Following the death of Martin Luther in 1546, the Lutheran Church entered a tumultuous period as an ecclesial game of back and forth was played in the German lands between Lutheranism, Roman Catholicism, and Calvinism, according to the religious proclivities of political officer bearers. When Elector August of Saxony died in 1586, those surrounding his young son, Christian, included counselors and theologians who favored the theology of Geneva. Led by Christian’s chancellor, Nikolaus Krell, he and other crypto-Calvinist leaders nullified the authority of the Book of Concord and replaced Lutheran professors and pastors with followers of Calvin.

After Christian’s death five years later, his cousin Duke Wilhelm restored Lutheran theologians and pastors to key positions in the electoral Saxon court. To reestablish the Lutheran symbols and liturgical practices in local churches, Wilhelm commissioned the Visitation Articles of 1592, whose primary author was Aegidius Hunnius, a newly installed professor at Wittenberg. The articles were used to catechize churches in Lutheran doctrine through a series of pastoral visitations. Here, the key differences between Calvinism and Lutheranism are brought into sharp focus in four succinctly written articles. They were appended to every edition of the Book of Concord published in Saxony until the forced union of Lutherans and Reformed under the Prussian Order of 1817.

I have taken the liberty to rearrange the order of the articles by presenting the positive doctrinal statements of each article, followed by the corresponding negative statements rejecting the Calvinist position. Furthermore, I have translated them in a dynamic equivalent manner for ease in reading and understanding. Parenthetical Bible proofs are provided for support, but they were not included in the original text.

ARTICLE 1: THE LORD’S SUPPER

The pure and true doctrine of our church concerning the Holy Supper

  1. The words of Christ, “Take, eat, this is my body . . . drink, for this is my blood,” are to be understood in their simple and literal sense, just as they read (Matt 26:26–28).
  2. There are two things given and received in the sacrament: one earthy (bread and wine), and the other heavenly (body and blood; 1 Cor 10:16–17).
  3. The giving and receiving of this sacramental union takes place on earth, and not in heaven (Acts 2:42).
  4. The true and natural body of Christ that hung upon the cross and the true and natural blood that flowed from his side are given and received (1 Cor 11:23–26).
  5. The body and blood of Christ are not only received spiritually by faith, which can take place apart from the Sacrament (cf. John 6:47–51), but they are also received by mouth together with the bread and wine, yet in a mysterious and supernatural manner, as a guarantee and assurance of the resurrection of our bodies from the dead (1 Cor 10:16–17).
  6. The body and blood of Christ are received orally not only by the worthy, but also the unworthy, who partake without repentance and true faith. Both receive the body and blood of Christ with differing results: the worthy unto salvation; the unworthy unto judgment (1 Cor 11:27–34).

The false teaching of the Calvinists concerning the Lord’s Supper

  1. The words of institution are to be understood figuratively, and not as they plainly read.
  2. There are only empty signs in the Supper, as the body of Christ is as far away from the bread as the highest heaven is from the earth.
  3. Christ is present in the Supper by his virtue and power, but not with his body, just as the splendor and presence of the sun is felt on earth, while existing far above the earth.
  4. The body is only a type or figure of Christ’s body, which is only signified and prefigured [by the bread].
  5. The body is not received by the mouth, but through faith alone, raising us spiritually to heaven.
  6. Only the worthy receive the body; the unworthy, who do not have faith to ascend into heaven, receive only bread and wine.

ARTICLE 2: THE PERSON OF CHRIST

The pure and true doctrine of our church concerning the person of Christ

  1. There are two distinct natures in Christ—divine and human. These remain for eternity and will never be confused or separated (John 1:1–14).
  2. There is a personal union of these two natures, but only one person, Jesus Christ (1 Tim 2:4–5).
  3. Because of this personal union, it is correct to say, since it is factually true, that God is man, and man is God; that Mary bore the Son of God (Gal 4:4), and that God redeemed us by his own true blood (Acts 20:28).
  4. By this personal union and his subsequent exaltation, Christ has been seated at God’s right hand according to his human nature and has received all power in heaven and on earth, and shares in all divine majesty, honor, power, and glory. (Matt 25:31, 28:19; Eph 4:8–10).

The false teaching of the Calvinists concerning the person of Christ

  1. The expressions, “God is man” and “man is God,” are understood as figurative speech.
  2. The human nature has communion with the divine not in reality or truth, but only in name and words (i.e. anthropomorphic statements).
  3. Despite his omnipotence, it is impossible for God to cause the natural body of Christ to be simultaneously present in more than one location.
  4. By virtue of his exaltation and according to his human nature, Christ has received created gifts and finite power, but cannot know or do all things.
  5. Christ rules in absentia according to his humanity, just as the King of Spain rules his new Islands from afar.
  6. It is a damnable idolatry to place our trust and hope in Christ not only according to his divine nature, but also according to his human nature, and to honor and adore both natures.

ARTICLE 3: HOLY BAPTISM

The pure and true doctrine of our church concerning Holy Baptism

  1. There is only one Baptism and washing, not that which removes filth from the body, but one that cleanses us from our sins (1 Peter 3:21).
  2. Baptism is a washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5–7), whereby God saves us and works in us righteousness and cleansing from sin. The one who trusts and perseveres in this covenant to the end will not perish, but has eternal life (Col 2:11–13).
  3. All who are baptized in Jesus Christ are baptized into his death, and therefore, buried with him in his death, having put on Christ through baptism (Rom 6:3–4; Gal 3:27).
  4. Baptism is a washing of regeneration because in it we are born again and sealed by the Spirit of adoption through grace (Rom 8:15–17).
  5. Unless a person is born again of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven (John 3:5). This does not apply, however, to cases of necessity (e.g. emergencies where a person dies before they could be baptized).
  6. That which is born of flesh is flesh (John 3:6); and by nature, we are all children of God’s wrath, for we are born of sinful seed and conceived in sin (Ps 51:5 ; Rom 5:12; Eph 2:1–3).

The false teaching of the Calvinists concerning Holy Baptism

  1. Baptism is an external washing of water by which an inner cleansing of sins is merely signified.
  2. Baptism does not work nor confer regeneration, faith, the grace of God, and salvation, but only signifies and seals them.
  3. Not all who are baptized with water receive the grace of Christ and the gift of faith, but the elect alone.
  4. Regeneration does not occur in and with Baptism, but afterwards, in adulthood, and for some, not until old age. [1]
  5. Since salvation does not depend on Baptism, emergency baptisms should not be permitted in the church. When a pastor of the church cannot be obtained, children should be allowed to die without Baptism.
  6. The children of Christian parents are holy before Baptism in their mother’s womb, and before birth are received into the covenant of eternal life; otherwise, the sacrament of Baptism could not be administered to them.

ARTICLE 4: PREDESTINATION AND THE ETERNAL PROVIDENCE OF GOD

The pure and true doctrine of our church concerning on this article

  1. Christ died for all humanity, and as the Lamb of God, he has taken away the sins of the whole world (John 1:29).
  2. God created no one for condemnation, but desires that all to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:4). Therefore, he commands all to hear his Son Christ in the gospel and promises the power and efficacy of the Holy Spirit to convert and save those who hear the gospel (Rom 1:16–17).
  3. Those condemned are so by their own guilt, unwilling to hear the gospel of Christ or by falling from grace; either through error against the foundation of our faith, or by sin against conscience (John 3:18; 1 Tim 1:19–20).
  4. All sinners who repent are received into grace, and no one is excluded, even though their sins are as red as blood, for God’s mercy is greater than the sin of the whole world, and God has compassion on all he has made (Ps 86:5).

The false teaching of the Calvinists concerning predestination and the providence of God

  1. Christ did not die for all humanity, but only for the elect.
  2. God created the greater part of humanity for eternal damnation and is unwilling that they be converted and saved.
  3. The elect and regenerate cannot lose faith and the Holy Spirit or be condemned, even though they commit great sins and every crime imaginable.
  4. By necessity, those who are not elect are condemned and cannot attain salvation, though they are baptized a thousand times, receive the Lord’s Supper daily, and live, as much as is possible, holy and blameless lives.

If you’re interested in learning more about the differences between the Lutheran and Calvinist traditions, please see Pastor Thomas’ book,“Wittenberg vs. Geneva,” published by 1517.