The following information is quoted directly from www.lcms.org/faqs/denominations.
What are the main differences between Lutheran churches and Wesleyan or Methodist churches?
This is a difficult question to answer in the abstract, for several reasons:
- There are dozens of denominations of "Methodist" background and character which differ greatly from each other in theology and practice, from "holiness" churches to "Pentecostal" churches to "mainline" Methodist churches;
- Even Methodist churches of the same denomination often differ to some degree in their theology and practice, since Methodist churches, as a rule, tend to be more concerned with "deeds" than "creeds." Therefore, one might say the most fundamental difference between Lutheran and many Methodist churches is that the Lutheran church is a confessional church (i.e., it binds itself and its member congregations to a specific, formal confession of faith) while the Methodist church, in its varied forms, tends not be as concerned with formal "confessions" of faith to which its congregations must subscribe.
The primary differences between Lutheranism and "classical" Methodism rooted in the theology of John Wesley center in Wesley's doctrine of salvation. Wesley taught, contrary to Lutheran theology, that 1) man is free not only to reject salvation but also to accept it (free salvation) by an act of human will; 2) all people who are obedient to the Gospel according to the measure of knowledge given them will be saved (universal salvation); 3) the Holy Spirit assures man of his salvation directly, through an inner "experience" (sure salvation); 4) Christians in this life are capable of Christian perfection and are commanded by God to pursue it (full salvation). Wesley also held to a "symbolic" view of the sacraments in contrast to the Lutheran view of the sacraments as real and powerful means of grace.
For more information, you may wish to check the following sources:
Lutheran Cyclopedia, edited by Erwin Lueker, Concordia Publishing House (CPH), page 154, on "Methodist Churches"; American Churches: Beliefs and Practices, by F. E. Mayer, CPH, 1956; The Religious Bodies of America by F. E. Mayer, CPH, 1961.