Biblical and Confessional
People being confirmed into the Christian faith at Lutheran congregations are usually asked something along the lines of this question:
Do you hold all the canonical books of the Bible to be the inspired Word of God, and the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, drawn from the Bible, as you have learned to know it from Luther's Small Catechism, to be the true and correct one? (Lutheran Agenda, 24)
The given answer to that question is "I do." Lutherans and their congregations are thus properly said to be Biblical and Confessional. (The Bible's authority is, of course, the greater.)
Martin Luther's Small Catechism (distinguished from but included with the LCMS "Short Explanation" of the Catechism in the little blue books many know) is surely the best-known exposition of "the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church". Luther's Large Catechism is probably also among the better known of the Lutheran Confessions.
When you hear or read someone refer to the Lutheran Confessions, any or all of the following might be meant.
All of these confessions or statements of the faith in 1580 were collected into The Book of Concord and, over the next two years or so, were subscribed to by three electors, 20 dukes and princes, 24 counts, 4 barons, 35 cities, and 8,000 pastors and teachers.
Since then, countless others have subscribed to these Confessions, including our Grace congregation (see Article III of the Grace constitution) and her two pastors, at both their ordinations and installations. They promised then and promise now to perform their duties in accordance with the Confessions and to conform their teaching and administration of the Sacraments with Scripture and the Confessions.
There are various editions of The Book of Concord. For example, there is a critical scholarly edition with the Confessions in their authoritative languages, called Die Bekenntnisschriften der evangelisch-lutherischen Kirche, 12th edition in 1998. There was an edition put out in 1921 by the Missouri Synod, called the Triglotta, in German, Latin, and English. A newer English translation came out in 1959 edited by Theodore G. Tappert (generally called the Tappert edition). The newest English edition, Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions: A Reader's Edition of The Book of Concord - 2nd Edition (a revision of the Triglotta's translation), came out from the LCMS's Concordia Publishing House in 2007 and is targeted at those who are otherwise less familiar with the Lutheran Confessions (http://www.cph.org, item #53-1154GT, with a price of $24.99.
Note that most of the Confessions are referred to by article and paragraph number, which paragraph numbers were not original but were added later to help refer to specific passages. Sometimes "f" and "ff" are used in references to the Confessions and Bible verses, meaning the paragraph(s) or verse(s) immediately following. Sometimes "cf" and "cp" are also used in Confession and Bible references, meaning, depending on the author making the references, confer (in the sense of "see also") and compare (in the sense of "contrast").
We encourage members to become familiar with these confessions of the faith, for since they correctly put forth the teachings of the Bible, genuine Christians cannot disagree with them. They are encouraged to have their own copy, but anyone can find them on-line.