Presbyterian vs Lutheran 

by | Jul 16, 2023 | Lutheran, Presbyterian | 0 comments

Presbyterianism stemmed from John Calvin’s teachings. He was a French theological scholar who played a significant role in the Reformation movement. The word Presbyterian is adapted from the Greek word “presbyteros” which loosely translates to elder. Presbyterianism, therefore, is characterized by a representative form of governance where elders aid in the decision-making process. 

On the flip side, Lutheranism stemmed from the teachings of Martin Luther. Luther was a German monk who started the Reformation movement and challenged certain doctrines in the catholic church. The name Lutheran is therefore derived from Martin Luther’s name and it insinuates that the doctrine is based on the teachings of Luther. 

Differences between Presbyterians and Lutherans

The main difference between Presbyterians and Lutherans is in their interpretation of scripture. For instance, Presbyterians believe in the doctrine of predestination which teaches that God elects all those who will be saved. Lutherans on the hand believe that man has free will and can choose to accept or reject salvation. 

The table below gives a summary of some of the notable differences between Presbyterianism and Lutheranism. 

DoctrinesPresbyterian doctrine emphasizes predestination, the authority of scripture, and the sovereignty of God. The emphasis of Lutheran doctrine is on justification by faith, sacraments, and the priesthood of all believers. 
Scriptural InterpretationPresbyterians use a systematic approach that places emphasis on the historical context of the text. This is achieved by referring to concordances, treatises, and church history. Lutherans believe the Bible is accessible and easy to read and understand. As such, Lutherans are encouraged to rely on the Holy Spirit to lead them into all truth as they read their Bibles. 
Worship PracticesPresbyterians have a structured worship style that often includes the administration of sacraments (baptism and the Eucharist) Lutherans have liturgical elements in their worship. They use lots of hymns that were written by Martin Luther as well as other writers. Sacraments may also be administered in the worship service. 

Presbyterian Approach to Scriptural Interpretation

The authority of scripture is the foundation upon which Presbyterians interpret the scriptures. Presbyterians are keen on promoting sound doctrine and they employ comprehensive and system approaches to understanding scripture. These approaches mean that they seek to understand the historical contexts of the Bible by utilizing commentaries, church tradition, and theological treatises when interpreting the Bible. 

Lutheran Approach to Scriptural Interpretation

Lutheran theology is based on the accessibility and clarity of the Bible. A lot of emphasis is placed on the principle of sola scriptura, which is Latin for “scripture alone.” Lutherans believe that the message of salvation is laid out plainly in the Bible and that every Christian can understand it with the help of the Holy Spirit. As such, Lutherans encourage individuals to have personal devotions where they read the bible on their own. 

Presbyterian theological emphases

Presbyterianism emphasizes the doctrine of God’s sovereignty and predestination. These doctrines teach that God controls everything that happens on Earth. This doctrine also influences their view on salvation because they believe that God pre-determined who will be saved. They, therefore, do not believe in the principle of human free will. 

Lutheran theological emphases

Lutheran theology emphasizes justification by faith alone. Lutheranism holds the view that individuals can only be saved by accepting the Lord as their personal savior. Unlike Presbyterians, Lutherans believe in the concept of free will. This means that individuals can either accept or reject God’s plan of salvation for their life. Lutherans also emphasize the concept of the priesthood of all believers. Lutherans believe that Christ is the only mediator between man and God and he gives every believer direct access to God. 

Presbyterian Doctrinal foundations

Predestination and Election

Presbeteransim place a lot of emphasis on the doctrine of predestination. This doctrine teaches that God elected a special group of people who would be saved. These chosen people, also known as the elect, can therefore not lose their place in God because they are foreordained to be saved. The doctrine is based on the sovereignty of God and it makes it clear that man has no control over their salvation. 

Authority of Scripture

Presbyterians believe in the authority of scripture. They hold the view that the Bible is God’s infallible word and should, therefore, be the only source of authority on issues of faith, doctrine, and day-to-day Christian living. Christians are, therefore, encouraged to study the Word in order to understand the will of God for their life. 

The Sovereignty of God

Presbyterians believe in the sovereignty of God. This doctrine teaches that God is in charge of all things on earth. They believe that God holds absolute power over every creature including human lives. The doctrine emphasizes that nothing happens without God’s divine plan, purpose, and authorization. 

Lutheran Doctrinal Foundation

Justification by faith alone

Lutherans believe in justification by faith alone. This doctrine teaches that salvation can only be attained by having faith in Jesus Christ. Lutheranism teaches against the concept of good deeds which Catholics advocate for as an avenue for accessing God’s grace. 

The priesthood of all believers

Lutherans believes that all believers have been called into God’s royal priesthood. They believe that all believers have direct access to God and they do not need to go through a saint, priest, or any other intermediary. The doctrine of priesthood for all believers emphasizes the need of developing a personal relationship with God. 


Lutherans observe two sacraments – baptism and the Holy Communion (Eucharist). These sacraments are held in high regard as they believe that they were instituted by Jesus as a means of God’s grace. Lutherans believe in the real presence of Christ when observing the Holy Communion. 


Presbyterianism and Lutheranism have similar roots since they both emerged as a result of the Reformation movement. However, they are distinct in the sense that they were founded on different theological understandings. Presbyterianism was based on John Calvin’s teachings which emphasized predestination and the sovereignty of God while Lutheranism was based on the teachings of Martin Luther, who emphasized the authority of the Bible and the priesthood of all saints. 

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About: Ronie

Ronnie Amaya has been actively involved in ministry since his high school and university days where he served as a Christian union leader. After graduation, he worked as an itinerary minister preaching in Schools, Universities, Street Evangelizations, and Churches. In 2018, he led a team in planting a new church in Nairobi, Kenya where he is currently serving as the lead pastor.
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Ronnie Amaya has been actively involved in ministry since his high school and university days where he served as a Christian union leader. After graduation, he worked as an itinerary minister preaching in Schools, Universities, Street Evangelizations, and Churches. In 2018, he led a team in planting a new church in Nairobi, Kenya where he is currently serving as the lead pastor.

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