The Evangelical Lutheran Church, The True Visible Church of God on Earth

C.F.W. Walther

1866 (Translated by Dr. John M. Drickamer)

Thesis I

The one holy Christian church on earth, or the church in the proper sense of the term, outside of which there is no life and salvation, is, according to God's Word, the sum total of all those who truly believe in Christ and are sanctified through this faith. .

Thesis II

While the one holy Christian Church, as a spiritual temple cannot be seen, but only be believed, there are nonetheless unmistakable outward marks by which its presence can be known. These marks are the pure preaching of the Word of God and the uncorrupted administration of the holy sacraments.

Thesis III

In an improper sense Scripture calls also those visible communions "churches" which, though consisting not only of believers or such as are sanctified through faith, but having also hypocrites and wicked persons, nevertheless teach the gospel in its purity and administer the holy sacraments according to the gospel.

Thesis IV

Scripture even calls such visible communions "churches" as are guilty of partial deviation from the pure doctrine of the Word of God as long as they still retain God's Word essentially.

Thesis V

Fellowships which, though retaining God's Word essentially, nevertheless err obstinately in fundamentals of the Word of God are, insofar as they do this, not "churches" in the sense of Scripture but factions or sects, that is, heretical fellowships.

Thesis VI

Fellowships that disrupt the unity of the church through errors not destroying the foundation of faith, or because of persons, ceremonies, or matters of life, are, according to God's Word, sects or separatistic fellowships.

Thesis VII

Fellowships that call themselves Christian but do not recognize the Bible as the Word of God and so deny the Holy Trinity are, according to God's Word, not churches, but synagogues of Satan and temples of idols.

Thesis VIII

While ecclesiastical writers at times call those fellowships true or real churches that retain God's Word essentially, in distinction from those that are not churches, nevertheless, a true visible church in the strict sense of the term, in opposition to heterodox churches or sects, is only that in which God's Word is proclaimed in its purity and the sacraments are administered according to the Gospel.

Thesis IX

While, according to the divine promises, it is impossible for the one holy Christian church ever to perish, it is indeed possible, and it has actually happened at times, that in the full sense of the term there was no true visible church, namely one in which the preaching of the pure Word of God and the administration of the uncorrupted sacraments was carried on by an uncorrupted public ministry.

Thesis X

The Evangelical Lutheran Church is the sum total of all who without reservation profess the doctrine that was restored by Luther's Reformation and was in summary submitted in writing to the emperor and the reahn at Augsburg in 1530, and was treated and expounded in other socalled Lutheran symbols, as the pure doctrine of the divine Word.

Thesis XI

The Evangelical Lutheran Church is not the one holy Christian church outside of which there is no salvation, although it has never separated itself from the same and professes no other.

Thesis XII

lf the Evangelical Lutheran Church has the marks that it preaches the Gospel in its purity and administers the sacraments according to the Gospel, it is also the true visible church of God on earth.

Thesis XIII

The Evangelical Lutheran Church recognizes the written Word of the apostles and prophets as the sole and perfect source, rule, and norm, and as the judge of all doctrine; (a) not reason; (b) not tradition; (c) not new revelations.

Thesis XIV

The Evangelical Lutheran Church professes the clarity of Scripture.

Thesis XV

The Evangelical Lutheran Church recognizes no human interpreter of Scripture whose official interpretation must be regarded as infallible and binding; (a) not any individual person; (b) not any speeial class; (c) not any special or universal church council; (d) not the whole church.

Thesis XVI

The Evangelical Lutheran Church accepts God's Word as it interprets itself.

(A)
The Evangelical Lutheran Church leaves the decision solely to the original text.
(B)
The Evangelical Lutheran Church, in its interpretation of words and sentences, adheres to linguistic usage. (C) The Evangelical Lutheran Church recognizes only the literal sense as the true meaning.
(D)
The Evangelical Lutheran Church maintains that there is but one literal sense.
(E)
The Evangelical Lutheran Church is guided in its interpretation by context and purpose.
(F)
The Evangelical Lutheran Church recognized that the literal sense may be either the proper of the improper one; however, it does not deviate from the proper meaning of a word or sentence unless the Scripture itself forces it to do so, namely by either the textual circumstances or a parallel passage or the analogy of faith.
(G)
The Evangelical Lutheran Church interprets the obscure passages in light of the clear.
(H)
The Evangelical Lutheran Church takes the articles of faith from those passages in which they are expressly taught, and judges according to these all incidental expressions regarding them.
(1)
The Evangelical Lutheran Church rejects from the very outset every interpretation which does not agree with the analogy of faith (Romans 12:6)

Thesis XVII

The Evangelical Lutheran Church accepts the written Word of God as God's Word in its entirety, regarding nothing set forth in it as superfluous or unimportant, but everything as necessary and important; it accepts also all doctrines which necessarily follow from the Scripture words.

Thesis XVIII

The Evangelical Lutheran Church assigns to every doctrine of Scripture the rank and significance which it is given in God's Word itself.

(A)
As the foundation, core, and guiding star of all teaching it regards the doctrine of Christ or of justification. (B) The Evangelical Lutheran Church distinguishes sharply between Law and Gospel.
(B)
The Evangelical Lutheran Church distinguishes sharply between Law and Gospel.
(C)
The Evangelical Lutheran Church distinguishes sharply between fundamental and nonfundamental articles set forth in Scripture.
(D)
The Evangelical Lutheran Church distinguishes sharply between what God's Word commands and what it leaves to Christian liberty.
(E)
The Evangelical Lutheran Church distinguishes sharply and carefully between the Old and New Testaments.

Thesis XIX

The Evangelical Lutheran Church adopts as an article of faith no teaching not shown with incontestable certainty to be contained in the Word of God.

Thesis XX

The Evangelical Lutheran Church highly esteems the gift of Scriptural interpretation as it is given by God to individual persons.

Thesis XXI

(A)
The Evangelical Lutheran Church is sure that the doctrine set forth in its confessions is the pure divine truth, because it agrees with the written Word of God on all points.
(B)
The Evangelical Lutheran Church demands of its members, and especially of its teachers, that they acknowledge its Confessions without reservation and are willing to be obligated to them.
(C)
The Evangelical Lutheran Church rejects every fraternal or ecclesiastical fellowship with those who reject its Confession either completely or in part.

Thesis XXII

The Evangelical Lutheran Church administers the holy sacraments according to Christ's institution.

Thesis XXIII

True Evangelical Lutheran local churches or congregations are only those in which the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, set forth in its symbols, is not only officially recognized but is also professed in public preaching.

Thesis XXIV

The Evangelical Lutheran Church practices fellowship of confession and Christian love with all who are one in the faith with it.