A confession in this context is not a recital of one’s sins, rather it is the positive assertion of something which a person holds unwaveringly as an undeniable truth. Martin Luther made such a statement before the Diet of Worms at which time he was challenged to renounce his writings and teachings. His response was a “confession:” “Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.”
The documents known as the Lutheran Confessions were written in the 16th Century and addressed various disputes relative to the interpretation of various Scriptural passages. The basic teachings of the Cristian faith which are emphasized in the three creeds were never in dispute, other aspects of the faith were less clear. Emerging through conversation and debate, those 16th century Christians who followed the teachings of Martin Luther (and eventually became known as “Lutherans”) became increasingly convinced regarding what they understood to be essential for the faithful proclamation of the Good News of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ and how we are to express that faith in our daily lives.
The analogy has often and rightly been made that the Lutheran Confessions function for our church in much the same way the U.S. Constitution functions for our nation; the Confessions establish boundaries and give clarity to what is basic and fundamental to our identity. Within all the documents that comprise the Confessions, the Augsburg Confession serves roughly the same purpose in our lives as the Declaration of Independence does for the United States, and The Small Catechism informs us relative to living our lives daily in a manner which is consistent with the faith.