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Lutheran Formula of Concord

The Lutheran Formula of Concord resolved the controversy existing amongst Lutherans in the late 1500's regarding the role of the law. This formula says nothing about the division between moral law and ceremonial law, even though that is an important part of Lutheran doctrine. Presumably that was not discussed because it was not in dispute. What follows is the short form, or 'Epitome':


The Chief Question at issue in this Controversy

The law has been given to men for three reasons: (1) to maintain external discipline against unruly and disobedient men, (2) to lead men to a knowledge of their sin, (3) after they are reborn, and although the flesh still inheres in them, to give them on that account a definite rule according to which they should pattern and regulate their entire life. It is concerning the third function of the law that a controversy has arisen among a few theologians. One party said Yes, the other says No.


{The Correct Christian Teaching in this Controversy}
  1. We believe, teach, and confess that although people who genuinely believe and whom God has truly converted are freed through Christ from the curse and the coercion of the law, they are not on that account without the law; on the contrary, they have been redeemed by the Son of God precisely that they should exercise themselves day and night in the law (Ps 119:1). In the same way our first parents even before the Fall did not live without the law, for the law of God was written into their hearts when they were created in the image of God. (footnote ref.: Gen 2:16, 3:3).
  2. We believe, teach, and confess that the preaching of the law is to be diligently applied not only to unbelievers and the impenitent but also to people who are genuinely believing, truly converted, regenerated, and justified through faith.
  3. For although they are indeed reborn and have been renewed in the spirit of their mind, such regeneration and renewal is incomplete in this world. In fact, it has only begun, and in the spirit of their mind the believers are in a constant war against their flesh (that is, their corrupt nature and kind), which clings to them until death. (footnote ref: Gal 5:17, Rom 7:21,23) On account of this old Adam, who inheres in people's intellect, will, and all their powers, it is necessary for the law of God constantly to light their way lest in their merely human devotion they undertake self-decreed and self-chosen acts of serving God. This is further necessary lest the Old Adam go his own self-willed way. (footnote ref: Rom 12:7,8). He must be coerced against his own will not only by the admonitions and threats of the law, but also by its punishments and plagues, to follow the Spirit and surrender himself a captive. I Cor 9:27; Rom 6:12; Gal 6:14; Ps 119:1; Heb 13:21.
  4. Concerning the distinction between works of the law and fruits of the Spirit we believe, teach, and confess that works done according to the law are, and are called, works of the law as long as they are extorted from people only under the coercion of punishments and the threat of God's wrath.
  5. Fruits of the Spirit, however, are those works which the Spirit of God, who dwells in the believers, works through the regenerated, and which the regenerated perform in so far as they are reborn and do them as spontaneously as if they knew of no command, threat, or reward. In this sense the children of God live in the law and walk according to the law of God. In his epistles St. Paul calls it the law of Christ and the law of the mind. Thus God's children are "not under the law, but under grace" (Rom 7:23, 8:1,14).
  6. Therefore both for penitent and impenitent, for regenerated and unregenerated people the law is and remains one and the same law, namely, the unchangeable will of God. The difference, as far as obedience is concerned, rests exclusively with man, for the unregenerated man--just like the regenerated according to the flesh-- does what is demanded of him by the law under coercion and unwillingly. But the believer without any coercion and with a willing spirit, in so far as he is reborn, does what no threat of the law could ever have wrung from him.


1. Accordingly we condemn as dangerous and subversive of Christian discipline and true piety the erroneous teaching that the law is not to be urged, in the manner and measure above described, upon Christians and genuine believers, but only upon unbelievers, non-Christians, and the impenitent.