Martin Luther pointed people to God's Word rather than to the traditions of men. When man-made traditions deviated from the Word of God they were rejected. Luther reformed the Church. He brought it back once again to the true teaching of the Bible. God's Word was the only guide for faith and life.
Martin Luther had something to say about the confirmation practices of his day. He didn't mince words. He believed that confirmation was deceiving the people and needed to be cut off at the root. People were trusting in their confirmation rather than in Christ. "I am confirmed," people said, rather than, "I believe in Christ." Luther rejected the confirmation of his day because it was a blatant trust in works of man's invention rather than faith in Jesus Christ alone.
Over the years the church had declared that confirmation was a sacrament that was necessary for salvation. The church taught that through confirmation salvation was completed and the Holy Spirit was fully imparted. A bishop confirmed and imparted the holy oil of confirmation.
Luther pointed the church to the Bible. He showed that that view of confirmation lacked the command and promise of God and had no Scriptural basis. Nowhere in Scripture did God say such things were given in confirmation and so it was foolish to trust in such things. All God's gifts were fully given in Baptism. Baptism was not deficient! Confirmation was a human rite, developed over time, which had been encumbered with many false notions, which, if believed, were perilous to faith.
While the Bible did not say anything about confirmation, Luther was quick to point out that it did say something about teaching. He reformed the practice of the church in his time by going back to the words of Jesus, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them … and teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you." (Matthew 28:19) Teaching prepared one for the personal examination that was needed as a prerequisite for receiving the Lord's Supper. As the Bible said, "Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup." 1 Corinthians 11:28
We see what Luther envisioned in the practice of his time. Several times a year special catechism sermons were preached. Parents were responsible to bring their children and servants to these catechism services. Once the parents were satisfied that their children had learned what was taught, they brought their children to the pastor for examination and confession and absolution. Those who desired to commune were asked to give an account of their faith and to indicate what they believed about the Lord's Supper and what they expected to receive from it. After the children were admitted to the Lord's Supper they continued attending catechism services until their early twenties or until they were married. Christian instruction was a lifelong process. There was no graduation ceremony short of eternity. Catechesis had an end only in death. Those who refused to learn the catechism were told that they were no Christians, that they denied Christ, and that they would not be admitted to the Sacrament.
Luther shied away from a specific public liturgy of confirmation. Children were admitted to the altar and that was it. There was no "confirmation" per se. An initial minimal amount of catechesis was required before first communion which was to be a lifelong process. The idea was not that you learned as much as you needed to know in your life about the Bible and then received communion, but that you confessed the faith which you learned to know and spent a lifetime learning more. While in our day children begin communion no earlier than 12, in Luther's day that was about the latest a child began communing. While it was done on a case-by-case basis and not so dependent upon age, it was generally thought that children were capable of confessing the faith and communing from the age of 7 or 8. It rarely happened after the age of 12.
As we consider our own practice, can we gain anything by learning how Luther approached confirmation in his day?