1866 (Translated by Dr. John M. Drickamer)
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. .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church professes the clarity of Scripture.
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.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church accepts God's Word as it interprets itself.
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.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church assigns to every doctrine of Scripture the rank and significance which it is given in God's Word itself.
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.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church highly esteems the gift of Scriptural interpretation as it is given by God to individual persons.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church administers the holy sacraments according to Christ's institution.
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.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church practices fellowship of confession and Christian love with all who are one in the faith with it.