Articles of Faith and Doctrine (I-XXI)

Written in German by Philip Melanchthon (1530)

English Translation by Ambrose and Socrates Henkel (1851), Revised by C. P. Krauth (1854)

Link to Bente/Dau Translation from Latin (1921)

Article I: [Of God]

[1] Our churches unanimously hold and teach, agreeably to the Decree of the Council of Nicaea, [2] that there is only one Divine Essence, which is called, and truly is, God; but that there are three persons in this one Divine Essence, equally powerful, equally eternal,--[3] God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost,--who are one Divine Essence, eternal, incorporeal, indivisible, infinite in power, wisdom, and goodness, the Creator and Preserver of all things visible and invisible. [4] And the word person is not intended to express a part or quality of another, but that which subsists of itself, precisely as the Fathers have employed this term on this subject.

[5] Every heresy opposed to this Article is therefore condemned: as that of the Manichaeans, who assume two principles, the one good, the other evil. Likewise the heresies of the Valentinians, Arians, Eunomians, Mohammedans, and the like; [6] also that of the ancient and modern Samosatenes, who admit but one person, and sophistically explain away these two,--the Word and the Holy Spirit,--asserting, that they must not be viewed as distinct persons, but that the Word signifies the oral word or voice, and that the Holy Ghost is the principle of motion in things.

Article II: [Of Original Sin]

[1] We teach, that since the fall of Adam all men who are naturally engendered, are conceived and born in sin; that is, that they all are from their mother's womb, full of evil desires and propensities, and can have by nature no true fear of God, no true faith in God; [2] and that this innate disease, or original sin, is truly sin, which brings all those under the eternal wrath of God, who are not born again by Baptism and the Holy Spirit.

[3] Hence, we condemn the Pelagians and others, who deny that original corruption is sin, whereby they assert, to the disparagement of the merits and sufferings of Christ, that piety is the result of our natural powers.

Article III: [Of the Son of God]

[1] It is taught likewise, that God the Son became man, and was born of the blessed Virgin Mary; [2] and that the two natures, human and divine, inseparably united in one person, are one Christ, who is true God and man, who was really born, who truly suffered, was crucified, died, and was buried, [3] that he might be a sacrifice, not only for original sin, but also for all other sins, and might appease the wrath of God. [4] Further, that this same Christ descended into hell, and truly arose from the dead on the third day, ascended to heaven, and sits at the right hand of God, that he may perpetually reign over all creatures, and govern them, [5] through the Holy Spirit sanctify, purify, strengthen, and console all those who believe in him, and give unto them life and various gifts and blessings, and protect and defend them against the devil and the power of sin.

[6] Also, that finally this same Christ will return visibly, to judge the living and the dead, etc., according to the Apostles' Creed.

Article IV: [Of Justification]

[1] It is taught further, that we cannot obtain righteousness and the forgiveness of sin before God by our own merits, works, and atonement; but that we obtain the remission of sins, and are justified before God, by grace, for Christ's sake, through faith, [2] if we believe that Christ suffered for us, and that for his sake our sins are remitted unto us, and righteousness and eternal life are bestowed on us. [3] For, God regards this faith and imputes it as righteousness in his sight, as Paul says, Rom. chap. 3 and 4.

Article V: [Of the Ministry]

[1] For the purpose of obtaining this faith, God has instituted the ministry, and given the Gospel and the Sacraments, through which, as a means, he imparts the Holy Spirit, [2] who in his own time and place, works faith in those that hear the Gospel, [3] which teaches that through the merits of Christ, and not through our own merits, we have a merciful God, if we believe these things.

[4] By this are condemned the Anabaptists and others, who teach that we receive the Holy Spirit in consequence of our own preparation, our thoughts and works, without the external Word of the Gospel.

Article VI: [Of New Obedience]

[1] It is also taught, that such faith must bring forth good fruits and good works, and that we must do all manner of good works, because of God's requirement and command; yet we must not put any confidence in these works, as meriting favor in the sight of God: [2] for we receive forgiveness of sins and justification through faith in Christ, and Christ himself says, Luke 17:10: "When ye shall have done all those things, say, we are unprofitable servants." Thus also the Fathers teach. [3] For Ambrose says: "Thus it has been ordained of God, that whosoever believes in Christ shall be saved; not through works, but without merit through faith alone, he has forgiveness of sins."

Article VII: [Of the Church]

[1] It is taught likewise, that one holy Christian church shall ever continue to exist, which is the congregation of all believers, among whom the Gospel is preached in its purity, and the holy Sacraments are administered according to the Gospel. [2] For this is sufficient for the true unity of the Christian church, that the Gospel is preached therein, according to its pure intent and meaning, and that the Sacraments are administered in conformity with the Word of God. [3] And for the true unity of the Christian church it is not necessary, that uniform ceremonies instituted by men, should be everywhere observed. [4] As Paul says, Ephes. 4:4-5: "There is one body, and one spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism."

Article VIII: [What the Church Is]

[1] Further: although the Christian church is properly nothing else than the congregation of all believers and saints, yet, as in this life there are many hypocrites and false Christians,--open sinners remaining even among the pious,--the Sacraments, nevertheless, are effectual, even if the preachers by whom they are administered, be not pious, as Christ himself says, Matt. 23:2: [2] "The Scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses' seat," etc.

[3] On this account the Donatists are condemned, and all such as teach contrary to this Article.

Article IX: [Of Baptism]

[1] Respecting Baptism it is taught, that it is necessary; [2] that grace is offered through it; and that children ought to be baptized, who through such Baptism are presented to God, and become acceptable to him.

[3] Therefore the Anabaptists are condemned, who teach that infant Baptism is improper.

Article X: [Of the Lord's Supper]

[1] Concerning the holy Supper of the Lord it is taught, that the true body and blood of Christ are truly present, under the form of bread and wine, in the Lord's Supper, and are there administered and received. [2] The opposite doctrine is therefore rejected.

Article XI: [Of Confession]

[1] In reference to confession it is taught, that private absolution ought to be retained in the church, and should not be discontinued; in confession, however, it is unnecessary to enumerate all transgressions and sins, [2] which indeed is not possible. Psalm 19:12: "Who can understand his errors?"

Article XII: [Of Repentance]

[1] Concerning repentance it is taught, that those who have sinned after Baptism, may at all times obtain forgiveness of their sins, if they repent; [2] and that the church should not refuse to grant absolution unto them. [3] Genuine and true repentance properly consists in contrition and sorrow, or terror on account of sin; [4] besides, it consists in faith in the Gospel or absolution,--[5] namely, that sins are forgiven and grace is obtained through Christ,--a faith which consoles and imparts peace to the heart.

[6] Afterwards amendment of conduct also should follow, and abstinence from sin; for these should be the fruits of repentance, as John says, Matt. 3:8: "Bring forth fruits meet for repentance."

[7] Here are condemned such as teach, that those who have once been justified can never fall.

[9] On the other hand, the Novatians also are here condemned, who refused absolution to those who had sinned after Baptism.

[10] Those in like manner are condemned who teach, that forgiveness of sin is obtained, not through faith, but through our own merits.

Article XIII: [Of the Use of the Sacraments]

[1] Concerning the use of the Sacraments it is taught, that the Sacraments have been instituted, not only as tokens by which Christians may be known externally, but as signs and evidences of the divine will towards us, [2] for the purpose of exciting and strengthening our faith; hence they also require faith, and they are properly used then only, when received in faith, and when faith is strengthened by them.

Article XIV: [Of Church Government]

Concerning church government it is taught, that no one should teach or preach publicly in the church, or administer the Sacraments, without a regular call.

Article XV: [Of Church Rites and Ordinances]

[1] Concerning ecclesiastical rites instituted by men it is taught, that those should be observed which can be so observed without sin, and which promote peace and good order in the church: as, certain holidays, festivals, and the like. [2] Respecting these, however, our instruction is designed to release the consciences of men from the idea, that such observances are essential to salvation. [3] It is taught on this point, that all ordinances and traditions of men, for the purpose of reconciling God and meriting grace, are contrary to the Gospel and the doctrine of faith in Christ; [4] wherefore, monastic vows, and traditions concerning the difference of meats, days, etc., intended for the purpose of meriting grace and making satisfaction for sins, are impotent and contrary to the Gospel.

Article XVI: [Of Civil Polity and Government]

[1] Concerning civil polity and government it is taught, that all authority in the world, established governments and laws, are good and divine; [2] that Christians may hold either legislative, judicial, or executive offices, without sin; and may decide cases, pronounce judgments, and punish transgressors, agreeably to imperial or other established laws; may wage just wars, and serve in them; make lawful contracts; take oaths, when required; may hold property, marry, and be married, etc.

[3] The Anabaptists are here condemned, who teach, that none of these things now mentioned, are consistent with Christianity.

[4] Those likewise are condemned, who teach, that Christian perfection consists in literally deserting house and home, wife and children, and relinquishing them; when at the same time true perfection consists only in true fear of God, and in true faith in God. [5] For the Gospel does not teach an external, temporary, but an internal, lasting habit and righteousness of heart; nor does it invalidate civil government, polity, and matrimony, but it requires the observance of all these, as true ordinances of God. And in such stations, each one according to his vocation, should manifest Christian love and genuine good works. [6] Christians are therefore under obligation to submit to government, and to obey its commands in all things that may be performed without sin; [7] but if government should enjoin anything which cannot be obeyed without sin, "we ought to obey God rather than men," Acts 5:29.

Article XVII: [Of Christ's Return to Judgment]

[1] It is also taught, that on the last day our Lord Jesus Christ will come to raise and to judge all the dead, [2] to give unto the believing and elect eternal life and endless joys; [3] and that he will come to condemn impious men and devils to hell and everlasting punishment.

[4] The Anabaptists are rejected, who teach that devils and condemned men shall not suffer everlasting pain and torment.

[5] Here, in like manner, certain Jewish doctrines are condemned, which are circulated even now, that prior to the resurrection of the dead, the holy and pious alone will occupy a temporal kingdom, and that all the wicked will be exterminated.

Article XVIII: [Of Free Will]

[1] Concerning free will it is taught, that to some extent man has freedom of will, to lead a life outwardly honest, and to choose between things which reason comprehends; [2] but without the grace, assistance, and operation of the Holy Spirit, that he is unable to become pleasing to God, or to fear God in heart, or to believe in him, or to cast out of his heart innate evil; [3] and that these things are effected through the Holy Spirit, who is given through the Word of God; for Paul says, 1 Cor. 2:14: "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God."

[4] And in order that it may be known, that nothing new is taught in this Article, the expressive words of Augustine, concerning free will, are introduced here, as transcribed from the Hypognosticon, lib. III.: "We acknowledge, that in all men there is a free will; for they all, indeed, have natural, connate understanding and reasoning; not that they are able to act in things pertaining to God, such as to love and fear God from the heart; but only in external works of this life have they freedom to choose good or evil. [5] By good I mean, that which nature is able to perform, as to labor in the field, or not; to eat, to drink, to visit a friend, or not; to clothe or unclothe, to build, to take a wife, to carry on a trade, and to do any similar act that is useful and good; [6] none of which, however, either occurs or takes place without God, but each takes place of Him and through Him. [7] On the contrary, from his own choice, man may also engage in evil, as to bow down before an idol, to commit murder," etc.

Article XIX: [Of the Cause of Sin]

As to the cause of sin, it is taught among us, that, although Almighty God has created and preserves all nature, yet the perverted will works sin in all evil-doers and despisers of God, even as the will of the devil and of all wicked men, which, as soon as God withdraws his aid, turns itself from God unto evil, as Christ says, John 8:44: "When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own."

Article XX: Of Faith and Good Works

[1] We are falsely accused of having prohibited good works; [2] but our writings on the Ten Commandments and other subjects, show that we have given good and useful instructions and admonitions in respect to various Christian relations, duties, and works; [3] respecting which, prior to this time, little had been taught, but almost every sermon urged continually the necessity of puerile and needless works,--as rosaries, worship of saints, monastic vows, pilgrimages, stated fasts, holidays, fraternities, etc. [4] Works so needless, even our opponents do not extol so highly now as formerly; [5] besides, they have also learned to treat of faith now, concerning which in former times they preached nothing at all; [6] they teach now, however, that we are not justified before God by works alone, but add faith in Christ, saying faith and works justify us before God,--[7] a doctrine which may afford more consolation than one teaching confidence in works alone.

[8] Now the doctrine concerning faith, which is the principal article in the Christian Creed, not having been inculcated for so long a time, as all must confess, but the doctrine concerning works alone having been preached everywhere, the following instructions on this subject are offered by our divines:

[9] First, that our works cannot reconcile us to God and merit grace, but these things are effected through faith alone, if we believe that our sins are forgiven us for Christ's sake, who alone is the Mediator reconciling the Father. [10] He, therefore, that expects to effect this reconciliation by works, and to merit grace, contemns Christ and seeks a way of his own to God, contrary to the Gospel.

[11] This doctrine of faith is clearly and explicitly inculcated by Paul in many places, especially in Ephes. 2:8-9: "By grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast," etc. [12] And that a new signification is not introduced here, may be shown from Augustine, [13] who has treated this subject carefully, and who in like manner teaches, that we obtain grace and are justified before God, through faith in Christ, and not by works, as his whole book, "De Spiritu et Litera," clearly shows. [15] Although this doctrine is despised very much by the thoughtless, yet it will be found that it is very consoling and salutary to timid and alarmed consciences; for our consciences cannot secure tranquility and peace by works, but through faith alone, when they feel in themselves an assurance, that for Christ's sake they have a merciful God, as Paul says, Rom. 5:1: [16] "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God." [19] Heretofore this consolation was not administered in sermons, but the wretched consciences of men were driven upon works of their own, and various works were taken in hand; [20] for conscience drove some into monasteries, with the hope of acquiring grace there by a monastic life; [21] others devised works of another kind, for the purpose of meriting grace and of making satisfaction for sins. Many of these have experienced, that peace could not be secured by these things. [22] It was, for this reason, necessary to preach and enforce with diligence this doctrine of faith in Christ, that it might be known that through faith alone, without merit, the grace of God is secured.

[23] It is also inculcated, that the faith here spoken of, is not the faith which devils and the ungodly possess, who believe the historical fact, that Christ has suffered and risen from the dead; but it is the true faith,--the faith which believes that we obtain grace and the forgiveness of sins through Christ. [24] And hence, whoever knows that he has a merciful God through Christ, knows God, calls upon him, and is not without God, like the Gentiles. [25] For the devil and the ungodly do not believe the article concerning the remission of sins; for this reason they are enemies to God, unable to call upon him, or to hope for anything good from him; and, as just now shown, the Scripture speaking of faith, does not style faith such a knowledge as devils and wicked men possess; for it is taught concerning faith, in Hebrews 11:1, that to have merely a knowledge of the facts of history is not faith, but to have confidence in God that we shall receive his promises. [26] And Augustine also reminds us, that we should understand the word faith in Scripture, to mean a confidence in God that he is merciful to us, and not a mere knowledge of the fact,--a knowledge which devils also possess.

[27] It is taught further, that good works should and must be performed, not with a view of placing confidence in them as meriting grace, but in accordance with his will, and for the glory of God. [28] Faith alone constantly secures grace and forgiveness of sins. [29] And because the Holy Spirit is given through faith, the heart becomes qualified to perform good works. [31] For before this, while it is without the Holy Spirit, it is too weak; [32] besides it is in the power of Satan, who urges frail human nature to many sins: [33] as we see among the philosophers, who resolving to live honorably and unblamably, were unable to effect it, [34] and fell into many great and open sins. So it happens with all men who attempt, without true faith and without the Holy Spirit, to govern themselves by their own strength alone. [35] Wherefore, the doctrine concerning faith does not deserve censure as discouraging good works, but should much rather be applauded as teaching the performance of good works, and as offering assistance by which good works may be performed. [36] For without faith, and out of Christ, the nature and ability of man are much too weak to do good works, [37] to call upon God, to have patience in sufferings, to love his neighbor, faithfully to execute commissions, to be obedient, to avoid evil lusts. [38] Such exalted and righteous works cannot be performed without the assistance of Christ, [39] as he himself says, John 15:5: "Without me, ye can do nothing."

Article XXI: [Of the Worship of Saints]

[1] Concerning the worship of saints it is taught by us, that we should remember the saints, in order to strengthen our faith when we see how grace was conferred on them, and how assistance was afforded them through faith; and also to derive examples from their good works for every vocation; even as your Imperial Majesty in waging war against the Turks, may follow successfully and devoutly the example of David; [2] for both hold royal offices, the shelter and protection of which subjects require. But from Scripture it cannot be shown, that we should invoke the saints, or seek help from them. For there is but one Reconciler and Mediator appointed between God and man, Jesus Christ, 1 Tim. 2:5, who is the only Savior, High Priest, Mercy Seat, and Intercessor before God, Rom. 3:25, and Rom. 8:34. [3] He alone has promised us to hear our prayers; and the highest worship according to the Scripture is, to seek and call on Jesus Christ from the heart, in every necessity and affliction; 1 John 2:1: [4] "If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous."

[Conclusion]

[1] This is about the substance of the doctrine which is preached and taught in our churches, for the due instruction, Christian edification, peace of conscience, and improvement of believers. For, as we did not feel willing to place in the greatest and most imminent danger before God our own souls and consciences, by the abuse of the divine Name and Word, or transmit to our children and descendants, and entail upon them, any other doctrine than that of the pure divine Word and Christian truth; and as these doctrines are clearly taught in the holy Scripture, and besides, are neither contrary nor in opposition to the universal Christian, or to the Roman church, so far as may be observed from the writings of the Fathers, we think that our adversaries cannot disagree with us in the foregoing Articles. Those therefore act altogether unkindly, hastily, and contrary to all Christian unity and love, who resolve in themselves, without any authority of divine command or of Scripture, to exclude, reject, and avoid us all as heretics. [2] For the controversy and contention principally refer to traditions and abuses. If, then, there is no real error or deficiency in the principal articles, and if this our Confession is scriptural and Christian, even were there error among us on account of traditions, the bishops should demean themselves more gently; [5] but we hope to assign indisputable grounds and reasons, why some traditions and abuses have been corrected among us.