What were the three main beliefs of Lutheranism?

Answered by Jason Smith

Lutheranism, as a branch of Protestant Christianity, is rooted in the teachings and beliefs of Martin Luther, a prominent figure of the Reformation in the 16th century. Lutheranism emerged as a response to what Luther saw as corrupt practices within the Catholic Church at the time. While Lutheranism encompasses a wide range of theological beliefs and practices, there are three main ideas that are central to its teachings.

1. Salvation by Faith, not Works:
One of the key tenets of Lutheranism is the belief that salvation is achieved through faith in Jesus Christ alone, not by good works or human effort. Martin Luther strongly criticized the Catholic Church’s emphasis on indulgences and the idea that individuals could earn their way into heaven through acts of piety or charitable deeds. Luther argued that salvation was a gift of God’s grace, received through faith in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. This idea, known as “justification by faith,” emphasized the belief that humans are justified before God not because of their own righteousness but because of Christ’s righteousness imputed to them through faith.

2. The Bible as the Final Authority:
Lutheranism places a strong emphasis on the authority of the Bible as the ultimate source of truth about God and salvation. Luther believed that Scripture, particularly the New Testament, should be accessible to all believers and not solely interpreted by the clergy. This idea challenged the Catholic Church’s claim that the Pope and Church tradition held equal or greater authority than the Bible. Lutherans believe in the doctrine of “sola scriptura,” which means that the Bible alone is the source of divine revelation and the final authority in matters of faith and practice.

3. The Priesthood of All Believers:
Lutheranism also emphasized the belief in the priesthood of all believers. Luther rejected the notion that only the clergy, such as priests or bishops, held a special position of authority and access to God. Instead, Luther argued that all believers, regardless of their social status or occupation, had direct access to God through faith in Christ. This meant that each individual had the right and responsibility to read and interpret the Bible for themselves, and to participate actively in the life and worship of the church. Luther believed that all Christians were called to live out their faith in their everyday lives, whether as parents, rulers, or workers, and that all vocations were equally important in serving God and one’s neighbor.

These three main beliefs of Lutheranism – salvation by faith, the Bible as the final authority, and the priesthood of all believers – continue to shape the core theological principles of Lutheran churches worldwide. Each of these ideas challenged the prevailing practices and teachings of the Catholic Church during Luther’s time, and they remain distinct characteristics of Lutheranism today.