. The Lutheran princes and their theologians were asked to give an accounting of their Scriptural faith. Under the guidance of Dr. Martin Luther, and by the pen of Luther’s right-hand man Philip Melanchthon, the princes read these articles summarizing the Lutheran teaching of Holy Scripture.

The first article of the Augsburg Confession assures the Roman Catholics and the church of all times and places that the Lutheran Church indeed stands with the Nicene faith. The Book of Concord indeed begins with the three ecumenical creeds. Lutherans are very careful to show that there has not been a new religion started – rather, this is the true, Scriptural, Christian faith being practiced and lived out. Therefore the “Fathers” of the Christian Church are often referred to and even cited in many articles of the Augsburg Confession, and all of the ancient heresies are soundly condemned. Note also that “Muslims” are listed as one of the condemned heresies: indeed, Mohammed knew of and rejected the true Christian faith, denying the full divinity of Jesus Christ.

The Roman Catholic response to the Augsburg Confession, the “Confutation”, approved of this article. Their approval of succeeding articles would however wane, because as the Augsburg Confession shows elegantly, and without vitriolic and harsh words, that it is indeed the Roman Catholic church which has strayed away from the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic faith” and not the Lutherans! Rather, the Lutherans have carefully returned to that faith because they have returned to being guided in all things by Holy Scripture alone, doing away with all man-made traditions that conflict with Scripture, and keeping those traditions that align with Scripture and point Christians to Jesus Christ and His saving Gospel.

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