Lutherans believe in the Triune God. God created and loves all of creation — the earth and the seas and all of the world’s inhabitants. We believe that God’s Son, Jesus Christ, transforms lives through his death on the cross and his new life, and we trust that God’s Spirit is active in the world. We are part of God’s unfolding plan. When we gather for worship, we connect with believers everywhere. When we study the Bible or hear God’s word in worship, we are drawn more deeply into God’s own saving story.
The convictions shared by Christians from many different traditions are expressed in statements of belief called creeds.
These ecumenical creeds that Lutherans affirm and use in worship confess the faith of the church through the ages and around the world.
ELCA Confession of Faith
The Confession of Faith of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is part of our founding constitution.
- This church confesses the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
- This church confesses Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and the Gospel as the power of God for the salvation of all who believe
- Jesus Christ is the Word of God incarnate, through whom everything was made and through whose life, death, and resurrection God fashions a new creation.
- The proclamation of God’s message to us as both Law and Gospel is the Word of God, revealing judgment and mercy through word and deed, beginning with the Word in creation, continuing in the history of Israel, and centering in all its fullness in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
- The canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the written Word of God. Inspired by God’s Spirit speaking through their authors, they record and announce God’s revelation centering in Jesus Christ. Through them God’s Spirit speaks to us to create and sustain Christian faith and fellowship for service in the world.
- This church accepts the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the inspired Word of God and the authoritative source and norm of its proclamation, faith, and life.
- This church accepts the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds as true declarations of the faith of this church.
- This church accepts the Unaltered Augsburg Confession as a true witness to the Gospel, acknowledging as one with it In faith and doctrine all churches that likewise accept the teachings of the Unaltered Augsburg Confession.
- This church accepts the other confessional writings in the Book of Concord, namely, the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, the Smalcald Articles and the Treatise, the Small Catechism, the Large Catechism, and the Formula of Concord, as further valid interpretations of the faith of the Church.
- This church confesses the Gospel, recorded in the Holy Scriptures and confessed in the ecumenical creeds and Lutheran confessional writings, as the power of God to create and sustain the Church for God’s mission in the world.
The ELCA accepts the following creeds as true declarations of the faith:
The Apostles’ Creed
About the Creed
The Apostles’ Creed as we now have it dates from the eighth century. But in truth its roots are in the “Old Roman Creed,” which was used in some parts of the ancient church as early as the third century. Before the Old Roman Creed, in turn, were variations rooted in the New Testament itself. While this creed does not come from the apostles (Jesus’ followers sent to share the good news), its roots are apostolic (in keeping with the teaching of the New Testament apostles). The creed describes the faith into which we are baptized and therefore is used in the rites of Baptism and Affirmation of Baptism.
The Apostles’ Creed
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; he descended to the dead.* On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
- or “he descended into hell,” another translation of this text in widespread use.
The Nicene Creed
About the Creed
The Nicene Creed was first adopted by church leaders in 325 at the First Council of Nicaea. Later that century, at the Council of Constantinople (381) some minor changes were made and it was again reaffirmed at the Council of Chalcedon (451). This ecumenical creed is the most widely accepted creed in the Christian faith and it is an essential part of the doctrine and liturgy of Lutheran churches. Historically it has been used at Holy Communion on Sundays and major feasts.
The Nicene Creed
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father; through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven, was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary and became truly human. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son,* who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
The Athanasian Creed
About the Creed
This creed is of uncertain origin. It was supposedly prepared in the time of Athanasius, the great theologian of the fourth century, but many scholars have theorized that it seems more likely that it dates from the fifth or sixth centuries because of its Western character. It communicates two essential points of Bible teaching: that God’s Son and the Holy Spirit are of one being with the Father; and that Jesus Christ is true God and true man in one person. Traditionally it is considered the “Trinitarian Creed.” In many congregations it is read aloud in corporate worship on Trinity Sunday, the Sunday after Pentecost.
Whoever wants to be saved should above all cling to the catholic faith.
Whoever does not guard it whole and inviolable will doubtless perish eternally.
Now this is the catholic faith: We worship one God in trinity and the Trinity in unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the divine being.
For the Father is one person, the Son is another, and the Spirit is still another.
But the deity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, equal in glory, coeternal in majesty.
What the Father is, the Son is, and so is the Holy Spirit.
Uncreated is the Father; uncreated is the Son; uncreated is the Spirit.
The Father is infinite; the Son is infinite; the Holy Spirit is infinite.
Eternal is the Father; eternal is the Son; eternal is the Spirit: And yet there are not three eternal beings, but one who is eternal; as there are not three uncreated and unlimited beings, but one who is uncreated and unlimited.
Almighty is the Father; almighty is the Son; almighty is the Spirit: And yet there are not three almighty beings, but one who is almighty.
Thus the Father is God; the Son is God; the Holy Spirit is God: And yet there are not three gods, but one God.
Thus the Father is Lord; the Son is Lord; the Holy Spirit is Lord: And yet there are not three lords, but one Lord.
As Christian truth compels us to acknowledge each distinct person as God and Lord, so catholic religion forbids us to say that there are three gods or lords.
The Father was neither made nor created nor begotten; the Son was neither made nor created, but was alone begotten of the Father; the Spirit was neither made nor created, but is proceeding from the Father and the Son.
Thus there is one Father, not three fathers; one Son, not three sons; one Holy Spirit, not three spirits.
And in this Trinity, no one is before or after, greater or less than the other; but all three persons are in themselves, coeternal and coequal; and so we must worship the Trinity in unity and the one God in three persons.
Whoever wants to be saved should think thus about the Trinity.
It is necessary for eternal salvation that one also faithfully believe that our Lord Jesus Christ became flesh.
For this is the true faith that we believe and confess: That our Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son, is both God and man.
He is God, begotten before all worlds from the being of the Father, and he is man, born in the world from the being of his mother — existing fully as God, and fully as man with a rational soul and a human body; equal to the Father in divinity, subordinate to the Father in humanity.
Although he is God and man, he is not divided, but is one Christ.
He is united because God has taken humanity into himself; he does not transform deity into humanity.
He is completely one in the unity of his person, without confusing his natures.
For as the rational soul and body are one person, so the one Christ is God and man.
He suffered death for our salvation. He descended into hell and rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
At his coming all people shall rise bodily to give an account of their own deeds.
Those who have done good will enter eternal life, those who have done evil will enter eternal fire.
This is the catholic faith. One cannot be saved without believing this firmly and faithfully.
Text prepared by the International Consultation on English Texts (ICET) and the English Language Liturgical Consultation (ELLC). Reproduced by permission.