Lutherans confess their faith in Christ; that is, we actively give reasons for the hope of Christ in us. Evidence of this is clearly seen with the Book of Concord which spans fifty years and displays the profound seriousness Luther and our fathers took in putting clear Biblical expressions of our faith down on paper to be read by all and especially by any who would dare make these expressions their own confession of faith.
Of course, written expressions of what one believes, teaches, and confesses was not something invented by Lutherans. Perhaps the earliest Christian expression of the faith was given by the Apostle Peter and as recorded by Matthew, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16). Here Peter is repeating back to our Lord what He has already revealed to him. When Peter confesses the truth, he is making it his own. As the Church taught its new converts and encountered errors, or was otherwise put into a position to "make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope" (1 Peter 3:15), it has expressed the true doctrine of Christ in the form of written confessions, or creeds. The Book of Concord is one gigantic creed expressing what the Lutheran confessors describe as without a doubt their teaching and belief. In other words, the Book of Concord is a confession where Lutherans make the teachings expressed in it 'our own.' Read what our confessors say in the Formula of Concord concerning the entirety of our Lutheran symbols:
The Lutheran Confessions are not merely a set of condemnations of false doctrines existing at the time of their writing. The Confessions also contain positive statements which are also a true exposition of the Holy Scriptures; they are a solemn declaration of what Lutherans believe, teach and confess is the Christian faith today. Our Lutheran fathers unhesitatingly pronounced in the preface to the Book of Concord,
The confessors could determine "not to depart even a finger's breadth" from our Lutheran confession of faith, because they had set forth their answer to the question repeatedly found in the Small Catechism, "What does this mean?" and the answers given are explicit statements, given under oath, as to what is accepted by all Lutherans as the divine truth found in the Holy Scriptures. Here conditions are not set, these declarations and their acceptance are unconditional. They are either accepted as true expressions of the Holy Scriptures, or they are rejected. To depart from them is to lose the pure doctrine from heaven, Godly unity and harmony.
Today it is not surprising to find some attending Lutheran congregations who have never heard of the Book of Concord. Sadly, the Small Catechism is the only exposure some have with our Lutheran symbols and heritage. It is little wonder why there is so much confusion amongst us as to what it means to be a Lutheran Christian. Indeed, it is this confusion which serves as a breeding ground for false doctrine. Some identifying as Lutheran are comfortable in approving the teachings of Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, and Beth Moore, just to name some of the more popular false teachers exercising influence among Lutherans. I suspect much of this has to do with a common misconception that the laity must only pledge to believe and confess the contents of Luther's Small Catechism and the rest of the doctrines expressed in the Book of Concord are somehow optional. Such a view, however, is misplaced. Luther writes in his short preface to the Large Catechism,
The Small Catechism is intended to be a brief introduction to a greater arena of life long study in the doctrines of the Church. Luther writes in the longer preface to the Large Catechism,
Luther begs "all Christians… not to think of themselves as doctors too soon…." We don't want to minimize the standard through which we enjoy understanding of our common confession of faith as Lutherans. Our confessional forbears believed it was necessary to confess each and every article of the faith given to us in the Book of Concord. Pure doctrine is necessary for avoiding errors and confessing such doctrine, as they did, preserves the pure teaching for future generations. If our teachings are not read, taught, and confessed, then they are lost to us and our posterity, being gradually replaced with error. Importantly, too, we lose the unity gained by our agreement, or concord, found in the Lutheran confessions. Or, as stated in the Formula of Concord:
The Evangelical Lutheran Church is truly a confessing church.
1 FC SD XII, 40 http://bookofconcord.org/sd-sects.php#para40
2 Book of Concord on-line http://bookofconcord.org/boc-intro.php#para23
3 McCain, P. T. (Ed.). (2005). Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (pp. 355–356). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.
5 FC SD, Rule and Norm, 1 http://bookofconcord.org/sd-ruleandnorm.php#para1