The Augsburg Confession (Confessio Augustana in Latin) is one of the most important documents to come out of the Protestant Reformation. It is also the foremost confession of faith for the Lutheran Church. Written by Philipp Melanchthon, a German Reformer and successor to Martin Luther, the Confession was presented to Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, at the Diet of Augsburg on June 25, 1530. Desiring to restore political and religious unity in the German Free Territories, Charles V had called upon the princes of the territories to explain their religious convictions. The Augsburg Confession was the explanation of Martin Luther’s convictions.
The first publication of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession appeared in 1531. Nine years later, Melanchthon wrote a revised edition, the Augsburg Confession Variata, signed by French theologian John Calvin. Today, some Lutheran churches claim adherence to the “Unaltered Augsburg Confession” of 1530, as opposed to the Variata.
The Augsburg Confession consists of the twenty-eight articles of faith of the Lutheran Church. It is one of the documents in the Lutheran Book of Concord, which also includes the Apology and the Schmalkalden Articles, Martin Luther’s summary of Lutheran doctrine. The Confession lists several abuses practiced by the Roman Catholic Church and makes scriptural arguments for their correction.
The Augsburg Confession’s first twenty-one articles outline what the Reformers believed were the most important teachings in Lutheranism, based on the Bible. Articles III and IV delineate the doctrines of the deity of Christ and justification by faith alone, not of works. The last seven articles identify some of the wrongs and abuses of the Roman Catholic Church and provide arguments for needed reforms. Foremost among these spiritual abuses was the teaching that various works are needed for salvation, such as confession, attendance at Mass, fasting, and the observance of special days.
The Augsburg Confession remains one of the most influential documents to come out of the Reformation. Its tenets are as well-defined and biblically sound today as they were nearly 500 years ago.