Lutherans: Two Truths and a Lie, a series

Lynette Kittle

iBelieve Contributors
Updated May 09, 2022
Lutherans: Two Truths and a Lie, a series

For more on this series, click here

Lutherans are considered one of the largest Protestant denominations in the world, with an estimated 81 million members. 

Unlike many Protestant services, Lutheran churches are usually more formal in their format, offering a high-church experience resembling Catholicism in some ways such as pastors wearing priest-like collars and robes, liturgical services, confirmation classes, and congregational reciting of church creeds like the "Nicene Creed" and the "Apostles’ Creed".

#1 Truth: Lutherans Are an Offshoot of the Catholic Church

A German Catholic monk, Martin Luther, was instrumental in launching the Protestant Reformation, birthing the Lutheran denomination starting in 1517 when he unsuccessfully attempted to bring reform to the Catholic Church.

Luther challenged the Catholic Church’s practice of self-indulgences, believing they did not have the power to pardon people’s sins because forgiveness comes only through justification by faith (Romans 1:17).

In studying Scripture, Luther came to believe God’s word revealed foundational truths not being recognized or taught in the Catholic Church. The key doctrine Luther tried to introduce to the Catholic Church is justification, that salvation from sin comes through God’s grace alone, by faith alone, based on the Scripture alone (Romans 3:22-26).

After being excommunicated by the Catholic Church in 1521, “the churches of the Augsburg Confession” were formed, which became a forerunner to the Lutheran denomination.

With Luther being attributed as the inspiration for the denomination, he is often described as being rebellious towards the Catholic Church and out to divide and destroy it. However, this assumption couldn’t be farther from the truth, as Luther dearly loved the Catholic Church and was trying to reform it and remain within it, not bring it down or leave it.

Unlike some of Luther’s critics claim, being excommunicated by the Catholic Church was a very distressful and heartbreaking experience for him.

#2 Truth: Practicing the Sacraments is Important to Lutherans

Lutherans are committed to practicing the sacraments. 

Sacrament of Eucharist

The Eucharist is also referred to as the Lord’s Supper, the Lord’s Table, and the Sacrament of the Altar. Lutherans faithfully serve Holy Communion, believing they are given the body and blood of Jesus to nurture and sustain them to live out a Christian life. 

Lutheran doctrine of the Real Presence, also called the Sacramental Union, was first confessed publicly and formally in the Wittenberg Concord. It’s been referred to as “consubstantiation” but most Lutherans reject this term because it creates confusion with an earlier doctrine with the same name.

Sacrament of Holy Baptism

Lutherans believe in the sprinkling or pouring of water over the head, unlike many Protestant denominations that practice baptism by water immersion.

Lutherans also baptize infants in keeping with the Catholic Church sacraments, believing the baptizing of babies creates or plants faith in the heart of the infant. 

Referring to Matthew 18:6, Lutherans defend their belief that infants can believe and this happens in Baptism (John 3:5-6). When Jesus was asked how it is possible to be born again, “Jesus answered, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.’”

As well, they base their practice of baptizing babies on Titus 3:5-6: “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.”

Although an infant’s faith can’t be verbally expressed at the time of baptism, most Lutherans believe it is real and present. They assert that an infant’s faith, like an adult, needs to grow and mature through learning God’s Word.

Infant baptism is a sacrament rejected by most Protestant churches and a topic of passionate disagreement between some in the Lutheran denomination.

Additional Lutheran practices include: 


Lutherans, like the Catholic Church, offer a training class beginning at twelve years old, designed to confirm faith in children. Confirmation, renamed by some as an Affirmation of Baptism, gives children the opportunity to vow on their own, the promises their parents, congregation, and sponsors made for them at the time of their baby baptisms. It includes teaching them the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostle’s Creed, and the Ten Commandments.

Confession and Repentance

Luther objected to the pre-Reformation Catholic Church’s sacrament of penance with its selling of indulgences for the forgiveness of sins. He rejected the teaching that people have to pay or do acts to be forgiven.

Lutherans today follow what Luther believed, that salvation from sin comes through God’s grace alone, by faith alone, based on the Scripture alone. They agree with him, concerning there being no biblical support for paying penance for the forgiveness of sins because Jesus Christ, on the cross, paid the ultimate sacrifice for our sins.

Still, Lutherans believe in the confessing and repenting of sin based on 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 

Within the Lutheran denomination, there are general confessions recited and also personal silent confessions during worship services. Christ Lutheran Church in Orland, Illinois, begins its worship service with the confession of sins and the congregation reciting 1 John 1:8, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”

A Lie: Every Lutheran Denomination Holds True to the Same Doctrines

Whereas this may have been true at one time, when the Lutheran denomination first was established and believed in the same doctrine, it’s no longer true. New Lutheran denominations have branched out from the original one birthed by Luther, and in their branching out, some have strayed far from Luther's foundational truths.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), formed in 1988, came about with the merger of two major Lutheran denominations, the Lutheran Church of America and the American Lutheran Church, joined by the much smaller Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, creating the largest Lutheran denomination in North America. 

In recent years, it has transformed from Luther’s beliefs to become radically different in doctrine and practice. Pastor Tom Brock, host of “The Pastor’s Study,” recently posted on Facebook, “If you ever wondered what the difference is between Missouri Synod Lutherans and the ELCA Lutherans, in short, one follows the Word and the other follows the world.”

Brock, a former ELCA pastor, tried for years to help bring correction to its wandering away from biblical truth but finally believed he had no choice but to leave the denomination.  

As a conservative pastor who openly shares his personal struggle with same-sex attraction, Brock is outspoken in sounding the alarm about the sinful direction the ELCA has taken, informing those who may be unaware of its straying away from the Word of God.

He writes, “Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas, a congregation of the liberal Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, has started a camp ministry to help youth affirm their queerness. The congregation has also opened a clothes closet to help people transition from one gender to the next. “ 

Likewise, Brock writes, “Trinity Lutheran Church of Greenville, South Carolina, a congregation of the liberal Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, is bringing in a drag queen to entertain the congregation.”

As well, several years ago, when ELCA’s top bishop, Elizabeth Eaton, was asked by the Chicago Sun Times newspaper if there is a Hell, she said, “There may be, but I think it’s empty.”

Brock responds to Eaton’s comment by writing, “I hope you attend a good church that preaches what Jesus preached: There is a heaven and a hell and it is only through Faith in Jesus Christ that we can be saved” (John 14:6, Acts 4:12, Acts 16:31).

Photo Credit: ©Sparrow Stock

Lynette Kittle is married with four daughters. She enjoys writing about faith, marriage, parenting, relationships, and life. Her writing has been published by Focus on the Family, Decision, Today’s Christian Woman,,,, and more. She has a M.A. in Communication from Regent University and serves as associate producer for Soul Check TV.